The following research paper on The Hamilton Plan was written by Deepak Verma, a business student at Baruch College. To our knowledge it is the first scholarly research that incorporates the Hamilton Plans theme of a focus on SME manufacturing.
ISSUES MANAGEMENT PROJECT
Prof. Michael Kirk Stauffer
The Societal and Governmental Environment of Business
Baruch College, the City University of New York
December 16, 2009
Table of Content
Topic Page No
1. Executive Summary 2
2. The Issue: Shrinking Manufacturing Base 3-4
3. The Origin of the Issue and Solution 4-5
4. Small & Medium Enterprises; Catalyst of Sustainable Growth 6
5. Initiative for Development of SMEs 7-8
6. Future of SME and SMEs in USA 9
7. Appendix : References 10
Living beyond means is not sustainable. One of the primary reasons of prolonged Economic and Credit Crisis in United States is its low manufacturing base and American way of consuming more than what is produced. This research paper will examine issue of shrinking manufacturing base of USA, unfair and unethical business practices adopted by countries such as China to boost export thereby causing trade deficit to USA, reasons for low manufacturing base and role of small and medium enterprise (SME) manufacturers in developing a sustainable manufacturing base of the US economy.
Prior to coming at Baruch College for pursuing MBA in finance and investments, I worked for over 10 years with Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), an apex financial institution of India engaged in the development and financing of SMEs and micro financial institutions. Having worked with this financial institution, I realized the importance of SMEs in bringing sustainable economic development and employment creation, particularly in a mixed economy like India.
The paper will discuss on public-private initiative in USA for development of SMEs, their efforts and capital investment for empowerment and financing of SMEs. Various initiatives taken by private and public sector will be analyzed. Efforts have been made to forecast future of SMEs vis a vis manufacturing sector, role of community development financial institutions (CDFIs), and flow of commercial bank credit and private equity investment in SMEs in the United States.
THE ISSUE: SHRINKING MANUFACTURING BASE
Why should shrinking manufacturing base be an issue in a market driven service oriented economy like US? Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated on Feb. 28, 2007, “I would say that our economy needs machines and new factories and new buildings and so forth in order for us to have a strong and growing economy.” Strong Manufacturing base is the only solution to rising trade deficit and industrial job loss. Manufacturing promotes innovation which leads to investments in equipment and people, research and development, improved products and processes and increase in productivity and higher standards of living. Increase in manufacturing leads to increase in demand for raw materials and other commercial services.
United States has transitioned from an agricultural economy to Industrial economy to a service economy. Over a period of this transition US has lost its manufacturing base substantially and has been importing goods from around the world which has resulted into huge trade deficit and industrial job losses. IMF has categorized the US current account deficit as unsustainable. Warren Buffet also once commented “The U.S trade deficit is a bigger threat to the domestic economy than either the federal budget deficit or consumer debt and could lead to political turmoil… Right now, the rest of the world owns $3 trillion more of us than we own of them.”
Since the United States joined the WTO, US trade deficit has risen from $150.6 billion in 1994 to $817.3 billion in 2006. US reliance on imports ranges from electronic items to apparels and other consumables. For example, electronic items sold in United States are developed by companies such as Philips, Toshiba, Sony, Hitachi, Samsung and Sharp. We have lost significant market share in Auto Industry also. Toyota has surpassed General Motors to become leading auto manufacturer in terms of global sales. Ironically, items such as clothing and apparel where USA had its dominance are also being imported from foreign countries. Over 90 percent of clothing and shoes sold in the United States are made in foreign countries. US economy has thrived on consumerism which has led to increase in demand for goods over the years but production of domestically manufactured goods has been declining, thereby giving rise to imports from foreign countries and loss of industrial jobs.
Critics of the argument say it is the increase in production efficiencies, resulted from technological innovation and advancement that has resulted in loss of jobs. Additionally, it is the increase in consumption which is the root cause of import deficit rather than shrinking manufacturing base. Undoubtedly long term data indicates an increase in US manufacturing, but the way we are loosing our manufacturing share from last 2 decades and if we continue shrinking, we will soon have no choice but to consume whatever is dumped in our market and will be on the mercy of foreign imported goods. Increase in manufacturing has not kept pace with global growth in manufacturing in USA. Since 2000 global manufacturing growth has been 47%, whereas USA has recorded a growth rate of only 19%.
