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4/17/2012 6:27 AM
The True American Achilles Heel
Once again I think market watchers missed the most important news of the day yesterday, because it's the most important news of the millennium and the true American Achilles heel. The Empire State Report was chocked with a lot of useful data on prices, employment and demand. The supplemental report is what shocked and disappointed me most. The headline was ominous: Firms Cite Increased Difficulty Finding Workers with Math and Computer Skills.
It's really amazing there could be this much trouble finding competent workers. Showing up for work on time and being reliable were things in past generations that were common. I think the problem began about twenty years ago and has gotten worse. As a business owner, I've heard many reasons over the years for people having to be out or coming to work late, ranging from the implausible to Aesop. There is a direct correlation between people coming in on time, or early and working late, and overall production. You simply can't mail it in even if you have talent.
With damn near 75% of employers voicing difficulty finding people willing to come to work on time, you wonder how we can compete in a competitive global market. I don't think this number would register as high if the survey was taken in Shanghai or Mumbai, and I'm being polite. Maybe that's the real problem. Maybe we are being too polite about people not doing the kind of heavy lifting needed for success. Not that coming to work on time is heavy lifting. There has to be some kind of clarion call for people to wake up and simply get the job done the right way. This is a national crisis, and it is getting worse, but politicians fear losing votes, so they stay mum.
What Time is it?
I'm not overstating it to say a nation of people that ignore their alarm clocks will not be able to dominate the global economy for long. It's this kind of stuff that drives me crazy. Gosh, it's been bash businesses all day, every day, for the last several years when in fact businesses want to expand and want to compete and want to grow. It's really time to wake up and smell the coffee. Heck, its one thing to say there aren't enough people with advanced computer skills but to have so many lacking in basic math and computers is unacceptable. It's not from a lack of access to computers, which needs to be tossed out there before someone screams we need to get the government to buy computers for the underprivileged.
There are 800,000,000 people on Facebook and I guarantee 90% would be categorized as lower middle class or poor. There was a time when a parent bought a kid a computer and thought it would open a world to science, business, exploration, and other intellectual pursuits. It's not happening. By the way, that cyber world these kids live in is harsh and ugly. I pick up on trends about things like the size of baseball parks that descend into hateful barbs within the first six postings. That's another area that gets little ink or discussion in this unfair world. The lack of interpersonal skills is a damn shame. I'm sure there's a connection to declining morals and a "me, me, me society."
So, you have no basic computer skills, can't make it to work on time, and your attitude sucks and somehow you are a victim.
It's time to wake up and find out how to become the most productive nation we can be, and it's not by punishing people that wake up and take a shower when their alarm clocks go off or put in the time to get good on the computer and are pleasant to work with. The Buffett Rule isn't going to give people any of those skills. On the contrary, such attitudes and approaches to life are being rewarded in rhetoric, and I'm sure in a few crumbs to come. It's time to wake up, it's time to make accountability applicable to all, and it's time to stop self-destructing. I understand people aren't paying enough attention to those alarm clocks to hear that other ticking sound.
It's the time bomb that will blow and seal our fate.
Kicking Up Dust
Now that the Buffett Rule has been defeated in the Senate, maybe we could get down to policy that will truly help the nation, inspire people to succeed, and instill pride in reaching the American Dream. This whole thing has just been about kicking up dust and raising hackles by stoking basic instincts of envy and jealousy. I do think, however, the most magnanimous of gestures could be made that might spark a tidal wave of imitators. Why doesn't Warren Buffett simply donate all of his money to the Federal government, and then it would match the $47.00 billion that would be confiscated from others over the next ten years had Congress made the mistake of passing the rule?
Okay, there wouldn't be a flood of people looking to do the same but it would be a lot harder for President Obama, Hollywood stars and others to at least contribute more to the government's coffers. That would be something. The fact is this administration wants to spend so much money it must raise taxes dramatically. The first thing to do is to get people to agree to the notion of higher taxes for the higher good. Then spring it on them.
I worried about the rally standing up to its first challenge. This is that test that has been going on for a few weeks, and while the market isn't crumbling, it's clear those strong hands that held on even when data wasn't so hot are now spying the exits. Yesterday was serious rotation out of the monster momentum names into the bosom of blue chip stocks and federal government debt.
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