Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Case For Re-Inventing The Economy

Make it in America:
The Case for Re-Inventing the Economy
Andrew Liveris
Paperback: 256 pages $18.95
John Wiley and Sons
Five Scoops of Bosco

Reviewed By Doug Vehle
The Daily Bosco

I'm not sure there's really a choir to preach to on the subject of the problems of the American economy, but maybe there should be. People have a lot to say, without any real knowledge to back it up. Myself I have to admit that while I share the views of the author, I don't know the details so well as he does. Therefore I found this book to be absolutely fabulous reading. And a little frustrating, though that wasn't the authors fault; In fact he was sharing my frustration.

Liveris cites the problem of "How we fell out of love with manufacturing" as the source of the problem, not so much that the competition is tough as the fact we don't show much resolve in competing. He takes to task the misconception of business demanding a total lack of regulation while outlining the type of regulation he sees as lacking in America while other countries are using an iron fist to put such regulation in place, thus drawing more jobs to those countries. Scoffing at the notion of low labor costs as an important factor in off shoring, he has a long list of benefits companies seek in the third world that seem almost shocking for their absence in the United States.

And he has much to say on a related subject that many rail about without any knowledge of the real problem, in this case the "Permanent National Recession" in education. With one in four holders of "STEM Degrees" (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) over 50 and nearing retirement, he cites Lockheed Martin's expressed need to hire nearly 15,000 engineers a year for the next decade while the entire graduating class of engineers averages just 60,000 annually, creating intense competition for the few people who can fill the many needs of American industry. (We need that number doubled quickly.) Without the engineers, there will be no need for the support staff to assemble what the experts develop. Filling these jobs create more jobs. (The current estimate is that there are some 4 million openings for employment in America which, once filled, would each create from 2 to 5 additional openings. 3 million of those openings require the equivalent of the 4 year education in the STEM related fields, 1 million require special skills training in areas such as welding, machining, etc. that you can't simply learn on the job. Training 4 million people to fill these positions would recreate the demand for an approximate 10 million less skilled workers. Just my own note.)

Liveris painfully explains the preventable migration of an American innovation, the Kindle, as the rights to the technology found it's way to the country where it was built, no longer does an American company even OWN the Kindle. Yet the inevitability of this hits home as you learn of people coming to America to be in what they believe to be the only country where they can bring their idea to life, only to be FORCED to relocate in the 3rd world just to survive. Access to capital, a bureaucracy that ENCOURAGES innovation instead of working to prevent it, lower taxes: As with the novel 'Lost Horizon,' aptly named for this comparison, Shangri La seems in fact to be waiting in Asia, gathering the world's knowledge to emerge dominant as other societies insist on destroying themselves.

A lot of people won't like what Andrew Liveris has to say. They want the Asian countries to be punished for developing sound business practices because it interferes with the sense of entitlement so many Americans have. He explains why it just doesn't work to create a larger and larger welfare state by increasing taxes for the decreasing numbers of those working, to further punish those who succeed. Liveris could have discussed 'How we fell out of love with the American Way.' In 1992, former U.S. Senator and Governor of Nebraska Bob Kerrey ran for president with a campaign commercial depicting him as a goal tender fending off shots from suspiciously Asian players. Nothing about goals of his own, just stopping those who are putting out effort from succeeding. That is a very popular message, but it is insanely wrong headed. If a few good investments really can beat a lifetime of toil, the best investment this country could make right now would be to follow the authors' advice.

This issue of the future of employment is important to me. Ever since I manned a camera during the 'Together we're the BEST' campaign of the City of Los Angeles and recorded Jeremy Rifkin explaining his book 'The End of Work' and how this Globalization thing would mean a future where "Fair Compensation" would be a daily battle, my volunteer social work shifted away from the maintenance and rehabilitation you find in the food banks, the homeless shelters, the Alliance for the Mentally Ill and all those drug and alcohol programs, (Such as AA) therefore instead seeking ways to help those who just want to help. This is how I see a serious job seeker, as someone looking for a way to be useful. THAT is why I'll be receiving an award on Wednesday, January 4th, the day you are scheduled to be reading this on The Daily Bosco. I didn't have to volunteer so much time and effort for these people, some of whom have never had a steady job. But I saw a 60 year old man whom I believe might have been homeless at the time get a fulltime job, the first of his life, in (GASP) manufacturing. Unemployment was over 10% at the time. This company has manufacturing jobs that go unfilled because too few are bothering to learn what are actually rather simple skills to be hired. At the time of his hiring I told a man from my neighborhood who had just lost his job how he could be quickly trained and hired for such a job but he couldn't be bothered. His family lost their home, I don't know how they're doing now.

I guess this makes me one of the few choirboys that Andrew Liveris could find to preach to. I may not know this subject as well as he does, but thanks to books like his I'm catching up. I'm giving others the chance to catch up too, my copy is on its' way to the Fullerton Library and should be in their catalog shortly. This time I'm really hoping there'll be people reading, and THINKING.

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