ORIGIN OF THE ISSUE & SOLUTION
What is causing shrinking manufacturing base in the United States? Is it purely competitive and cheaper products manufactured in Asia and Europe or some other factors are also responsible? Undoubtedly competitive global business environment has severely affected domestic production in the United States, this crisis in large arises due to unfair and unethical business practices adopted by its trading partners mainly China. Some of those practices are significant government subsidies, currency manipulation, large-scale dumping in the U.S. market, and other market-distorting practices. Additionally, unfavorable govt. policies, tax structure, increase in cost involved in healthcare, litigation, and regulation has significantly affected the bottom line. Increase in cost and strict regulation forced manufacturing units to move their facilities to other countries where companies do not face those kinds of impediments. Companies operating in the U.S. started outsourcing low-value tasks like simple assembly or circuit-board stuffing, but lower cost of outsourcing and shrinking margin lured them to continue outsourcing sophisticated engineering and manufacturing capabilities that are crucial for innovation in a wide range of products. As a result, the U.S. has lost or is in the process of losing the knowledge, skilled people, and supplier infrastructure needed to manufacture many of the cutting-edge products it invented.
Is there any way to bring back our manufacturing base? The view that the U.S. should focus on R&D and services is completely flawed. Manufacturing is part of the innovation process and United States has to expand its manufacturing base to remain a world leader.
Following may be suggested to address the issue:
(1) Increase the tariffs on foreign goods so that they are more expensive than domestic goods.
(2) Demand the same level of quality in all foreign goods as American goods.
(3) Diplomatic measures should be taken to create pressure on foreign countries particularly China to stop manipulating their currencies.
Efforts should be made to open up foreign consumption markets adequately to U.S. producers so as to increase export and minimize trade deficit and should endeavor to combat predatory foreign trade practices aimed at undermining U.S. producers in their home market. Next big step is to promote small and medium enterprises to set-up manufacturing units.
SMALL & MEDIUM ENTERPRISES (SMEs); CATALYST OF SUSTAINABLE GROWTH
The issue of shrinking manufacturing base in the United States has been discussed by economist, policymakers, industrialists, and think tanks since economic integration and various measures to improve domestic manufacturing base have been suggested. But considering our free market dominance no sincere efforts were made to expand manufacturing base. Alarming rise in trade deficit and current economic and credit crisis which resulted in to massive industrial job loss has called for immediate intervention of private-public participation to protect and develop domestic manufacturing base for long term sustainable economic growth of United States. It is this time only that the role of SME manufacturers was felt inevitable to address this alarming issue.
President Obama during an interview said “We’ve got to make sure that we’re cultivating small businesses and entrepreneurs who are going to be driving employment growth,” the President said, “so that 20 years from now we can look back and we can say, ‘This was the pivot point, this is where we started to turn the corner.”
US need to change course at this point of time and need to develop a network of small and medium enterprises focusing on cleaner and green technology. The U.S. can explore strategies used in emerging markets for development of SMEs. According to Hau L. Lee, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, “America needs large industrial zones devoted to specific industries–similar to zones in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and much of China. Such areas offer tax breaks, cheap or free land, workforce training, plenty of water and power, and agencies that serve as one-stop shops for all of the necessary permits and regulatory approvals.” A national level specialized financial institution may be created to provide low cost credit to newly setup SMEs in the manufacturing sector. US strength lies in high end technology, innovation, R&D, robust infrastructure, and know-how.
INITIATIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT OF SMEs
US govt. runs a number of programs for providing technological know-how, contracting opportunities, counseling and assistance, financing, and R&D facilities to small and medium enterprises. Some of the prominent programs run by US department of commerce are Manufacturing Extension Program, Advanced Technology Program, Technology Transfer, and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. State govt. and number of govt. agencies are deployed for implementation of these schemes across the United States. SBA provides technical and financial assistance to SMEs through its partner lending institutions.
On November 17, 2009 The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. launched 10,000 Small Businesses — a $500 million initiative for development of 10,000 small businesses across the United States. The plan envisaged to provide greater access to business education, mentors and networks, and financial capital to small businesses. Lloyd C. Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs quoted “Small businesses play a vital role in creating jobs and growth in America’s economy.” Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway also mentioned “Our recovery is dependent on hard working small business owners across America who will create the jobs that America needs. I’m proud to be a part of this innovative program which provides greater access to know-how and capital – two ingredients critical to success.”
