The Recession and our Generation of Hope

I woke up this morning and went about my normal routine but today was different.  I could feel it building inside me. A sense of hope springing forward as I began to think about the generational challenges we are faced with and why this generation, our generation is ready for them. I look at what we can do, and what we are already doing and I realize that we will overcome not just this economic crisis, for those come and go. But we will overcome the crises of education, of healthcare and of energy within our lifetimes. Before I start to sound like too much of a salesman for the current administration, I want to share why I think our generation-the new professionals are uniquely suited to the age we were born into.

1. People are the new profit. If you read the commentary on web 2.0 and the future of the internet there is no end to the hand-wringing that goes on among the older set. The old saw goes “that’s great, but how do you turn a profit?” It’s not that we are a generation of socialists unconcerned with profit and loss, it’s that profit isn’t the driving force behind our motivations. Facebook began in a dorm room as an experiment in connecting people on campus. Google strove to create the better search engine. Netflix changed the way we rented movies. The list goes on, but profit wasn’t the driving force behind any of these ideas at the start, in the beginning it was about solving consumer’s problem. These companies have created new verbs, “google it”, he “friended” me, oh just “netflix” it. Fundamentally changing the way we do things, by solving a problem, rather than selling a bill of goods.

2. Small is the new big. If there’s one concept our generation is reflexively against it’s the concept of “too big to fail” entrepreneurship is something we all have a stake in now. We are a generation that maintains blogs and tweets to the world. We are our own ventures, our personal and professional lives are no longer as separate as they once were. For our generation ideas move as fast as you can type and hit the send button, so work happens wherever, whenever. Perfect for when the problems are global in scale and complex in nature.

3. Forget the suit, just bring your brain. The people at companies changing the world come to the office in sneakers and a sweatshirt. Power isn’t the currency anymore. We’ve changed the game, now it’s ideas and collaboration that build the better mousetrap.

4. This isn’t an age thing. Our generation is the most blind ever. Race, color, creed, gender, these matter less than what you bring to the table as a person and as a professional it doesn’t matter how old you are, it doesn’t matter where you grew up. Our generation looks to leaders like Google, like Ecko, like Apple, you know what all of their leaders have in common? Nothing, and that’s exactly how it should be.

5. Not afraid to dream. Rare is the person of our generation who can’t quote Star Wars, or didn’t watch Sesame Street and the Muppets as a kid. Those kids grew up and gave us Lord of the Rings, and Pixar and Slumdog Millionaire. We’re a generation that’s not afraid to dream big, we’ve been doing it since we are little. The naysayers see us a generation afraid to grow up. They’re wrong. We’re a generation that remembers what it is to dream, what it is to want something better, and will always work to make it happen.

6. Apathetic we are not. Young people fueled a political campaign and elected a president. Faced with eight years of leadership that completely rejected the values they hold dear this generation rose up and elected a new face to the scene. He might have been untested, but it was his ideas and rhetoric that drove President Obama to the oval office. His campaign’s ability to make every voice matter, to make every volunteer action important and open the halls of power to the masses that made him this generation’s choice for the Presidency. President Clinton had to beg young people to go vote, President Obama was their champion.

It’s not that I am arrogant about who we are and where we’re going, it’s not that I hate the ‘boomers or resent having all of these problems to solve. It’s that I think our generation is uniquely suited to problems that lie ahead. Ones where millions of brains will be needed to fundamentally shift our way of life from waste to sustainability, from consolidated power to diverse networks, from me to us. Our generation will spend the better part of our lifetimes calming the seige of global warming, ending the world’s carbon addiction, finding better ways to educate our kids and making sure we can all grow up healthy. We will lead the nation to a brighter day, one brilliant idea at a time.

The AIG Smokescreen

It’s not that I think the folks at AIG deserve bonuses. It’s not that I think they should be rewarded for playing a pivotal role in driving the national economy into the sewer.

I won’t point out that taxing one particular subset of Americans who are deeply unpopular is politically soothing but Constitutionally bunk.

I won’t even point out that the TARP program specifically allowed for executive compensation just like what we’re seeing now.

What I’d like to point out is that what the bailout, the stimulus package, and all of the other actions the government is taking to try and save the economy isn’t going to fix the core issue facing the US. The idea that any given company is too big to fail. We’ve allowed our corporations in America to become so large that they dictate fiscal policy.

The very idea that we’re going to some how “take back” the AIG bonus money is laughable, next quarter we’re likely to give AIG more TARP funds. Taking back our own money to give it back to the same company points out how twisted things become when government and private industry intertwine.

The rage we are feeling about AIG bonuses paid with our Tax dollars is justified. But it’s misplaced. We ought to have some rage at the fact that our government had no choice but to bail out these huge corporations because for too long we’ve sat by and let them become so integral to each other and to the global economy that they cannot fail, cannot be accountable for their errors, and are considered above the rules that govern the rest of modern capitalism.

