I am heartened by a lot of what I see in the marketplace. People are sobering up. They are more serious, less complacent. I see smart kids beginning to turn away from becoming aspiring hedge fund gamers to more meaningful work. The glumness in the media is probably a good contrarian indicator of a tilt in attitude toward productive work and away from the sickening day trader mentality of the last decade.
What does concern me a lot is the widening chasm between rich and poor in America. The success dream still lives on, but the path out of poverty seems more distant to me. Frankly, I am surprised we have not seen more demonstrations of angst and anger. The Tea Party has been relatively polite on the Right and the Lefties seem disoriented and despondent. No strident presidential candidate has any traction, which seems odd if we are in such a bad place.
Perhaps the government safety net has assuaged the rawness of popular opinion. Foreclosures get pushed back by legal maneuvering and unemployment benefits keep getting extended. Maybe we need more pain to move the needle.
American public education appears to be in a mess and we have nobody to blame except ourselves. We have tolerated mediocrity for so long we barely know what quality is. In manufacturing I see possibility primarily from small and midsize firms whose owners are willing to train smart kids with a glint in their eyes even though they may well leave them for future opportunity. The survival of family businesses is also hopeful. Immigration despite the idiotic hurdles government throws up still lives and rejuvenates the workforce and small business. The upward mobility of Hispanics is a very hopeful happening. The underclass, which sadly grows, is extremely discouraging.
Foreign competition increasingly feels like yesterday’s issue. Yesterday’s enemies are today’s partners. Sushi is now America’s grits.
Question: How do you picture America’s economic future, dire or hopeful?