April 27, 2009
As a young man, back in the 1970''s and 1980''s, I wasted a lot of time playing basketball and tennis. One of my tennis buddies from West Point worked at Babcock & Wilcox, which had the reputation of paying the highest wages of any employer in Clay County. The employees of B&W were preparing to go on another strike when I had a rather interesting conversation with my tennis friend. I asked him, "As you continue to demand higher wages and more benefits, the cost of your production will continue to go higher and higher. As our economy becomes more global and you are no longer able to compete worldwide and the company is forced to shut down, what will you do?" My friends response seemed pretty much in line with the typical American perspective, "Oh, I''d just go and find another job."
Let''s just say things ain''t what they used to be. The Monroe Journal April 8, 2009, edition reported Clay County''s current unemployment rate at 15.7% and rising. Monroe County is not faring much better at 13.8%. Many companies like Bryan Foods, which seemed like part of our permanent landscape, have closed down and shut the doors. To put it mildly, jobs are not as plentiful as they used to be.
Many Americans have very little idea of the economic bubble we have been living in for the last 40 years. Consider the fact that a very small percentage of the earth''s population (America) has been the consumer of a large portion of the world''s wealth. We have enjoyed this status for many years, but, unfortunately, we are in a rapidly changing world. Let''s consider some of these changes.
Once our national leaders (presidents) began to shift from being nationalists to being internationalists, our current condition became inevitable. This shift has been gradual but it is my conclusion that most of our presidents with the last 30 to 40 years have been internationalists. This is why NAFTA and other international trade agreements were signed under the pretext of "free trade." What did these trade agreements do to America''s manufacturing base? It has been decimated. Many American companies have shifted their production to China, Mexico and other low-wage countries. The gate has been opened, the horse is out of the barn, and we are indeed headed for a global economy.
Can America live with this arrangement? It is my conclusion that America, as we have functioned for the last 100 years, cannot continue to thrive and prosper under these conditions. What does this mean for the country and us individually? This means America''s financial strength will continue to falter unless we (nationally) make some tough decisions and begin to bring spending under control. There is still time and room for us to turn, but if our leaders continue to refuse to face reality - well, reality will face us.
Stephen Schrock, Prairie