An Angry Patriot: Coffee, tea and tanks

Not long ago the U.S. manufactured things.

Not so long Americans built things.

AEPs Winfield Hydroelectric dam

The world’s best steel, rubber, electronics (and toasters and televisions and glassware and hardware…etc…etc…etc) rolled off assembly lines all of the United States.

We utilized the underemployed and unemployed to build national parks and new cities. American engineers and companies built dams, bridges, locks, interstates and power plants that could fuel a hungry nation.

But the rise of the Baby Boomer generation into the board room and the executive bathroom changed what it meant to build a company. These leaders changed what it meant to build, “One Nation.”

For example, these overeducated MBAs, investment bankers and lawyers didn’t see a company that made steel. Steel that would be needed to build the dams and bridges and roads. Instead they saw a company with underutilized assets.

Assets that in the short run were worth more than the steel.

The now shuttered Bethlehem Steel Mill in Allentown, PA is now the site of a Sands Casino.

So the MBAs, bankers and lawyers sold off the steel company’s railroads, mines, barges, ships, equipment and real estate. Then they consolidated the liabilities that were left and filed bankruptcy ending the lives and legacies of hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of middle-class working Americans.

Of course, the MBAs, lawyers and bankers (and a handful of large investors) made lots of money…but they certainly didn’t build anything. They certainly didn’t make steel.

This story is true for U.S. industry after industry.

The political sophists on the Right would have you blame the unions and the government. The sophists on the Left would have you blame the rich and the government.

These newstainers and pundits are both wrong. It is the MBAs, investment bankers and the lawyers’ choices and decisions that led to this economic low point in American history. They preferred to make a buck over a product. They cajoled and connived, and occasionally bribed, to have laws written – or rewritten – in a language only they understood and that only benefitted the one percent.

Entrance to the employee park at shuttered Crucible Steel, Midland, PA

As a result there is a whole American generation that thinks China makes things while Americans are sold on the concept of a “service economy” built around banking, insurance, investments – and apparently porn. The middle class that grew when the country was making things is now relegated to making lattes at Starbucks or stocking shelves at Wal-Mart with Chinese manufactured goods for minimum wage and no benefits.

Social and corporate welfare have the same roots – the idea that people can make money by doing nothing. Or at least very little.

The welfare mentality was not born in inner-city projects or in the government offices. It was born out of the bankers and lawyers mentality that people and things are assets to be bought and sold. “Greed is good,” being the motto.

So as a result young people expect a free ride and want to broker their success thru a four-hour workweek instead of a week of work.

Today China, Turkey, India, Russia and Germany make steel – often in the same assets our bankers and lawyers arranged to sell them – while Americans make a great cup of coffee and watch Jersey Shore.

Oh and tanks. We make a mean-ass tank.

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