The Linch-pin … We bring our 9th year to a close by reprinting Vol. XX, Art. 40 (Sept. 30, 2009).

This commentary brings our fifth year to a close. On this date in 2004, CEOs throughout the transportation system were clamoring for help. Space was of the essence. So was time, speed, efficiency, and to a lesser extent, operational costs. But space was the biggest issue of all. Even though the space they were then using was acreage they had connived from slumbering ports and surrounding residential communities, port directors wanted still more.

Air pollution and traffic congestion? That was the least of their worries. If health problems, ear-splitting noise and crowded highways became an issue, then the people affected would just have to find a way to take care of those matters. Those problems were outside the realm of the maritime and transportation industries. And besides, who cares about the people? They don’t matter. Just make sure that they don’t stand in the way of progress. Or profits.

But as it turns out, people do matter. In fact, nothing matters but the people. Almost forty years ago certain of our wretched leaders struck an alliance with Communist China in order to take advantage of lower manufacturing costs and slave-labor pay scales. The flood gates were thereby opened and U.S. jobs by the millions were gradually shifted overseas. But that only meant that people who “don’t matter” were put out of work in this country. No big deal. Progress was achieved, profits were increased, enormous volumes of TEUs were inundating our container-handling ports, and for the first time ever, port authorities were seeing six-figure salaries. That’s all that really mattered.
History will record that those responsible for this so-called progress – from our wretched leaders to the greedy port and maritime authorities – were little more than scum. Hooray for me and to hell with you, was their motto. Basic intelligence? In the whole lot there wasn’t enough to fill a thimble.

Those millions of jobs being outsourced to foreign shores were being lost by people who “don’t matter”, but those people, now grown into an army of unemployed millions without paychecks and spendable incomes, have become an army of ex-shoppers. The U.S. was now without buying power and the demand for overseas goods declined drastically. So did foreign-generated TEUs. And so did the many large and small container ships that had been ordered and built (in foreign shipyards, of course) in order to enrich shipowners and satisfy the appetite of the American consumer. Gone. All gone. And all because the people who “don’t matter’ – the U.S. consumers – the master link in the supply chain – were kicked aside.

All this selfishness has led to the most severe economic times since the Great Depression, and the rate of this economic free fall will undoubtedly carry the world to depths well beyond what humanity has ever been forced to deal with.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809), widely known for his pamphlet, “Common Sense”, was one of America’s earliest and most respected philosophers. He was even more famous for his statement, “These are the times that try men’s souls”. Those words are more applicable today than they were in Colonial times.

Thomas Paine also reminded Americans that, “The trade of governing has always been monopolized by the most ignorant and the most rascally individuals of mankind.” He was not just a philosopher, he was a prophet. In these times that are trying men’s souls, 21st century rascally individuals are scheming to enrich themselves at the expense of the billions of people who “don’t matter”.

Global warming/climate change scams are being promoted – or rather, mandated – all over the world by such rascals. In spite of the fact that more than 30,000 scientists have signed a petition and provided proof that global warming is at best a poorly-contrived theory, and more than likely an elaborate hoax, those rascally individuals refuse to be confused by facts.

The European Union, for example, has brazenly admitted that carbon trading is a way of raising huge sums of money. While pretending that funds generated by “cap-and-trade” operations will help cure the world’s economic ills by aiding third world countries, there is a strong and growing appreciation, according to one official, that revenues generated by “cap-and-trade” operations will help EU members balance their budgets. The purpose behind the scheme is to transfer money from the poor to the rich, not from the rich to the poor. It’s a heartless ruse.

Health care reform, another hoax, is at the top of the Obama administration’s agenda, and is nothing more than a clandestine bailout for favored insurance companies. Like the bailouts designed for Wall Street interests and certain banks, health care reform will never benefit the needy. It’s another ruse – a scam – and its true purpose is to assure that money is transferred from the poor to the rich. Maureen Cruise accurately called it a “stealth” bailout. [Stealth/steal … what’s the difference?]

Job creation, the only action that will end our economic tailspin, is the farthest thing from the minds of these 21st century rascals. They know about the nation’s jobless but they’re sweeping the problem under the rug because of their inability to create new jobs. “Jobless recovery” is the catch phrase now – the message being that the unemployed will remain unemployed. The country doesn’t need them. They are of no consequence. The economy will recover while they remain among the jobless.
But that’s impossible. The U.S. is the only country with enough clout to lift the rest of the world out of this economic mess. We have 23.5 percent of the world’s GDP. Japan is a distant second at 8.1 percent and China is third with 7.3 percent. Until recently, our $ 2.5 trillion in annual imports boosted employment in foreign nations, but our steep decline in employment and the consequent loss of buying power has now created severe economic problems all over the world.

The U.S. worker’s buying power is the linch-pin in the world’s economy. Well, the linch-pin is out and the wheel has fallen off the axle. The wagon – the world’s economy – is now in a ditch and will not roll again until that linch-pin – the buying power of the U.S. worker – is back in place.

But how can that happen? There isn’t anything we can manufacture in this country that can’t be produced overseas at a much lower cost. That’s what got us into this pickle. There is a way out, though – just one. We have the Jones Act. We have Title XI. We have 50 million idled workers, dozens of shipyards, and a patented container ship design that is exclusively ours. The missing piece in the puzzle is a president who recognizes the need for a 21st century Emergency Shipbuilding Program. We have nothing to lose but 50 million names from the list of the unemployed.