October 12, 2022
Two different high-profile news stories have really flipped my “curmudgeon” switch this week. It irritates me that the general public is distracted by ridiculous excuses for bad behavior by corporate giants. The first annoyance was the preposterous claim that Apple had to move assembly operations to China because they could not get enough tiny custom screws in the USA. I have never been in the fastener business, but I have lived through the “bogus bolt” years and know our domestic suppliers can make the best pieces in the world and in whatever quantities needed. Had they claimed they couldn’t get the needed bits at the price point desired, it would have been somewhat believable. Next up was the shocking admission that 13,000 new manufacturing jobs were not coming to Southeastern Wisconsin despite a multi-BILLION dollar tax incentive plan. Skeptics had questioned the economics of the deal right from the start. What processing breakthrough could possibly overcome the labor cost advantage the world’s economic geniuses had allowed to build up between the U.S. and Asia? Were the jobs worth the potential environmental damage to Lake Michigan? As long as the bright shiny object was kept in front of the voters, no serious discussion could be maintained. The post-mortems on both these stories will be short and private. The “free press” seems to lack the stamina to do the important work of protecting the public from scam artists. Have we learned nothing from Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man? I cannot help but think of the great companies in my home state that could have benefited from a more favorable tax treatment. Saving 13,000 jobs would have been much more cost-effective. Just in recent years, mergers and bankruptcies have taken thousands of manufacturing jobs out of that area, as they have in other Rust Belt metro areas. The gear industry has suffered a 35-year decline — in part from Commerce Department policies. Isn’t it time we started to pay attention?