I’ll Take Manhattan …

It’s a known fact that maritime commerce is the backbone of international trade. Over the last few centuries the economies of Spain, England, Holland, the U.S. and even South Korea have benefitted enormously because of commitments those nations made to shipbuilding and to maritime commerce.

Consumer demand for low-priced overseas goods led to outsourcing, and this growing demand on the part of U.S. bargain hunters eventually led to containerization and the construction of container ships, developments considered by many to be the most significant advances in the history of commerce. Thousands of these profitable and efficient container ships were crisscrossing the world’s oceans – until recently – and dozens of container handling ports around the U.S. hummed around the clock in order to service those vessels and placate demanding consumers. Until recently.

As consumer demand diminished and less and less was being demanded of the maritime industry and its container ships, less and less effort was being required by container ports and inland delivery systems. The steady reduction in demand for overseas goods was a result of the diminishing buying power of U.S. shoppers who had begun to feel the effects of that outsourcing described above.

Outsourcing, once a boon to U.S. management, is now a bane. It wasn’t just “goods” that were being outsourced – entire manufacturing facilities and millions of jobs were outsourced to foreign lands. Gainful employment is no longer easily attainable by Americans, and neither are weekly paychecks. The sad result is that without paychecks fewer shoppers are demanding those outsourced goods and an economic meltdown has ensued … as some are now beginning to realize.

Some … but not everyone.

• “To truly address this crisis, we will also need to address the links in our financial sector to get credit flowing again to families and businesses. We need to control the crisis in the housing sector that’s been one of the sources of our economic challenges.” – President Obama

• “My answer is it would be smart to invest a certain proportion of this stimulus package in green growth and by doing this we can catch two birds with one stone. If we are going to spend trillions of dollars on the global stimulus package let us be smart and tackle climate change at the same time.” – Dominique Strauss-Kahn, CEO of the IMF

• Mr. Bernanke said “there were tentative signs that the sharp decline in economic activity may be slowing.” He pointed to the data on home sales, home construction, consumer spending and auto sales, which have offered some hints of improvement – or, at least, less-severe declines – in recent weeks. “A leveling out of economic activity is the first step toward recovery,” Mr. Bernanke said in a speech at Morehouse College in Atlanta. “To be sure, we will not have a sustainable recovery without a stabilization of our financial system and credit markets.” – NY Times (April 9, 2009)

• “Next year’s projected recovery depends on comprehensive policy steps to stabilize financial conditions, sizeable fiscal support, a gradual improvement in credit conditions, a bottoming of the US housing market, and the cushioning effect from sharply lower oil and other major commodity prices.” – The International Monetary Fund

• “The US House of Representatives on Monday passed legislation to battle financial fraud and create an independent commission to investigate the causes of the global financial meltdown. The commission would have a wide-ranging remit to examine the role of US regulators and the Federal Reserve, along with companies’ ‘accounting practices, executive pay schemes and the use of exotic investment tools.’” – Agence France Presse

• “Senior Obama administration officials on Monday said in a newspaper op-ed piece that a landmark financial regulation reform plan to be released this week will target capital requirements, securitization and other problem areas blamed for the global financial crisis.” – Reuters

• Speaking in New York on Monday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the regulatory overhaul will eliminate “gaps” in the financial system that encouraged risky behavior leading up to the meltdown. “Like all financial crises, the current crisis is a crisis of confidence and trust,” he said. “Reassuring the American people that our financial system will be better controlled is critical to our economic recovery.” – AP

• The global economic recession is “far from over”, World Trade Organization director general Pascal Lamy told the WTO, warning that protectionism by WTO member states could prolong the economic downturn. “I would caution against excessive optimism,” he said. “Although financial markets are showing signs of stabilizing, the crisis is far from over.”

Please note that not a single word is being said by the above worthies about the underlying cause of the global meltdown — massive U.S. job losses. But we didn’t just lose those jobs, we “outsourced” them – we gave them away – and no one has come up with a way to offset that stupid generosity.

Two weeks ago The New York Times’ Bob Herbert put it this way: “Anyone who believes the Obama stimulus package will turn this jobs crisis around is deluded. It was too small, too weakened by tax cuts and not nearly focused enough on creating jobs. It’s like trying to turn a battleship around with a canoe. Even if it were working perfectly, the stimulus would not come close to stemming the cascade of joblessness unleashed by the megarecession.

“I’d like to see the president go on television,” Mr. Herbert wrote, “ and, in a dramatic demonstration of real leadership, announce a plan geared toward increasing employment that is both big and visionary – something on the scale of the Manhattan Project …”

[That, you may recall, is was what we suggested some months ago. A Manhattan-type project, such as FDR’s Emergency Shipbuilding Programs, is the only possible way to replace the 50 million jobs we gave away. Building our patented containerships will guarantee our nation’s economic recovery.]