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Calling ALL Leaders: Houston, we have a problem

I’m writing to you today, ladies and gentlemen, because you are bright leaders and because this nation needs you. Our nation has a serious problem and WE need to address it before this problem becomes irreversible.

What problem am I talking about?

To answer this, I’m going to share a little dialog I’ve had on Facebook over the past few weeks with a business colleague. It all started when this colleague posted a chart on her Facebook wall, credited to WHUR 96.3 Howard University Radio, entitled "5 YEARS OF OBAMA", comparing statistics from January 2009 to today:

  • The Dow: was 7,949, is now 16,459
  • Unemployment: was 7.8%, is now 6.7%
  • GDP Growth: was -5.4%, is now 4.1%
  • Deficit GDP: was 9.8%, is now 3.3%
  • Consumer Confidence: was 37.7, is now 78.1

At the bottom, below these figures, the chart said, "Oh those pesky facts. Well done, Mr. President!"

Beneath this chart, my colleague posted, "Tell the truth and shame....the tea party. If you agree, like this and share this post. And maybe we can spread a little truth about the accomplishments of President Obama."


Here is the ensuring dialog:

Me: This kind of ignores a lot of trauma that most of the country has not recovered from. How about showing some of those facts?

My Colleague: Please share more.

Me: OK...

Me: The Economic Policy Institute indicates, as of January 2014, the following number of women have "stopped looking for work" and are no longer counted as "unemployed": 390,000 under age 25; 1,180,000 between 25 and 54; 1,040,000 age 55+; For men, the numbers are 970,000 under 25; 1,617,000 age 25 -54; 600,000 aged 55+. Since they aren't working, aren't they unemployed? The US Bureau of Labor Statistics calls these "Discouraged Workers".

Me: On July 3, 2014, The US Bureau of Labor Statistics published that the number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as "involuntary part time workers"...these individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time jobs) increased by 275,000 in June 2014, to 7.5M.

Me: On July 3, 2014, The US Bureau of Labor Statistics published: In June 2014, 2.0M persons were "marginally attached to the labor force". These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey.

Me: On July 3, 2014, The US Bureau of Labor Statistics published: In June 2014, the average workweek for all employees on private, non-farm payrolls was 34.5 hours for the fourth straight month.

Me: In September 2013, Bloomberg Businessweek published: "The unemployment rate fell in August (2013) but for the worst of reasons: Many American's stopped looking for work, so they weren't counted among the unemployed. The size of the workforce declined by 300,000 and the participation rate fell to 63.2% from 63.4 percent - the lowest since August 1978. It rose steadily over the years as more women entered the workforce before falling sharply in the 2007-2009 recession, and has not recovered since."

Me: In April 2014, the labor force participation rate, a key gauge of the percentage of working-age Americans currently employed or actively seeking a job, fell to 62.8%, matching lows hit in December and October, which had not been seen since March 1978. This means the labor force participation rate is increasingly getting worse.

Me:  In response to the referenced Bloomberg Businessweek article, John Silvia, a Wells Fargo economist, noted that declining participation in the labor force is “bad for financing entitlements”—fewer workers to support recipients of Social Security and Medicare.

Me: The National Employment Law Project, which represents low-wage workers, noted that much of the August (2013) job growth was in retail and food services, which typically offer low-paying and part-time jobs.

Me: Some estimates indicate the real unemployment rate is 23%.

Me: US government debt was $1 trillion in 1980, $8 trillion in 2006 and is now $17 trillion and growing by at least one trillion a year. It took 230 years from 1776 to 2006 for the US to reach $8 trillion and now we have beaten THAT in 7 years. An astonishing achievement. And this debt excludes unfunded government liabilities of around $220 trillion.

Me: Just this past Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office said US Debt is now about 74 percent of total gross domestic product. The only other time it was this high was during World War II. During the financial crisis of 2008, it was only half of what it is now.

Me: The US Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also warned America’s public debt will rise to 106 percent of GDP in the next 25 years, a level seen just once in US history - just after World War II.

Me: The July 2014 report from the Congressional Budget Office also states increasing debt will put a squeeze on long-term economic growth, which will increase the risk of a fiscal crisis: “Unless substantial changes are made to the major health-care programs and Social Security, spending for those programs will equal a much larger percentage of GDP in the future than it has in the past."

My, Colleague: Deb, thanks for investing the time to share this wealth of information! It would be interesting to see an analysis of how much of this is the result of trickle - down impact from decisions made during the Bush-era.

