BREAD AND CIRCUSES

March 3, 2016


“Panem et Circensus”, literally “bread and circuses”, was the formula for the well-being of the population, and thus a political strategy. This formula offered a variety of pleasures such as: the distribution of food, public baths, gladiators, exotic animals, chariot races, sports competition, and theater representation. It was an efficient instrument in the hands of the Emperors to keep the population peaceful, and at the same time giving them the opportunity to voice themselves in these places of performance.

Does this sound familiar?  If you have read my postings over the past few years you know I concentrate strictly on all things STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Even though I just voted, I keep my political views to myself because that’s just not my focus. YOU are intelligent enough to listen to the candidates or game show contestants as the case may be, make up your mind, and VOTE.  You do NOT need my help in deciding who’s who in the zoo.

I am very disappointed with the considerable lack of substance on both sides of the aisle this time around.  Basically, at this crucial stage of the game, we are sending in the clowns.  It does not come as any surprise that the campaign for the Presidency of the Unites States has barely acknowledged many of the challenges we face, including industrial issues and the manpower needed to fill critical jobs within the industrial environment. Industry is desperately seeking talent and respite from regulations that literally choke invention and creativity.  The Institute for Supply Management released data that indicates a tough start to 2016.  Let’s take a very quick look.

  • Production and raw materials inventories in manufacturing sector were all contracting.
  • The employment index was down 3.2 percent from the month of December.
  • The rate of expansion dropped twelve percent (12%) from November 2015
  • Capacity utilization was off twenty-six percent (26%).
  • New orders for equipment in the material handling sector dropped two percent (2%). Not that much but still a drop.
  • Future orders were down three percent (3%)
  • Exports were off thirty-five percent (35%)
  • Seventy percent (70%) of respondents in manufacturing organizations polled have greatly struggled to find acceptable talent to fill open jobs. This problem is epidemic in manufacturing companies.

These facts were the direct result of negligance on the part of our elected officials.

REGULATIONS:

Are you ready for this one?  2015 was a record-setting year for the Federal Register, according to numbers from the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

In 2015, daily publication of the federal government’s rules, proposed rules and notices amounted to 81,611 pages.  The graphic below will indicate the scope of the problem.

Federal Regulations

OK, how much added cost to industry and the public at large do Federal regulations costs? This year, 2015, the Wallstreet Journal cited The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) claiming the annual cost of federal regulations is nearly $1.9 trillion.   This “works out to a staggering $14,976 per household per year”: Americans send $1.4 trillion to Washington each year in individual income taxes.  The report found that the federal bureaucracy—made up of 60 agencies, departments, and commissions—has 3,415 regulations in the process of being finalized, meaning that the number of regulations far surpasses the number of laws passed by Congress.

JOBS AND THE SKILLS GAP:

A recent report called “The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing 2015 and Beyond” projects that, “Over the next decade, nearly three and a half million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled, and the skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled.”  The urgency of the problem was described as far back as 1990 by the National Center on Education and the Economy, with its report, “The American Workforce – America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages”. Right now, American manufacturing companies cannot fill as many as 600,000 skilled positions—even as unemployment numbers hover at historic levels—according to a new survey from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, Washington, D.C. In determining the numbers, a representative sample of 1,123 executives in the United States within manufacturing companies recently revealed that five percent (5%) of current manufacturing jobs are unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates.  As we mentioned above, approximately seventy percent (70%) of manufacturers have a moderate to severe shortage of available, qualified workers,” said Craig Giffi, vice chairman and consumer and industrial products industry leader, Deloitte LLP. “Moreover, fifty-six percent (56%) anticipate the shortage to increase in the next three to five years”.  Emily DeRocco, president, The Manufacturing Institute, noted that “these unfilled jobs are mainly in the skilled production category—positions such as machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors, and technicians. Unfortunately, these jobs require the most training and are traditionally among the hardest manufacturing jobs to find existing talent to fill,” she said.

Have you heard about this during the recent debates?  I don’t think so.  Does anyone really expect any of the candidates to discuss these problems over the next months leading up to the November election?  I don’t think so.  It’s not glamorous! Too productive! Too important to our national well-being.  And the media—it’s all about ratings.  The best reality show in town is the race for the White House.  I have briefly touched on two issues we have; regulations and the skills-gap.  We could mention at least fifty more, both domestic and foreign in nature.  We need a work horse in the Oval Office and not a show horse and I don’t see one in sight.

OK, I’ve vented.  Now back to STEM subjects.  I’m over it.

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