A reflection on great now vs great again
I’ve been thinking a lot about the last election cycle and the current political climate. The phrases, “make America great again,” “Bring jobs back,” “Those people are doing this,” “Your jobs are leaving,” “job killing regulations” etc…. There is a rhetoric of blame, a rhetoric of something being taken away and a rhetoric of getting something back that is gone elsewhere and could be here today. I think there are a few problems with this outlook.
First, the phrase make america great again. It’s a literal rip off from Reagan’s campaign slogan, “let’s make america great again.” Thievery aside, it’s a backwards looking statement. Again, returning to a previous condition or position. It’s a look in the rear view mirror when you should be focusing your efforts in the windshield moving forward. It’s similar to speak of “the good ol days.” My question to that is always, what are these good ol days that are so often referenced? Do you speak of the time where I didn’t have a device in my hand that can see what’s happening in China while I check the Colts scores and talk to my mom about the latest family goings on. Those good ol days? A time when I would not be able to marry my wife in certain states because she’s black and I’m white. The good ol days, where we had 3 television stations and no Netflix, Hulu, PlayStation, Facebook or Instagram. The good ol days when virtual reality was unheard of and traveling to another country was an unrealistic dream for most. I don’t know about you, but I think the good ol days are here and coming, not in the past!
A frame of reference here is important for both society at large and for individuals. We arguably live in the coolest time to be alive. I’m creating content on a machine that also allows me to edit movies, see what the temperature is in Madagascar, book a trip to Madagascar all while watching the movie, Madagascar. Why do we look to the past as a frame of reference when we know the future could be so much cooler! What is this, make it great, it’s already pretty great. We create the coolest tech, some of the greatest entertainment around the world, we have some of the best institutions of higher learning and still to this day, if you have an idea, you can pretty easily make it a reality. What is this, make it great again, I think it’s great, today and I think it’s only going to get better!
Now, back to the jobs. What are these jobs that are being taken away and are going to be brought back? This is a serious question we need to ask ourselves. I think it’s actually a 2 part question, the first, what jobs are leaving and second, what jobs are being “stolen” by immigrants.
Let’s address the first question, what jobs are leaving the US? Manufacturing jobs are being outsourced to areas with cheaper labor. They’re being outsourced to China, Mexico, Vietnam and elsewhere. American companies outsource these jobs for profit, lack of regulation and to drive down cost to the end point consumer, often the American public. There are jobs being lost to automation. Jobs will be lost to algorithms. Uber and google are both working on cars that will drive them self. This could eliminate one of the largest jobs out there, truck drivers. There is the coal miner, who has become a political hot button as of late. Side note, but show me a coal miner that wants their kid to follow in their footsteps and I’ll show you a unicorn.
Jobs have come and jobs have gone over time. People used to make horse shoes for a living, they used to set type on printing presses and they used to deliver packages with pony express. Times change and if the US and the West want to continue to be on top, they better change with it.
Now, we know jobs are leaving, however, where are they being created? Well, first off there are hundreds thousands of job openings being developed mining data. Yes, there’s a massive shortage of demand for coal mining jobs, but there is massive shortage of supply of data miners. Literally, hundreds of thousands of openings nationwide. Tech companies are paying kids who can’t create, but are simply order takers, hundreds of thousands of dollars without a degree but with proven skill to work for them as engineers. There are hundreds of thousands openings today, for nurses and nurse practitioners. These aren’t just new world jobs, learn how to balance an income statement and you can fill one of the hundred thousand plus openings to be an accountant. Talk confidently about the stock market and become a financial planner, hell, even good old fashioned sales people are in very high demand today!. Then, if you are feeling adventurous there are new industries popping up daily, Virtual Reality, digital marketing and more!
