Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thinking About the American Dream

Tonight is the State of the Union address and because of that, I've been thinking about the American Dream. The New York Times recently featured an article with the title "How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work". The complete article can be found online here. I read it completely through, and I wanted to talk about what I read because it's a rather bleak commentary on the disappearing middle class.  By way of Apple as an example of the ultimate capitalist paradigm, the author pretty much tells us why prosperity for the middle class (as was realized last century) is never coming back no matter what politicians want you to believe. If you don't have time to read it, here are my highlights:
1) Barack Obama asked Steve Jobs at a dinner, "What would it take to make iPhones in the United States." The late Mr. Jobs replied, "Those jobs aren't coming back."
2) Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products. 
There's so much wrong with this picture and the intentional misspelling
of "America" that I don't even know where to begin.
3) Jared Bernstein, former economic adviser to the White House, said “Apple’s an example of why it’s so hard to create middle-class jobs in the U.S. now." 
4) FoxConn in Shenzhen built a factory, stocked it with already cut glass to Apple's specifications, and had workers living in dormitories ready to work 12-hour shifts even before there was a contract to work with Apple. They did this to be more appealing to their potential customer, and it worked. This simply couldn't be done in America.
5) The facility employs 230,000 people working six-days a week making less than $17 a day. 
6) One of the selling points for Apple was that China provided engineers at a scale the United States could not match. Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States. In China, it took 15 days. 
7) "[T]he challenge in setting up U.S. plants is finding a technical work force,” said Martin Schmidt, associate provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In particular, companies say they need engineers with more than high school, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. Americans at that skill level are hard to find, executives contend. “They’re good jobs, but the country doesn’t have enough to feed the demand,” Mr. Schmidt said. 
8) “We shouldn’t be criticized for using Chinese workers,” a current Apple executive said. “The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need.”
This is from the Global Competitiveness Report. It measures America's educational
system rank as compared to other countries. The criteria is education expenditure,
quality of math and science education, and quality of primary education.
9) In the last two decades, something more fundamental has changed, economists say. Midwage jobs started disappearing. Particularly among Americans without college degrees, today’s new jobs are disproportionately in service occupations — at restaurants or call centers, or as hospital attendants or temporary workers — that offer fewer opportunities for reaching the middle class.
So my question to you is, do you agree with Apple that the U.S. no longer produces a workforce with enough education to meet the demands of technology companies? If you agree, why? Are people just not motivated to go to school anymore?

In number 2 above, Apple basically calls Americans lazy. Would you agree? Are Americans fat cats sitting around waiting for a lot of money for a little work?

Does the item printed in number 4 at all surprise you? That they would stock and build a factory without any promise of money? Is that what it's going to take to be competitive?
These are workers submitting resumes for jobs at one of the factories at
 Shenzhen. There's such a huge pool of people just begging for a job
 that all the power rests with the employer. Basically, a single worker on his
own is completely disposable. It makes me wonder if the babies brought into
 this world will know a life better than us, or if in fact, we are bringing
them into a world where they will not be able to support themselves and will 
be doomed to live in poverty while the rich remain rich.


  1. Fascinating article. However, you should also include Mr. Jobs's statement to Obama at the end of the article:

    "I’m not worried about the country’s long-term future," Mr. Jobs told Mr. Obama, according to one observer. "This country is insanely great. What I’m worried about is that we don’t talk enough about solutions."

    I agree that the middle class is shrinking in this country, and that a lot of people are getting left behind. Heck, one of the reasons I'm leaving to teach English abroad is because, as a twenty-something with a bachelor's degree in political science, I have a tough time landing a job in this country that doesn't lead to a dead end. But I don't think that's a reason not to have children, or to feel that I'm doomed to a life of poverty. I will probably have to become more self-sufficient and learn how to live with less, but like you point out with that insanely fat kid, we already over-consume as it is. Civilizations may rise and fall, yet people still find a way to keep on living. If this is the challenge of my generation, I say bring it.

  2. We have a small population in Canada so we have many people move here with the skills or education we need for the jobs. Many doctors have moved here from South Africa. Americans move here to work also.

    I think Apple is making excuses. They could hire Chinese engineers and they could come to the U.S. on work visas if they are that desperate for workers - or hire engineers from lots of countries all over the world.