Sum2 LLC, a firm which assists SMEs in implementing sound business practices by offering a series of programs and products, announced The Hamilton Plan on Labor Day. The Hamilton Plan is a ten point program to foster the development of manufacturing in the United States by tapping the entrepreneurial energy of small and mid-size enterprises (SME). The Hamilton Plan requires concerted focus of investment capital to fund development and establishment of an SME Development Bank (SDB) which will focus, manage and administer capital formation initiatives to incubate and develop SME manufactures.
I contacted James McCallum, CEO of Sum2llc to discuss the issue of shrinking manufacturing base and how SMEs can help in restoring manufacturing base in the United States. In response to my comment here is what he stated “It is pretty amazing that the United States has not done more to specifically encourage and address the unique needs of this critical economic driver. Many Asian countries are miles ahead of the US in SME banking and capital formation. These banks have extensive portfolios of finance products and technical assistance they provide to SME’s. The reasons that the US lacks focus in this area are many. US commitment to free market forces has badly warped our economic infrastructure. SMEs in the US have primarily relied on community banks for financing. Most of which went for real estate and construction projects. SME manufactures have just about disappeared from the economic landscape of the US. The credit crash and the economic malaise are awakening our understanding of the critical nature of SMEs and our need to manufacture products. Goldman’s 10,000 Businesses Initiative coalesces nicely with the Hamilton Plan we developed in 2008.”
USA MANUFACTURING & SMEs IN YEAR 2030
With the concerted government efforts for promotion and development of SMEs and private sector initiatives such as “10,000 Small Businesses plan” by Goldman, SMEs will be largely benefited having access to innovative financial products and services from a network of financial institutions. Ten point program suggested in Hamilton plan, if implemented, will bring cluster based development of SME manufacturers. Cleaner and green technology will drive long term sustainable growth, increase national income and result in employment creation. Healthy SMEs will be focusing on export of goods thereby reducing the trade deficit and offer a new market for commercial banking sector. High-tech growth oriented SMEs will also have access to private equity investments and will offer a new avenue of diversification to private equity industry.
But the task of SME development is a challenging task and requires strong will on the part of different stakeholders. SMEs are considered to be the riskiest segment of borrowers from a financial institution’s perspective and thus struggle for timely and adequate credit. Access to technical and market information, financial assistance and trained and educated workers is the biggest challenge for SMEs. Future SMEs require sound business practices such as corporate governance, risk management, stakeholder communications and regulatory compliance.
I believe that SMEs are sine qua non for manufacturing sector & I can foresee a bigger space for SMEs in next 20 years from now. I am so intrigued with the idea of SMEs development and their contribution in the economic growth that in the long run I wish to work as a freelancer offering consultancy and advisory services on financial and strategic matters to SMEs. I would work with a network of financial institutions, venture capitalists, engineers, environmentalists, social workers, suppliers, and policy makers so as to offer SMEs a comprehensive set of services.
U.S. Needs to Return to Its Manufacturing Base
Securing America’s Future: The Case for a Strong Manufacturing Base, A Study by Joel Popkin and Company, Washington, D.C. June 2003, Prepared for the NAM Council of Manufacturing Associations
President predicts it will take decades to revive declining U.S. manufacturing base?
Manufacturing & Investment Around The World: An International Survey Of Factors Affecting Growth & Performance, ISR Publications, revised 2nd edition, 2002. ISBN 978-0-906321-25-6.
Economy Watch: Economy, Investment & Finance Report
USA Manufacturing output continues to increase (over the long run), Curious cat, Investing and economics blog
Alliance for American Manufacturers http://www.americanmanufacturing.org/issues/manufacturing/the-us-manufacturing-crisis-and-its-disproportionate-effects-on-minorities/
Can the future be built in America? http://proquest.umi.com.remote.baruch.cuny.edu/pqdweb?index=28&did=1860761601&SrchMode=1&sid=2&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1259505905&clientId=8851
TO SAVE AMERICAN MANUFACTURING: USBIC’S PLAN FOR AMERICAN INDUSTRIAL RENEWAL BY Kevin L. Kearns, Alan Tonelson, and William Hawkins
Goldman Sachs Launches 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative
Goldman Sachs as Social Entrepreneur http://sum2llc.wordpress.com/
Hamilton Plan by Sum2llc http://sum2llc.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/sme-development-bank/
You Tube Video: Isley Brothers, Work to Do
Risk: SME, manufacturing, economic revitalization, social wealth
Community developer Lennar Homes lawsuit against drywall manufacturers reminds me of the old Mother Goose nursery rhyme, “for the want of a nail.” The rhyme begins with a nail that was not available to affix a shoe to the hoof of a horse. The loss of the nail loses the shoe, which loses the horse, which loses the rider, which loses the battle, which loses the war, which loses the king which loses the kingdom. For the want of a nail is an instructive tale of how seemingly insignificant or minute events can create consequences that escalate into a catastrophic incident that impacts and endangers many.
