A TERRIFIC Tribute! – A reprint of Vol. XVIII, Art. 26 (6 years ago today – February 28, 2008)
“Mr. Ford appears to be one of the very few who acknowledge the severity of this depression.”
That’s how we ended the previous commentary. We shouldn’t have used the word “acknowledge”, though, we should have used the word “understand”.
For example, here’s what a highly placed shipping official was quoted as saying: “Today we may be at one of the most difficult times that our industry has faced. The mortgage crisis in the United States is continuing to have a negative effect on the world economy and on trade.”
That shipping executive actually believes that this global depression has been caused by the U.S. mortgage crisis. The mortgage crisis is just one of the problems (effects) brought on (caused) by the widespread and growing joblessness in the United States, and yet most supposedly intelligent corporate planners have yet to realize that fact.
– Air Cargo World, however, provided a clue to the real cause of the world’s economic tailspin when it revealed that airlines have mothballed a record number of planes (2,300+) because of a declining demand (!) for goods and products. (There’s that word again … demand). According to Chris Seymour, head of market analysis at Ascend, “The aviation fleet data shows that at least 400 more aircraft are scheduled to be cut during 2009, with groundings being announced almost daily. This is having a negative effect on aircraft values and lease rates, and creating real challenges for the aircraft financing community.”
Would that misled shipping official mentioned above also blame the U.S. “mortgage crisis” (the cause) for the virtual collapse of the airline industry (the effect)? He just might, of course.
– We also read in this month’s Marine Log that: “Toyota stores unsold cars aboard ship”, and the report continued, “Toyota is currently renting a ship in the Swedish port of Malmo to store 2,500 unsold autos. ‘It’s an emergency measure that we had to take due to storage space issues,’ said a spokeswoman. ‘Our vehicle logistics center in Malmo had reached a maximum capacity as core sales in the region have decreased recently.’ The decision to store the cars aboard a Wellenius Wilhelmsen car carrier was made last month when the Malmo port facility reached its limit of 12,000 cars.”
That report clearly points out two depressing situations: first, the collapse of the automobile industry (an effect), and secondly, the utilization of a once-profitable car carrier as a warehouse (an effect) – just one step away from being “mothballed”. Would that shipping official mentioned above also blame the U.S. “mortgage crisis” (a cause) for these costly predicaments?
True, conditions in the U.S. have brought about the world’s economic woes, but the “mortgage crisis” is not the cause. Unemployment in the U.S. is the so-called “hiccup” (the cause) that has spread economic malaise throughout the world. Our shipbuilding program will be the antidote.
Here’s our prediction.
When we are bad, we are very, very bad. But when we are good, we’re – well, terrific. So let’s be good again, like we were 65 to 70 years ago.
We’ve already mentioned the little town of Hingham in Massachusetts. When the Second World War broke out we were more-or-less ready, but strictly speaking, we weren’t completely prepared. When it became obvious that additional shipbuilding capacity was needed for the war effort, our war planners turned to the determined residents in the area – and to Bethlehem Steel – and formulated plans for a new shipyard. It was up and running almost overnight, and what that small yard accomplished was nothing short of astonishing. That’s when we were – well, terrific.
What most folks are not aware of, however, and what the media never reported, was the eye-catching steel mill that was built within the new Hingham Shipyard. It was the world’s largest steel mill contained under one roof, and that enormous structure was still standing when we last visited that beautiful town.
Just prior to those memorable years were the not-so-memorable years of the Great Depression. The country had “bailout” programs back then, too. The TVA was one of the programs … although we didn’t hear of it until years later … and the WPA and the CCC were also “bailout” programs. We knew all about those two programs because we counted heavily upon them for the barest essentials. Like milk and baking flour – and a $ 13 weekly paycheck, for the lucky ones.
The biggest “bailout” program of all, though, was World War II. Everything hummed. Everyone found employment. Manufacturing facilities sprung up all over the country, and the largest and most impressive manufacturing facilities were the shipyards. The Seven Wonders of the World paled in comparison to the giant battleships and carriers that Americans produced in that thankfully brief period of time. Desperation, determination and pride were the dominant emotions in those years, and all because we were – well, terrific.
You may have noticed that the term “recession” is no longer used in these commentaries. That’s because the recession is over. It’s history. We’re in a deep and damning depression now. There’s no end in sight and the world’s leaders know it. They also know, and fear, that violent reactions could be commonplace when average citizens realize the hopelessness of the situation.
Fortunately, we in the U.S. – the ones who “hiccupped” – the ones at the very root of the problem – the ones who now lack the jobs and the buying power that once acted as the catalyst in international trade – are now in a position to administer the antidote we spoke of earlier.
We have the Jones Act. We have Title XI. We have U.S. and International Patents on that revolutionary container ship design we’ve been bragging about these last few years. And we have dozens and dozens of workable graving docks throughout the country, and millions and millions of American job seekers. And of no less importance is the fact that those hundreds of useless, costly, cumbersome and mothballed megaships are helpless to do anything to stem the spiraling economic conditions throughout the world. But we can turn things around because we’re – well, terrific.