As we stumble through repairing this mess called a financial system, I find myself yearning for the days of big factories billowing smoke all over the countryside. Back when a factory whistle and the smell of something burning were as intertwined into America’s fiber as our Levis. Now, I am having this halcyon moment because the days of cheap jeans and burning cinders are over; replaced by $ 200 Euro-trash designer jeans and anything that got our hands dirty was shipped off to India or China.
However, this isn’t going to be another conversation about Wall Street or Washington because, quite frankly, I just don’t have it in me. This is more about me sticking my tongue out at the financial markets in a way that you would if you were 3. I send a raspberry to Wall Street to show my displeasure with their behavior and to make them aware that we are tired of all the spin doctoring and hype. Times up boys, in the words of Michael Corleone; you’re out Tom!
That’s right, it’s time this country remembers that it was founded by people who sweat for a living! That we’re not just a country that makes its collective living shorting stocks, and maybe, just maybe, we should climb into the way-back machine and start making things again! Great companies like Dial and ITT, once Goliaths, got crushed under their own weight. Others, like GE, adapted and moved into other industries that provided better liquidity and higher margins.
But now is as good a time as there’s going to be for a manufacturing resurgence in this country. Lower shipping costs, higher manufacturing standards, and good old American know-how can once again prosper as we build a foundation around a manufacturing sector that is smarter and leaner than days gone by. Not to mention, given our current financial condition, it can’t be as risky making refrigerators as it is trading Chinese short-term rice derivatives on margin (I made that up). Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not anticipating a land grab throughout Middle America to raise smokestacks and stoke the fires that once made this country great.
But maybe we can develop a more rational formula for what we consider an acceptable return from the companies we invest in. In other words, we promise to accept a few percentage points less if they promise not to poison our drinking water to save margins since at the end of the day, we are ALL responsible for this mess, from Main Street to Wall Street.
Don’t agree? Let’s review. From our never ending quest to get the lowest possible prices on everything we buy to getting the highest return in our 401k’s to having the whitest whites and the softest sheets, we force companies to cut corners in order to provide their customers, investors, and employees the results they demand. Do you think we as consumers have any responsibility in this mess? What would you do to clean up Wall Street?