When the dust settles and smoke clears from this debacle. I hope we see some real reform in the form of trust busting and robust regulation that brings these banks back into line with sanity. All the bonus taxes in the world won’t do a thing, until we institute real, politically difficult reform.

Mumbai Attacks and the Future of News

It’s too early to digest the still moving situation in India. But watching twitter and the Indian government’s response to the messages being posted from around the world it is clear a new era in world wide event coverage has begun.

What my Detroit Bailout would look like

I’ve been thinking about the auto industry quite a bit lately, as I suppose everyone has been. Some are arguing a for a loan or bailout of the “big three” some are opposed. I have a third way that I believe could revitalize Detroit, create jobs, and solve part of America’s energy crisis.

 

Some are saying that it’s not the government’s job to “choose winners” in this or any economic climate. In many ways I agree, however, the government is charged with defending the nation’s key interests. The use of oil, foreign and domestic is a threat to our economy, our climate, and our national security. It needs to be eradicated for the country to thrive through the 21st century and beyond.

 

Therefore, whatever loan/bailout solution that we come up with for Detroit cannot just be a bridge loan, or some amount of funding contingent upon if they curb executive pay and raise fuel standards 5 miles per gallon within 10 years. This is a crisis and we need a serious solution. Sadly, our national automakers have not been on the leading edge of innovation when it comes to alternative fuels. Thankfully today we live in a global economy, and there are companies that have been.

 

My bailout would come in several steps:

 

  1. License at a handsome profit Honda’s hydrogen fuel cell technology, it’s solar cell to hydrogen technology and it’s at-home hydrogen extraction technology at a handsome profit to the automaker and engineering company that not only has led the way on how to propel their cars, but on how to develop that propellant in clean and sustainable ways.

 

  1. Having licensed this technology, the government, in cooperation with private investors oil companies (that own gas stations), and the big three deploy hydrogen refueling stations across the country to existing gas stations, making the alternative fuel a real possibility for American consumers.

 

  1. Fund Ford, GM, and Chrysler as they retool and rebuild their line to meet the new hydrogen fuel standard. Don’t take deadline extensions for answer. 4 years to build a completely new line of cars.

 

 

  1. In return for this massive cash infusion, the American automakers must be willing to accept high-yield trade-ins of existing automobiles. This technology does us no good if people continue to drive their gasoline powered vehicles. Our national automakers must do their part and make their new line affordable to Americans by accepting their older automobiles as a high asking price (say 50% of original asking) these cars should then be dismantled and recycled back into the material pool.

 

It’s beyond my level of expertise to know what this program would cost, how to fund it, and what the realistic timelines would be. But I do know the country needs to find a new way forward when it comes to automobiles. I also know that the auto industry needs to reset and rebuild. I’m sure other measures such as labor contracts, parts and service contracting and supply chains would need to be hammered out. But my plan is simple, direct and justifies the costs with reasonable expectations from all parties involved. It’s my idea, I hope it’s of some use. 

Politico: Hillary on track to be SOS

Mike Allen at politico is reporting Obama aides are saying Hillary is on track to be Secretary of State and financial disclosure of the Clinton Foundation has been dealt with. The team of rivals grows.

Brooks wants to hate the Obama team he just doesn’t

David Brooks, right of center columnist of the NY Times, pens this description of the growing Obama administration. He wants to look away in disgust at the pedigree of the assorted insiders, but the more he looks the more he likes what he sees. 

Best passage:

Obama seems to have dispensed with the romantic and failed notion that you need inexperienced “fresh faces” to change things. After all, it was L.B.J. who passed the Civil Rights Act. Moreover, because he is so young, Obama is not bringing along an insular coterie of lifelong aides who depend upon him for their well-being.

As a result, the team he has announced so far is more impressive than any other in recent memory. One may not agree with them on everything or even most things, but a few things are indisputably true….

It’s reassuring to me that the White House will be staffed by people that are truly competent in their fields. For too long we’ve had a president insulated from the facts he didn’t want to hear, and from dissenting strategies. As much as I understand Obama supports hating the idea of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, a team of rivals is the way to go. So far so good, but soon, they’ll actually have to govern.

Detroit Puts Madison Avenue At Risk

According to AdAge, a disaster in Detroit could also have incredible repercussions on the advertising industry. As it is, reportedly hundreds have lost their jobs at Detroit divisions of major ad firms. Here’s the automotive ad biz by the numbers…

3.3%
of total U.S. measured spending
5.9%
of total U.S. network TV spending
49%
of total (foreign and domestic) automakers’ U.S. measured spending
2.8%
of total U.S. magazine ad spending
8.0%
of total spending in Sports Illustrated
9.2%
of total spending on Fox network TV
2.5%
of total U.S. cable-TV ad spending
6.8%
of ad spending on ESPN