The 20th Century was arguably the prime 100 years of American economic ascendancy. Our industry put the world on wheels, armed our forces and sent heavy equipment around the world while, among other things, our granaries fed the world. Our burgeoning middle/working classes gobbled up goods and services like there was no tomorrow, particularly after WWII. But that all changed as the century drew to a close and teetered on the brink of destruction amidst the smoke and ruin of 9/11.
We suddenly found ourselves in a world where our economic obesity was being fed by Chinese made goods, most major economic controls lay outside of our borders and our vaunted manufacturing centers were being replaced by cheap foreign labor. Greedy investment bankers put the final nails in the coffin by first feeding unreasonable expectations of continued prosperity and then avoid any accountability and bailing themselves out with help of their political cronies.
This is a new world where China suggests that the dollar is no longer a viable measure of currency while it artificially suppresses its own currency and Hugo Chavez, military dictator in Venezuela, recommends oil as the basis of economic exchange. A short 25 years ago both ideas would have been laughed off the world stage; now President Obama approached the G20 meeting of leading economies less as a rock star and more as a supplicant.
I believe our economic healing will begin with a new generation of Americans who see themselves as less entitled to the good times than they are dedicated to creating new value for global markets. My fellow members of the self-focused Boomer Generation may have to be pushed off the stage seeing how so many of us have run the economy into the ground and then taken fat bonuses. Maybe necessity will then become the mother of a whole new culture of inventive people looking over the horizon and outside the overstuffed chair that their elders have occupied.
Who do you think will lead us out of our economic swamp and into a new land of promise and opportunity and how will we get there?