If American’s want jobs created, they cannot rely on business to provide them. The current measures enacted by Congress to promote job growth- the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, Quantitative Easing 1, and Quantitative Easing 2- are each designed to uncork the productivity of US businesses by increasing their capital reserves, which if all goes according to plan, they will then in turn use to grow their current companies or create new ones (creating jobs in the process). According to some economists, employment like clock-work should follow increases in business capital; while according to today’s economic reality today, it has yet to be proven.
In effect, the first part of the plan –private sector growth- is working. Large business’ that survived after 2007’s market collapse have seen their revenues and market shares mostly either buoy back to their pre-2007 levels and in some instances outpace their pre-2007 earnings. However, the second part of the equation- employment-has not followed and there is no expectation that it will. The money is there for big businesses to hire, the liquidity is there for banks to lend; no further revenue streams by channels of tax-cuts or quantitative easing to banks or businesses is going to change this. If Americans want jobs, they need to create them on their own.
It is no secret that right now the Chinese economy looks like a tidal wave that is rising and accelerating as it approaches the shores of prosperity with yearly growth rates in GDP between 6-7% for 8 straight years (by comparison the US economy has grown an average of less than 2% a year in that same time period ). Granted, there has been much larger room for growth in the Chinese economy in the last 8 years due to their rapid transition into modernization that the US has already achieved, but nonetheless it has been an impressive run. Yet even with this impressive growth, now the world’s second largest economy (next to the United States), and rapid modernization, one curious fact remains: the majority of Chinese workers live in what in the modernized world considers “impoverished conditions.”
This is not to say that all of China is impoverished; there are 960,000 millionaires. When economists refer to China’s economic rise in terms of the GDP, it is these people’s growing fortunes that they use as the measuring tape, not the billion or so other people. Contrary to popular belief, this has very little to do with Chinese innovation, education or business-savvy, and everything to do with their ability to manufacture products at dirt-cheap prices.
The bulk of Chinese wealth comes from manufacturing. To be clear, “Made in China” means only that the product was physically assembled in China, not that it was patented in China or that a Chinese company owns the intellectual property rights to that product. For example a company like Sony, IKEA, or the US Department of Defense (Japanese, Swiss, and US entities respectively) will license their intellectual property to a Chinese manufacturer, who will then in turn use the intellectual property to create the product to the designed to specifications, and then ship it back to the licensing party upon completion. For example, the iPod, Xbox, and the uniforms for Girl Scouts of America, are all products that are “Made in China,” but were created and patented in the US, by US companies.
Data from the US Chamber of Commerce shows that in the 2000s US multinational firms cut 2.9 million jobs in the US while helping to increase overseas employment overseas by 2.4 million, while in the 1990s these same companies added 4.4 million jobs in the U.S. and only 2.7 jobs million abroad. Before you blame big business for the lack of job creation in the US, take a look at the view of your surroundings and count how many things that you bought manufactured in China, and if you gave any thought to how it might affect the current American economy.
Every-time a US company manufacturers a product in another country, it creates a spate of jobs in that country. The jobs created in other countries for those lacking specialization (or education) include working on basic assembly lines, hauling materials and an umbrella of other employment related to factory work like warehouse maintenance and increased demand for electrical and plumbing industries. Jobs created that require specializations include assembly line positions that create complex goods, as well as the increase demand for experienced managers to help run and supervise these factories. Research and development teams are also needed to help lead product innovation (something that has also been increasingly outsourced) and to also help the factories run better and more efficiently. The only thing standing in the way of resurgence in American manufacturing is “everyday low prices.”
In two essays (here and here) I have state how to lower the cost of manufacturing goods in the US, but the truth is that there will always be a premium on US made products. The US produces goods in accordance with environmental standards, unlike China that has polluted over 90% of its freshwater lakes, rivers and streams. The US has high labor standards, which is why workers are allowed to protest unsafe working conditions, and do not have to sign “anti-suicide” contracts like they do in China. The US has a stronger currency than China, and does not purposely devalue its currency to keep its labor costs as low as possible as is done in China. In short, the US is not a communist country, and its products and services are not going to be priced the same priced as if it was. Americans need to decide how important it is to have products made here, because businesses will make more products in America if there is consumer demand.
Buying American is no different than paying a premium for a Swiss watch, a German car, a French piece of clothing, or organic food. There is demand for these products and services because they represent a set of standards that the consumer is willing to pay extra. In many cases, over time the premium on a product will go down from effective production, competing products, and increased supply. Again if consumers are willing to pay for American goods, businesses will respond.
My suggestion to businesses is to make to versions of the same product: one in the US and one overseas. Let consumers decide which one they prefer instead of just saying “consumers are unwilling to pay extra.” How can a consumer decide how much is extra, when they do not even have the option for a second product, or know how much more it costs to be manufactured in the US? My suggestion to the consumer, and all Americans, is use your power while you still have it. Politicians and businesses aren’t going to fix this mess, but you can.
Let’s say that instead of global warming being the largest man-made disaster waiting in the wings in modern history, that instead it is the largest man-made hoax in modern history. Let’s say that instead of considering the planetary atmosphere of the earth to be a delicate environmental system that traps and sequesters heat from gasses- like say how a garage can heat up from a running car- that the earth’s atmosphere is designed to re-circulate heat – more like a living organism that monitors its temperature than an empty garage. Let’s say that instead of using global warming and climate change as the determining measure for whether pursuing a clean-energy economy is worthwhile policy or not, we don’t even weigh it into the deciding outcome.
Sitting atop one end of the scale, is a window into the future that could include not needing to rely indefinitely on indefinite resources for energy use. Potential for putting oil dictators that have drawn a bull’s-eye on our back out of business. Promise to ignite a hotbed of jobs- from the researcher and developers needed to find greener sources of energy- to the medium skilled needed to construct, manage and maintain these sources. Green energy would give America an immediately exportable commodity to developing nations interested in renewable resources, and in turn lower the trade-deficit and perhaps the national debt. With less carbon emissions in the atmosphere air quality would improve substantially, which given the public’s aversion to drinking tap water (a source that unlike air has already been filtered of most man-made substances), is cause that you would think would have stronger legs under it.
Finding clean- renewable energy resources isn’t a pursuit confined to a particular generation or political side. Richard Nixon, conservative, stated in 1974 that “[America would] break the back of an energy crisis; [that] it will lay the foundation for future capacity to meet America's energy needs from America's own resources,” and every American president thereafter, Republican or Democrat, has echoed a similar sentiment into an empty well of promises. There appears to be the will for clean-energy, but it just cannot outweigh what sits atop the other end of the green-economy scale: prices.
Until clean-energy is cheap energy, it will never be the preferred source for power in modern-industrialized nations. By most estimates, a total conversion to clean energy would initially take 5-6% out of the GDP for any economy that uses it. In America, this would mean 800 billion total or about 20 thousand dollars for every man woman and child. In addition to the initial price, it is also a very real possibility that a wide-scale conversion to clean-energy would not be able to meet today’s energy needs.
