Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Certainty of Uncertainty

I am happy to report that I have had many conversations with people who disagree with my views, many generated by this blog or by the opinion letters that I have had published in the past few years.  Most of these "conversation buddies" as I like to call them, are more conservative than I.  No surprise there, but virtually all of the conversations have been civil.  If regular people can discuss the important topics of the day, why can't we see more of this from our elected officials?

Anyway, one of the often quoted knocks on President Obama and his economic policies are that he has created uncertainty in the country, especially with the passing of the Affordable Care Act.  The logic is as follows; businesses aren't hiring because of the uncertainty of how "Obamacare" will effect their bottom line.  Additionally, the business community claims that the rising national debt also adds to their uneasiness about hiring.  Hence, unemployment remains close to 8%, and the economy continues to grow slowly.

For those of you who do not know this, my job with the state of Pennsylvania is currently "under review" by our state legislators.  They are in the process of deciding to dismantle the PLCB (my employer), or continue the modernization that has been ongoing, especially the last 10 years.  Many of you who are aware of this situation, have emailed me good wishes and confidence that if I were to lose my job, I would be able to find something soon.  Many people also commented that life can be like that, full of uncertainty, and that employment in the private sector is much more unstable than public employment what with all the corporate mergers and failing businesses. 

In essence, what I am hearing is that uncertainty is the only certainty in business as well as in life.

So, if that is the mantra of the business world, then what is the problem?  If it is common knowledge that the modern world is full of change, that there are no lifetime jobs anymore, that the next earthquake or terrorist attack is just around the corner, then what can President Obama do, what can anyone do to guarantee certainty? 

(My personal belief is that there are those in business who know the truth, that it is sales and the demand for their product or service that dictates hiring.  When a company fears the loss of market share or sales revenue and determines that that loss can be eliminated via the expansion of staff, it is done regardless of what may come because if nothing else, companies can't afford to walk away from an uptick in sales just for the sake of a few more employees.  They can always let a new person go, but cannot always get back that lost sale due to slow delivery times or inefficient service.  I believe that they are not hiring because Wall Street is fine, and Main Street does not matter to them). 

And then I thought about the time in America from 1945 to 1965.  The time when the Cold War was at its height, everyday Americans were building bomb shelters in their backyards, and school kids were taught to hide under their desks in case of a nuclear attack.  What was more uncertain than that?  Yet, those twenty years saw a huge expansion of the economy via a growing middle class.  Were people worried?  Certainly.  But it didn't stop them from creating new businesses, sending their kids to college, buying new homes, going on vacations... living life. 

Even after 911, an incredibly heart wrenching event, not to mention a national slap in the face, we pressed on.  Sure, we created a housing bubble as an overreaction to our dread, but at least we didn't stand on the sideline and whine about uncertainty!!

So, my advice to anyone who hears about uncertainty in the marketplace or spouts this trite vein of reasoning is MAN UP.  This is America!  We are supposed to be the greatest nation on earth, in history, and yet we are letting a little bit of uncertainty get in our way.  If you want people to buy your product or service, there needs to be a population that has money to spend.  To all those big corporations sitting on what is estimated to be a trillion dollars, hire someone.  Get your tail out from between your legs and stop mouthing patriotism while outsourcing jobs overseas.  Put Americans before your double digit profit and you might find that sacrificing a few percentage points today might result in even bigger growth tomorrow.  Prove that America is your first priority not your precious golden parachute or multi-million dollar salary. 

In the meantime, I am going to do my part despite the uncertainty of my job situation.  I am going to invest in my kids college education, I am going to redo our upstairs bathroom, I am going to go out to dinner this weekend with my lovely wife, and I might even buy a bottle of spirits at my local PLCB outlet.  What are you going to do?      

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