"Of course, the immediate future is uncertain: America has faced the unknown since 1776." -- Billionaire Businessman-Investor Warren Buffett from USA Today March 4, 2013 page 3B
Have we in this country gotten used to swimming in the shallow end of any size swimming pool? Except for tots, do we still ride bicycles with training wheels on? If neither, then why are we so acquiescing of this so-called new normal we hear every now and then from media pundits, whether from politics or business? Given the history of our country, it was not always that way.
Warren Buffett certainly proves that he is a man who puts his money where his mouth is. From the opening quote in an article by Matt Krantz in USA Today's Money section, the 82-year-old billionaire's company last year invested $9.8 billion in plant and equipment with 88 percent of it in the U.S. He also blasts those CEOs who have contributed to a climate of negativity while the companies of those CEOs may be sitting on boatloads of cash.
Matt Krantz of USA Today also writes three days later on March 7 on page 3B, "Coming off the worst recession since the Great Depression, companies need some extra cash on hand. But, given that interest rates are so low, it's actually a financial drag on companies' performance to sit on huge amounts of cash." This also has further implications, for it is those companies that may have led to a climate of risk aversion that's spreading to employees, and the market place.
Last week's Wall Street Journal, Monday June 3, 2013 has a cover story by Ben Casselman that talks about this very issue titled, Risk-Averse Culture Infects U.S. Workers, Entrepreneurs. Ever since the Depression and after WWII, historically, there has been a symbiosis at work in the U.S. economy. Despite any recessions companies may churn workers on occasions, yet workers also felt confident to initiate seeking other work. While until the late 1980's, it took about 20 months for employment to return to its prerecession mark. Then over the years it has gone up steadily, until now, about four years after the last recession ended since the financial crisis of 2008, employment has yet to have attained its pre-percentage level before the crisis. And risk aversion so far has prevailed both among most employers and employees.
Yet it hasn't always been that way. For to this day, I still remember a single sentence quote from a book I've come across (I forgot the title) that captured the sentiment of workers in the 1990's: "The act of departure was more important than the destination." In other words, some people felt so confident to quit even with no immediate employment in sight. Furthermore, I still remember a story where some were showing up at interviews wearing cut-off blue jeans and Teva sandals, this during the dot.com boom. One would hear other stories as well, as I shall illustrate in the following.
Tom: "Hey what happened to Harrelson...Harrelson Tyree?"
Jerry: "Harry left town. Up and quit from engineering and sales at Intel. Bibi the ex-pat from Germany in marketing up and quit too and went with him."
Tom: "No kidding, Babette Bahn?"
Jerry:, "No kidding, Harry and Bibi left for Boulder, Colorado thinking they might start an adventure travel company. Girls say she also wants to become the future Mrs. Babette Tyree."
Or one may hear another story.
Betty: "What happened to Mavis...Mavis Stackhouse?"
Jean: "Girl that child gone, up and quit."
Betty: "Dang! Didn't she just graduate from nursing?"
Jean: "Yeah, but she hated it after a month. She left for Herndon, Virginia near DC to work for a relative to train in cyber security."
Although all of the characters illustrated I had made up, still, one may have heard similar stories about the Harrelson Tyree's, the Babette Bahn's, and the Mavis Stackhouse's of America. And since then from the early to mid-1990's until now, that's mostly changed.
What has also changed, dramatically since, is not only the long-held concept of the American Dream, but also America's status of current economic mobility. It is a mobility that has now seen decimation among the middle-class ever since post WWII. For as things currently stand now, the United States ranks eighth in economic mobility among other Western industrialized nations. Denmark ranks first, Norway second, followed by Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany and France as seventh, all according to Time magazine cover story source on November 14, 2011 by Rana Foroohar titled, "Can You Still Move Up In America?"
Throughout the years it has been said that a rising tide lifts all boats. Now some are saying that a rising tide lifts all yachts. And according to Tavis Smiley, advocate, author and host of his show on PBS who was a guest on CNN's Piers Morgan on November 28, 2012, he re-ignites the current situation involving not only the fragile middle-class, but also poverty. For as a guest he also stated, and with the re-election of President Barack Obama still fresh, "That poverty is now a matter of national security."
How did we get here? How did we get to where currently according to CNNMoney.com on February 16, 2011 by Annalyn Censky, how the middle class became the underclass? And how did not only poverty get ignored as a campaign issue during the last presidential campaign as lamented by both Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West, but also how did the top one percent see their incomes skyrocket while middle-class incomes have stagnated for over thirty years?
It is said that at sea it takes three to four miles for an air-craft carrier to make a full 180-degree turn, given time. We do not have to acquiesce to what's holding America back as intractable, as if America were the RMS Titanic going thoughtlessly along on it perilous course.
It's going to take all of us. Yes unemployment finally fell below 8 percent to 7.6. But that's not enough and we must not go on accepting it as the new normal, while jobs are produced with no living wages.
"The road ahead will be long, our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there." -- Excerpt from then President-elect Barack Obama's 2008 victory speech
Then Senator Barack Obama's campaign slogan for 2008 was YES WE CAN and not YES I CAN. Yes we can begin rebuilding America with bold infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, and yes...high-speed rail lines. Why must European countries have all the fun? Rachel Maddow of MSNBC stands at the Hoover Dam in one of several Lean Forward commercials produced. She then says, "When someone tries to tell that America can't afford to be great anymore? You're wrong. And it doesn't feel right to us, and it doesn't sound right to us, because that's not what America is."