Asking Questions

“A system is corrupt when it is strictly profit-driven, not driven to serve the best interests of its people.” ― Suzy Kassem

Yesterday I wrote a letter to President Trump asking a number of questions about his Inaugural speech. One of the points that stood out for me was his goal of bringing back “made in America, by Americans” and while I love the ‘idea’ of this… really, I do – think of the jobs!! I can’t see it as more than just a pipe dream and I don’t think some people realize the immensity – the complexity of such a statement. They want to believe it and so they do – no questions asked. Well… I am asking.

I believe there are towns across America filled with people who want to go back to work … I understand the reality of having lost a job and having no idea how you will continue to feed a family or the weight of shame as you stand in line to pay for groceries with food stamps. I empathize with people whose home values have fallen so low that they can’t possibly sell to move where jobs are more plentiful. I don’t have an answer, but I also know that the simple statement of making a decision to buy American isn’t the answer either. Let’s think about this for a minute…

Last November Dana Varinsky wrote a piece for Business Insider that looked at production of five products many of us buy and asked the question of whether or not we can make it here in the USA. Of course, we can but the iPhone for example would cost upwards of 15 – 20% more than it does now and that’s IF (a big if?) the said companies didn’t add ANY additional tariffs or profits. A standard pair of jeans would cost $25 more than they currently do.  While some televisions sold here are assembled here – the components are currently produced in Asia and/or Mexico… if we had to manufacture the components here the cost would escalate.  Currently, you can purchase a pair of New Balance shoes made in the USA but they start at $165 and go as high as $399.  Reebok’s are similar.

So… let’s say we suddenly require expensive tariffs on companies who import products and/or components to make their products.

First… The things you buy cost more money.  Now you don’t have as much money as you would have… perhaps you only buy one pair of jeans – not two.  And… you don’t have as much cash flow so no dinner out that night. Less money goes into your savings account.

The company who sells your jeans made profit on only one pair of jeans – not two… multiply that by a 100,000 pairs and their profit is significantly reduced. They now must lay off a couple of people in the stores – perhaps they close a couple of stores – leaving empty storefronts in the mall – reducing the rent that is collected – causing the mall profits to subside – generating lower maintenance – creating a less pleasing environment – causing less people to visit – reducing sales, etc…

Because you didn’t go out to dinner, the restaurant where you would have eaten isn’t as busy and it lays off wait staff.  If enough people don’t go out to dinner, the restaurant closes, the owner files bankruptcy because he has a big loan on the building and/or the franchise.

Because you didn’t put money into your savings account, you don’t have enough money to put new tires on your car when it needs them – which are more expensive now, by the way… and you have to use a credit card – adding to your debt load.

Imagine this scenario for everything you buy – every day. Now imagine that it’s not just you… it’s all of us. What happens when spending slows down?

Inflation. Prices go up across the board because companies are trying to compensate for the loss of revenue. When inflation happens – interest rates go up.

When interest rates go up, housing sales go down.

Real estate agents make less money.

Home Depot and Lowes have fewer customers as do carpet installers, window manufacturers, and lumber companies.

The economy comes to a slow and screeching halt.

There is a really good chance that your retirement money – if you have any – is invested in the stock market. If you have mutual funds that invest in a company who sells jeans that are now twice as expensive and not selling as many… their profit is down which means their dividends are lower and their share price is probably sinking.

Additionally… all those European and Asian companies that your mutual funds invested in are now losing money because they can’t ship to the USA and their share prices are falling…. What is your 401K worth now?  Do you own Apple stock? GE? How much of their share prices are dependent on trade between countries?

We do NOT live in isolation from the rest of the world anymore and frankly… we can’t go back! Not without a massive – drastic price to pay and that’s only the POV from my limited economic knowledge base – although I did get good grades in my econ classes.

Are you thinking about this??

As if this was all not enough… according to IHS Markit Technology’s Outsourced Manufacturing Intelligence Service there is an even bigger problem – at least where iPhones are concerned. The number of people it takes to manufacture iPhones constitutes a small city so while it may be great for a town or city to get an influx of citizens to work in a new factory – a hundred thousand people coming to town puts massive stress on infrastructure…. Roads, schools, sewage, water lines, etc…. I wonder how many towns are prepared for that to happen? How long would it take to amass the facilities to make that happen – is it even realistically possible?

Keep in mind that if it takes 100,000 workers – maybe ½ of them are married and have the 1.5 average children so it’s really 300,000 additional people!!! If you’ve ever played SIMs – the computer game of building cities – you know this is impossible to impose overnight (meaning a short time frame). I can’t imagine that President Trump can see this happen in his first term.

I’ve touched only on one aspect of the President’s speech. I will keep asking questions and ask you to think with me. If you have ideas or proposals… I encourage you to voice them! Let’s be part of the solution!!

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Dear. Mr. President… I have some questions.

Dear Mr. President,

Congratulations on your achievement. I am an American Citizen who believes in democracy and therefore I respect that you now sit in the Oval Office and can make decisions that will affect the rest of my life and potentially the lives of my children and theirs. I should tell you that I did not vote for you but I did respectfully listen to your Inaugural address to soften some of the angst I feel about your Presidency. You see, I ‘want’ to support my democratic beliefs… the ones that state I should honor the People’s voice and thereby… support you.