There are only two ways to get the benefits of a clean-energy economy without it having a disastrous effect on the economy that uses it. One would be to have every single modernized-industrial use it, thereby negating the economic advantage of cheap energy. Since we can’t even get countries to limit their emissions, it is unlikely that they are going to willfully convert to clean-energy. The second is to spur development new technologies that make clean energy realistic and affordable.
This is why I propose that instead of the government giving subsidies to companies to create the next, great technology without any expectation, incentivize it much like California’s program where the state government will fund a percentage of all green-energy technologies purchased. The current federal program of giving subsidies to businesses with the hope of coming up with the next great green-tech, is not going to work as well as incentives, because it lacks motivation to actually discover anything new. If the public and politicians are serious about pursuing green-energy, a good place to start is to remove the reported 15 billion in subsidies that oil companies receive to find “green alternatives” to gasoline. There is absolutely no incentive for Chevron to stop producing oil in the near-future, and giving these people greenbacks, isn’t more likely to make them greener in the future.
Also, if America is serious about limiting pollution, than there are many things that can be done right now that are not being considered. In Japan there is literally over 128 different categories to place potentially recyclable materials, in America there is 5. Standardizing food containers and bottles of water so they contain bio-degradable labels, and can be uniformly recycled is one example of how recycling in America is inefficient. In most countries there is a different pick-up for tin, plastic and paper, whereas in America we place these all in one bin, where up to 50% of recyclable material is lost in the sorting process.
Our future rests with energy innovation, but to make up for 40 years of failed policy, we need everything in our tool kit: not just electric cars, but compressed natural gas, gas-to-liquid and coal-to-liquid conversions, and, increasingly, biolfuels. The nearest short-term fix is ethanol, and we should invest more in the infrastructure needed to make it work.
Achieving energy self-sufficiency is vital to our near future, and it can be done- but only by using all of our technologies, and correctly investing the ones we do not have yet.
More than four out of five dentists agree that fluoride will reduce cavities. But non-dentists are kind of split.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral used to fight tooth decay in children and also used to poison rats. This is the sort of juxtaposition that gets people upset.
The defenders of fluoridation, the practice of adding a small amount of fluoride to drinking water in order to fight tooth decay, are forced to respond to comments about these contradictory uses of fluoride by explaining that it's a matter of dosage. The amount of fluoride used to fight cavities is very small, you see, whereas the amount of fluoride in rat poison is very large.
This isn't exactly the most viscerally satisfying response. A concerned parent wants to hear "we are NOT adding rat poison to your children's drinking water," but instead they're being told "we're not adding too MUCH rat poison to your children's drinking water."
It also raises the question: Why fluoride? Why not have make it mandatory to add Vitamin C to drinking water? Or Vitamin B-12? Or calcium? Or zinc? All of these things are theoretically good for people. In fact, most of them are arguably more important to good health than fighting cavities.
Unlike vitamin C, calcium, or zinc, there are actually rather a lot of valid concerns regarding fluoride in the diet. The major worries regarding fluoridation include:
- One, there isn't any scientific body of work that examines how much fluoride is in the environment and food supply of the average American. That means there's no way of knowing just how much fluoride the average American are is ingesting on any given day.
- Two, the EPA's professional union (including scientists and engineers) is on the record opposing the fluoridation of water. According to their statement, “Of particular concern are recent epidemiology studies linking fluoride exposure to lowered IQ in children. As the professionals who are charged with assessing the safety of drinking water, we conclude that the health and welfare of the public is not served by the addition of this substance to the public water supply."
- Three, according to one anti-fluoride researcher, Dr. John Lee, "The goal of our public water facilities should be to provide water that is as pure and safe as possible and not as a vehicle for universal pharmacological treatments regardless of age, the health status of the individual, or the presumed benefit, which, in the case of fluoride, is highly questionable, to say the least." In other words, shouldn't water just be water?
Lastly, there's the way that fluoride was discovered. Around the dawn of the 20th Century, a dentist noticed that the people of Colorado Springs all had miserably ugly stains on their teeth. It was eventually discovered that this was caused by high levels of fluoride in their water supply, which was causing a mild disease due to overexposure. But at the same time, it was noted that the people of the area had much fewer cavities than the norm.
This led to the conclusion that smaller doses of fluoride could prevent tooth decay without causing the discoloring, but the fact is that fluoride was first discovered due to its negative effects.
When dentists learned about this new technique, there was a rush to get the "benefits" of fluoride out to the American public. With a very short span between the early 1940s and the late 1950s, fluoridation flooded into American communities, often with very little public debate.
It's not like fluoridation is universally accepted worldwide; and it's not just poor and underdeveloped countries that have rejected it. Nations in Asia and Africa have adopted fluoridation programs at the insistence of Western science, with often mixed or decidedly negative results, including in China, India and South Africa. Among other governments rejecting it are Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Belgium, Austria and France.
But hey, what do the Swiss know, right?
In 2006, Ron Suskind published “The One Percent Doctrine,” a book about the U.S. war on terrorists after 9/11. The title was drawn from an assessment by then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who, in the face of concerns that a Pakistani scientist was offering nuclear-weapons expertise to Al Qaeda, reportedly declared: “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping Al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.” Cheney contended that the U.S. had to confront a very new type of threat: a “low-probability, high-impact event.”
Soon after Suskind’s book came out, the legal scholar Cass Sunstein, who then was at the University of Chicago, pointed out that Mr. Cheney seemed to be endorsing the same “precautionary principle” that also animated environmentalists. Sunstein wrote in his blog: “According to the Precautionary Principle, it is appropriate to respond aggressively to low-probability, high-impact events — such as climate change. Indeed, another vice president — Al Gore — can be understood to be arguing for a precautionary principle for climate change (though he believes that the chance of disaster is well over 1 percent).”
Of course, Mr. Cheney would never accept that analogy. Indeed, many of the same people who defend Mr. Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine on nukes tell us not to worry at all about catastrophic global warming, where the odds are, in fact, a lot higher than 1 percent, if we stick to business as usual. That is unfortunate, because Cheney’s instinct is precisely the right framework with which to think about the climate issue.
Let's be serious: The evidence that our planet, since the Industrial Revolution, has been on a broad warming trend outside the normal variation patterns — with periodic micro-cooling phases — has been documented by a variety of independent research centers.
As this paper just reported: “Despite recent fluctuations in global temperature year to year, which fueled claims of global cooling, a sustained global warming trend shows no signs of ending, according to new analysis by the World Meteorological Organization made public on Tuesday. The decade of the 2000s is very likely the warmest decade in the modern record.”
This is not complicated. We know that our planet is enveloped in a blanket of greenhouse gases that keep the Earth at a comfortable temperature. As we pump more carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases into that blanket from cars, buildings, agriculture, forests and industry, more heat gets trapped.
