Friday, April 24, 2009

Axil on the American Economy

Axil is a frequent contributor to the the Energy from Thorium Discussion Forum. Axil's contributions are of very high quality, and I have invited him to post on Nuclear Green on more than one occasion. Since I believe that Axil has things to say that should be read out side the EfT Discussion Forum, I have asked his permission to repost some of his comments as nI see fit. Axil views on the American economy are similar to my own:

On the job training is good for the worker but deadly for the job. A job gets done when there is a guy on it that has done it one hundred times before; he can do it in his sleep. That is how jobs succeed, on time and under budget.

All the money that will be spent on renewables is supposed to create lots of green jobs. Coal miners and auto workers will be retrained to make the promise of all the green technologies come true. The problem is that there are few capable engineers left to do all the work that is required. The youth of the country has opted for money making low stress jobs on Wall Street and in regional banking.

The only way to maintain competent engineers is through investment in technology research and development. Because of the parasitic business practices that have been pervasive since the 90’s, a destructive corporate attitude toward engineering has eaten a large hole in the nation’s science and engineering capability. American business has shipped its software, engineering and scientific base offshore primarily to Asia to reduce associated local wage rates.

Young people see what is going on and choose finance, law and other well paying but parasitic professions as their life’s work while the engineering profession withers on the vine.

Making things is out, making money is in.

American business has been eating the seed corn of its prosperity and now it is gone. The captains of American industry decry the lack of on shore US technical capability and at the same time outsource whole business lines to Asia. They then are surprised when Asia beats them to death through their own home grown engineering excellence.

Obama wants his green money to fund green American jobs, but that’s not how it works today in America.

The chickens have come home to roost. America is now an empty shell of accountants, lawyers and bankrupt financiers. A generation of profound pain, of relearning, failed systems, of reappraisal and of business evolution is ahead. A twenty year period of retrenchment will precede a philosophical shift and business readjustment before a rebirth of American engineering competence is common again in America. The smart grid won't happen anytime soon; but it might work if we off shore it to China.
- Axil

1 comment:

donb said...

Axil has touched two raw nerves with me.

The first is with regards to American business and engineering. Eight years ago, I lost my job of 26+ years with a company that was once proud of its engineering might. The founders retired and then passed away, and the new generation of management was more interested in making money than in making engineering contributions to the industry. Of course, the engineering jobs faded away.

I was fortune to find a new job with a private company still run by the founder, who is passionate about engineering and manufacturing in the USA. He has pressed our purchasing folks to find domestic suppliers and our manufacturing folks to bring work in house. This has been quite successful. Our supplier of printed circuit boards is now domestic, and after working with them for a while to improve their processes, we now have a source for boards that has a lower defect rate than the previous Far East supplier, and is also lower cost! Funny thing, we are still growing strongly, even in today's economic environment.

The second raw nerve regards the "smart grid". My company provides intelligent controls for electric power transmission and distribution - the "smart grid", at least at the higher levels. The founder's vision of the smart grid is that we use intellegent controls to keep power flowing to as many people as much of the time as possible. This is somewhat different from others who want to control when (not when YOU want) and at what cost (mostly higher) the consumer uses energy (though they won't say this directly).

Soapbox time: Axil is right about the disregard of engineering by business "leaders", at least in the immediate past. I remember well when I lost my job (electrical engineering) that the unemployment rate for electrical engineers was higher than the general unemployment rate. Even so, there was much whining from companies that they could not find engineers. The professional societies decried the lack of students studying engineering (while saying little about how engineers were being treated as commodity labor).

I believe the USA is in need of an engineering and manufacturing renaissance, and I believe that energy production from nuclear sources can be one of the leaders of this movement if roadblocks are be removed.


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