The Lennar lawsuit is yet another egregious example of supply chain contamination that has recently come to light. The discovery of toxic substances within drywall manufactured in China and used in the construction of Florida homes has prompted the lawsuit against manufacturers and a number of installation subcontractors that purchased the contaminated drywall on behalf of Lennar.
Lennar’s lawsuit alleges that subcontractors it employed to install dry wall, substituted high quality domestic brands with the less expensive contaminated drywall. The subcontractors imported the contaminated drywall from China to save on costs of materials in an attempt to boost profits for their contracted work. The drywall was discovered to contain toxic substances after a number of homeowners began to complain of foul odors, product deterioration and in some cases sickness due to exposure to the contaminated product.
It is believed that the Chinese drywall was found to contain a quantity of dry ash which was used as a filler substance in the manufacturing process. Dry ash is a waste by product of coal fired power plants that are so prevalent in China. The dry ash is known to contain concentrations of heavy metals that are considered dangerous to humans.
This event is certainly unwelcome news for the beleaguered construction and real estate industries. Particularly so in deeply distressed markets like southern Florida. It has heightened the risk profile of all parties involved and could spell catastrophic consequences for some of the involved manufacturers, homeowners, and contractors. This event can also impact the profitability of banks that may be forced to write off non-performing mortgages and construction loans sold to affected homeowners and contractors. Insurance companies may be required to pay off clams for product liability and homeowner policies. Municipalities are also at risk due to this event. Tax ratables and property values are threatened due to property abandonment and the suspicion that toxins have been introduced into the community.
This risk event will require the drywall manufacturers to face severe legal liability. It will impact profitability due to the financial stress of remediation expenses. Most significantly these types of events do severe damage to the company brand and reputation. A great deal of company and product branding is about trust. This types of events compromise the trust of brand consumers. Once that trust is violated it is very difficult to win it back.
Lennar violated its customers trust by allowing its supply chain to be contaminated. This violation of trust will result in financial loss and may create a long term health risk for Lennars customers and their families.
The municipalities that welcomed Lennar with the anticipation that development will serve the citizens of their communities have now been scarred by an ecological hazard. This will continue to haunt the reputation of these towns for many years because it threatens the value of both contaminated and non contaminated homes.
The drywall installation contractors face a high probability of bankruptcy and potential criminal prosecution. This event will fire a deepening distrust of Chinese manufactured products. It will certainly add stress to the delicate political balance of the highly codependent China USA trade relationship. Instigating calls for more protectionism and “Buy America” mantra by American based manufacturers. The prospect of added strain with China is particularly delicate due to China’s important roll in financing government spending through its large purchases of US government bonds. All because some subcontractors wanted to realize a little more profit margin. For the want of a nail indeed.
The unfortunate realization is that this risk could have been prevented. Master contractors need to put in place service and supply level agreements that prohibit the use of substituted materials. Master contractors need to manage supply chains by insisting that all materials used by subcontractors meet quality specifications and are sourced from trusted and thoroughly vetted providers. Adherence to international product quality and testing standards must be ascertained before those are accepted into the supply chain. This is just one aspect of ascertaining weather a supplier meets acceptance criteria into a company supply chain.
The Profit|Optimizer helps manufacturers, developers, contractors and lenders conduct a risk assessment of their supply chain. It is something that many businesses often take for granted yet holds the potential to become one of the most dangerous risks to the financial health and stability of the business enterprise.
Sum2 sells nails. The Profit|Optimizer helps business nail down risks that can deconstruct your business. It is a great set of tools to build profits and construct a healthy sustainable business.