What we don’t know, because the climate system is so complex, is what other factors might over time compensate for that man-driven warming, or how rapidly temperatures might rise, melt more ice and raise sea levels. It’s all a game of odds. We’ve never been here before. We just know two things: one, the CO2 we put into the atmosphere stays there for many years, so it is “irreversible” in real-time (barring some feat of geo-engineering); and two, that CO2 buildup has the potential to unleash “catastrophic” warming.
When I see a problem that has even a 1 percent probability of occurring and is “irreversible” and potentially “catastrophic,” I buy insurance. That is what taking climate change seriously is all about.
If we prepare for climate change by building a clean-power economy, but climate change turns out to be a hoax, what would be the result? Well, during a transition period, we would have higher energy prices. But gradually we would be driving battery-powered electric cars and powering more and more of our homes and factories with wind, solar, nuclear and second-generation biofuels. We would be much less dependent on oil dictators who have drawn a bull’s-eye on our backs; our trade deficit would improve; the dollar would strengthen; and the air we breathe would be cleaner. In short, as a country, we would be stronger, more innovative and more energy independent.
But if we don’t prepare, and climate change turns out to be real, life on this planet could become a living hell. And that’s why I’m for doing the Cheney-thing on climate — preparing for 1 percent.
The national debt is 14 trillion dollars. Basically from January-April, all the federal taxes collected by the American government, go towards paying the interest on this debt. To put that into a better perspective, annually the government spends 414 billion dollars paying off the debt’s interest, while the total amount spent by the government on education is 93 billion, transportation 78 billion, and on NASA, 19 billion. Instead of bickering about who caused the debt, what caused the debt, and why we are presently in this situation, while literally over 10 million dollars of tax-payer money is wasted each day, maybe we should be having discussions that propose solutions rather than scuttlebutt.
The national debt is the highest it’s ever been in US history, due in major part that for eight straight years, taxes were and continue to be at their lowest in the history of US taxation. If government spending was completely shut off tomorrow- meaning no military spending, no legal spending (courts), and no federal national security spending - it would still take seven years to pay off the debt. This is not a problem similar to an economic flu, where if it is left alone it will dissolve naturally. Even Ronald Reagan, the godfather of enacting tax cuts for economic strategy, and his begotten son George “no new taxes” Bush Sr., both raised taxes a combined 6 times (one of them being the largest capital gains tax hike in history) solely based on the corpulent growth in the national debt during their terms.
If we are going to free up that money, for more worthwhile uses than interest to our creditors, then it’s going to require an understanding that there hasn’t been a national problem of this fiscal magnitude in recent or recollected times. That if we want to avoid keeping a splinter from turning into a scar; that we need to start planning how to pay off the debt- now. That as long as people are willing to negotiate, we can strike out a deal that’s in everyone’s best interests- from the middle-class to the top-of the class.
1. How about a specific debt tax, that comes with rewards and rebates as soon as certain amounts are paid off. The more money one or one’s business has contributed to the debt fund, the greater the future tax breaks of the person or company. It is not a question of whether a tax is fair or it isn’t: money that has already been spent needs to be re-paid, there is no moral debate.
Even though businesses posted record profits last quarter, they still have said that any tax raise at all will imperil their ability to hire American workers. The threat of unemployment has been the single-largest driving force against increasing the top 2% of wealthiest American’s taxes, regardless of its necessity. This is why I propose a committee that measures the effect of each business or person that falls into the top 2% has on employment in the United States. Companies that have completely shifted their work-forces overseas should be paying higher taxes than companies that are employing Americans (click here).
Many tech-companies are sitting on the largest cash reserves that any business has ever had in US history, mainly because of their ability to use smaller work forces. Raising taxes on these companies is not going to affect the economy in the same way as it would raising them on small business owners that fall into the same tax-bracket (over 200K), which is why…
2. … Tax bracketing needs more specification. While making 200K is wealthy, it’s not the same as 1.5 million a year, 10 million a year, or in the case of over 100 people, 100 million a year. A very simple equation for determining taxes should involve the amount of profit margin one receives (profit after expenses), in conjunction with the amount of Americans a business or person employs. Like mentioned previously, once a certain amount of debt is paid off, the business that were taxed the heaviest, should receive the greatest future tax benefits.
3. Close up the massive overseas tax loopholes by all and any means necessary. CAUTION: Technical jargon ahead:
The way the overseas loophole usually works is something like, (i) the US parent company will do R&D and develop a product (deducting those expenses from U.S. taxable income), then (ii) license the IP/product rights to its foreign subsidiary. (iii) Then the foreign subsidiary will make the product and sell it back to the US. (iv) The US parent will sell it in the US, but the portion of total profits it gets will be much less than if it operated the entire process itself, since it is really just a distributor - most of the profit will go to the foreign subsidiary. This is how General Electric, Exxon-Mobil, and Pfizer all post huge losses in the US and massive gains overseas where there is a lower tax-rate, yet none of the sales or development occurs. The royalty scheme shouldn’t be that large of an issue, since overseas profits made by American companies are supposed to be declared in the U.S. However what occurs instead is the…
4. … "Dutch-sandwich" or “Double-Irish," the completely legal tax scheme that allows companies to set up shop in Ireland, transfer their “overseas” profits to a EU state like the Netherlands, and then ship it to an off-shore account to somewhere like the Islands (43 of the world’s 50 largest banks are headquartered in the Cayman Islands). This allows an American company to declare a state of "overseas deferment," for US tax purposes, meaning that they do not pay taxes until they receive any actual profit. Every 5 years or so, there is a “tax-holiday” where the government gets desperate and allows businesses to declare these profits back in the US at 5% tax rate or less.
American business should have similar tax rates as overseas business to be able compete efficiently, but a 5% rate is not competitive, it’s robbery. European companies cannot “double-Irish,” because they are under the authority of the European Union, and still must pay taxes similar to US rates. It’s amazing that the European Union allows US corporation to do it, and US companies that don’t “double-Irish,” are not more enflamed at the disadvantage they have over companies that do.
5. If all else fails, and the U.S. tax-payer refuses to vote to raise taxes for the wealthiest 1-2% because it is an “unfair penalty on success,” and there is no other way to pay off our debt or reduce the deficit to a healthy amount, I propose raising taxes on every income bracket to a rate that is deemed “fair to everybody.” Perhaps after the average middle-class tax-payer can viscerally feel why higher tax brackets are in place, they will change their opinion on the fairness of taxation.
From the Iraq war to the national stimulus, our government has made huge expenditures financed on credit. The success of these ventures is arguable; perhaps we have easier access to oil now than without the Iraq War, and perhaps unemployment is lower now today because of the fiscal stimulus, maybe not. The point is that it doesn’t matter- there’s no return policy on these purchases, so you better pay up or....
Saudi ArabiaGiven the general Middle Eastern mindset toward Israel, you would think that a country like Saudi Arabia would have a flawless pedigree dating back to prehistory.
