January is traditionally the time of year when each of us assesses the direction our life’s path is heading, and if necessary, we then attempt to adjust our course. In this particular January, not only are we are starting a New Year and a new decade armed with our newly-minted New Year’s resolutions, but we also have a new Congress with some different ideas about which direction the government is heading. And as I have stated many times in my previous columns, this is the dawning of a new age of ascension in U.S. manufacturing. An age that is characterized by a culture and a system of government dedicated to the notion that if we are ever to achieve the trend of consistently rising prosperity for ourselves and our posterity, then we must produce more than we consume.
There is a lot of “new” stuff getting started this month. But this January also marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most famous, and in my opinion, most inspirational political speeches ever delivered—John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address which was made on January 20, 1961. And in the spirit of new beginnings, I suggest we start by re-dedicating ourselves to an idea that is now half a century old…”Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.”
My answer to this, which I emphatically state again for the record, is: We must produce more than we consume. To do this, we will need to manufacture more useful products that will ultimately enhance our national income, and we must consume fewer products that transfer our collective wealth to other countries or diminish the value of the future for our children and grandchildren. Each person, household, and business in America must do more, and use less. So for all of the moldmakers and other manufacturers, here are a few suggestions of what you can do for your country.
Forget about retirement – Social Security already has to be drastically amended or else it will bankrupt the country. There is a critical shortage of skilled labor in the moldmaking industry. Recent studies show that for many people, retirement is not as pleasant as expected, and may actually lead to an early grave. For all of these reasons, moldmakers should not retire.
During times of war, moldmakers were exempt from the draft. Now we need you to be exempt from retirement and Social Security. For what it is worth, I do not plan on retiring. I am going to find something I like to do and keep doing it until I die. It works for Supreme Court justices, so why not for us. It is my hope that you all love what you do because your industry needs you, and you will be doing the country a huge service.
Make choices that will ensure you stay in good health – Like Social Security, the entitlement programs of Medicare and Medicaid must be reigned in, or they will bankrupt the country. Research polls show that a large majority of Americans expect to get more out of the Medicare and Medicaid programs than they actually paid in. The logic of this is so flawed I cannot begin to understand how any self-respecting, rational being could aspire to it. And finally, my own informal research shows that healthy people tend to be happier over the long run.
For reasons that I cannot explain, this country has completely bought into the notion that the more we spend on pharmaceuticals and medical devices and doctors and health insurance, the healthier we are. Just the opposite is true-- better health means spending less for these products and services, not more. Most moldmakers are acutely aware of the high cost of health insurance, which is the result of the rapidly rising costs of medical care in this country. The best way to avoid these costs is to stop needing them. So make healthy choices: stop smoking, lose weight, exercise more, and avoid stress. If this means working less hours in the shop, then do it. Since you are not retiring, you have your whole life to get caught up on the paperwork.
Do not be distracted by politicians, proponents of class warfare, and social movements – The rich and greedy are getting richer. The poor and lazy are getting a free ride. Both political parties are corrupt. All of this is true, but it has always been the role of the middle class to be the solution. We fight the wars, and we keep the peace. When it comes to keeping this country and economy moving, our job is to build the engine, lay the track, and pull the train. The fact that we can do this and all the while we also respect our co-workers, educate our families, and help our neighbors is not something to complain about. But rather, it is a point of great pride.
When I set out to write this article, I had three objectives in mind. First, I wanted to put forth some ideas that challenged the conventional wisdom, but keep it light, maybe a little tongue-in-cheek, certainly not too preachy. After re-reading it, I must say that it might be just a little preachy. Second, I wanted to convey the idea that the aforementioned sacrifices are really not sacrifices at all. Along with helping the country, these ideas will also result in a strong sense of personal satisfaction, and yes even happiness.
And finally, I wanted to start the conversation about how manufacturing is the solution to our national problems. We must manufacture our prosperity. Moldmaking on this continent must not just merely survive, it must thrive and expand. Our time is at hand. The next decade must be Manufacturing’s Moment. But it will not happen by accident. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we can accomplish this mission and sharing more of my own thoughts as well. Happy New Year.