America is at war. Government spending is high. The young Jack Welch was thinking of entering the business of selling plastics at a dysfunctional General Electric Company. The year was 1967, just after the dream of the Great Society began to end in a nightmare in the jungles of Vietnam.
Three days before Christmas of that year Hollywood releases “The Graduate” for the frustrated barely twenty somethings to look at themselves in the mirror of the silver screen, nervously twitching about the prospect of facing the draft or finding a better job. That dismal condition of the American economy had only just begun. It would not end comfortably until two decades later, in 1987, and nearly 5 presidencies after.
Flash forward. The year is 2007. The county swoons again into economic bathos. Smelling salts would not help the damsel in distress for the next three years. But the graduates keep pouring out of the gates of American academia. America is at war. Government spending is high. Once again. The President who is to be elected also wants to build a Great Society, trying to revive a dream but ending up resurrecting a potential nightmare by 2010, hopefully not in the mountains of Afghanistan.
The generational shift that began Vietnam after Eisenhower ended in the generational shift that began the Iraqi predicament after the elder Bush. The peace dividend of a Republican president after World War II and the peace dividend of a Democrat president after the Cold War were both blown away by the winds of change, their aftermath sticking like flypaper until it could be peeled away by force of direct confrontation.
The graduates of 1967 were eager to enter plastics. The graduates since 2007 find that plastics have been sold off by General Electric to China. The polymers and petrochemical businesses of 40 years ago have yielded to wind mills and green aircraft engines. But most American graduates do not want to make them anymore. The real has yielded to the flypaper of the economic bathos of 2007 floating around like ticker tape over the skies of Manhattan celebrating failure as victory, unable to stick to anything tangible in the United States, except to the government and the financial markets. It had lost the habit of doing so since 1987.
The reason for force in the new world order has also changed. It has become economic. It is ceasing to be military. The world which has learned the use of the new toys of war since the turn of the last century is learning how to use a new force: the power of money to shape change.
Taming the vicissitudes of the rains and the droughts of money, in response to the economic climate, one can only hope will not take the next 20 years after 2007, to 2027, ominously portending 2029, 100 years after the first Great Depression. The parched earth does not want acid rain. It wants relief from the scorching of the settling dust from the end of the Cold War, for the grapes of wrath being peddled on Main Streets to ferment into fine wine for all.
The graduates do not want to be sold out by the leaders for whom they have voted in droves only to aspire to become salesman of the floating flypaper, to expand both government and their year-end bonuses, instead of something real to make something of themselves.