Or so you would think. Actually, what we know today as Saudi Arabia is pretty much a 20th century political construct, albeit a 20th century constructed shaped by centuries of momentous cultural and spiritual trends.
Prior to the arrival of Islam, Arabia was a trade center which rose and fell periodically according to the fashions in conquest at any given time.
The Arabs of the time believed in a pantheon of gods and celebrated a variety of fairly standard rituals in support of the pantheon (with sacrifices, icons, pilgrimages, and the like). In the sixth century A.D., however, a new wave arrived, a religion known as Islam, which would play a dominant role in determining the shape of the world for the next 1,500 years.
Mecca had been a religious site for as long as anyone could remember. The temple at Mecca is known as Kaaba, which means cube, a name chosen for fairly obvious reasons related to the shape of the structure. The historical origins of Kaaba are unknown, but it is widely thought to pre-date the birth of Islam.
Inside Kaaba, the black stone of Mecca can be found. Thought by many to be a meteor fragment, the sacred stone is broken into three pieces and housed in as silver mounting. There are a number of conflicting legends about the stone. One of the most-repeated holds that the stone was given to Adam by Allah, and that it was originally light-colored but turned black because it absorbs the sins of those who touch it.
Islamic tradition is more specific when it comes to the temple: Kaaba was originally built by Adam, but the first temple was destroyed. The current structure at Kaaba is held to have been built by Abraham and Ishmael.
When Muhammed founded Islam in the sixth century, Mecca became a central holy place, possibly due to the assimilation of pre-existing pagan traditions around the site. Sunni Islam (the faction representing about 90% of the world's Muslims) calls on all Muslims who are able to make the Haj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in their lives. As Islam spread across the world, the pilgrimage to Mecca upgraded the already valuable real estate of the Arabian peninsula to "priceless." Due to depressingly predictable human nature, this led to a series of wars for control of the region.
Let's skip ahead to who won. The British joined with local Arabs to drive the Ottoman empire out of Mecca starting around 1914. In 1920, the area around Mecca was recognized as an independent kingdom known as Hijaz. Not far away, the region of Najd was led by a local potentate known as Ibn Saud. Western nations played Hijaz and the Saud clan against each other in a long string of political machinations, but in 1926, Ibn Saud gained the upper hand and took over both kingdoms.
In 1932, the region was renamed Saudi Arabia. The next year, they were shootin' for some food, when up from the ground came a bubblin' crude. Oil, that is. Black gold.
Suddenly, Arabia wasn't just a point of interest for Muslims anymore. Through the 1950s, the Saudi government built its infrastructure around the oil industry, and the wealth of the region grew exponentially.
The Saudi royal family spared no expense in building up their nation and their own personal holdings. One enterprising young construction magnate who played a critical role in making this expansion happen was Muhammad Awad bin Laden, who became one of the wealthiest men in the world as a result.
Muhammad bin Laden crafted intimate ties with the royal family as their built an empire together; he became a hero of the state and a powerful dealer in influence. In 1955, he had his 17th son, Osama bin Laden, a development which didn't seem particularly important at the time.
The Saud family were members of the Wahhabi sect, Sunni Muslims who followed strict fundamentalist practices. The Wahhabis believed that people essentially stopped having good ideas around the ninth century, and they rejected any change to Muslim teaching dated past that point. The Saud family instituted the Shari'ah in the kingdom, a system of strict Islamic religious law that serves as the nation's entire judicial system.
Despite the Saud family's obscene wealth, the Wahhabis make a lot of noise about living austerely and avoiding vices such as drugs and alcohol.
Content with accruing phenomenal amounts of wealth despite their religious commitment to not enjoying it, the Saudis became fast friends with the United States for entirely self-serving reasons on both sides. The friendship was tested, but not shattered, during the 1970s, when the Saudis and Iran decided to punish U.S. support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War by tripling the price of oil.
When Shia Muslims toppled the government in Iran in 1979, however, expediency patched up the dispute quickly. Shia Muslims and Wahhabis are pretty much fundementally opposed fundamentalists. The Saudis felt sufficiently threatened to make nice with the West once more, and the U.S. obviously had some serious problems with Iran at that point. The Saudis and the U.S. joined forces to bankroll Saddam Hussein the decade-long war between Iran and Iraq.
Then Hussein decided to bite the hands that had fed him, and things got complicated.
Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait clearly left Hussein in position to sweep right on into Saudi Arabia, much to the horror of the Saudis and their oil-peddling buddies in the Bush administration. In a fateful move, the Saudis invited the U.S. to move its military into their country, at first to prosecute the Gulf War, then as part of a continuing strategy to contain both Iran and Iraq.
The decision to allow U.S. troops into the kingdom infuriated many wealthy and powerful Saudis, including Osama bin Laden. bin Laden had made a name for himself fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and when Iraq invaded Kuwait, he went to the Saudi royal family with an offer to deploy his mujahideen fighters in defense of the kingdom.
When the royal family politely declined his assistance in favor of U.S. tanks, bin Laden threw a fit and eventually was sent into exile, where he continued to build his al Qaeda terrorist network, which made a primary tenet out of the demand that the U.S. remove all forces from the Holy Lands.
Wealthy Saudis had already long been sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East, particularly against Israeli targets, and the influential bin Laden had little trouble recruiting a number of very wealthy sponsors for his organization. Among these men were Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden's brother-in-law, and a little-known figure named Adil Abdul Batargy, who formed a faux charity known as the Benevolence International Foundation to funnel cash to bin Laden operatives around the world.
In a concession to the popularity, wealth and influence of these sheikhs and the bin Laden family itself, the Saudis continually played a game of misdirection concerning Osama's terrorist activities, even when they began to be directly aimed at the U.S.
Afte the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the U.S. put heavy pressure on the Saudis to pitch in for the War on Terror. The Saudis made a show of support, but it was mostly just that — a show. For instance, they arrested Khalifa shortly after the attack, but subsequently released him. He now lives freely in the kingdom, despite the fact that he's wanted by the FBI and the CIA in relation to his terrorist activities in the U.S., the Philippines and elsewhere.
When U.S. President George W Bush decided to expand the war on terror to include a second war Iraq with the objective of toppling Saddam Hussein's regime, the Saudis (and most of the rest of the Middle East) wanted nothing to do with it, and they refused to let the U.S. deploy troops in the kingdom for use in the conflict.
Ironically, this disagreement resulted in a major victory for bin Laden, which was littled noted in the press at the time: The U.S. military completely vacated Saudi Arabia, which has long been one of the stated political goals of al Qaeda's terrorist activities.
In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion of 2003, international observers are closely watching Saudi Arabia, as a measure of the depth and breadth of U.S. alienation in the Arab world.
