I’m no economist or financial historian. I’ve often been accused of oversimplifying complex situations. So, with those two disclaimers out of the way, please consider my humble layman’s assessment of the current state of the job market and overall lack of work for companies like ours.
Personally, I believe we have been bamboozled out of our jobs!
We’ve been hornswoggled right out of work! The cause: someone convinced us that America should not manufacture anything. Maybe the ever-present mainstream media, helped us buy into the notion that the “new economy” will be based solely on concepts like “intellectual property”, owning licensing rights, “content”, stock and the belief that everyone can make a good living by the Internet. Was it not apparent to anyone in charge that the nation’s commerce system depends upon us making stuff for domestic consumption and to sell to other countries? Am I again “oversimplifying” things when I think that a gargantuan trade deficit might be due to one party not manufacturing enough product to sell to other parties? Is there some underlying dynamic that I am not intellectually qualified to grasp? Did anyone stop to consider that eliminating American manufacturing would in effect eliminate an entire social class? Do you think it’s that same endangered social class of which we heard so much during last year’s political campaigns? Why wasn’t this situation deemed a “crisis” before it was an election platform?
Why I Believe the “Big Box” is a Bad Idea
I’ve also been accused of hating the “world’s largest retailer”. I think most misunderstand my principal-based refusal to shop at the behemoth “big box” store and my accompanying soapbox pontifications on the subject. The point I have been trying to make for about a dozen years is simply that I believe the long-term effect the retailer’s business model has on the country is an adverse one. I always hear “But they have the lowest prices.” My answer is usually something like, “Yeah, but years from now, it won’t matter how low the prices are. We won’t have jobs to make money to buy any of the foreign-sourced stuff they’re peddling.” I believe that those low prices are made possible only by the disproportionately low salaries the foreign workers are paid and the lack of so many stifling governmental restrictions imposed upon domestic manufacturers. But, I could be mistaken.
Interactive Advertising Made in the USA
I have mentioned both the “lack of work for companies like ours” and “manufacturing” above. Many may see “Advertising” in our company’s name and think we’re the type of agency that gets paid big bucks just to sit around, brainstorming up the next “cutting edge”, witty creative campaign to sell to some deep-pocketed client. That just ain’t AdTex Advertising. It’s not who we are. We’re more like the hard-working, “front-end feeders” for an old-fashioned, print-based manufacturing operation. Our income (still virtually non-existent, by the way) is predicated on those house-size web presses running at our print partner’s Midwest location. The creative process represents a substantially small percentage of client cost. That’s why we keep overhead so low and run so lean. That’s why our total service package is so economical. Our history is actually in Home Textiles Manufacturing (see the “LDB” article here), an industry, which I hear, is nearly extinct domestically. We were the in-house advertising department for the premiere American manufacturer of bedding and bath products. Some great towels, sheets and comforters were made right here in the US of A by hard-working, relatively low-paid, taxpaying citizens. I wonder if more of those tax dollars could have been used to save their jobs. It seems the reciprocal effect would have a substantial upside — more workers continuing to work and pay more taxes.
BAILED RIGHT OUT OF WORK
The frustration with this situation recently hit the fan with my print partner, Mike. I believe the final straw was flipping to the backside of an American Automobile Manufacturer’s car brochure where he discovered “Printed in South Korea” in the small print. Mike works for a great, family-owned, 121-year old Visual Communications (read “printing”) company based in the same state as the “Big Three” auto manufacturers. He took his outrage to local lawmakers, where he got someone’s ear. He filled that ear with an informed and organized rant about his displeasure with having taxpayer “bailout” dollars appropriated for what was effectively the elimination of his job. He detailed his assertion that if our lawmakers would work to ease the financial burden of meeting the stringent standards to which our government demands, his company would be more than competitive. He’s sure that with a “leveled playing field”, the foreign printers couldn’t touch his prices. Mike challenged the lawmakers to tour his company’s facilities. He also invited them to bring their children along and pull samples of anything on the presses at any time. He assured them they would never find any smut or questionable material, just superior-quality American manufacturing. I guess I’m just old fashioned. (That was likely apparent when the younger readers pulled up Wikipedia to find “hornswoggled” or Googled “bamboozled” and the older ones grabbed their Funk & Wagnall to check my spelling). I still subscribe to and read the daily newspaper. A recent edition (Sunday, April 19, 2009) of the local daily included a Parade magazine article entitled “What’s Made in the USA”. It stated that “America still produces more goods than any other country — $1.6 trillion worth, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. It says that “America currently accounts for 20% of all manufacturing output.” Maybe we’re also the most automated and efficient manufacturer on the planet. Is that where the massive job losses happened? The article also mentioned some analysts’ predictions that “China will soon overtake the U.S. as the world’s leading producer.” The article never mentioned which countries are the largest consumers. Also note that the Parade magazine article was less than a half page, including a chart showing “What We Make”, “What It’s Worth” and “Whom It Employs”. A preceding article on “What is Royalty in the 21st Century” took two full pages. More fascination with foreign countries! (that’s one of those tongue-in-cheek jokes, ya’ll).
I close how I opened, saying I’m no economist/historian and I tend to oversimplify complex situations. That’s why I look forward to your feedback. (Notice how this blog entry is riddled with questions?) I’ve always been one to learn by asking. Maybe you’re an economist, scholar or have exhaustively researched the situation. Then you can enlighten a simple, old-fashioned advertising “manufacturing” guy about where more income is generated when we’re not manufacturing enough desirable products for someone, somewhere to buy.
Then let me know who runs the equipment to manufacture them?