Next time you read Mother Goose “for the want of a nail” to a child remind them to pay particular attention to its sage advise. It may be the first lesson in effective risk management that they will receive.
You Tube Music Video: Peter Paul and Mary, If I Had A Hammer
Risk: supply chain, product liability, reputation risk, ecological
Last night as I was researching the Peanut Corporation of America’s (PCA) peanut paste recall, my wife received an urgent telephone call from our local supermarket. The caller informed us that the Kashi products we purchased were subject to recall. I was a bit astonished by the call for several reasons. The first being notified of the unhappy news that a premium brand product that I so enjoy has the potential to kill me or make me very ill due to Salmonella bacteria. It goes without saying that it was a most bracing experience. I was also a bit bemused about the ability of my local supermarket to track me down to inform me that my favorite breakfast cereal might endanger me. At the very least letting me know that this is no breakfast for champions.
Though this is a positive example of how consumer product data mining and customer tracking business intelligence is employed; the realization that your breakfast eating habits are tucked away in some giant relational database remains a bit unnerving. But that is a different subject for another day.
After checking with the Kashi website the cereal products I purchased were not listed on the recall list. Kashi website lists granola bars and cookies as its only products that are subject to recall. As a committed consumer of the brand I remember when I purchased the cereal a free granola bar was included in the package for product promotional purposes. When I returned home I eagerly consumed the free granola bars. I am happy to report that I have not fallen ill. I’ll have to go back to the supermarket and ask if the non contaminated cereal I still have in my cupboard remains subject to the recall. An interesting product bundling dilemma.
The mechanics and execution of the product recall seems to be effective. The sophisticated use of data mining technologies and the ability of the manufacturer to contact a retail consumer through a digital trail that includes customer loyalty cards, credit card, and product bar codes is pretty impressive.
What is of concern about Kashi and other processed food manufacturers that are dependent on an expanded and complex supply chain is their failure to uncover the risk associated with the supplier. In this case PCA. It is alleged that PCA had a leaky roof that played a role in contaminating the peanut paste. A simple walk through of the facility may have uncovered this risk factor. Certainly if a company fails to perform the most basic facilities maintenance functions (like a leaky roof) odds are that the company has other issues and businesses functions that it is not addressing. This is the cockroach theory. Where you see one there are usually many others. A simple walk through may have revealed that all was not kosher at PCA.
Supply chain risk is becoming more prominent as manufacturers and service providers aggregate components and ingredients from numerous providers to deliver a finished product or service to end user consumers. The implementation of a sound practice program that addresses risk associated with supply chains is a key ingredient for a sustainable business enterprise.
The Profit|Optimizer devotes a section to supply chain risk. All process manufacturers must require suppliers to conduct a thorough risk assessment of processes and functions as outlined in the Profit|Optimizer. The Profit|Optimizer also includes a section on facilities risk. The risk assessment tools offered by the Profit|Optimizer would have uncovered the dangerous risk factors at PCA and may have prevented the fatal and costly release of contaminated products.
The kismet of commercial enterprises like Kashi will continue to be bright so long as the mantra of sound risk management is practiced with more vigilance. In doing so the health and well being of its loyal customers will flower as will the value of its product brands and the sustainability of the business.
You Tube Video: Vince Guaraldi, The Peanuts Theme
Risk: reputation, brand, product liability
Amidst all the layoffs, business closures and shutdowns the hard edge of capitalism is a painful experience far too many people are forced to endure. During times of plenty, the relationship of labor and capital is harmonious and symbiotic. Both parties recognize the value that each bring to the corporate community and each parties enrichment and well being is served by the degree of harmony present in that relationship. During down business cycles management may resort to layoffs to preserve the enterprise. Unfortunately this often causes resentments and hard feelings on the part of workers who have lost the means of earning a living. When workers return to their jobs this can cause problems and hurt an affirmative corporate culture that is critical to maintaining a sustainable business enterprise.
In the face of the meltdown in the automobile manufacturing sector, Honda Motors is one of a very select few that is not resorting to layoffs. Honda Motors known for product quality and leadership in product innovation and business processes is also highly respected for its treatment of employees. Honda Motors places great emphasis on the creation and maintenance of an affirmative corporate culture to sustain profitability and market leadership.