In addition to the complex issues surrounding the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf, the Iraq "war of liberation," waged with the specific intent of promulgating democracy in the Middle East, has raised serious concerns among many Arab states as to their own futures. The Saudi monarchy is by no means a "constitutional monarchy" with a figurehead at the top, like the U.K. It's an absolute monarchy, i.e., an absolute dictatorship with a hereditary leader that controls every aspect of government and life within in the kingdom, which claims (very seriously) its rule is divinely mandated.
Once a new regime starts to take shape in Iraq, one can be certain the Saudis will be watching closely for that "domino effect" that George W. Bush discussed with great enthusiasm. If Saudi Arabia can produce an Osama bin Laden in good times and during an intimate alliance with the U.S. administration, just imagine what could happen in bad times and during a rift between the two nations.
It boggles the mind. Especiallty when you consider that the Saudis provided a comfy home in exile for Uganda's former cannibal-in-chief Idi Amin Dada until the day he died. Things could get ugly indeed...
In the last two years of the cataclysmic economic downturn, Americans on the list of Forbes top 100 richest people in the world, net-worth increased in both years. Exxon-mobile posted record profits, and after being bailed out, many banks are back to million dollar bonus pay-rates, while Americans directly affected by the crisis cannot find a job and/or cannot afford their residences. Is this what our country has become?
According to the richest businesses and in the country, extending tax cuts are essential for them to keep their American workers employed right now. Small business owners- meaning that they profit over 250K a year but fewer than 7 million- that would face increased taxes, echo the same sentiments. On the basis of this, the Obama administration is set to extend the Bush administration’s tax cuts, for fear of middle-class Americans losing jobs. In the old America, before giving businesses and those defined as rich (less than 1% of the population) trillions of dollars in tax cuts, there would have been a committee to determine who gets which tax cuts to keep the middle-class Americans working, such as FDR’s dealing with big businesses in formulating the New Deal. Exxon-mobile, Goldman Sachs, Walmart; many businesses do not employ a vast amount of middle-class Americans compared to the amount of money that they make. If history is any indication, many of them would not cut workers due to an increase in taxes. Their tax money could be used to pay off the debt, and put more money back in the hands of middle-class Americans.
In another time, this country would have never let 6 million manufacturing jobs be outsourced overseas since 2001 on the sole basis that American labor is “too expensive.” These businesses make the claim that if manufacturing stayed in America, the higher costs of American labor because of minimum wage, labor unions and environmental regulation, would make the price of goods unaffordable for the average working-class American. Yet in 2001, before 42,000 American factories shut down, the economy was doing so well that there was perhaps a government surplus for the first time in decades (this is debatable although the health of the economy at this time is not), and there were no complaints from Americans of “higher priced goods.”
According to the majority of big American businesses, in a time of record profits for many of them, they have been forced to pay their American workers less and to nearly stop manufacturing in this country to remain competitive. So instead of the money from tax cuts “trickling-down” into our own sagging economy, they “trickle-down” into the hands of foreign nation’s labor forces. This has single-handedly leading to the current booms in economies such as in China and India. Until the consumer does something about it, American businesses will continue to pour 100’s of billions of dollars into overseas expansion (manufacturing and sales), in effect turning other countries into larger global competitors, while we as a nation continue to support it by doing nothing at all.
This is why I propose the business calorie; some type of a label on a product or widely available information that reveals the costs, expenses and profits accompanying the sale of the product or service. The consumer has a right to know what goes into their goods and services in the same respect they have a right to know what’s in their food. Consumers often pick and choose to certain foods based on their ingredients and nutritional value, rather than on preferences and prices alone. In the same way, consumers should have a more advanced labeling system for their goods and services.
Take for example New Balance and Nike. New Balance produces about a quarter of their shoes in the US (the only athletic shoe company to still do so), while Nike did not produce one pair in America. Although New Balance embroiders “Made in America,” on their American-made products, it doesn’t tell the whole story. New Balance’s executive pay is directly affected by employing American workers at higher-wages. The average price of a Nike shoe retails at 63 dollars and costs less than 10 dollars to produce, while the price to manufacture a pair of New Balance sneakers in America is considerably higher, leading to far less higher-up compensation. Precise numbers give a distinct picture that the labels “made in China” or “made in America” do not.
As for services, I will break from narrative character here, and tell the story of my experience working at different moving companies. All of the companies generally charged the same price for my services- 50-75 dollars per hour- while I was paid 10 dollars to 21 dollars an hour. Now, all things equal, if you could ask the company directly how much they pay their workers per hour, and how much of the 50-75 dollars per hour went towards expenses and higher-up compensation, wouldn’t you be more likely to pick the company with higher paid workers instead of the company with the highest profit margin? In a time when businesses are cutting wages for employees, because there is an overload of labor, but prices remain the same or go higher, this is one way to benefit the employee.
There are of course problems with the business calorie, one being taking into account technology, but this should not be an ultimate deterrent. If a company figures out how to manufacture more products at a lower price, then this should be acknowledged in the form of some type of number that demonstrates this compared to the standard of labor required. Say for example a pair of shoes normally goes through 3 hands, and technology takes away two of those, this should be reflected. If a company puts a lot of their budget into marketing and research and development, this should be reflected also. It should be for the consumer to take all of these factors into consideration.
The claim is often made that technology has erased the need for many of these manufacturing jobs, yet prices of goods and services have only gone up in the last decade. Companies have stated repeatedly that they cannot afford to manufacture in America, that they cannot afford to have taxes raised, and that they cannot afford to pay their workers market rates. Hopefully, we’ll see.
So the Republicans have now won the house, and have been guaranteeing to bring America back to its glory days. The mantra is pretty clear: Less government spending leads to less government debt. In lieu of government spending, tax cuts will put money directly into businesses hands, leading to more corporate growth and less unemployment. Cracking down on illegal immigrants to create a better sense of national pride, and give those jobs back to Americans. Greater anti-terrorism measures, meaning a better sense of national security. A return to America’s roots by creating a modern “tea-party” to voice American dissatisfaction with the direction the country. Put the country back in the hands of Americans. Sorry folks, it’s not that simple.
First, keeping the tax cuts means that in next year 1.2 trillion dollars goes back into the hands of businesses and people making over 250K. The fiscal Republican plan, extending tax cuts and less government spending, in theory is supposed to enable economic growth and allow the US to pay down its debt. Unfortunately, debt is money that is already spent, and without increasing taxes there is no other way to pay it off. Blaming one party for the debt burden is foolish, as the Republican administration spent almost triple on a failed war effort coupled with bail-outs, as Democrats have spent trying to stimulate the economy (which was originated by both parties).
The idea that increased tax cuts will lead to a better economy is also foolish, as they are and have been in effect for the last six years. When Reagan cut taxes in the 1980’s it did trickle-down to some effect, because businesses still produced things in America. For example, cutting taxes for Wal*mart, meant they could produce more goods, in America, and then sell them to the American public, thus creating a healthy economic flow. Wal*mart in the last six years with the tax cuts, almost exclusively deals with Chinese labor, and has spent a large sum of money incorporating into foreign countries. There is a way around this, but even Reagan himself, the godfather of trickle-down economics, approved a large repeal of his own tax code sensing that it was not in the best interests of the country.
