I’ve admitted in this space more than once that I’m kind of clueless when it comes to economics. I don’t understand global monetary policy, the S&P or the Dow.
Talk of currency devaluation and manipulation (don’t all governments manipulate their currency?) are a puzzle, and I am baffled by Bitcoin. I did finally hear somebody say recently that gold, which is up at the moment for no good reason, only has value because we all agree it does.
No kidding. Fort Knox could just as easily be stuffed with cheese, like a giant brick and mortar manicotti, and if we all nodded our heads and said, “Yep, that’s worth a lot,” it would be.
That might actually be better, because you can eat cheese. More on that in a minute.
Speaking on the ongoing economic tit-for-tat between this country’s government and that of China’s, Peter Navarro, one of Donald Trump’s economic advisors, said the other day that one of the things the president is trying to do is to restore this country’s manufacturing base.
Mr. Trump himself has talked about doing that since before he was elected, as though all that has to happen is him telling us it’s going to be restored and, voila, there they are — a few hundred jobs and a few hundred workers, lunch boxes in hand, ready and eager to punch the time clock at, say, the former Osram facility, or maybe the old Dresser plant or Borden’s.
If trade wars are easy to win, restoring a manufacturing base must be a snap. Countries and states and cities and counties periodically (often in election years — go figure) focus their efforts on economic development.
You’d think that after several hundred years of myriad capitalist endeavors just in the U.S. alone that everybody would have the E.D. thing figured out by now.
The headline in this paper a few weeks ago was “County begins economic planning training.” Somebody forgot to insert the word “again” in there, but, anyway, I read it, and I read it a couple more times, and I was still, like, “huh?” Now, granted, that’s just a self-described economic amateur scratching her head. But haven’t we had variations on this theme for years? Does somebody really need additional training in order to facilitate the “actual development of a plan?” What does that even mean?
We’ve had summits, focus groups, workshops, planning sessions, and still, in 2019, here we are, trying to collaborate, develop a workforce, retain businesses. We do have shuttered manufacturing facilities and empty storefronts here. The fact is that businesses everywhere fail and succeed for all kinds of reasons.
China (they must have earned an A+ in economic planning training) is certainly part of all that, but I think, instead of tariffs, and Mr. Trump’s efforts to make China somehow pay for its theft of intellectual property, we need to be asking the U.S. companies why they move their manufacturing bases overseas in the first place. Do ‘ya think money has anything to do with it?
Oh, yeah — what about that cheese?
According to NPR.org, almost 30 million acres of U.S. farmland is owned by foreign investors, including China. That number is expected to continue to rise, in part because the median age of the American farmer is 55, and there are not so many people queued up to take on that kind of work.
So what those foreign investors are planning to do with the farmland, I don’t know. If they were smart, they’d grow food on it. If we were smart, we’d be putting our economic planning skills to work figuring out how to encourage and help the next generation to get in that agricultural queue. Expanding broadband access is nice, but everybody has to eat.
And by farming I don’t mean grazing cattle on public land, or growing a thousand acres of one crop. Sustainable, community-based agriculture that takes into account the true economic, environmental and social costs of food production can be a vital partner in workforce development and in retaining and attracting businesses.
Personally I kind of like the idea of a Fort Knox full of cheese, as long as the milk comes from happy, grass-fed cows living on family farms where the milk checks are generous and the corn is always knee-high by the 4th of July.