    Sure, they have dorm rooms full of people willing to work for peanuts for 12 hours a day. We aren't lazy because we don't want to do that. We just know there is more to life than work. The Chinese woman said her life is meaningless. Yes, she works so she can eat and what else does she have? It doesn't sound like much. I feel great pity for those people.

    Steve Jobs was a billionaire and who knows what the executives of Apple make right now. If they really cared about America and Americans they would earn less and make their products here. If they cost a little more, too bad. We would pay it. What good did all his billions do him now his life is over?

  3. I think it's a combination of things.

    1.The lack of responsibility people have with the things they consume. Do they care about the environment? Do they care about slave labor or is a low price point the primary focus?

    2.Greed. The astronomical profits shareholders and CEO's demand and then use to evade taxes, forcing the middle and lower class to keep roads, electricity, plumbing, safety and security funded.....effectively draining them.

    3.Poorly run education system. Underqualified or overworked teachers as a result of poorly paid teachers and lack of funding in general.

    A lot of innovation comes out of America which implies that not only is there a pool of well-educated resources but also a business model that enables anyone to follow the American Dream. Unfortunately the financial success achieved by having the opportunity to live under these conditions is not reaped by the American people. Companies are pocketing the achievements that are nurtured by the country as a whole.

    The bright side is that as dependence for these products shifts towards Asia, so to do the demands of the asian population who are now realising their worth and demanding better working conditions and salary...making it less profitable for companies like Apple. High oil prices also help.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Hey Micheal,

    Dude, I love ya like a RockStar, and you *do* make some valid points...

    But, I gotsta tell you, from the point of view of a person born in the #24 on the list (Ireland) there is *no* greater country than the United States of America.

    If you doubt me, please read my latest post (where you won an award from me!! I'm just offering a different opinion:)

    America is flawed, yes, but for someone *not* born here, seeing the Statue of Liberty and the Vietnam Memorial for the first time brought me to tears - both times.

    There is *SO* much opportunity in this Land of the Free and I *know* we are the Home of the Brave... perhaps we just need to be reminded...

    Anyone reading this should talk to a WWII vet... he or she will remind us...

    PS... I'm not an Obama supporter and I use a PC, so thanks for letting me vent :)

  6. I deleted my comment because it was not appropriate. Thank you Michael.

  7. I never like that argument of "jobs Americans don't want to do." I usually say, "sure, they don't want to do it for $1.42/hour." I mean you can't raise a family in this country on that.

  8. Hmmm... South Africa struggles with more or less the same problem, but for different reasons.

    Sadly, there's hardly a point to spelling out economic solutions, because employment has clearly become a political problem.

  9. It comes down to money, and as much as people like to speak for the weak and the poor, morality behind close doors is a completely different thing, especially if it means making less profit. Everybody knows how ipads are made, nobody wants to pay more for theirs.


  10. I can't speak about the rest of the U.S....but here in the Midwest auto assembly plants have a 30% absenteeism on Mondays and Fridays. In Mexican auto plants - 0%. It's not a joke when workers themselves tell me never buy a car made on a Monday or Friday and they laugh about all the pot that is smoked and people who drink on the job. And a few years ago, when I needed someone to work in my native prairie, I couldn't find an American to work for $10.00 an hour because they didn't like doing the field work. I finally hired a guest worker from another country on an H2-B visa to work. He was happy to make the $$$. I guess my point is you can't make blanket statements that fit all situations.

  11. Part of me can't get past that picture of the overweight kids! Gahhh that is very very wrong, as you said yourself.

    It's sad but true, that other areas of the world contain millions of people willing to work for ridiculously low wages, and to work hard at that. I guess for many of them it's a much better deal than what they'd have otherwise.

    Where I live, we're supposedly in the middle of a boom. As a result, cost of living is soaring, and yet most of us actually aren't benefiting from that boom. So we're paying more for...well, everything...but not earning enough to be able to afford it.

  12. Saying Americans are not skilled enough is just an excuse. Anyone is skilled enough, if they’re willing to work for 2 dollars a day. So at the moment, America does not have slave labor available. Maybe one day we will. It all comes down to greed and selfishness continuing to bring our society down.

  13. Eventually, this will come full circle. If people are not employed, they can not buy their product.

  14. I lived in China for three years and saw how the locals worked every day, all day long for a pittance. It's dehumanizing and sad. However, nothing remains the same forever. Living standards will slowly increase even in places like China. We are simply not competitive right now, but that's the capitalistic system in action. We will suffer until we do become more competitive.