The next major component of the Republican platform, to crack down on illegal immigrants in America, is as unlikely as it is disingenuous. To get rid of illegal immigration… oh who cares, its falling on deaf ears anyway.
Latrobe, Pennsylvania is responsible for two main exports worthy of note: Rolling Rock bottled beer, and America's best loved television neighbor, Mister Rogers.
Frederick McFeely Rogers was born in 1928, a year before the stock market crash brought about the Great Depression. His company, Family Communications, made over one thousand television programs at the studios of WQED in Pittsburgh; each designed to help children understand our often baffling world.
He wasn't an actor, but a child development specialist who gave children the confidence to talk about their feelings, express themselves through art, and imagine make-believe worlds. His offscreen lifestyle was identical to that of his television persona: a reassuring adult who was not only happy to sit and talk, but one who managed to live out his entire life without the slightest whisper of scandal -- unless you count one the time he nearly missed a hole while buttoning up his cardigan. He wrote the scripts, the music, the dialog between players, and all the songs in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. The program started in 1968, and ultimately became longest-running program on PBS.
The opening theme, Won't You Be My Neighbor, is meant as a genuine invitation to the viewer. Each program conforms to a simple pattern, with all of Mister Rogers' actions encouraging a deeper understanding of the outside world. The act of arriving onstage in a formal suit and tie, then changing into both a colorful sweater and beige or navy blue loafers is meant to mirror what a child witnesses as his parents leave for work in the morning and come home at night. Each visit begins with an introductory discussion of something he's brought along with him: art supplies, a kite, sticks of chalk, even a bear costume.
Sometimes the props are simpler, like cardboard toilet paper tubes. The household objects have a dual role: they spark a child's interest in creating something from nothing, and they speak to audience members from lesser-income families, where fancier toys might not be readily available. He feeds the fish and speaks to them, demonstrating a sense of care and responsibility for others. And in every program he sits down with a red trolley on an electric track which transports them to a surreal other-world, the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, populated with puppets and human characters like Lady Aberlin, Robert Troll, Neighbor Aber, Mayor Maggie, Handyman Negri, and Miss Paulificate. Some children catch on to the fact that Mister Rogers is not only the puppeteer, but also the voice of King Friday, Queen Sara, Daniel Striped Tiger, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, Henrietta Pussycat, X the Owl, Donkey Hodie, Grandpere, chair manufacturer Cornflake S. Pecially, and numerous others.
Several times a week, Mister Rogers inserts a reel of 8mm film or a videotape into Picture Picture, a multimedia home entertainment system so-called because the central viewing rectangle is centered inside two gold picture frames. He shows hypnotic, supremely watchable documentary segments where kids get to see how everyday things -- pretzels, pencil erasers, teddy bears, toothbrushes -- are assembled by daunting machinery inside industrial factories, packaged by hand, and shipped to the neighborhood corner stores across America.
Fred went to Latrobe High School and started college at Dartmouth in New Hampshire, before transferring in 1951 to Rollins College, a liberal arts institution and the oldest recognized college in Florida. Here he earned a degree in music composition. From there, he had planned to go on to the seminary -- but before he could do so, he got a chance to see something relatively new at his parents' house, something called a "television".
Well, Fred thought television was perfectly horrible. He had never seen anything so fumbling or poorly executed. He promptly announced to his family that he wasn't going into the seminary after all, he'd be doing television instead -- he'd seen enough, and now he wanted to dip his hands in it. He went to NBC, where he worked his way up the ladder, delivering coffees. He worked as a floor director on The Gabby Hayes Show, a showcase of Western films. He also maintained sets and stages for The Lucky Strike Hit Parade, The Kate Smith Hour, and NBC Opera Theatre. It was here that he learned that television -- when done correctly -- could be a very intimate medium, and he wondered if the best way to deliver messages to untold thousands of people over live TV might be as simple as pretending there was only one lonely child out there watching the screen.
In July of 1952, Fred married Joanne Byrd, whom he'd met at Rollins. The next year they moved to Pittsburgh, where Fred decided to help start America's first community-sponsored television station, WQED. There was a lot of paper folding, envelope stuffing, and solicitation for donations -- and at the time, there were only six people trying to get "educational television" on the air. He worked with a perky young actress named Josie Carey, and together they created the station's first regular educational program, The Children's Corner.
This was a charming, beautiful program which featured lively, improvised discussions between Josie and a number of Fred's puppet characters -- many of whom would later become regulars in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Fred worked behind the scenes, giving each puppet voice characterizations and a personality. The most notable was Daniel Striped Tiger who lived in a clock. He was originally going to be a cuckoo bird, but an error in communication with a prop manager produced a tiger puppet instead. Henrietta Pussycat also came into existence, but she could only say three phrases punctuated by "meows": telephone, beautiful, and Mister Rogers. X the Owl represented Fred's scatterbrained side, while King Friday was official and pompous -- an easily understood metaphor for powerful authoritative systems like government and the police department.
"We would talk," Josie remembers. "And we were only supposed to do two or three minutes of material, but some days it would be so interesting we wouldn't stop. And we'd ask each other on the air, me and the puppets, whether or not we were having an intellectual conversation. And we'd agree yes, it was intellectual, and we'd go on with it."
It was live TV, and since Fred had to run quickly and quietly behind the scenes (back and forth between puppet stages) before each broadcast he'd take off his shoes and change into sneakers, a habit which stayed with him throughout his television career. The program remained popular with children and adults, and stayed on the air until 1961.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) gave Fred his next opportunity to produce programs for children. When Fred went north, he took many of the puppets from The Children's Corner with him, and began to call their world the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. The studio set pieces as we know them today -- the castle, the tree, Daniel Tiger's clock, the Museum-Go-Round, the schoolhouse, the platypus mound, the Eiffel Tower, the schoolhouse in Some Place Else and the trolley -- were actually constructed for Fred by the Canadian Broadcasting Company.
The Canadian program was one word: MisteRogers, and for the first time, Fred was in front of the camera. The show was a hit in Canada, but before long Fred had two sons, and he and Joanne moved back to Pittsburgh. Also by this time, after years of part-time study, Fred had become an ordained Presbyterian minister.
"What if you were offered an hour of live television every day?" Fred wondered aloud, in several interviews. "Can you imagine what it's like to try to fill that up with something of value? I wanted to give the best I could."
In the late 1960s, the U.S. Senate was considering cutting in half an important twenty million dollar grant for so-called "public broadcasting". Fred, not yet famous with adults, was invited to speak and submit a paper at the hearing. He would plead his case -- what makes public television different, why his program differs from cartoons and violence elsewhere on the dial -- and he would do so before the notoriously gruff and impatient Senator John O. Pastore [D] from Rhode Island. Pastore was the first Italian American elected to the United States Senate in 1950.
