Industry On Parade–Infrastructure and Stimulus

When I was a youth I loved to watch the newsreels at the movie house.    Lowell Thomas was the best known commentator of that era.  His voice would give a pronouncement of the current events around the world.  It would be a mix of serious news and at least one fun item.   They only lasted about 5 minutes but I thought they were fascinating.  I wasn’t into reading the daily newspaper yet and TV wasn’t in our house and even later when it was the news was very limited and so boring.  Those early newscasts were 15 minutes long and covered the basics.   Most folks used the daily paper(s) for their news of the day.  The news reels were updated every week.  So for that time it was pretty current.  

In school I was a weird one because I actually enjoyed those films we would have every other week or so about one of our topics–history, science or maybe geography.  I thought they were really neat and a great break from the boring talks by the teachers.   They were scratchy and in black and white and the productions were definitely below B grade movies.  But some biography of Edison or a story of the Hundred Years War always got my attention.  When we got a TV in time for the Notre Dame v. SMU game in ’49 the telecasts were very spotty.  TV was on only about 4 days a week and even then only from the late afternoon to about 10 at night.  That changed quickly and soon it was on most of the day, seven days a week.  Sometimes in the afternoon they would have “filler” spots between the regular programs.  There were lots of local “variety” shows usually sponsored by a grocery chain or 7/11.  There would be big promotions all the time so that if you bought from one of the sponsors you would get coupons and you could use them to buy products during one of the local shows.  I went to a couple of those with my mom.  The ladies bought irons, fans, drapes, etc with the coupons on an auction basis using those coupons.  The show would always have some local entertainment.  It was uniformly awful.  I was even part of that on one show.  My elementary school had a square dance club or whatever we were called.  I was part of that.  You can guess who’s idea that was.  Yep, Mom never could understand why I wasn’t just thrilled as a 11 year old boy to be in a flamboyant cowboy shirt and square dancing my little heart out.  I can only imagine the chills and thrills that went through the TV audience at home watching us do our dosey does.   My favorite “filler” short on TV was “Industry On Parade”.  They were about 15 minutes long and produced by a trade association of manufacturers or the US Chamber of Commerce.  It was an early version of Modern Business you see on the History Channel these days.  They would take a particular industry each week and go into detail about how it worked; how they produced their goods or products.  It would be the steel industry one time, then autos, then commercial fishing, an agricultural product another time.  They displayed the US manufacturing process on every conceivable product from TV’s to pet food.   I loved that show.  I was interested in how things worked, the details.  Most of my friends thought it was boring as the devil.  So my weirdness goes back a long way.  It is hard to believe but at that time the US made everything that the world wanted and we built almost all of our consumer products right here.  There was no such thing as offshore manufacturing.   Americans built irons, washing machines, radios, TVs, cars, bulldozers, blenders, furniture, all our clothing and shoes were made here and very little of our crops were imported from Mexico or anywhere else.  We were very self sufficient and the world acknowledged that we were the benchmark for all manufacturing processes.  For decades we were the world leader in building all the electronic products–Zenith, RCA, Motorola, to name only a few.  “American Made” meant the best quality in the world.  We were the envy of the world in the variety and and quality of all our products.   It is not only sad but damaging that we no longer have that reputation.  Our manufacturing base is pretty much gone now.  I fear it will never return.   Others do that work cheaper and with good quality.  We used to laugh at the early products from Japan or Taiwan because the quality was a joke.  We don’t now.

Some of those early newsreels would show Germany on occasion.  This was done well into the ’50’s.  Their infrastructure was decimated during the war.  Every important bridge or train trestle was destroyed.  The manufacturing had been bombed into oblivion.  The water and power systems were all legitimate targets and destroyed and likewise the power grids and distribution systems.  Every major city there had hundreds of square miles of nothing but rubble.  We had so thoroughly destroyed the German nation that in the last few months of the war the Air Corp literally had run out of targets.  There were no strategic targets left.  The air missions were strictly used to find “targets of opportunity”.  Naturally there was no sympathy after the war to aid the Germans.  They got very very little aid from us or anyone else after the war.  They were on their own.  No politician here or anywhere else would be about to recommend spending money to help the Germans.  That would have been political suicide after the war. They didn’t have a stimulus bill to rebuild their infrastructure.  This was a nation of about 60 million people.   Within 15 years they had new infrastructure in place.  There were still pockets of destruction in the major cities in the housing stocks.  They had their water and electricity up and running in short order.  Many had thought it would take five years to get those two vital systems working properly but it only took them about 2 years for most of the country. 

We have had a trust fund for our infrastructure for decades now.  We just passed an almost 800 billion stimulus bill and that Ominibus Bill for 410 billion don’t forget and yet we have those crying the blues that everything we have is about to fall down and it is the worst catastrophe in the known world, only behind the disaster of Global Warming.  My advice is get a grip and get some perspective.  Like so much of human endeavor will and a can do attitude is more important than anything when it comes to achievement.  Those Germans didn’t get 3 breaks a day for a Starbucks and weren’t retiring after 30 years with a big pension and didn’t have health insurance at that time.  Just like our early settlers tamed this wild land without aid from anyone.  Big Government was rarely around to give you any help in Kentucky in 1803 or Germany in 1952.  Our early pioneers did manage to build roads and bridges and so did those Germans with virtually no government support.  What support there was came from private enterprise in both cases. 

We need a stimulus for our hearts and souls not a government bank balance made up of phoney money created on debt and printed money.  A few more calluses on hands wouldn’t hurt either.

China has 1.5 trillion of our debt.  They are our largest creditor.   The new guy talks constantly about our dependence on foreign oil and buying it from people who are not our friends.  He points out how dangerous that is.  Well, is China our friend?  And we are expecting them to buy even more of our debt, lots more.  How wise is it to owe that much money to someone who is not your pal?



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Filed under Economics, Environment, family, government, history

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