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July 1, 2009

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ISN’T THE EXCEPTION

TO THE EDITOR:

In the March/April 2009 issue of Forward, (Publisher) Bob Weidner complains about the lack of business people in the Obama administration (“The Threat to Our Community”).

While I wish that all administrations would find a better blend of capable candidates and thus stop the extremes of either having too many or not enough people of specific backgrounds, which has been the hallmark of both Republican and Democratic administrations for many years now, I am quite astonished at the insinuation that business people in general make for better administrators or department heads.

As has been demonstrated over and over during the Bush administration years, many of the CEOs of large U.S. companies—those who usually end up in the top positions in Republican administrations—live in ivory towers and have no more feel for the real world than an Ivy League college professor. They might have worked in the so-called real world for most of their lives, but they don’t live in that real world anymore, and they have no feel whatsoever for what is going on on Main Street. How else would you explain the total failure of the business establishment to recognize the dangers to our economic system and to our well-being that had been brewing for a number of years, solely as the result of their actions or inactions?

And I don’t believe for a minute that President Obama considers conventions and conferences in general as “indefensible indulgences.” What he has been talking about— and what most of us who don’t live in these ivory towers have a problem with—is the fact that the current economic malaise has not changed the “tone-deafness” of many of our CEOs by one iota, including but not limited to those who continued their extravagant and excessive expenseaccount spending even after their companies were bailed out by taxpayer money.

Our main disagreement here is that Bob Weidner seems to believe that these excesses are the exception, and I don’t.

Peter Brebach, Iron Angels of Colorado Inc. Colorado Springs, Colorado


STILL AN UNLEVEL PLAYING FIELD

Much of Forward’s January/February 2009 edition was devoted to the question of the United States’s lack of a coherent manufacturing policy (“The New, New Deal for U.S. Industrial Policy”). With the May 1 release of the Institute for Supply Management’s April report on the state of manufacturing, which showed a decline in production and employment, Craig Giffi, financial consultant Deloitte’s Cleveland, Ohio-based vice chairman, leader of its U.S. consumer and industrial products industry practice and chairman of its global manufacturing industry practice, expressed his frustration with current federal policy:

We always pay attention to this index, especially when times are bad, but this number is neither positive nor negative news. It is merely a reflection of the real problem, which is that the U.S. does not have a clearly defined national competitiveness strategy to support and grow manufacturing. We continually hear people hope that things will improve. But hope is not a strategy.

We work with manufacturing clients on a wide variety of issues, including where to put their facilities. What we see is states competing with each other for business. In many cases we find states competing against other countries. It should be obvious that having a clearly defined U.S. strategy and focused U.S. resources—that assist U.S. manufacturing companies working to compete effectively on a global stage—is better than having 50 states competing against one another or against other countries. The problem, however, is that the U.S. has not yet developed a unified manufacturing competitiveness strategy and individual companies, along with state and local governments, simply do the best they can on an increasingly unlevel playing field.

There is no disputing that a strong manufacturing base is critical because it drives innovation, creates well-paying, skilled jobs and raises the standard of living for all of us. As we watch manufacturing continue to contract, we need to focus less on the monthly index and more on the broader issues that generate that number. When the index finally rises, and it will rise, the problem will not be solved if we continue on the current path.

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