I want to take a step back for a second to discuss atrophy. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s a concept around a body becoming stale when it stops moving. The human body atrophies. We see this in people that let themselves go. We know the human body can undergo massive stresses and if we stay flexible and strong, we’re even more successful when we have to change. Our brains are no different. The more you flex that muscle, the better it’s going to adapt. So use it! Read a book, learn a skill or go do something. Because if you aren’t ready to adapt I’ll show you a billion other people who are! Are we going to have to change? The answer, yes, 100% we may. In fact, for generations we’ve had to change and we have. It’s called evolution! Have you ever seen a black polar bear?!
Now back to the second point about jobs, those that are stolen by immigrants. I live in Southern California. We are home of the immigrant! You name a place in the world, I’ll show you massive communities of people from that place. You know something else, California is the world’s 6th largest economy and the US’ largest state economy. In fact, the second largest state economy is Texas and I heard they have one or two immigrants there as well. Immigrants aren’t coming in and stealing jobs. They are coming over and busting there asses working jobs a lot of Americans I know would refuse to take. Another thing immigrants are doing better here than many natives is creating jobs! They are entrepreneurs who come here and can’t get hired either because of their status, lack of education at an American institution (which is bullshit, but another story) and because of accents or skin tone. So they start a business. They open a shop, they hustle their asses off and they succeed, because they have to. They aren’t complaining about making america great again because they’re doing it now!
I think we need to take another step back now and learn just how America became the superpower it was over the last 75 odd years. I know, because most of us have never been alive in a time when America wasn’t the end all be all of the world it’s hard to believe that even a century ago, we weren’t. So what happened? Well, 2 world wars, a massive baby boom, a bull stock market like none other in world history, a world agreement on ending the gold standard and America being the lucky country others decided to use as their medium for commodity exchange and that’s not all! There was a Cold War that had us spending trillions on technology that would eventually power the internet, satellite technology, communications systems and massive computer power. We built an interstate highway system that connected all the states and we provided the best damn education money could buy and before loans became the means by which to achieve that education, we did it at a reasonable cost.
We did all of this in the last 75 years give or take a few years. In that time Europe and Russia were recovering and rebuilding from 2 world wars and Russia was fighting a Cold War with us. Japan hit a pretty solid stride for a bit in the 70s and 80s but have been stuck in their position for a bit now because of stagflation. China experienced Mao, but they since decided to turn their engine on. India was a British colony until Gandhi and they’re now developing and turning on their economic engines. The Middle East was a desert with no economic input until oil was discovered there earlier in the 20th century. Now go to Dubai and see the Field of Dreams, “build it and they will come” put into action like you’ve never imagined.
When we were getting started, our country was about 175 years old and we’re now about to turn 250. We’re still young in terms of nations, but we’re acting like the elders of old. We’re acting like the music industry as they chose to ignore digital, “no one will want to download music.” We’re looking at who we were and no more at who we could be. We’re allowing ourselves to fight with our backs against the ropes and we’re not going full Rocky! Hell, we’re not going full Ali! How many punches did that man take from Foreman before knocking him out? America may be down, but that doesn’t mean she has to be out!
We can start by doing some of the things that made us great at the beginning. We need to rebuild infrastructure. Airports, roads, internet systems and high speed rail. Elon Musk gave us the blueprint for his train, for free! Let’s use it. Hell, he’s made all of his patents public property, why aren’t we using more! Do you know how many jobs could be created simply updating these systems? However as recently as the early 2000s Indiana decided to outsource their toll roads to Abu Dhabi. Have you been through immigration at an airport anywhere else in the world, it’s a welcome! Every time I come back through most airports in the states it’s disheartening. We can and should update these places and create jobs doing so! Imagine how much labor we could place building up speed rail!