  15. It's a combination of things, including the fact that people here aren't willing to work for that little (below minimum wage and well below what anyone could actually live on here) and a bit of laziness.
    And Japan used to be higher on that list - wonder what happened?

  16. I see the evidence first hand that we aren't competitive enough in the technical field. I live within biking distance of IBM and Seagate and many of my neighbors are from India and other parts of Asia who've come here to fill those high paying jobs. Those are jobs Americans could be doing, if they had the training. But I think sometimes we value things like celebrity and sports more in this country than innovation and technology. But maybe I'm just grumpy this morning. :(

  17. >In particular, companies say they need engineers with more than high school, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree.

    Wait, how is someone who finished high school but not college an "engineer"?

    We're all beaten over the head with "YOU MUST GO TO COLLEGE TO BE WORTH ANYTHING" and now you're telling me the market doesn't need that?

    Or is it just that they don't want to pay for that?

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't. That's what makes me angry.

  18. I believe the problem is NOT America but rather AMERICANS.

    The U.S. has become the great entitlement capitol of the world. As long as people believe they should get something for nothing (both literally and figuratively) why should they work or educate themselves or struggle in any way.

    This problem won't be solved by politicians or government no matter how big it gets. You can't legislate morality and entitlement IS a moral problem.

    Before anybody lights the torches and runs for their pitchforks KEEP IN MIND, this is just my opinion.

  19. N Scott really said what i was feeling.
    It's just depressing all around. I try not to think about it, but then that depresses me too, because i should be thinking about it and doing something about it.
    I really think step 1 to solving a lot of our problems as a society and a country is education.

  20. I wouldn't move anywhere, but I think we have lots of problems. I work in higher education with a focus on technical education and our workforce. We have a lot of do in bringing jobs back.

  21. I tell myself every day how grateful I am for the job I have. Even then, it's in the social sciences. Not much money to be had, but I learn a lot about people. That's a huge plus for me.

    You've given me (playful) grief in the past about not having an Apple product, but if I can't afford it, well, I can't have it. It's the opposite train of thought (I can't afford it, but I should have it) that's contributed to the many factors of our present economy.

    I can't pin one all-defining problem, just factors. There is laziness, there are people who want to work but don't know how to find it, and there are people who are willing to work but lack the education required for the task (from what I've seen because they can't afford graduate school - or rather, they find their current wages better than having to deal with loans). Then there are (some) companies who hold more value in profits than human welfare.

    It's a big topic, a messy one, but one worth talking about. I've enjoyed reading all the comments. Thanks for posting, Michael.

  22. Americans do tend to have an entitlement issue these days. We have a celebrity culture that tends to breed people that believe they deserve to have things, good things, just for being. They shouldn't have to work for it.

    However, the other problem, and it's one that you passed over, is -not- that we don't have people that are educated enough for the jobs, it's that we have too many people that are over educated for the jobs. People either have not enough education or too much education, and more of them have too much education. They want people with more than high school but not an actual degree. Generally speaking, people that go to college get the degree, but they don't want to pay what someone with a degree deserves, so they won't hire those people. With the cost of education these days, this is a huge issue.

  23. Eye opening information here, Mike, and plenty of food for thought. We have seen the closure of many factories here in what used to be a 'Free Zone' area because the owners say wages cost too much in Jamaica. Fact is, these businesses have moved on to have their manufacturing done in places where it is much cheaper to produce their goods. 'Course there is widescale unemployment and people who are unemployable based on their level of education.

  24. I could write a book on this.

    And maybe I will.

    We have an 'educational system' that is anything but. Nobody knows what the GOAL of our 'system' is.

    We do not emphasize math and science enough in our schools.

    We make education beyond high school costly and without any certain return on investment, having sent kids there with little more than a background in liberal arts.

    Our society does not reward people for going into "hard" disciplines.

    We have no real emphasis on continuing education.

    We have no plan for development: do we WANT to be a manufacturing society, with all that entails? If so, then do we want to cut our costs (fewer worker rights) or increase the costs in other countries (more worker rights there). Or do we want to be an information/service society.

    Not all "service" jobs are the same. Lawyers are "service" jobs; I make no tangible goods. Programmers are 'service' jobs of a sort.

