Be Careful What You Ask For

By: Lou Kren

Sunday, February 1, 2009
News item: The government is coming to the rescue. It’s opened its pocketbook and everyone is lining up.

A few days back a friend of mine offered her opinion on the economy, more specifically the local economy comprising Cleveland, OH, and its environs. Her somewhat optimistic opinion came in response to my assessment of the local economy. Given my background, I placed much emphasis on the declining manufacturing base and how that fact will challenge the Cleveland economy for years to come. I went on to lament the pitiful state of our local political and administrative leadership. It has no ideas and does nothing. Seemingly, our local government’s only motivation to act is self-interest, often leaving incredible waste and corruption in its wake.

“Jobs. We need jobs.” That’s what our local leaders say. It’s all lip service, though in all fairness, owing to local corruption, I think the district attorney’s office and Cleveland FBI have had to hire on to handle the increased workload.

A new medical mart—where healthcare companies congregate to offer their wares to medical providers—was to be this region’s savior, building off of this region’s superior healthcare facilities. Instead our local brain trust misses deadline after deadline, unable to even choose a site for it. Meanwhile New York City announced plans to open its own medical mart and wants to act quickly. Let’s see how quickly Gotham pulls this project from under our leaden feet. New York already is eyeing Cleveland’s two major claims to international fame, the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and LeBron James. That city gave us the hall but keeps its museum board along with the induction ceremony, and we hear rumblings that the whole museum may soon call New York home. And what NBA fan hasn’t heard how New York area basketball teams are clearing money in an attempt to sign James when he becomes a free agent after next season? Now I can’t specifically blame our government if LeBron leaves, but I’m sure our leaders would screw it up if they were part of the pro-basketball equation. As it is, here we can’t even tie a gem like the Rock Hall to local development or events to spur growth—we are wasting an asset.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2006 Cleveland’s population totaled 444,000, dropping 7 percent from 2000. Among major American cities, only New Orleans and Detroit suffered greater population losses in that time period. Congratulations, Cleveland, we did it without a hurricane!

So why my whining about Cleveland? Because to me it is a microcosm of our nation’s ills. So the manufacturing base has eroded, and we are looking to our political leaders for help. But what have they given us? Be careful what you ask for.

Dick Cheney, whatever you may think of him, during the 2000 vice presidential debate, had a memorable quote.

Said Lieberman, “I think if you asked most people in America today that famous question that Ronald Reagan asked, ‘Are you better off today than you were eight years ago?’ Most people would say yes. I’m pleased to see, Dick, from the newspapers that you’re better off than you were eight years ago, too.”

Candidate Cheney: “I can tell you, Joe, the government had absolutely nothing to do with it.”

That brings me back to the news item at the top of this column. I don’t think we should place all of our hopes in the government basket. I am optimistic about our future. I’m optimistic because this country, and this industry, have good, hard-working people that think, respond and adapt. The technology and knowhow available to us today is amazing, and placed in the hands of knowledgeable employees and forward-thinking employers, I have reason to see good times ahead. I’m banking on these people, not politicians, to lead the .


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