Me: Good point….and how much is trickle down from the Clinton era, and we can go on and on. The fact is, here we are. It doesn't really matter who we want to blame.....It's up to us to fix it, or we may all suffer some horrible consequences.

My Colleague: I totally agree!

[A few days later]:

Me: Wow...more clarification from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In June 2014, the number of part-time jobs increased by 800,000 over the prior month, while full-time jobs plunged by 523,000. When it looked on the surface like the unemployment rate improved, it’s due to growth part time jobs, with lower pay and diminished benefits.

Me: Today's 7.5M part time jobs compares to just 4.4M working in part time jobs in 2007.

Me: According to the Census Bureau, since mid-2007, the US population has grown by 17.2M, yet we have 374,000 fewer jobs today than we had in November 2007.

Me: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 91 million people over age 16 aren't working, a record high. When Barack Obama became president, that figure was nearly 10 million lower.

Me: Meanwhile, more and more companies, like Walgreens and Chrysler, are moving their corporate headquarters to other countries, taking the higher paying jobs with them, as more and more unemployed people are illegally crossing the border into the US.

Me: We have lots of work to do to turn this around.

My Colleague: Interesting…..



I ask you to think about this.

I personally find these statistics more disturbing than interesting. Those of us who earn our livelihood in corporate America should find this data utterly disturbing. And while our careers are certainly important, it doesn’t matter how we arrange the deck chairs in our daily lives if, like the Titanic, our nation sinks while we enjoy the party.

On the other hand, I truly believe it’s not too late for us to do something dramatic to reverse our direction and recover from this downward death spiral we are clearly in.

Alcoholics Anonymous is well-known for its 12-Step program to recovery. The first step in the process is to admit we have a problem: “Then, and only then, do we become as open-minded to conviction and as willing to listen as the dying can be“.

For over 25 years I was honored to serve in leadership roles in Fortune 100 and Global 500 companies in the High Tech industry. Much of that time was spent in California, the beautiful state where I was born and raised. Over the past decade or so, I watched as my “best-in-class” employers, one by one, moved more and more of our operations overseas, not simply to capture global market share, but to cut costs and remain competitive with the rest of the world.  The vast majority of my friends, colleagues and customers were laid-off or told they would be “retiring” as operations moved first out of state, and then  out of the states, altogether. Not only did these firms find labor costs far less in other regions of the world, companies like Walgreens and Chrysler found corporate tax laws much more favorable in other countries. It’s purely a business decision, based on economics. It has nothing to do with patriotism.

Five years ago I became an entrepreneur and established a California-based S-Corporation dedicated to advancing women in leadership. It didn’t take long before I even better understood why so many corporations, both large and small, were fleeing California: excessive governmental regulation, labor costs and the corporate tax situation. I was completely stunned when, in November 2012, the governor of California placed an initiative on the ballot and the majority of CA voters voted IN FAVOR of raising taxes. So, I made a fundamental business decision. I sold my house and moved my business to Florida, where the cost of living and tax base is more conducive to running a business.

Ladies and gentlemen, the American Dream, that set of ideals based on freedom, the opportunity for prosperity and success for all who work hard to achieve it, is vanishing. The heart of America is being ripped out of this nation as American companies choose bankruptcy or move their headquarters to other parts of the world.

To anyone who is fully awake to the new reality, it should be no surprise that we have fewer jobs in America today than we did in 2007. And we will have fewer still in the months and years ahead, if we don’t mitigate governmental regulation and change our Fiscal Policies.  

To prevent our own demise, we must acknowledge the reality of what’s happening, be open-minded and together find ways to address this unsustainable situation. As I told my colleague on Facebook, it doesn't really matter who we want to blame.....It's up to us to fix it, or we may all suffer some horrible consequences.

We can no longer afford the luxury of sitting back, waiting for someone else to do something. WE have a problem….WE have a BIG problem.   It’s going to take ALL of us working together, as a united team, to course correct and clear the iceberg we are all so perilously careening toward.  

Talk to your friends, your family, your neighbors, your co-workers. Send them the link to this article. Encourage them to open their minds to the facts versus the media spin. Brainstorm together.

Give this critical issue your best thinking. Your life, as you have come to know it, depends on it.  

Then, get Houston’s attention. Stand up and use your voice.

Write your Congress person, your Senator, our President. They need to hear from you. If you don’t work to fix it, you are part of the problem.  

I believe WE CAN fix this….together.

If you agree, share this post with everyone you know.

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