lexapro effectiveness

Study Shows U.S. Industrial Output Up, Pollution Down

New Audi A3 ProductionAs anyone who’s read this blog for any length will attest, I am a man who believes in the wisdom of the open market.  And I will argue until I’m blue in the face that a free and open market, especially one prodded by government incentives, spurred by government investment, and unencumbered by limited government vision, is a ticket for game-changing breakthroughs – especially in the areas of product development and that often delicate balance that must be struck between a prosperous nation’s economic and its physical heath.

That’s why I was delighted to stumble upon this little kernel last week.  Turns out a Georgetown economist just issued a white paper on behalf of the National Bureau of Economic Research that says U.S. manufacturing output between 1990 and 2008 had increased by 1/3, yet in that time U.S. industry’s Clean 1pollution had decreased by 2/3.

That, my friends, is astounding.

But more than that, the person conducting the study, Arik Levenson, revealed that this drop in pollution did not come in a way many cynics might have otherwise suggested; namely, because we off-shored our heaviest and dirtiest manufacturing functions to underdeveloped and third world counties.  To the contrary, his study of 400 manufacturers showed that 90% of this country’s collective decline in pollution was a result of manufacturers having adopted cleaner production processes, including greater and more sophisticated efficiencies, recycling programs, and pollution-capture technologies.

Clean 2Granted, it was not a soup-to-nuts study of all pollutants, and measured only levels of six of the usual suspects (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and two types of particulate matter), but still; those are some incredibly heartening findings.

And it is one more example, of why, for all the U.S. continues to trail China in some instances, we’re light years ahead in others.

Could a government alone have achieved such results?  Not in a million years.

Clean 4But because rekindling this country’s manufacturing fire and reducing its industrial waste was a hand-in-glove effort between a number of responsible and market-savvy individuals in the private sector and one deeply concerned federal government, a little bit of economic and environmental magic was somehow able to happen.

And maybe we owe it to ourselves to take a moment to reflect on that.

A War Waged Abroad, a Victory Earned at Home

WWII 8People who say they’re tired of the phrase “the greatest generation” clearly don’t fully comprehend it. And that became clear to me late this past year when a visit to the World War II Museum in New Orleans – a monument to that global conflict waged by that selfsame generation – opened my eyes like few experiences of late.

You see, having toured the Crescent City’s sprawling, three-dimensional homage to human sacrifice and global commitment from soup to nuts – or, more to the point, from Pearl Harbor to VJ Day – I finally found myself able to wrap my brain around why Tom Brokaw used that phrase as the title of his best seller.

WWII 7I’ll write more about the World War II Museum’s impact on me as a manufacturer, and its direct connection to America’s industrial sector in a later post, but suffice it to say one of the basic differences between that bloody all-consuming conflict in 1940s Europe and the Pacific and every single U.S. war since is that World War II engaged every American citizen – every man, woman and child – to an unprecedented degree and required meaningful sacrifice on every American’s part.

Soldiers and sailors today are no less brave or no less committed than they were 70 years ago. And they’re certainly no less heroic. The difference is us. The difference is the extent to which we on the homefront have been compelled to engage in the war effort.

Our generation of Americans has not been asked to give up, scale back, or in any real way do without. And we have not changed how we live one iota.

WWII 6We haven’t retooled our factories, employed and trained our women or worked to the bone trying to manufacture the armaments and equipment needed to prevail.

We haven’t seen our richest, most privileged children and our biggest sports heroes and entertainment stars march off to war.

We haven’t been asked to ration gas, give up eating chocolate, use pennies made of zinc, or stop wearing nylon stockings because raw materials had reached critical shortage.

We don’t sit at home in the dark at night, or refuse to drive for fear any light could serve as a target for enemy bombers.

WWII 5No, unless we have a loved one on active duty, more often than not our idea of doing our part is applauding uniformed personnel when we see them passing through an airport, going see a Hollywood movie on the subject, writing a check or two to Wounded Warriors, watching a few moments of news coverage, or rising to sing “God Bless America” at a ball game.

But in World War II it was different.

That’s what I was reminded of as I walked through the museum and witnessed the extent to which Americans a few generations ago – soldiers and civilians alike, including thousands upon thousands of factory workers – had been willing to roll up their sleeves, swallow hard, and undergo great personal sacrifice to participate in a collective hand-in-glove effort to beat back Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Emperor Hirohito and the brand of evil they espoused.

WWII 2As I said earlier, I will write more about this later. But meanwhile – and in anticipation of specific details and how even General Eisenhower once declared the war was not won by a military man, but a single engineer and manufacturer from New Orleans – chew on this one amazing little kernel of wartime factory output.

In 1939, U.S. manufacturers produced roughly 2,100 aircraft, less than half as many as were produced that year in Japan, roughly a quarter as many as were produced in either Germany or England, and less than a fifth made by Russia. By 1945 that number had increased to over 46,000; virtually the same amount of WWII 9plans produced by those other four national powers combined.

The long and the short of it? It may not have been a war to end all wars. But as I learned one eye-opening afternoon, World War II was, indeed, a victory achieved on the shop floor as much as it was one earned on the battlefield.

U.S. Industry Needs Solutions, Not Small-Minded Thinking

GOP 4In all candor, at least on matters of social conscience, I’ve always leaned just a tad to the left. And count me among those who often find themselves wishing our president had been a little less middle-of-the-road and a bit more strident in breathing life into many of the issues he had campaigned for these past two elections.

But on the same token, I should represent the lowest of low-hanging fruit for the current Republican party. I’m a 60-something white male who’s also, by the way, a successful small businessman, an employer, and a higher bracketed tax payer. You’d thinkGOP 3, in other words, I’d be the exact guy the GOP was targeting this next go around.

Apparently not.  In fact, far from it.

But rather than me railing about what a wasteland of ideas the GOP has become, and how much it’s been hijacked by smokescreen social issues, religious fervor, and low-tax/small-government blindness, let me just play for you something I saw last on The Daily Show late last week.  (And god bless Jon Stewart.)

Look, I’m a small businessman trying to compete in an increasingly complex global marketplace. I don’t need pithy sound bytes and stale, unworkable ideas.  I need a broad-based investment in infrastructure. I need a coherent international trade and energy policy. And I need a government that is not necessarily smaller (and, god forbid, small minded), but GOP 1one that embraces science, that looks forward instead of back, and that works hand in glove with businesses like mine to find new and different ways (and funding mechanisms) to help us compete for new business.

I need, in other words, creativity, vision and fresh thinking. I need new ideas. I need innovative solutions.

Not a bunch of small-minded circus clowns with their heads in the sand.