Honda Motors decision to restructure the work force, and give workers a period of paid leave until business conditions improve speaks volumes about how management respects and values the contribution labor makes to the long term sustainability of the enterprise. Any remuneration workers receive during the leave will be paid back to the company with unpaid overtime when the workers return to the production line.
The value of good will on the Honda Motor balance sheet has increased exponentially. The sustainability of an affirmative corporate culture will drive profitability, product innovation and market leadership for the many years to come.
We applaud Honda Motors for this innovative and enlightened response to the current market challenges.
You Tube Video: June Carter Cash & Johnny Cash, One Piece At A Time
Risk: sustainability, labor relations, corporate culture
A salmonella breakout that has been traced to peanut products marketed by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) is an unfortunate and severe example of a company with poor risk management, weak corporate governance controls and questionable ethical business practices. In most instances poor risk management and corporate governance violations primarily victimizes the company that fails to institute them. In the case of the PCA, unsound business practices has unleashed a deadly viral bacteria into a vast consumer market. Since its outbreak in October the salmonella infection is believed to have claimed the lives of 8 people and has sickened over 500. PCA violations will also cast a long shadow on the vibrant US peanut growers and processing industry.
A brief examination of some of the public disclosures that have come to light concerning the PCA speaks of a telling breakdown in sound risk management practices. These disclosures also hints at potential instances of fraud to cover up lax controls and compliance violations cited by FDA and State of Georgia food safety examiners.
The PCA had been cited for violations and lax operational controls during past inspections by regulatory agencies. Inspectors found evidence of roach infestation and mold in the production and storage facilities. Inspections also revealed that product quality had been compromised due to a degraded manufacturing process and improper maintenance of the operating facility. After bringing this to the attention of company management PCA executives sought out food testing companies that would provide results to indicate that product quality met federal safety standards and were safe to ship.
Utilizing industry standard risk analysis tools like the Profit|Optimizer would have revealed several breaches in sound risk management practices at PCA. Lax operational controls, poor facilities and the evasion of corporate governance practices will likely put PCA out of business due to the damage its actions have done to company product brands and reputation.
Problems and risks associated with process manufacturers like PCA add layers of complexity to determine product risk due to its role as a supplier in an intricate and expanded supply chain for processed consumer food products. The melamine contamination of Chinese milk products and the mortgage backed securities market crisis provide examples of how product liability and consumer risk is leveraged due supply chain complexity. The pervasiveness of products that use the peanut paste manufactured by PCA is very similar in many respects. Cookies, ice cream, crackers and other products are subject to recall. Some of the companies affected by PCA’s contaminated products include premium consumer product and brand marketing companies like Kellogg, General Mills, Jenny Craig, Nuti-System and Trader Joes.
Severe product liability events like this unfortunately also cast aspersions on an entire industry. Associations like the American Peanut Council are most concerned that the poor manufacturing practices and product quality standards exhibited by PCA will reflect on how consumers view the industry as a whole. It is a valid concern for the industry association and it must demonstrate to the regulators and consumers that its membership is committed to sound manufacturing practices, product quality and corporate governance excellence. This is not a PR problem. Nor is it a problem born from an industries anathema to regulatory control or a problem unleashed by some renegade industry member. Industries and their representative associations must also help address sound risk management and corporate governance excellence as a cultural issue that is endemic to its membership. Then industry excellence becomes synonymous with product quality and consumer satisfaction.
In all the FDA uncovered 10 violations and has published its report and carries a full listing of recalled products and other resources on the FDA website.
You Tube Video: Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band, Salt Peanuts
Risk: product, operations, regulatory, reputation
The ADP National Employment Report was just released. The US economy is bleeding jobs. Over 693,000 jobs were lost during the month of December 2008. The report shows steep declines in all market segments that include, small and mid-size businesses, large businesses, manufacturers, service businesses and construction. The Report shows that job loss is accelerating more rapidly then observed levels during the 2001 recession.
Full ADP report and an explanation of their methodology can be accessed here.