    We do not invest in infrastructure enough -- not informational infrastructure.

    I could go on. Right now, wages are rising in China and other places because as people become somewhat better off, they insist on more rights. China is where we were 100 years ago. Your post on the Apple Factory missed the other side of that story: that the factory itself loses many workers to other opportunities in the area, as workers vote with their feet and even secretly unionize. (Unions were secret in America once, too.)

    The jobs in that factory aren't all that great: they're piecework done by people instead of robots because the people are literally cheaper than robots. In America, we have auto parts factories that fabricate parts and a great many people can work there but need to be better educated to do so. Check out this podcast from Planet Money on where American manufacturing is:


    If I could be in charge for just ONE DAY, I would end our current school system entirely, and rebuild it from the bottom up with fewer music, gym, and English classes, far more math and science at lower levels, and more of an emphasis on technical training and engineering.

    I'd also say that countries have to meet a minimum level of standards in order to ship their goods to America, and impose a humanitarian tariff on imports from countries that don't meet certain standards, which would, of course, raise the price of consumer goods in almost every instance and might start a protectionist trade war but that wouldn't last long because as much as we need imports, China needs exports.

    I would then also impose a luxury tax on any consumer good worth more than $500, starting at 1% from $500-$5000, and going up.

    That's just for starters. Day two, I'd get REALLY busy.

  25. Hey Michael. I've just awarded you with a couple of blog awards. Pop on over and check them out x

  26. Amazing and sad at the same time. I have relatives that have been out of work for years and they are college grads--they are not lazy but they just don't see themselves working in a fast food environment or even at Target. We keep telling them to take any job, but they tell us we are too preachy and it starts a huge debate about how we're out of touch. Thanks Michael for keeping us in the know!

  27. I'm not as afraid of China as some are. Remember when we all worried that Japan was going to economically overwhelm us? Then Japan picked up our bad habits, the government decided to stay out of corporate meltdowns (which is an example of why Republican policies don't work) and they've been in a decade-long recession. China is going to become a lot more like us: people will demand better working conditions and labor will get more expensive. And Chinese citizens are going to start dropping by the thousands, maybe millions, because the environment can't handle that much pollution. Check out the air in Beijing right now.

  28. Wow. This is truly fascinating. Honestly - I think that a LOT of American's are lazy. I think they want a lot of money for as little work as possible. It's not a good thing. That being said... it's not true for ALL American's and it's sad that it has come to this.

  29. Take that, Senegal!

    Agreed with most of those who mention the wages involved. Most people go where the money is, and I'm not sure I'd be thrilled to spend half a million dollars for an engineering degree at MIT so I can make $80k a year designing toy robots. Not when I can make 100 times as much as a hedge fund manager. That's where the talent in the US goes. To places that pay. It may be screwing us all in the long run, but it's hard to blame the individual.

  30. I disagree with Apple. I don't think Americans are lazy. Most folks i know work hard. But neither can we live on $17 a day and they shouldn't expect us to.

    To blame the American workforce...well, I think that's lazy.

  31. Thank you, Michael, for raising this issue and for showing the dark side of Steve Jobs and Apple. It always pisses me off when Americans like him are eager to blame their fellow citizens when they ship factories and jobs overseas. True, we don't have enough engineers, scientists, or other technical experts in this country, but that's not because of laziness. Our educational system has been failing us for years, and too we have been glamorizing the wrong professions. But Jobs and the Apple executives who claim that it’s the failure of the American citizen that’s forcing them to find workers overseas is a lie. There are plenty of educated workers here, just as there are in the list of other countries that you posted. So why didn’t Jobs and the Apple execs open factories in Finland, Switzerland, or even Canada?
    The ugly, shameful fact is Jobs and Apple shipped work to China because there they can hire FoxConn, which pays its workers near starvation wages, ignores safety and labor laws, and can't be sued when workers are killed on the job. FoxConn factories are so notorious for working conditions and human rights abuses that workers have died from poisonings, explosions, accidents, suicides, and have been sickened from chemicals (which also happened at the Apple plant). Even Foxcon's Chinese suppliers have gotten away with crimes, including dumping polluted and toxic metals into the environment. But then our pesky American laws wouldn't allow for any of these crimes and abuses to happen, would they?
    Finally, if Americans are so lazy, why are so many of the working poor holding down two and three jobs just to keep a roof over their heads? Oh, that's right – because wages for the middle class have stagnated for more than a decade while CEO pay rates have exploded and become the most lucrative in the world. In 1965, American CEOs in major companies earned 24 times more than an average worker. Today, the pay ratio between the average American worker and the CEOs of the largest public companies is an obscene 1 to 262, or $10,982,000 to $41,861. In Japan, the ratio is 1:11, France 1:15, and Mexico 1:47.
    And yet assholes like billionaire Steve Jobs thinks the problem is with the American worker.

