How predictable?!

Now hear this …

• “End of Port Cargo Slump Forecasted – Increased container volume expected at LA, LB, Oakland and other major US container ports …”, according to a new report issued by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and research firm Global Insight.

• “Jacksonville Port Authority Executive Director Rick Ferrin said he anticipates the port’s economic impact will double to nearly $ 6 billion annually, providing 75,000 jobs in the region, within the coming years.”

• “‘As the US economy bounces back, the Port of Boston will be well positioned to attract additional services,’ said Mr. Leone, citing the potential impact on the port of the widening of the Panama Canal to accommodate larger ships …”

• “‘We hope that in the future we will have one of the premiere ports in the world right here in Charleston, but we will also be able to take supertankers in Jasper,’ DeMint said. ‘That’s why expansion here is key and why Jasper is key,’ he added.”

• “‘These ports should be ready for larger and bigger ships that will go through the expanded Canal – anticipating infrastructure needs in the near future is key to their growth,’ said Senor Sabonge of the Panama Canal Authority.”

• “Montgomery: Alabama Gov. Bob Riley has met with business officials in Santiago, Chile, hoping to attract business for Mobile’s new container terminal.”

• “New Orleans: Mayor Ray Nagin is heading to South Africa, his second overseas trip this year as the city looks to help bolster its post-Hurricane Katrina economy. Nagin went to China in April to promote tourism and the Port of New Orleans, which the city wants to see benefit from the planned expansion of the Panama Canal.”

• “The Post and Courier: As the State Ports Authority sees fewer containers crossing its docks, the agency’s two top officials left for Europe and Asia on Tuesday to call on key customers in their own backyards.”

• “‘Barring unexpected disasters, the container market looks set to flourish in the years ahead,’ according to Arnold Wang, Chairman of Evergreen Marine Corporation.”

• Port of New Orleans president Gary LaGrange states that “… Impact Economics, a Boston consulting firm, projects that by 2010, Asia will be exporting 15 million more containers of goods than U.S. ports can handle, a shortage that could lead to more shipments to Canadian ports”.

• “Wilmington, NC – Seeking to tap expected growing East Coast trade flows, the North Carolina Ports Authority’s efforts this year have been focused on consultant CH2M Hill’s recommendation that a public private partnership is the best approach to developing the North Carolina International Terminal. CH2M projected international trade doubling by 2020, with the market for container shipping growing even faster and creating increased demand for East Coast port capacity.”

Even though everything is crashing down around their ears, the above officials are pretending that all is going smoothly – that their container terminals are about to be swamped with imported cargo. In some cases, however, their actions betray them. When, for example, did any one of them ever have to travel overseas, with hat in hand, begging to be favored by foreign businesses? Before our “economic downturn” it had always been the other way around. Visiting overseas manufacturers reps were always sweet-talking U.S. merchants in their attempts to drum up business. But no more. We’re the beggars now not the choosers.

Next time someone smugly tells you that this “recession” can only last for another few months, or that the “economic turnaround” is inevitable because that’s the nature of economic cycles, ask just one simple question … how? Ask how this expected recovery will come about. Ask the seer to describe to you the forces that will actually create the jobs needed to restore our buying power, because buying power is the sine qua non in this issue. You’ll be greeted with dead silence.

There is no government official, no economic guru, no pundit of any stature who can provide an answer to that question. This country is in an irreversible tailspin, but those at the top aren’t at all concerned. about the less fortunate majority. They’re comfortably attired in their blinders and in their ignorance.

In past commentaries we’ve discussed the only possible way of reversing this country’s free fall. Starting from the bottom, a number of nations have advanced with astonishing strides, and like Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and the British Empire in earlier times, these emerging nations are now in positions of prominence. First, post-war Japan, then post-war South Korea, and now China and India, each in turn recognizing that a strong maritime presence inevitably leads to national wealth. And in happier times wasn’t it our enormous merchant fleet that enabled us to become an economic superpower?

But of course we can’t build a new merchant fleet. We’d have to pay the hired help too much. Somehow … somehow … the honchos running this country came to the conclusion that it would be to our advantage to allow the overseas competition to pick up all the marbles. We’d let them build all the container ships and we’d just pay them for whatever services we needed. That’s right. We decided to pay their workers rather than our own shipbuilders. We know now that that asinine strategy has put us in a hole that’s getting deeper by the day.

But those honchos and their ilk are still with us, unfortunately. But so is Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act. And so is the patent we own – the patent we’ve been assured will “revolutionize the world’s economy”. Blinders and ignorance are all that block our economic recovery.