In Retrospect (A reprint of Vol. XIX, Art. 10, posted on 4-1-2009 … 4 years ago today.)

More “glimmers of hope”:

– Business Times – 17 Apr. 2009 – “IMF sounds grave warning on global economic recovery – In what it called a ‘sobering’ assessment of the global economic crisis published last night, the International Monetary Fund warned against premature optimism that recovery may already be in sight.”

– Business Times – 18 Apr. 2009 – “US banking rescue bound to fail: Stiglitz – The Obama administration’s plan to fix the US banking system is destined to fail because the programs have been designed to help Wall Street rather than create a viable financial system, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said.”

– Business Times – 18 Apr. 2009 – “Fed first to blame for financial crisis: Kaufman – NEW YORK – The Federal Reserve allowed the global credit crisis to happen and must be redrawn as a tough regulator to stop big financial institutions from taking excessive risks, prominent Wall Street economist Henry Kaufman said on Friday.”

– Yahoo! News – 4/19/2009 – “Fortune reported in its latest edition that 2008 was the worst year ever for the 500 largest corporations that are tracked by the business magazine. ‘Last year was the worst economic performance in the 55-year history of the Fortune 500 list of America’s biggest companies,’ Fortune said in a statement.”

– Business Times – 20 Apr. 2009 – “Order cancellations key issue at COSCO (S’pore) – As Cosco Corp (Singapore) continues to weather an extremely challenging year for the shipping and shipbuilding industry, its annual general meeting today should be an interesting affair as shareholders are likely to want some good answers as to how the fortunes of a one-time favorite could have slipped to the point where it barely treads water above penny stock status now.”

There are dozens and dozens of sad stories appearing every day, and despite the G-7 and G-20 meetings that are regularly taking place, no one has been able to suggest ways to halt the global economic decline. The eventual collapse won’t be pretty. It will be an event never before imagined by mankind, and the catastrophe is an inevitable one … unless someone in authority remembers the merchant ship construction program that the United States government initiated in 1940.

Shortly after we began building warships for the U.S. Navy in preparation for our entry into World War II, President Roosevelt announced what was to become known as the Emergency Shipbuilding Program. It was the incredible effort by U.S. workers to build quickly and simply large numbers of cargo ships to carry troops and material to foreign theaters of war. With the U.S. Maritime Commission in charge, that wartime emergency program built almost 6,000 vessels in 54 shipyards, 22 of which did not even exist before the program was inaugurated.

But it wasn’t easy. All other defense industries and programs were also in a maximum production mode, especially the massive wartime Naval Expansion Program begun in 1940 with the passage of the Two Ocean Navy Act.

The Navy had first call on raw materials, steel, machinery, manufacturing plant allocations and labor. This disproportionate allocation often left the Maritime Commission without the resources needed to accomplish its goals, and this shortage of strategic material lasted until war’s end.

In the early years of the war, still another shortage hampered cargo ship production. There was a scarcity of shipbuilders because of a downturn in U.S. shipbuilding for almost two decades, and because many of the cities and towns where new shipyards were being built had not been shipbuilding centers before 1941, the shortage of workers skilled in the shipbuilding trades was most acute. Since many of the Emergency yards were being managed by established ship building firms, however, they were able to send some of their more skilled men to train newly hired workers.

In order to create a labor force capable of handling heavy industrial and mechanical work, recruiting was directed to inland areas where the Great Depression had created large numbers of unemployed. The opportunity to earn a high guaranteed wage was all that was needed to attract entire families to shipbuilding centers, and with that rapid increase in numbers it became necessary to provide housing, schools and other needed services. Providing these accommodations called for additional skilled tradesman who found steady employment in those new communities throughout the course of the war.

The need to reach out to new sources of labor created opportunities for women to gain employment in the new shipyards. The popular and symbolic figure of “Rosie the Riveter” had its origin in the wartime shipyard where a new cadre of female ship fitters suddenly developed. Additionally, there was such a shortage of labor in the deep South that heretofore reluctant employers had to accept African Americans in order to meet production goals. Records show that productivity for women and for black shipyard workers was as high as that of any other group of employees.

Schools were set up in the individual shipyards to train those with no prior shipbuilding experience. One of the factors that led to the success of the Emergency Program was to change the shipbuilding arts from one where a man had to progress through many years of long apprenticeship in order to master his chosen trade, to where a worker instead was trained to do one task, the repetition of which would lead to skill and a high rate of productivity.

So you see, this nation has already done what we’ve been advocating. We’ve been there, done that … and it’s time to do it again. It’s time to create 50 million new jobs.

It’ll be easier this time because many shipyards are available; we know how to build new facilities; the demands from a navy shipbuilding program will not be an impediment; our patented container ships can be built quickly and simply; our patents exclude all foreign competition …

… and we’re already wasting trillions on futile efforts to stave off a global economic meltdown.