Jobs Jobs Jobs and Reality Checks

Prelude: It is really pretty simple. In business, when a product doesn’t work, you have to fix it or drop it – FAST. And you have to fix it the way the marketplace wants it. No exceptions. Circular reasoning, like: “well it is the customers’ fault – they just don’t realize what this product can do for them,”  doesn’t work. If you try to change the conversation or tell the marketplace that it doesn’t understand, the marketplace rewards you with this: “Hey! Listen to us or we’ll go elsewhere with our business. You have 10 seconds!”  That is a forced reality check most business owners cut their teeth on. The ones that didn’t are no longer around.

  • I think some politicians are getting one of those reality checks but they don’t recognize it for what it is.

It looks like the president and politicians in Washington are ready to move the conversation to the economy and the job situation. I thought we already did that early in 2009 with the stimulus package. But somewhere in early summer the emphasis got moved over to the health care realignment project. (I wonder if that got the spotlight because the stimulus launch didn’t produce the bump in jobs many pols hoped for last spring).

  • They can’t be unhappy about us

Now that a Massachusetts upstart (a Republican at that) helped put a stopper to the increasingly unpopular healthcare realignment project (as it now stands and was recently manipulated) it looks like it is time to turn the conversation back to jobs, jobs, jobs. After all, the public has shown it is not happy and it must really be about the economy, right? Perhaps we can lay the blame at the feet of the banks for the jobs situation and get some traction. If they’re unhappy, let’s by all means speak into their unhappiness!

Here is a possible script – “Jobs, jobs, Bush, jobs, last 8 years – oops before ‘the change’ – jobs, jobs, banks, Cheney, the French (wait, how did the French get there?)” Certainly they cannot be unhappy about us (ruling incumbents), so it MUST be about jobs and some still-repressed subliminal vibes from George Bush, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.  What else could it be?  So let’s hit jobs another lick.

  • A clue – how jobs come about.

I don’t pretend to be a big businessman but I did start several small businesses and learned a lot about where jobs come from. In the private sector they come from people in businesses having confidence, feeling like the captains of their ships, and having the strength of heart to take on risks. Then they hire. Oh, and there is another element. Decent business leaders (and the ones I know are mostly very decent people) refuse to hire a person and take on responsibility for other people’s lives unless they feel that the ground is solid under their feet. It would be unfair to do differently. They must feel there is enthusiasm in the public marketplace.

  • Why people aren’t enthusiastic

Massachusetts, an extremely entrepreneurial state, proved that the enthusiasm quotient is low. People questioned overwhelmingly answered that the thing they were most upset about was the way that Capitol Hill was approaching the health care realignment project. That does not explain the entire lack of enthusiasm, but it does point the way. The idea is that the politicians are not listening to us – they are only listening to themselves. The government seems to want to control all the ships (they understand ships in Boston).

Most businesses will not hire when they feel not-in-control. Maybe in France they do,  not in the good ‘ole USA. Not in the tinkering, garage-band, backlot-project world of the American entrepreneur. And when those folks are not enthusiastic, most of the rest of the country is not either, because they are us – by the millions – from the Amway rep to the basement programmer to the realtor to the Jaycees greeter.

  • Time for  a reality check.

Go back and study how Ronald Reagan got confidence back to into the entrepreneur class and how the enthusiasm swelled back into the whole country in 1981 and 1982. That was right in the midst of the last really bad recession. That same army of American entrepreneurs and unorthodox, underfunded tinkerers helped create the digital revolution we are still riding today. Talk about jobs…

You have to get the nation’s enthusiasm up. You can’t push your product at us if we don’t want it. You have to listen.

Tales from the Socialism side – Part 1

Since the political campaign season has finally gotten down to some real issues approaching underlying philosophies of candidates (and parties), the time has come for me to speak out on Socialism. There is a good chance our government and society might take an abrupt turn to the left in the next couple of years and we need to get ready.

Having spent a number of years living abroad and traveling in Communist and Socialist countries, I have seen a lot and heard a lot from those who already tried ‘the experiment’.

There is no better answer in a debate than real experience, is there?

You might argue that no one in this campaign has really come out and claimed to push socialist philosophy, but any student of history or philosophy will readily admit that one side is more prone, shall we say, to socialist leanings than the other. That this might be called ‘progressive socialism’ or socialism ‘light’ is not the issue. The real issue underpinning it is the underlying philosophy that leads to a socialist understanding of government, business, and cultural life.

Add to that the huge risk we just took as a nation by nationalizing a good part of our business infrastructure and the risk is suddenly enormous. It must be handled exactly right, or our children will inherit a government with huge control over business and economic life – hence – Socialism.