Senator Pastore: All right Rogers, you got the floor.
Fred Rogers: Senator Pastore, this is a philosophical statement [motioning to a text copy of the essay he'd submitted] and would take about ten minutes to read, so I'll not do that. One of the first things that a child learns in a healthy family is trust, and I trust what you've said, that you'll read this. It's very important to me, I care deeply about children, my first--
Senator Pastore: [interrupting] Will it make you happy if you read it?
Fred Rogers: I'd -- just like to talk about it, if it's all right --
Senator Pastore: [interrupting] Fine.
Fred Rogers: This is what I give. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, "you've made this day a special day by just your being you. There's no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are." I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service.
Senator Pastore: [After a long pause] I'm supposed to be a pretty tough guy. This is the first time I've had goose bumps in the last two days.
Fred Rogers: Well I'm grateful. Not only for your goose bumps, but for your interest in our kind of communication.
Fred spoke for about six minutes total, taking the time to recite lyrics from one of his songs.
Fred Rogers: Know that there's something deep inside, that helps us become what we can. For a girl can be someday a lady, and a boy can be someday a man.
Senator Pastore: [visibly misty and touched] I think it's wonderful. That is just so wonderful. Looks like you just won the twenty million dollars.
Spontaneous applause thundered throughout the courtroom. By that time, National Educational Television (the precursor to PBS) had already started broadcasting Fred's programs nationwide in black and white. MisteRogers made its debut on February 19, 1968. Eventually the show would be in color, Mister Rogers would be split into two words, and the set and furniture would be updated -- but only by small degrees to prevent emotionally sensitive children from becoming confused. Senator Pastore died in 1994. One year later, his Senatorial position would be assumed by another Italian American, the homophobic Rick Santorum [R], also from Pennsylvania.
Michael "Batman-Beetlejuice-Mr. Mom" Keaton, a native Pittsburgher, operated both Picture Picture and the electric trolley mechanism when he worked on the studio crew during the 1970s. Sometimes when Fred slid the compartment back to insert a film into Picture Picture, Keaton would intone, "I'm ready to hear your confession, my son."
It was for this new national series that Fred asked Johnny Costa to be his musical director. This was a surprising choice, since Costa had an extraordinarily nuanced and sophisticated musical style, especially for a children's program. Each day, Costa's musical trio performed all the songs and music live in the studio, as each episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was videotaped. The trolley whistles, Mister McFeely's frenetic Speedy Delivery piano plonks, and the vibraphone flute-toots as Fred sprinkles flakes of fish food into the aquarium were also performed live, as well as Fred's entrance and exit songs. Discerning listeners can easily observe that no rendering of any score across two episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood are even close to identical.
Fred considered Johnny one of the most gifted musicians he'd ever met, and one of the most talented jazz pianists in the world. When Costa first started working with Fred, he was a little nervous. Costa wasn't sure how to write jazz for children, but Fred allowed him to do whatever he wanted. Through Costa's enthusiastic and twinkly musical score, one couldn't help but feel the program was a labor of love, constructed by gifted, sensitive individuals intent on child development. Songs performed by Mister Rogers are delivered at a slow pace and address unusual topics, such as the fear of being slurped down the bathtub drain, or a celebration of everyone's body being both fancy and just fine the way it is. Songs which encourage kids to pick up their blocks and put them away (or to pound clay when they're "feeling so mad they could bite.") have earned Mister Rogers the honorary subtitle of the singing psychiatrist.
"I must be an emotional archaeologist," Fred says, "because I keep looking for the roots of things. Particularly the roots of behavior and why I feel certain ways about certain things."
On Tuesday, July 28, 1998, more than 300 PBS stations aired an episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood featuring Koko, the sign-language using gorilla. This week-long series addressed the confusion and fear young children often experience when confronted with new situations or people who look different from themselves. The week long theme of "inclusion" featured Koko and helpful talks about feeling included, no matter what a child can or can't do. Dispelling the age-old myth of gorillas as frightening monsters, Koko's affinity for Mister Rogers was immediately apparent. His quiet manner soon had Koko so relaxed that she had her arm around him and was intent on removing his sweater and shoes.
In 1968, Rogers was appointed Chairman of the Forum on Mass Media and Child Development of the White House Conference on Youth. Besides two George Foster Peabody Awards, Emmys, Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the TV Critics Association, Fred Rogers received every major award in television for which he is eligible -- and many others from special-interest groups in education, communications, and early childhood. In 1999, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
Fred Rogers received more than 40 honorary degrees from colleges and universities, including Yale University, Hobart and William Smith, Carnegie Mellon University, Boston University, Saint Vincent College, University of Pittsburgh, North Carolina State University, University of Connecticut, Dartmouth College, Waynesburg College, and his alma mater, Rollins College.
In 2002, President George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, recognizing his contribution to the well-being of children and a career in public television that demonstrates the importance of kindness, compassion and learning. Unfortunately, during the ceremony, President Bush kept referring to the program as "Mister Rogers's Neighborhood".
Subject matter on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood grew increasingly complex. Topics like adoption and divorce were introduced, as well as death. In one program, Fred shows viewers one of his fishes who's passed on. Special visitors to the "Neighborhood" over the years have included Tony Bennett, Big Bird, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, The Boys Choir of Harlem, children's author Eric Carle, folksinger Ella Jenkins, Julia Child, pianist Van Cliburn, magician David Copperfield, marine biologist Sylvia Earle, Arthur Mitchell and his Dance Theatre of Harlem, actress Rita Moreno, paper sculptor Ben Gonzales, tv stars from "The Incredible Hulk" Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, poet May Sarton, Steeler football wide receiver Lynn Swann, Broadway star Tommy Tune, oboist Natasha, creator and author of the Arthur books Marc Brown, Soviet children's television host Tatiana Vedeneeva, pianist Andre Watts, Olympic gold medalist ice skater Peggy Fleming, the Mississippi Fife and Drum Corp, classical guitarist Manuel Barrueco, Apollo XV astronaut Al Worden, potter Eva Kwong, violinist Hilary Hahn, and the performers from the off-Broadway production Stomp.
The last episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood aired Friday, August 31, 2001. Fred Rogers died shortly after being diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2003. He was buried in a private ceremony attended by sixty relatives, co-workers, and friends, but he told very few people he was sick.
David Newell, who played Mister McFeely on the program, served as the family spokesman. After Newell delivered the news, virtually every metropolitan newspaper in the United States started Fred Rogers' obituary on their front pages -- even tabloids which typically favor lurid local stories. The New York Post led its edition with a story of scandal. "Sizzling affair with drug wife sinks narc," the headline ran. Then, a few inches below, the paper began a two-page "special homage" to Mister Rogers.
Bette Midler's touring show "Kiss My Brass" offers a tender musical tribute to Mister Rogers. Joining him in a "virtual duet," she sings a rendition of I Like to Be Told -- along with full screen video taken from the program.