I also believe it’s time to revamp the education system for our new and developing economy. I’m going to say something that will make a lot of people upset, we don’t need everyone on the college / university track. The only 2 parties that benefit from the current system are bankers and the us government who are making billions on the interest on student debt and the universities that are benefiting from this debt. Do you know why colleges can raise tuition 7% a year, because 18 year olds are allowed to take on a larger and larger debt burden every single year. Who in their right mind decided, “let’s have 18 year olds take on massive loans and study Sociology as an investment in their future.” Are you kidding me? That degree isn’t worth anymore than the paper it’s printed on. Yet we let that kid go drink a bunch of crappy beer at beer pong games for 4 years and learn why norms and mores are different things. Lots of good that information is going to do them…
It’s time to re-focus our education strategy to work. What are you going to do that produces an economic input. If you don’t know and you want to take a “gap” year, great, it’ll be cheaper than the 25k minimum you, your parents or your loans will pay as a first year student at most state schools. Are you thinking service, awesome, do it! Maybe we as a society would benefit from something like the peace corps or other service related utility. Maybe we bring auto shop classes back into public schools and home economics. Why don’t we have programming as a foreign language or program tracks? What about starting apprenticeships in high schools? Imagine having kids come out high school with 4 years of a plumbing or electrician apprenticeship or learning under their belts. That would be amazing!
What about basic life skills classes. Who came out of high school or college understanding a 401k, an insurance deductible or knowing how to get a passport. My guess, most of us didn’t. These are everyday things people need to learn how to do. Do people understand how to make a resume out of school, I doubt it. Even more, do they know how to use Zip Recruiter, Indeed or Monster to find jobs? I doubt that even more. Why is Ramen a college staple? Because we don’t teach kids how to cook for themselves with veggies and good protein sources in high school! Instead we pump these little hormone raged pubescent animals full of soda and shitty food, accuse them of having ADHD, so pump them full of Adderall and Vyvanse and expect them to sit still and remember the quadratic equation. Good thing they know Ax² + Bx + C =0 when they’re trying to change their flat tire or start a fire because they’re heat went out. The nanny state is real and it’s not the fault of the kids, it’s the fault of society not teaching these kids how to be adults. This needs to change and it’s all about economic utility.
Now maybe there are forces at work here that are greater than I may know. Maybe there are 6 guys in a room somewhere. They’re smoking cigars, drinking scotch and putting together the systems by which the US becomes a second tier country. These guys are creating a massive land grab and taking all of the resources. They want us to go into massive debt from a young age that is almost impossible for most people to climb out of. They want us to buy into the American dream and go further into debt and buy that home. They want us to major in sociology or dead languages like sanskrit and spend our primary learning years learning crap that will provide basically zero utility. Maybe this is the case.
I’d like to hope that’s not the case. I’d like to hope the power structure finds utility in the progress of the people and our nation. I’d like to think that the deep state if there were one wants to see America thrive as a nation and Americans thrive as a people. So let’s assume that is the goal. Let’s assume that our success as a people is what we want. If that’s the case, let’s build the system to move forward and stop concentrating on looking back.
I’d like to make something clear here. I’m not saying kids shouldn’t go to school. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t try and become doctors, lawyers, businessmen or even philosophers. What I am saying is education shouldn’t be looked at as the only course as long. Especially with it’s massive price tag, it should be looked at as in investment and those going to school should have a goal as to what they plan to get out of that investment.
I’m also not saying we shouldn’t be proud to be Americans or that we are living in a massive shithole. I love this country, I’m blessed everyday that I was born here and not in war torn (insert country here) or poverty stricken (insert country here). What I am saying is it’s time for us to pivot so we can maintain our greatness. We are not going to get where we need to get with the road maps of the past. The roads and destinations are different and we need to change with them. I believe those changes come with changing infrastructure, education, the attitude of entitlement and an understanding of the new economies locally and throughout the world.
There is hope! We have a literate population that understands technology and a young population that is adaptable to change. We have an immigrant population that is ready and willing to innovate and work. We have a financial system that runs the world (for now) and a tech community that is at the forefront of innovation (again, for now). If we monopolize on these systems and start pushing, we can lead for another hundred years instead of leaving a country for our kids that says, what if. I implore you as a society to take this and run! Let’s innovate, let’s create and let’s forge ahead to these new frontiers because it can be done. Let’s not make america great again, let’s just make it great, period.