There is a lot to say here and this is just the first installment. Call it part 1.

One of my favorite succinct quotes is from Viktor Belenko (Виктор Иванович Беленко), the famous MIG pilot who piloted the Soviet MIG 25 from Siberia to Japan in a bold  (and successful) attempt to give the west an intimate look at the new super-fighter the Soviets had produced to challenge our air superiority at the height of the cold war (1976).

Belenko, like all top level Russian military at the time, had been raised and cultivated with the ideals of the “New Soviet Man,” nurtured in the values of state socialism and impressed with the rigorous studies of Dialectical Materialism, Hegelianism, and numerous other social and historical philosophies clung to by traditional communists and socialists (and most philosophical leftists of our day as well).

The conclusion it all drove him to, however, was that it simply DID NOT WORK.  Something was missing. In the process he decided to flee to the West and take a plane with him.

Enough on the background – here is THE QUOTE: – I love this one –

Belenko met President Ronald Reagan and told him :

“You should start an exchange program where you send 1 million American High School students to the Soviet Union for a year in exchange for 1 million Soviet High School students coming to the US for a year.  The Russian students will return to the Soviet Union incredibly impressed with the country, which will be a good thing. The 1 million American kids will return home as Republicans.”

(I could not find this online but I remember reading it in Guidepost magazine around 2001)

More coming tomorrow – stay tuned. Listen to one of the greatest jokes the Russians used to tell about the Capitalist system and the Socialist system – and so true!!

The new Jacksonians

As a kid I was enchanted with the life of Andrew Jackson. Growing up in Tennessee, he was a ‘national’ hero. When I was a kid I saw the movie about him and Rachel. It showed him duelling, fighting for her honor, trying to protect her from her fierce critics and critics of their marriage.  When the ‘Battle of New Orleans’ became a country hit I memorized the words “In 1814  ‘took a little trip, ‘long with Genr’l Jackson down the mighty Mississipp’ .”

I read kids books about Jackson and our family went to The Hermitage in Nashville. He was a hero.

Strange, because our family was Rebublican and if the Civil War had broken out in our lifetime, I would have been one of the many East Tennessee Whig boys who would have fought for the Union (as almost half did). 

But there was something about Jackson.  He truly was a man of the common people. He was not an elitist. When he was elected president, he threw open the White House. On inauguration night there were street people with muddy boots or no boots crawling all over the carpets and boozing it up with moonshine on the South Lawn.  No wonder Tennesseeans loved him! He appointed no-names to many high offices in Washington. He turned the bureaucracy upside down.  He stood for what he stood for and he stood for the common man and woman and kid.

Jackson was no saint, and he made many mistakes – among them the policy he led against Native Americans, especially the noble Cherokee.

But beyond that it might be argued that he brought a truly popular meaning to the American experiment and removed it from the hands of the elite and the highly educated.

Fast forward to 1990.  Look in The The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House, by Garrett Graff.  There is a chapter called “Web 2.0 Meets Campaigning 3.0” in which he describes a convention in which bloggers, ultimate outsiders (called ‘pajamaudheedeen’ by the cynics) were meeting in Las Vegas and and contemplating the powerful force they had become in poitics. No insiders they, the talk was all about grassroots politics of a new kind – the power of the amateurs, and the incredible things happening online to influence the real power in the country – the voters.

As I read that, I thought of Jackson. One of the thngs that has been so disappointing to me over most of my lifetime has been the turning of the Democratic party toards a sort of ‘educated-elite-we’re-smarter-than-mainstream-America’ mentality. Even though I never voted with the Democratic party I took no joy in seeing them make that movement. Now, out of the blue, comes the Internet, the new media, complete with its conversations and peer-trusting-peer paradigms, and the Democrats are understanding it and opening it up to the masses. 

Good for the country. Somebody needed to turn the snobs out! I don’t care which party they come from!

Garret writes: “The truth is that few of the political elites in the country are comfortable with the new power being exercised online through blogs, social-networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, grassroots multi-media endeavors like YouTube, and the power of cell phones, which allow almost anyone, anywhere, to snap a candid photo and beam it around the world). (p. 250).

Amen! And one might add – neither are the media elites, the business elites, the academic elites, the health industry elites, or the elite elites comfortable either!

It is time for a new day and truly a day of the people.

The old Jacksonians were messy. They were muddy. They tore up things and a lot of the new bureaucrats that came in didn’t know a thing about management. But they might have saved us from a British-style aristocracy. And that alone is worth a lot.

I may still not vote Democrat – we’ll see – Whig runs deep in my blood -but I sure want to see what happens.