Out of the Fog

Saturday Fog

Saturday Fog

Last Saturday began with a car trip through fog to visit Mother.

Rising from the Cedar River Valley at reduced speed, when I hit Walcott the sun came out.

It was clear this morning. Geese honked overhead, flying to open water where they landed.

The weather is warm and weird. It’s human nature to leverage what we have, so I’ll be working outside part of today and tomorrow.

A week into the new administration things are a bit foggy. Either 45 and his team don’t know what they are doing, or they are doing it so well no one can keep up with him. (It’s the former).

Good news is the sun will eventually burn off the clouds coming from Washington, D.C. enabling us to establish how we best mitigate the damage done by the billionaire in the White House and his associates.

45’s focus will be on jobs because that’s what got people to set aside what they abhorred and vote for him. Jobs was the main topic of his first weekly address.

On Friday the White House announced a manufacturing jobs initiative that includes many companies who took advantage of the Ronald Reagan years to restructure, reduce costs, and outsource jobs in a way that created what 45 described as “American carnage.” He feebly tried to pin the loss of manufacturing jobs on President Obama, whose financial recovery after the 2008 recession has been competent, but not stellar. For those of us who’ve worked for or with some of these companies, it’s a joke to think they have well-paying American jobs at heart when they are the co-creators of the decimation to which 45 referred.

The list includes U.S. Steel and Nucor Steel. The latter benefited from the high costs of the former and took market share with technology that replaced workers. I’ve been to the former U.S. Steel Works in Fairless Hills, Penn., Cleveland, Ohio, and Chicago, Ill. I’ve also been to Nucor plants in Tennessee. It is as if these two companies were predators whose sole purpose was to wreak havoc on union steel jobs. Notably missing from the list are the international steel companies ArcelorMittal, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation, Hebei Iron and Steel Group, and others that each in its own way contributed to the downfall of U.S. steel companies. ArcelorMittal is the poster child for globalization and its impact on workers. In terms of the initiative’s potential effectiveness, it’s notable that Lakshmi Mittal is absent from the list.

General Electric, Whirlpool and others were participants in the great post-Reagan restructuring of the American workforce. All of the companies on the list, with the exception of two token AFL-CIO representatives, are very large companies. What I expect is corporate leaders will reach consensus about what they need, present it to 45, who will work with the Congress to improve the environment for manufacturing within our borders. Ideas related to reducing environmental regulations, the government picking up cleanup costs, tort reform and removing what little power remains in the private sector unions will be de rigueur.

Job creation is the Achilles heel for 45 because so much of his victory was based on the promise of increased American jobs — manufacturing jobs particularly. It seems doubtful he can pull it off in a sustainable way.

This is one area of the new administration we should follow closely.

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