Even the FOX animated series Family Guy made an effort to pay tribute to Mister Roger's Neighborhood in the episode "Brian in Love". Baby Stewie emerges from trolley tunnel holding a pop-gun, announcing that Mr. Rogers should "avoid the Neighborhood of Make Believe today, as I dare say you'll find it quite in ruins."
Mister Rogers pokes his head through the porthole, and sure enough: the castle has been bombed and burned beyond recognition. King Friday and Queen Sara swing back and forth from home-made hangman's nooses. Daniel Striped Tiger and Prince Tuesday are seen chained in the basement. X the Owl flops lifelessly with two broken wings in his tree branch. Lady Elaine Fairchilde spins lifelessly in circles from the Museum-Go-Round, her head bonking repeatedly against cement blocks -- and Henrietta Pussycat runs dazed through the neighborhood with a jinglebell, roaring with flames and screaming "meow meow meow - skin graft - meow meow meow." The Mister Rogers vs. Stewie gag aired once, but was cut from subsequent airings. The fully restored edit can only be seen in the DVD box set.
One of Fred's bright red cardigan sweaters (knitted by his late mother) is enshrined in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., along with Archie Bunker's easy chair and the set from the M*A*S*H television series. The Smithsonian staff reports that the Mister Rogers sweater is the third most-requested item by tourists.
There was a moment at the 1998 Daytime Emmys when Mister Rogers was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Tom Junod covered the story for Esquire magazine.
"...Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award -- and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone: All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence.
And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, I'll watch the time. There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn't kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds -- and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly, May God be with you to all his vanquished children."
Even after America weathers the current economic storm, the future job market is no guaranteed picnic. The band-aids (bailouts), high-voltage shocks (stimulus), and “break only in case of emergency” relief measures passed by congress to lower unemployment, have yet to do so, or inspire confidence that they will. There are literally hundreds of reasons given by pundits, analysts, and any Joe 6-pack (and Joe 6-figure) on the street for why the American economy fell to its knees, but general agreement that any proposed solutions to liftt it up must do one thing: create jobs.
More Government spending, or cutting taxes further encourages temporary job growth, but neither one can be considered a magic bullet for long-term economic growth. It is not guaranteed that cutting taxes for businesses (and people making over 250K) means that the extra capital will be used to create a significant amount of new jobs or that it will have noticeable effects on the economy. The current form of government spending, the Stimulus, also brings no guarantees as unemployment has remained at the same level for over a year, and is predicted to stay that way. A long-term plan that puts people back to work doesn’t involve rocket science, in fact it’s the opposite: making more of the products we buy in America, in America.
Manufacturing creates jobs for those who lack any specialization, like working on basic assembly lines, hauling materials, and warehouse maintenance. For those with specializations, It creates jobs on assembly lines that create more complex goods (instead of just doing “quality control," meaning that a product is made in another country and then inspected in America), as well as increasing the need for experienced managers to help run and supervise the factories. Research and developers are also needed to help lead product innovation (something that has also been increasingly outsourced) and to help the factories run better and more efficiently. It is often argued that the American economy has “evolved” past manufacturing; that by allowing labor forces of other countries to produce almost all of our goods, it opens the average Americans up to work jobs with a greater emphasis on education and specialization that they wouldn’t work otherwise. This theory is now outdated.
It is true that when America’s economy was primarily a manufacturing base that non-manufacturing sectors of the economy did not reach optimal levels. With so many middle-class Americans working in factories, it didn’t leave room for informational sectors to grow (financial services, research, technology). These sectors are generally considered by economists the next step to advance in a global economy because their focus on education and specialization. The harder it is for other countries to create these jobs, the greater their worth, and the higher the wages in America. This has largely worked until recently, when it has become clear that there are not enough of these jobs to go around.
Over 6 million Americans have been laid-off since 2001 from the shutting down of over 42,000 American factories. Even if every one of these workers were specialized in a certain trade or skill and ready to move into another sector, it doesn’t mean that anybody would be hiring for that skill. For example, many lawyers are all having trouble finding work because there are now too many law schools making lawyers. We have moved so quickly to outsource American manufacturing jobs, that other sectors have not been able to replace them. When the market bubble created trillions in wealth it wasn't noticeable, now that it has corrected itself, we can see the problem for what it's worth.
Over 300 billion is given out annually in welfare (and rising), billions more by private businesses in unemployment (and rising), and one in eight Americans on food stamps. Many of these people could be generating income working in factories. Not only would this free up the government to pay down its debt, but it would grease the economy’s gears by putting fresh dollars in the hands of Americans who would in turn make more purchases; thereby increasing the demand for goods and services, and thus more business. Its trickle-up economics. Large businesses see more business; and expand to accommodate this business. Unlike the rapid economic growth that is accompanied by a boom with the seeds sewn for its own bust, this would be more like a boon, without the lingering threat of failure. The difference is that it takes money that businesses already have, and puts it in the hands of our labor class.
Currently the largest reason, if not the only reason, for why these jobs have almost completely evaporated from within our borders, is the high price of labor. An item is only effective as its price, and until something is done, these jobs will continue going overseas, and keep out-selling American products of superior quality. Lowering minimum wage for basic assembly plants has been suggested, but by itself this is ineffective. In America, minimum wage cannot pay for living quarters, food, very few luxuries, with people still often needing public assistance. Instead of lowering minimum-wage by itself, offer housing to go with it, day-care, a cafeteria.
The new generation of manufacturing plants in China offers all of these things, to compensate for the low-wages. Minimum-wage should be the standard, but it should be able to be contracted out of if other livable necessities are provided. A monthly check is at 3.5 dollars an hour at a full-time job is still more than a welfare check. Businesses can receive government incentives to help them create cheap, new, livable housing, instead of the current proposal which is to just cut their taxes and hope they do something with it. WIth the extra money saved on welfare, government spending etc. there can be a special credit in place to help these people buy other necessities such as cars and education (and back into the economy). If people would rather be on welfare, tough luck, as this creates jobs that there are no reasons for anybody to work and thus the government should take action accordingly. There are laborers working 12 hours a day in foreign countries with terrible work conditions, no freedom, barely able to feed their families. Is this really what Americans want to support by continuing to buy their goods?
There are already abandoned factories available in America for literally a steal, and we can make them worth something.
Factories that assemble complex machinery would be harder to bring back to American soil, but then again, instead of the government cutting taxes and hoping that it leads to job growth, they can use some of that money to give incentives to businesses that resurrect these plants on American soil. It’s better than spending 787 billion dollars on rail-roads and renovations.American goods will probably still end up costing more, but if we want real change, we need to get past nickel and diming. If there are two somewhat similarly priced items, one made in America and one not, why not give it to the hometown team. The one that that was made with an eye to fair labor; and the one that helps the people of this country, and in turn you. The stronger “Made in America” becomes, the more Americans that are employed, and the more likely the next American flag you buy will not say “Made in China.”