  32. Oh my God - - your question has more side questions than hands of an octopus, ( I am translating what I am thinking, so hang in there ).
    Right now my husband is sitting in front of the television watching the President speak. Me on the other hand have almost given up on the capacity of a political leader to fix the problems that we are facing.
    A lot of people say that the 1980 decade was responsible for a lot of decadence in economy of America.
    When I came to the US in the end of 1974, my husband and myself would watch even a five dollars expence. I would walk half a mile with my first born in the stroller to save fifty cents on a gallon of milk. It was when we bought our home is when we realized that we could borrow money ( mid of 1979). So we got the idea that we can afford to buy now and pay later and that jacked up our expences. Thus making us spend the hidden cost of things in the interest. It was when we started getting letters from other mortgage companies that I used my knowledge in ecnomics from college and had fights with my husband that we have to use our brains. Now I am teaching that to people I don't even know.
    About eating habits? We Americans think that the word "food" means love. A lot of my cousins who have kids (Generation X and Y) have done that damage of providing food products for their kids on the demand of kids because the advertisements and or other parents shopping carts. What happened is what we see in adults between late twenties to fortys ie a struggle to lose weight cause the cost of cleaning arteries is going out the roof.
    I do not want to turn my comment into a blog so I think I will stop. Did not want to cause any bitterness - - Sorry.

  33. Ditto what Grumpy said, Americans won't work for a shit wage. That's why we have the problem of people still being unemployed among other factors. Either the wage is too low, you have too much experience/education or the job is contract only. People want full time jobs that let them eek out a decent living, even if it means only a little bit leftover at the end of the month.

    When my Dad worked in the feilds picking lettuce and moving pipes, in the 70's for his uncle, he got paid better than what feild workers are being paid now. Inflation of illegal immigrants that are willing to work for nothing is not helping anyone in the US right now. Especially their fellow immigrants (plus the situation down south is extremely unsettling with the drug cartels running Mexico). As much as I want to say go for your American dream, giving illegal immigrants a free ride to colleges that *US citizens* can't afford really burns me up (Thanks Gov Jerry Brown!!)

    But the real reason China has the edge over every other country? They don't import anything Michael. Everyone is so blinded by the idea that everyone in China can buy stuff they jump over there before realizing the terrible living conditions 99.999% of the country is living in. The import tariffs mean most of the stuff the average Chinese person buys is home grown or illegally smuggled.

    Also the tech industry is an unfair yardstick to compare a country against. Tech changes over every 6 months, countries have to wait till election year for anything to get done.

  34. Pardon my scatter brain. To answer your real question - - yes Americans do have the intelctual capacity to make or build anything they want to. The real problem that is causing the outsourcing is the pay. Either the CEOs will have to pay American workers a higher pay (like Belle suggested) or Americans will have to come half way and reduce their demands of high pay. This way they will have jobs. Their families will have to deal with the fact that shopping in dime stores is not too bad. The way they manage their paycheck / expences is entirely up to them. In India people would only lend people money a couple of times, then later people who borrow have to answer a lot of humiliating questions. This way every one curbs their expenses. Every one from lower income group wants to give his kid the best possible education so that it does not come to borrowing once the kid gets a good job as an adult.

  35. As a blue-collar worker, specifically an ironworker (the people that build skyscrapers), I invite any CEO claiming that the American work force is lazy to come work with me. I doubt anyone works as hard as I personally do on a daily basis. Let’s cut through the bullshit here. Apple employs cheap labor to increase profits, period. The rest is typical rich-guy rhetoric.

