Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nucor and Advocacy

On page A13 of today’s New York Times, the steel company Nucor has placed an ad under the banner - - “What’s good for America?” Nucor answers their question with “Jobs.” Nucor writes the following in the ad - -

“Rising out of the Great Recession means creating jobs - - more than 25 million over the next three to five years - - to account for the millions of Americans currently without work, as well as for those young Americans soon entering the workforce. What’s more, we need quality jobs that will support a family.

Without creating these jobs, any recovery will be unsustainable. To create jobs we need policies that will address our trade deficit, cut our national debt, move us towards energy independence and rebuild our infrastructure. These changes will create sustainable, long-term growth that will be good for America.

And what’s good for America is good for Nucor.”

Nucor has identified specific outcomes that we can all share. From job growth to debt reduction to investing in our troubled public infrastructure - - all of these goals address a future represented by an improved version of the past. The ad is representative of a similar and united voice that most of our country shares - - GE, Boeing, Ford, and many others could run the exact same ad with an organizational name change.

We can all agree on the desired outcomes - - what is truly missing and clearly needed is the specific details on the decision making process. Most of the goals Nucor has identified make up our current “National Paradox” - - cutting deficits while investing in public infrastructure, reducing our trade deficit with other nations of the world while utilizing the world as our banker, calling for energy independence as we ban drilling in the Gulf of Mexico - - our national goal of sustainable job growth wrapped in a box of contradiction and incongruity. The need to invest, save, and spend all at the same time during the paradoxical era - - an era marked also by a sickness associated with modern democracy: the current system cannot impose any short-term pain for long-term gain.

Our “National Paradox” is extremely time dependent - - we are running out of time in a world where the future always arrives too fast - - and in the wrong order. Running ads may be an appropriate first step - - however, what is truly needed are not additional ads but greater advocacy. Honest public and corporate debates that address specific ideas and recommendations. What specifically is Nucor an advocate for in the context of increasing spending on our public infrastructure? Is Nucor an advocate for eliminating the Department of Education? What about raising taxes 30%? Maybe reducing Social Security benefits by 30%? The ad presents no specifics, no points of advocacy, no voice that declares we must change, a call that we must do something different, or declarations stating we must do something better. The central and hidden theme of our “National Paradox” is the need for rapid change - - individual and societal change over a broad spectrum of America’s political, economic, social, and cultural linkages.

Advocacy needs to be about change and the specifics of change with the understanding that people do not change when we tell them they should - - they change when they tell themselves they must. Whatever we are advocates for - - the language and context needs to be in terms of must versus should. The language of the Congressional Budget Office is one of warning - - from interest payments on public debt jumping from 1% of GDP to 4% of GDP by 2035 to Medicare doubling as a percentage of GDP by 2035, equivalent to $700 billion of additional spending in current dollars. What is truly missing is effective public and private sector leadership that translates warnings and the requirement for change with an advocacy for specific ideas, recommendations, and a common path to the future.

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