From now on, this weekly Newsletter will be called ROBERT A. MILLS'S OP-ED COLUMN. Access it and enjoy!
Newsletter Dated: 12/15/2011 10:58:21 AM
Subject: YEP, THE SKY IS FALLING! - Dec 3, 2011
If you’ve already received this, please DISREGARD and DELETE it. If not, enjoy it now. I’ve changed distribution help, and we’re having growing pains.
YEP, THE SKY IS FALLING! – DEC 3, 2011
As the year comes to an end, a recent email from my kid brother elicited some serious thinking and research. Although I could discern nothing political about it (after all, it got through the poltical/pornograhphic/religious shield,) I did see some elements of probable change on the horizon.
For example, are you ready for a world without the Post Office? I hope so, as it will soon be a relic of the past, ála the Pony Express and (eventually) Western Union. The USPS is so immersed in serious financial trouble there is no way it can be saved. Email, FedEx and UPS have virtually wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep USPS alive. Most of what shows up in our mailbox is ‘junk,’ anyway: ads, coupons, bills, etc.
What killed it? Probably the 1st class stamp that costs the same if your letter goes across town or across the nation. Think about it.
Speaking of bills, what about bank checks? The UK is already doing away with checks, and by 2018 they should be completely gone. The cost to banks is staggering — plastic credit cards, automatic withdrawals and online transactions will lead to the demise of ‘cheques’ or ‘bank drafts,’ as the Brits call them.
As I’ve said before, people under thirty do not read newspapers. A few glance at online data, but they don’t subscribe to daily delivered print editions. Newspapers, sorry to say, will go the way of the milkman, the laundryman, and the postal employee. To obtain online newspapers or magazines expect to pay a fee — the rise in mobile devices and e-readers has caused ALL publishers to form an alliance. Apple, Amazon, and major cell phone companies have already held meetings to establish a paid subscription service. It will be a fait accompli by 2015 — or sooner.
Some diehards say they will never give up the physical book they hold in their hands to open and close and turn literal pages. I suspect they are the same people who once said, “I will never download music from iTunes! I want my hard copy CD!” Funny how quickly they changed their minds when they discovered they could get albums for half price without ever leaving their homes!
The same thing will happen with books. You can browse a bookstore or public library online and even read a preview chapter without obligation. And the price will be less than half — or nothing. Think of the convenience! Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of a ‘book,’ you will find you are already lost in the story and can’t wait to see what happens next — you’ll soon forget you’re holding a gadget, not a two-pound standard tome!
As a novelist, I will eventually have to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous poverty. So be it. Progess will get you every time. What’s the expression? Make hay while the sun shines? I’m on it!
Unless you have a large family of old codgers over 90, you’ll soon say goodbye to your landline telephone. Most people keep one hanging on the wall because it’s big and they’ve always had it. But you are actually double-charged for what is perceived as extra service. And forget about long distance — those charges rarely exist nationally. All cell phone companies and computer-activated landlines let you call customers for no charge in the U.S. Even Canada and Puerto Rico! A few last-ditch landlines will hang on with similar incentives, but it won’t do them any good; they will eventually go the way of 35mm film cameras and tape machines.
I have relatives and close friends who professionally write and perform music, and this is one of the saddest parts of the ‘change’ story. The music industry is dying a slow death, and not just because of illegal downloading. It's lack of innovative new music getting to those who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. Record labels and radio conglomerates are self-destructing. Only 17% of the music purchased today is ‘catalog items,’ meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with — like older established artists, songs and composers. This is also true on the live concert circuit.
One close friend is David Savage, a pianist non-parallel and a music teacher in the Cobb County School District here in metro Atlanta. David has arranged and performed a bunch of Christmas carols and holiday songs on a CD that is the best I’ve ever heard. For more information on this incomparable collection, go to http://www.savagemusic.org/
To further explore the fascinating and disturbing topic of the demise of the recording industry, as we know it, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies." (You can probably find both for cheap online. Try Amazon.)
All of us love television, even if few admit it openly. But revenue to the networks is down dramatically — and not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. And they're playing games and doing lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV. Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator. (Look at the proliferation of ‘sports’ shows.)
Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials air about every 4½ minutes. You say good riddance to most of it? Yeah, well, good for you; it's time to put the cable companies out of our misery. Okay then, just choose what you want to watch online and hire Netflix. Of course, you’ll have to pay for it. Tough.
What about Hollywood and Big Screen theaters? Let ‘em choke on their own $7 popcorn. So long, it’s been good to know you!
Fortunately, many of the things we used to ‘own’ are still in our lives, but in the future we may not actually possess them. They may simply reside in the ‘clouds.’ Today your computer has a hard drive, and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents on it. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install them if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all creating their latest ‘cloud’ services.
That means that when you turn on your computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click a certain icon, it will open something in the Internet ‘cloud.’ If you save something, it will be saved to ‘the cloud.’ And you may have to pay a monthly subscription fee to the ‘cloud’ provider — but BFD.