  36. There are multiple people who have made great points on your comments (MPax, N. Scott, Grumpy, and Helena) Michael so I won't reiterate them but I will say that those who idolize people like Steve Jobs are people who won't look at the real problems that care caused by American companies who want skilled workers who will work for shit. I have a 7-8 year old desk top that I am going to keep running for as long as I can. It still runs Windows XP. I'm going to buy it some memory and keep it going and going like the Everready Bunny. So what I am saying is that part of the problem is also that Americans like to have cheap stuff (witness Walmart) and will not pay more or go without to ensure that workers are treated humanely. The attitude is that as long as I am not affected I don't care (well, I care enough to toss some money at it or sign a petition but not enough to go without). Cheers!

  37. I work in social services - in employment and training. I see tons of job seekers of all skill level. Unfortunately, there is very little funding for higher education, and with the lack of specialized jobs - they are all going overseas to garner more profit at lesser payroll expense - it makes it difficult for the average job seeker to obtain anything but menial labor or public service jobs.

    I don't think Americans are lazy. I think they have lost hope; they have no incentive fight for jobs that will probably disappear overseas as soon as the product catches on.

    College is too expensive for "middle America" to afford without going into lifelong debt for the privelege. I've tried to help my kids to get enrolled in even community college; but since I have a bachelors degree, the tuition is nearly double the price, and regardless how long the older kids have been moved out of my home and supporting themselves, mine and their fathers income - as well as their own - figures into the financial aid applications.

    My spending 8 years of supporting my family while I got student loans to help with expenses has screwed my kids' chances of getting into college before they are 30.


  38. Hi Michael,

    Interesting and insightful post. Thanks for sharing!

  39. I have a hard time buying the claim that the US isn't training enough engineers. I went to a school that was known for its engineering program and a lot of it's graduates were unemployed because they couldn't find work. There were a lot of unemployed engineers getting second degress so they could find jobs. It's really just an excuse to use cheaper labor.

  40. the 'middle class' is long gone... blame the stupid governments who allowed 'deep pockets' to dictate terms of employment, NOT apple

    stats show the gap between the 'rich' and the 'poor' is ever widening... one thing only worries the 'rich': once the working 'poor' are gone, like the working 'middle class' is now, WHO will make the cheap stuff for them to sell at overinflated prices? ...no one... hence, the greedy bastards want more money, now, even though they have more than they could spend in many lifetimes....

  41. This topic is worth more than a cursory comment but I couldn't resist. The bottom line is American citizens allowed much of what is occurring to happen by actually believing our politicians when they spoke about "American exceptionalism". I'm sure there's a comment from a Roman Senator that said something similar in 400AD.

    The truth is America thrived in its first 200 years because we had plenty of land, cheap labor, and natural resources unmatched by any other nation. That is no longer true and the false pinnacle we reached in 50s and 60s due to a world that blown itself up in two world wars has slowly caught up with us. We've forestalled it with monetary policy that will only hurt us in the long run. Anyone that has read any history and studied capitalism knew this was likely but our politicians response was to tell us we were great and spend our way out of any issue. The only resource we have now is the world's faith in the American dollar but that's only because there isn't any other alternative. In the near future that last American resource will go away and the hyperinflation that will be set loose due to many decades of abuse I'm afraid that 21st century American will seem like 1920s Germany.

    I know that's a bit pessimistic but frankly I've been warning colleagues and family since the debt talks in the 1990s only to get the response --- "We're America. We're #1" and then be told if I don't like it I should leave. I admit that option is becoming more attractive.

  42. Politicians tells Americans what they want to hear-- not what's really happening. Our country was built on Chinese factory conditions. We grew with indentured servants and slaves. We had factories with conditions as brutal if not more brutal than in China. Once Americans would no longer tolerate it, we had a bunch of good decades. Then jobs moved south. Then they left the country.

    As a nation, we don't pride education. George Bush Jr. won the presidency mispronouncing and mangling the English language. Americans wanted a beer with their president. They got one. And 2 wars. And a guy who was at the wheel during the mortgage fiasco.

    Our politicians pretend to care about the middle class, but they shake hands with big business and don't invest in the things that would give us more engineers and other educated people in high #s.

    I could go on.

  43. When presented with such dire news, I tend to think that the world is changing. We don't know how things are going to end up, but because things aren't the same as they used to be, they must be worse. I don't know about that.

    Sometimes things must get worse before they get better. Sometimes the old must get torn down before the new can get built up. We can focus on what is going wrong, or we can focus on the things that are going well.

    It's not a solution. The problems are so big. We must work on making our little part of the world the best we can.