I liked many of the things you said but I have a LOT of questions. May I address them with you?

I love that you are expressing concern for American citizens but I would like more information about your statement “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.”

  1. DOES THIS ALSO MEAN THE PEOPLE WHO DID NOT VOTE FOR YOU?

“Everyone is listening to you now.”

  1. DOES THAT INCLUDE ME? WILL YOU LISTEN TO MY QUESTIONS?

“Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves.”

Yes we do!! Thank you!

“But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”

Sadly, that is also terribly true but shouldn’t we be asking the question WHY??

  1. WHY ARE THERE SO MANY RUSTED OUT FACTORIES?

Isn’t it because those companies found cheaper labor overseas?

Isn’t that because the American worker demanded higher wages and better working conditions which put too much pressure on the profit margins of those companies?

Isn’t that because the American investors demanded more dividends and higher stock prices?

Isn’t that because if we actually priced American goods with the same profit margin requirements we couldn’t afford to buy American products?

“The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.”

This is GREAT!

“For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry;”

  1. NOT TO POINT ANY FINGERS, BUT WILL YOU AND YOUR COMPANIES DEMAND THAT ANYTHING WITH YOUR NAME ON IT BE PRODUCED IN AMERICA BY AMERICANS?

“subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own”

  1. ARE WE GOING TO SIT BY AND WATCH OTHER COUNTRIES MUTILATE ONE ANOTHER, WAITING FOR THEM TO COME AFTER US?

“and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.” 

Yay!… some of our roads are deplorable!

“The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.”

  1. WILL WE BE PENALIZED FOR BUYING PRODUCTS MADE OUTSIDE THE USA? Generally, they are less expensive and my budget is slim. I think most things sold at Walmart and the Dollar Store are manufactured overseas. I do some shopping there. And in the winter, I still like to buy strawberries from Chile.

“From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.”

Ok, that sounds great!!

“Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

Mr. President…  I know that some of my neighbors are immigrants from Mexico who are willing to work in the mushroom industry. They pick mushrooms in closed buildings that smell like manure. They work for cheap – keeping the price of mushrooms low.

  1. HOW WILL YOU ENTICE AMERICAN WORKERS TO TAKE THE LESS DESIRABLE JOBS THAT ARE CURRENTLY AT BEST, MINIMUM WAGE OPPORTUNITIES?

“We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work — rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.” Awesome! We need most of that stuff!

  1. WHO PAYS FOR ALL OF THAT?
  2. WILL THEY BE UNION JOBS? WILL THOSE JOBS PROVIDE A LIVABLE INCOME?

“We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.”

  1. PLEASE TELL ME THOSE RULES APPLY TO YOU AS WELL.

“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”

Again, this is exciting, good news, awesome, etc…. but….

  1. WHAT IF THEY NEED OUR MILITARY SUPPORT? We can’t simply turn our backs on them, can we? In what way does it serve our interests to do that?

“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.”

I love this statement Mr. President.

  1. DOES THAT MEAN ALL AMERICANS? REGARDLESS OF THEIR RACE, SEXUALITY, GENDER, RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, POLITICAL AFFILIATION, SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS, ETC.?

“We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.”

  1. DOES THAT MEAN WE CAN DISAGREE WITH YOU?

When America is united, America is totally unstoppable”.

I totally agree!! This excites me!!

“The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.”

  1. WHAT ACTION WILL YOU TAKE, MR. PRESIDENT?

I have concerns, true concerns, that your vision is Nirvana. It sounds incredible… much like the founding father’s vision of a new world. I like the way it sounds but there are so many holes. Our economy is built on supply and demand. As Americans, we have demanded lower prices because we have been taught to focus on profit. Not just corporate profit but personal profit. We have been taught to have more; make it bigger and better. We have been taught that merchandise is disposable and so it needs to be cheap.

Simultaneously, we have been taught to do it ourselves. We all but eliminated the job of travel agents by using the internet to plan our own trips. Ditto for investing … Charles Schwab made it possible for us to save fees and do it ourselves. We are a NATION of DIY’ers – people who look for getting the most for less!!

  1. HOW WILL YOU CONVINCE US TO PAY MORE FOR PRODUCTS AND ACCEPT LESS PROFIT or DO YOU SEE THAT HAPPENING ANOTHER WAY?

Mr. President, these are but a few of the questions I have because while I really connected with a lot of your speech it doesn’t feel possible or realistic based on what I know about people and their behavior. As a mental health practitioner, it is my job to understand how people think and what behaviors are changeable.

Our problem is not that our health care premiums are too high or that there is no wall on the Mexican border. As I see it, our problems start with GREED. The simple desire to have more than we need. Greed has a negative connotation Mr. President – at least to those of us who don’t have as much as we need.

  1. PLEASE TELL ME MR. PRESIDENT, WHEN YOU QUITE LITERALLY SIT ON A GOLD THRONE, HOW DO YOU ADDRESS OUR GREED?

 

If you liked what you read just now, please SHARE it with friends and family by using one of the buttons below (Facebook, Twitter, Email & LinkedIn) and know that I am grateful for your effort.

Also, I love to connect with my readers. Feel free to comment, follow my blog, or connect with me on social media.