Think With Perspective

Nov. 1, 2011
Henry Blodgett has been running some of the best economic analyses this side of Alan Beaulieu, economist and Automation World columnist.

He ran some charts ( that show how the top 10 percent of the population in the United States in terms of income have been earning a larger share of the pie over the past 30 years—and especially over the last 10. Makes you stop and think about economic policy. Blodgett’s blog is worth a good read. You also can catch Beaulieu every other month here, and on his podcast “Make Your Move” (downloadable through Apple’s iTunes store).

Thinking of government policy, I’m constantly amazed at the number of people who think that the government can cure all their ills. (OK, this is bad generalization, but too true to ignore) Lower income people (not sure of the definition) seem to be looking either for direct government payouts or subsidies of various kinds. Business owners like to blame the government for their problems. “If only the government would...”—fill in the blank with whatever. Of course, this may just be the rhetoric of politicians pandering to a certain demographic in order to get votes.

Kenna Amos interviewed a trade association general manager for this issue ("Precision Metalformers Make Headway Despite Government Actions", click here) who said that if only the government wouldn’t require a safe, non-polluting work place, then his members could compete.

Wait a minute. Let’s think about this. Does he mean that we should go back to the kind of workplace where people are walking around with missing fingers or arms? Where danger lurks around every machine? Where we just dump chemicals and gases and end up with cities unsuitable for human habitation, as is found in many cities in China?

If we ran the right kind of operations taking into account safety and reduction of waste, maybe we wouldn’t invite the Feds to the party in the first place. Not to mention that safe machines and processes are actually more efficient and productive. Not to mention that it’s nice to go out to eat or go to a high school football game in your community and not have people mutter about how you’ve destroyed property values with your pollution or lives with your operations.

Take responsibility

Must be my Midwest/German upbringing, but I believe in individual responsibility. Do your work right. Live your life right. Run your plant right. And you don’t have to worry about other things. If someone is undercutting your price, then you probably got lazy and need that competitive shot to get you back into the continuous improvement track.

I just read a news item that purportedly quotes Steve Jobs telling President Obama that taxes and regulations were so high that he had to go to China to manufacture his products. As much as I respect Jobs for leadership and design, as a manufacturer, he was wrong. We write about companies every month that can find success manufacturing in the United States because they run excellent operations. And more are learning that lesson every day.

Lower taxes would be nice. But our tax burden is lower now than it was during the prosperity of the early ‘60s. Regulations are a pain—I’ve lived through compliance struggles in my life in manufacturing. But even when I began in manufacturing, I wondered why we just didn’t do the right thing treating employees and the environment with respect rather than taking shortcuts and then trying to keep regulators at bay. Sometimes we just don’t think with perspective enough. Jim Pinto garnered many comments on his essay “Creating Wealth” (August 2011, click here). He was right. We can do it if we just take responsibility for our own future.

Gary Mintchell, [email protected], is Editor In Chief of Automation World.

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