Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A message of hope

It's the holiday season and Mother Nature helped to make it look so by dumping a few inches of the white stuff on us over the weekend, to be followed by more later in the week. It's the holiday season and Mother Nature helped to make it look so by dumping a few inches of the white stuff on us over the weekend, to be followed by more later in the week.

The news from the retailers has been good both from in-store and on-line sales, although the store owners never seem to be satisfied, understandably because holiday sales can represent more than 50% of annual revenues.

If they are looking to me to help out they are out of luck as my wife and I decided several years ago to confine our gift giving to donating to our family's favorite charities. This makes the recipients and the charities happy and us happy to be able to help out.

At a dinner one evening last week, my wife's cousin raised the issue of who to choose among the charities when there are so many new ones to consider, many brought about by the global recession. It was a good point as was the issue of what does one do if they have been impacted by the recession. 'Charity begins at home' seems to be the answer, but it's not too satisfying when you think the issues of the charities haven't changed--cancer in children has not been solved nor has housing for the disadvantaged or food for those in desperate need. It's a tough call requiring one to search their hearts for an answer.

This brings me to my favorite subject--the state of manufacturing today, mainly in the USA. Prodded by the opposition and the general malaise in the job market that seems to be on everyone's mind (the stock market rally on Friday was due to improved unemployment numbers), the current administration is spouting a lot of rhetoric--increase spending on shovel-ready infrastructure (thought this was set from day one), switch some of the bailout money being paid back to improve lending to beef up small businesses (now that’s original, instead of reducing debt spend it a second time), and my favorite, stimulate spending by the consumer for housing, durable goods, and Christmas gifts!

I admit to not being privy to discussions going on in Congress that deal with getting the U.S. back on the road to recovery (read this as more jobs), but I guess it's a hot button item as the candidates for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in my home state are all promising us that if elected they will go to Washington and straighten out the politicians with their new and fresh thinking.

That sly old devil Bill Clinton had it right, and still does, "it's the economy, stupid."

And it doesn't take an army of lobbyists to get that message across.

How can we start a new budget item, increased troops for Afghanistan, when we have already busted the budget thanks to Iraq, both places where we were not and are not wanted. Could it be the lobbyists for the defense industry are having their way? Charlie Wilson's War redux.

Experts say that more than 60% of jobs are created by small businesses and I believe it. That's why I have been such a strong advocate for job shops in North America. I believe that small business can change the course of the economy faster than dumping more dollars on a new aircraft carrier which, while a good idea, takes years before the money flows into new employment.

A small businessman can get money flowing into the community fast, money that gets spent fast and has wide ranging implications in the supply chain. When the President convened the thinkers in Washington last week the small businesses were represented by their own lobbyist who, while important enough to be recognized, is actually just another lobbyist.

We have a Commerce Department that is one of the most ineffective bureaucratic organizations I know of, but it is there and functioning and should be able to move impact dollars quickly.

So one of my holiday messages to you, to be passed on to all, is--it's the economy, stupid! Not health care, not Afghanistan, not the failing banks--it's the economy first and foremost and then those others can be dealt with.

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