You Tube Video: Johnny Cash, The Ballad of John Henry
Risk: economy, jobs
Living my entire 52 years in New Jersey I am constantly reminded of our beloved state’s revolutionary heritage. Commemorative plaques and historical road markers are everywhere. New Jersey played a critical role in the American Revolution and almost every house that was around at the time has a plaque to attest that George Washington slept there. Old George slept around a lot in New Jersey. He couldn’t afford to linger long in anyone spot because the damn Redcoats were always close on his heels chasing him across the state. But it is heartening to know that so many of the long passed Jersey citizens supported the cause by giving the Continental Army’s General a bed for the night. Yes I am proud of my states contribution our country’s revolutionary cause. This pride continues to fuel my detest of the name and memory of Benedict Arnold. He was the guy who betrayed the confidence of General Washington by conspiring to deliver West Point into the hands of the British. For this dastardly deed Benedict Arnold’s name will forever more be synonymous with treason and traitor.
Treason is a pretty strong word. It conjures up depraved villains engaged in subterranean subterfuges employing Machiavellian machinations in unholy alliances with foreign subversives intent on bringing our great country to its knees. Lately the word traitor has been liberally bandied about by the likes of Ann Coulter and Michael Savage to describe anyone who’s vapid nationalism falls short of their fanatical obsessions. This summer Michele Bachmann the congresswomen from Minnesota gained some notoriety for stating that she believes that an anti American cabal exists in the legislative branch of our government. According to them treason is rampant and traitors in the guise of democrats, progressives and liberals are everywhere.
The word treason has now curiously surfaced again to describe the Republican Senators who are opposing government financial assistance to save US auto manufacturers. The Big Three auto makers, Chrysler, GM and Ford; desperately need a capital infusion to remain solvent. Southern states are home to foreign automakers. They located down south because these states offered generous tax incentives and the availability of cheap non-union labor. These Southern Senators have vigorously opposed the aid package insisting that the Big Three need more fiscal discipline. They point to the generous wage scales and benefit programs the UAW workers at the Big Three receive. To some observers it appears that these Senators are more intent on protecting the foreign auto companies located within their states. They seem willing to sacrifice millions of jobs and the manufacturing infrastructure of the United States. The southern based foreign owned manufacturers are a more important constituency for these Senators then their Big Three competitors. This is a striking example of the economic and political contradictions that globalization creates for nation states.
In and of itself I don’t believe that the southern Senators political position is evidence of treason. The accusation of treason is pretty serious stuff. I am disposed to accept the southern Senators protestations that their opposition to the Big Three aid package is based on firm ideological commitment to letting the free markets do its work. If a capitalist enterprise cannot sustain itself it deserves to fail. After all, they claim that fiscal responsibility is a true Republican virtue even if the evidence of record budget deficits during the past 8 years of the Bush administration belies that claim. But the surfacing of the Action Alert Memo circulated to Senate Republican’s prior to the vote of the rescue package in congress raises some serious doubt about their true motives in opposing aid to the Big Three.
If it is authentic, the memo advises Republicans to block the Big Three aid package as a weapon to bust the UAW to weaken their Democratic Party rivals. Gone are their concerns for free market capitalism. In its place is the attack politics that the Republican Party have perfected to cram their conservative agenda down America’s throat. We witnessed the hollow pronouncements of The Country Firsters during this years presidential election. Their patriotic posturing and love of country claims offered the country no vision or alternatives to the existing Bush agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy, continuation of aggressive foreign policy, pro business anti-labor industrial policy, social welfare cuts and an expansion of the culture war on all fronts. The Republican privatization practices of using tax receipts to enrich parasitic private sector profiteering was a center piece to their program. The Republican legislative agenda funded the creation of the private mercenary army Blackwater and a myriad collection of other service providers to address elections, education, prisons and homeland security.
Is it treason to create and fund corporate entities to serve and administer government functions that are corrupt, wasteful, ineffective and whose primary allegiance is to shareholders? Probably not, but using taxpayer money to finance a mercenary army whose primary allegiance is to its shareholders probably comes pretty close.
Since the Reagan Administration this conservative agenda has resulted in the dismantling of our manufacturing base and a corresponding erosion of union jobs. In 1980 20% of the workforce was engaged in manufacturing. Today the number of manufacturing jobs is less the 10%. Our free marketeers engaged in a concerted program to outsource our industries to lower cost ares of the globe to improve returns on capital allocations to the private benefit of shareholders. Billionaire Micheal Milken plundered the “rust belt” states by closing down outdated factories in need of retooling and moved them overseas. By doing so he enriched the shareholders of the companies, his investors and the national economy of the country where the factory relocated. Unfortunately the economy of the town and state where the factory moved from didn’t fare to well. Workers saw their quality of life deteriorate due to lower wages and the social and cultural decay that accompany a deteriorating economy. State and local governments also took hits in tax revenue and had to pony up extra dough to pay for unemployment benefits and expanded social services that economically depressed areas require.
