I think it’s important to share with you I have been an employer in one form or another for decades. I currently own a company with an annual payroll in excess of $1,000,000. It is my understanding that no other national officeholder or candidate for national office from Minnesota fits that description. It is both a privilege and a responsibility. Having to meet payroll every two weeks is a whole different ball game, anyone who has been there knows it. It doesn’t mean someone who meets a payroll is superior, smarter, or anything of the like. It doesn’t mean I’m a know-it-all or genius on all things economic.
Actually, it is humbling. What it does is bring you face-to-face with all the complexities and uncertainties that go with owning a business. There is a price to be paid to lead and take risks. I am also an active investor in many companies other than my own. These companies are located both in Minnesota and nationally.
Jobs, the economy, and trade are big complicated issues. As with other complex subjects there are no one size fits all, something is always right something is always wrong answers. Any course of action always spins off a new set of problems and opportunities. Let’s begin by describing where we are:
America could be described as having two economies, not one. The split falls roughly along the lines of those in the upper 40% and those in the lower 60%. In some sense the wealth gap we have could be thought of as the biggest issue of our time. What always stuns me is the top 1% percent of US households hold nearly twice the wealth of the bottom 90%. That is mind-boggling. So many in the lower 60% in our economy have not seen wage growth or improvement in their overall economic condition relative to the upper 40%. It is also very sobering to think that one half of Americans would have trouble coming up with 400 bucks in an emergency. What low and middle wage earners have seen rise is fewer job opportunities, health care beyond what they can afford, and death from opioids, suicides, etc. This America of two economies is dangerous, distressing, and saddening yet does not need to be inevitable.
Compounding our problems going forward is the harsh reality that the nature of work is changing. There will be more displaced workers from artificial intelligence, robots, and the ‘automation of automation’ that continues to grow dramatically. ‘Nanotechnology’ will be bringing extraordinary benefits to our lives in both products and medicine, but it will also change our workforce. This forecast of change for our economy is not fear-mongering talk. It continues to change our workforce daily and it’s not going backwards. It is cruel and deceptive to tell people we can go back to the old technologies and energies. It simply ain’t gonna happen.
What can we do to meet these challenges and create opportunities in our economy?
Embrace reality, don’t run from it. Anger won’t solve our problems nor will shooting ourselves in the foot.
We need to reestablish respect for thoughtful learning, critical thinking, mindfulness, and meritocracy of ideas (in other words striving to find the best ideas). Our best business leaders and our best educators both agree on these protocols of mental focus and training. Lifelong learning must become an emphasized American value. These values must transcend individual consumption and narcissistic expression.
Reestablish the importance of cooperation. It’s what got us to the moon, literally. Cooperation in our politics sets a tone for the rest of society. Compromise is where we used to be, and it is what we must return to. We need to review the principals that bind us together and establish protocol to move past disagreements.
On a policy related initiative, many of the smart “money guys” say we need to expand the development of microfinance and financial inclusion to help assist business development and improve the lives of those in the 60%. Our financial and aid programs can and should demonstrate how they will pay for themselves.
The key to economic growth will always be tied to the health and attitude of us as a people. Our future will be correlated to the strength of what some economists call our “animal spirits,” or in other words our confidence and commitment to invest and build. Supporting and fostering confidence in small business and entrepreneurs matters. Without the risk takers, there won’t be growth. Think about them and say thank you. We need to thank each other, all the way up and down the economic ladder.
The real definition of reality? We need each other.