In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your ‘whatever’ from any laptop or handheld device. That's the good news. But will you actually ‘own’ any of this stuff, or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big ‘poof?’ Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical? It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert. But wanting (like wishing) will not make it so.
If there was ever a concept that we can look back on with genuine nostalgia, it will be — privacy. But that's gone. It's been gone for a long time, anyway. There are cameras on street poles and stoplights, in and outside most buildings, and they’re even built into our computers and cell phones. And you can be sure that ‘they’ know who you are and where you are at any given moment, right down to the GPS coordinates and the Google Street Views. If you buy something, your purchase is there for all to see in a zillion profiles, and the ads you look at will reflect those purchases. And ‘they’ will always try to get you to buy something else. Again and again.
All we will have that can't be changed are memories. And I’m not so sure about those!
The United States is rapidly becoming the very first ‘post-industrial’ nation on earth. All great economic empires eventually become fat and lazy and squander the great wealth that their forefathers orchestrated, but the pace at which America is accomplishing this is absolutely amazing.
Remember, it was America that was at the forefront of the industrial revolution. It was America that showed the world how to mass-produce everything from automobiles to televisions to airplanes. It was the great American manufacturing expertise that crushed Germany and Japan in World War II. We nuked Hiroshima and reduced it to rubble. Compare it today with, say, Detroit.
We are witnessing the de-industrialization of America. Tens of thousands of factories have shut down in the United States. Millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost. The United States has become a nation that consumes everything in sight and yet produces increasingly little.
Do you know what our biggest export is today? Waste paper. That’s right, ‘trash’ is the number one thing that we ship out as we voraciously blow our money on whatever the rest of the world wants to sell to us.
The pundits say the United States has become bloated and spoiled and our economy is now just a shadow of what it once was. There was a time when America could literally out produce the rest of the world combined. Today that is no longer the case — but we Americans sure do consume more than anyone else in the world!If the de-industrialization of America continues at its current pace, as the politicians say, what possible kind of a future are we going to be leaving to our kids?
I’m beginning to sound like a Right Wing Conservative! Aggragh!
All big nations throughout history have been great at making things. So if the United States continues to allow its manufacturing base to erode, how in the world can we continue to consider ourselves a great nation?
We have created the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world in order to maintain a very high standard of living, but the current state of affairs is not even close to sustainable. Corporate America, they say, goes deeper and deeper into debt, and every month we become poorer — while the rich get richer and the poor get children.
So what happens when the debt bubble pops? The de-industrialization of the United States should be a top concern. But sadly, most Americans do not have the vaguest idea what is going on around them. For people like that, take this op-ed blog and print it out and hand it to them.
Better still, read it to them. Perhaps what they hear will shock them (maybe, but don’t count on it):Most reports say that consumption accounts for 70% of our GDP. Of this 70%, over half is spent on services. How many people do you know who can define the GDP?
Come to think of it, how many know the difference between ‘profit’ and ‘profit margin?’
You can read that our country has lost a whopping 32% of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000. In 2001, the United States ranked FOURTH in the world in per capita broadband Internet use. Today it ranks 15th.
Manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is actually lower than it was in 1975. Yeah, that’s right: 1975!
Printed circuit boards are used in tens of thousands of different products. Asia now produces 84% of them worldwide. How many are made in America? You guessed it.
The United States spends approximately $3.90 on Chinese goods for every $1 the Chinese spend on goods imported from the United States. One prominent economist predicts that the Chinese economy will be three times larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2040 (my youngest grandchild will be 29 years old.)
The U.S. Census Bureau says that 43.6 million Americans are now living in poverty and that is the highest number of poor Americans in the 51 years that records have been kept. Whose fault is all this?
Republicans blame Democrats. Democrats blame Republicans. Both blame the White House. The White House blames Congress. Congress blames each other and everyone else.
Truth of the matter, no elected official or patriot is to blame. Tea Partiers, Republicans, Democrats and Roger Moore are totally blameless — it seems they are where they are only because they haven’t a clue how to fix the problem. They have no expertise and most were chosen simply because they wanted the assignment and no one else did. Who would? You? Get real.
Would any red blooded American want to be a congressman? Not likely. A real American would fix our problems in 30 days.
Even our current president probably could if given the chance. But with the current crop of senators and legislatures, it won’t and can’t happen. And since no one of value wants the job, nothing will change.
The de-industrialization of America is a national crisis. It needs to be treated like the catastrophe it is. America is in deep, deep do-do, folks.
Am I depressed? You bet I am!
Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m a paranoid schizophrenic, and so am I.
(Are these figures and scenarios accurate? I suppose so, but your guess is as good as mine. Remember, all this came from an email sent to me by my kid brother, not exactly the Paul Krugman of the northeast.)
Anyway, Hav-a-Happy NEW YEAR — even though 2012 is an even number, in itself a bad omen.
Copyright©2011 by Robert A. Mills, all rights reserved