An American Self-Portrait


This is what we look like as a nation. Two-thirds of us don’t or no longer work at all. 22 million of us work directly for the government and many more work providing products and services contracted to the government (nobody knows a real number, but is likely another 15 million or so and it could easily be higher since government spending in 2009 will represent over 44% of the nation’s GNP).

That leaves something less than 25% of our citizens working in “private enterprise” and generating what wealth is created and the economic crisis picture begins getting clearer.

The economic crisis effects us all. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act offers targeted assistance toward some of the pieces of pie, but hardly all.

  • The retired, disabled and unemployed are getting a little help, and they do pay taxes, but the assistance is targeted for survival and a little consumption, and not much will impact economic recovery.
  • The increases in government spending will surely generate some new jobs, and those employees will pay taxes and consume, but their jobs ultimately are funded by the taxes paid by the other pieces of the pie.
  • The education and health sectors will also get some help, and while education is an important long term investment toward creating wealth and health is an important investment toward preserving wealth, neither segment contributes much directly or immediately to our nation’s capacity toward creating wealth.
  • The construction segment has gotten a lot of attention (they have shovels that are ready), will generate some direct jobs, create wealth in what they build and purchase some manufacturing and services capacity.
  • The professional and business services help is limited to the financial industry, which only profits off the remaining pieces when they are healthy. The trillions from TARP and Fed guarantees being used to shore up the financial industry are being done so on the hope that with money to lend, liquidity will somehow start flowing, with interest, to the rest of the pie.
  • That leaves a couple of dark green, magically innovative, productive and self-reliant pieces of the pie that are largely responsible for our way of life – the most important of which is manufacturing, with no real help for recovery, save the hope of being able to borrow money some day, but with so few buying their capacity, how long will these pieces of the pie remain fresh enough to serve?


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