I have to differ with the thought that we need more engineers in government, if only because the two most prominent engineers (Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter) were not exactly highly ranked in the list of effective/successful U.S. presidents! This wouldn't invalidate the idea of encouraging more involvement by engineers in the political process; having a few more in Congress (both houses) would probably benefit the nation, especially if they replaced either a lawyer or one of the many making our laws who have been feeding from government troughs for their entire careers, never participating in the private economy at all.
I tend to ignore the words of those who really don't know, and those who clearly have some agenda that appears to be sowing dispair.
Rob is correct in that between the constant addition of government regulations and the constant wall-street manipulations, there must be a lot of "nonproductive" money spent.
The first thing that the government could do is to change the laws so that speculators would need to have cash instead of being able to use credit. Yes, I am fully aware that it would place them at a much greater risk of loss, which is exactly what must happen. Excess credit for speculators was one of the major causes of the Great Depression. Didn't the government learn from that? As an engineer I could see that cheap speculation caused our fuel price spikes, why couldn't the economists see that?
At the same time, to encourage production, the government should relax the controls on credit for infrastructure a bit, in order to encourage investment in real assets.
Of course, to do any of this will require some working togather from both sides of the aisle, which lack of has certainly slowed whatever recovery we could have had. That is not intended to be an endorsement of either side, just an assertion that doing something besides fighting could make progress of some kind.
I've been in manufacturing (electronic) for about 40 years. My biggest problem
other than making payroll has been regulations. I don't want to destroy the
planet and have never tried. If I want to paint, plate, clean, move, update, solder,
ship, import, export, connect, disconnect, erect, remove, hire, fire, you get the
point, I run up against ENDLESS regulations ALL of which cost money.
On top of that I have contend with the price fluctuations of copper, magnetic materials, steel, aluminum, etc. created by some guy in New York because he can make a buck by trading those daily or hourly.
A few years ago I purchased a mercury lab thermometer from a scientific supply company. The thermometer was $7; the hazardous material handling fee was
$10 (and I picked it up at their dock). I'll bet the guys in the far east don't pay that.
On top of that I have to predict the future to know when wall street is about to create the next recession. My employees have always been like members of my family. Some of the worst
days I've ever had was having to lay off someone. Sorry for the rambling but
I'm ready to move to Vietnam to open a factory. I'll bet that government would
It may take a government effort to get jobs moving. Why not fund a real project, say to DESIGN and BUILD the prototype next generation nuclear reactor, with the caveat that the company also consider it a CCC-style jobs project?
Pick one that is "for the common good", and build it. Not "unemployed retraining". MAKE something.
Good point that those in Congress should be engineers. Lawyers thrive on conflict. As for hiring, when companies cannot meet demand without hiring, they'll hire. If they can meet demand without hiring, they won't hire.
Usually, once a recovery begins, companies bring on part-time and temporary workers just in case the upward tick in demand does not sustain. That's where we seem to be now. And it seems like we've been there for about two and a half years.
The upward tick in the electronics industry softened over the summer. U.S. demand for electronics went flat in August. Inventories are at a two-year high (US Gov.). So hiring may be a bit sluggish in the electronic industry.
I would agree to the extent that ideology(ies) have made it impossible to have an honest discussion of the dynamic in play, and therefore of a solution. This is perhaps another way of saying it'd be nice if the preponderance of people in Congress were engineers, rather than lawyers.
There is a bit of a viscous cycle going on behind the manufacturing report. The main reason manufacturing is tepid is because unemployment is high. Unemployment is high because manufacturers, among others, are hesitant to hire. I'm not a fan of big government spending, but to break this cycle federal jobs programs may be necessary.
Predicting a nation's economic performance is nearly impossible, but I'd say there's good reason for engineers to keep their heads down and hope something good is coming. I agree with Bloomberg's take: If orders for capital equipment are up, that bodes well. Fat City? No. But there's reason for some optimism.
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