For me, Chrysler again won the Super Bowl advertising bowl in a rout. The Paul Harvey commercial for Dodge Ram trucks was absolutely brilliant (see the video below). It came in the fourth quarter of the game, after all the awful Coke and Bud Light commercials made you just want to turn the sound off and run to the john. What a dismal group of commercials this year – until the Paul Harvey narration of “on the eighth day God made a farmer,” over a gritty compilation of still photos of farmers doing their work. It followed in the footsteps of Eminem and Clint Eastwood in the two previous years, which helped reestablish Chrysler in the auto and truck market.
Guts, Glory, Ram – we saw it on the field, but missed it in the ads – until Paul Harvey.
All signs point to a strong economic first half for 2013 for manufacturing in the U.S. Vehicle sales are running at a 15.3 million unit pace. The stock market is at a five-year high, interest rates are low and staying there for a while longer, maybe two more years if Ben Bernanke calls the shots. Truck sales are strong. Aerospace and agriculture are perking along. Military is down, but hardly out. We are going to have higher taxes and reduced spending, we just don’t know how much of either.
Most people I talk to are doing well, but still hesitate to add a lot of people, though I see industrial properties beginning to fill up. The uncertainty about the impending changes coming from Obamacare is definitely pinching hiring. People I talk to are adding overtime, replacing machinery, outsourcing or trying to stay under 50 employees to avoid the complications of the “Affordable Care Act” in 2013 and 2014. The irony is that most strong companies in manufacturing have reasonably generous health insurance plans because they help in hiring and employee retention in a tight labor market for skilled people. Obamacare may very well push them to pay fines and classify their people in the Federal pool, but this is still unclear. With a lack of clarity there is less hiring and more overtime.
The National Rifle Association, long seen as the big dog of political interest groups, is being shown to be an emperor who has no clothes – at least in some political races. My district, the Second Congressional District of Illinois – Jesse Jackson Junior’s district until he quit this year for “health” reasons – is having a primary election on February 26. Gun laws have emerged as the key issue. One candidate, Democrat Debbie Halvorson, is adamantly “pro gun” and has taken money from the NRA. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York and Gabby Giffords of Arizona have been building Political Action Committees to fund “anti-gun” candidates, and have been running ads specifically against Halvorson, which has put her on the defensive. She is also the strongest white candidate in a district with a black majority. It has now come out that one of the stronger black candidates, Democrat Toi Hutchinson, has also taken money from the NRA, which makes for an interesting twist.
This election will be an important test, with major national implications of the strength of the NRA when confronted by an equally determined and well-funded opposition. Halvorson may very well make the gun issue work for her in an election where 25 percent of the vote may win the primary.
Question: Can you make a living as a farmer?