When you do this to enough towns and states, pretty soon it has a negative effect on the nation. Is that treason? Probably not, but a concerted policy to enrich yourself by helping a foreign country benefit at the expense of yours gets pretty close to the definition of treason.
To fill the economic vacuum caused by the closure of our factories we built a service economy based on the unbridled expansion of our banking industry and the availability of cheap credit. This lead to speculative bubbles in the equity, real estate market and credit markets. These bubbles spawned a perverse credit culture that mortgaged our future and transferred enormous wealth to well heeled investors and speculators. Much of the wealth has been transferred to the sovereign wealth funds of foreign nation states. They now hold the mortgage on our country’s future. Benedict Arnold sold the plans to invade West Point for a Generals Commission in the British Army and the sum of 10,000 Pound Sterling. Vulture capitalists aided and abetted by an accommodating conservative political agenda and willing politicians plundered and exported Americas prized assets in allegiance only to their own self interest and economic benefit.
Is this treason?
You Tube Video: My Country Tis of Thee
Risk: labor unions, industrial policy, recession, privatization
I always thought the quote “Whats good for General Motors is good for America.” was a vile admission that the rights and interests of individual citizens was subservient to the vested interests of corporations. I always thought this was uttered by Calvin Coolidge or Herbert Hoover, the historical poster boys of an out of touch presidency intellectually immune and emotionally removed from the pain and troubles of the working class. Happily ignorant or seemingly unconcerned of a country slipping into a paralyzing depression while they whistled past the grave yard.
More recently the voices of average citizens have again been raised to decry the power and privilege of special corporate interests. They buy access and favor through the deft abilities of well compensated lobbyists and generous financial contributions by the monied interests to encourage politicians to adopt their world view. America’s economic and political history is a sometimes sordid, sometimes splendid tale of the restive relationship of labor and capital and how their respective political interests are made manifest in our laws, policies and programs that emanate from Capitol Hill.
Since at least the beginning of this year we have been barraged with prognostications of a catastrophic economic collapse. The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department have moved with dispatch to bolster bank capital to assure that liquidity and confidence in the banking system is protected. The EESA and TARP responded to the capital formation needs of banks. Most legislators supported EESA even though it only had tepid support by taxpayers. But the deal went through because we were told that if we failed to pass the bailout legislation for banks our nation would be swallowed by an economic black hole. Paulson’s defense of the TARP and its strategic transformation will be covered in subsequent posts but this authors skepticism of the TARP and Paulson’s intention is on record. The TARP and EESA are temporary short term liquidity fixes to frozen credit and capital markets. Supporting and protecting manufacturing is how the US will transition its bankrupt merchant capitalism to an economy based on the manufacture of value capable of long term sustainable growth.
So today we go on record in support of a Federally mandated capital infusion and formation initiative for the automotive industry. As we have previously stated the dismantling of our countries manufacturing infrastructure lies at the root of our current economic dilemma. We advocate acceptance of The Hamilton Plan to address economic recovery and long term sustainability of the US economy. Manufacturing is the bedrock of recovery and the Federal Government needs to encourage the formation of capital clusters of all stakeholders to incubate support structures that will accelerate the recovery of manufactures. The support program is not about writing a blank check to an industry that is badly managed. The automotive recovery plan needs to recognize, aggregate and focus all forms of capital to address this rapid deterioration of our ability to create value through manufactures.
The Hamilton Plan advocates that the Treasury Department form an SME Development Bank to encourage manage and administer the capital formation required to address a GM turnaround. The recovery proscription will need capital, cooperation and political will from all parties. Those include, government, business, labor, social service and academic institutions. The need to support manufacturing is paramount if we hope to recover from structural economic malaise. The failure of GM would have a profound impact on the fiscal, physical and psychological health of the US economy and its citizens. In this instance what is good for GM is not only good for America but it is vital for its survival.
We will offer a more detailed outline in future posts.
You Tube Music Video: James Cotton, Rocket 88
Risk: manufacturing, recession, unemployment, sustainability