19 March 2010

China Leads the World in...... Entrepreneurship?

I was scootel-ing along the Internet when I saw a factoid that caught my eye.
And burned.

China is THE most entrepreneurial place on Earth.
What? Whatever happened to American know-how, the Puritan work ethic, determination to be the best and plain, old-fashioned hard work?
Sadly, I actually think we all know. But there are facts to back it up.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), China’s self-employment rate is an astounding 51.2%.

The U.S. rate? 7.2%.

Ouch. Not bad for a communist country that, until recent years, didn't allow capitalism. It's odd, isn't it? Watching the decline of American Capitalism, hastened (can we really blame the Chinese for our failures? Really?) by.... Communist Capitalists. (Read the article. There are more fearful numbers about what some used to call "the sleeping giant." Guess what? They're awake and eating our lunch.)
Wasn't it just a few decades back that Americans had ownership of the word entrepreneurship? We had a lock on it for decades. It was part of our strength. Whether it was inventing a new widget (before "widget" meant software) for the latest gizmo or selling great Aunt Gertie's pickled okra through the mail, it seemed like American ingenuity always triumphed.

That was then. This is now. So maybe you could spend just a few minutes today, figuring out if there's something you might want to do differently? Maybe you should.
I heard a great piece of advice awhile back from a speaker who had fought in World War II. He said, "Turn off the radio in the car... and think."
You remember World War II, right? That was the one where we came home after and built our reputation in the modern world. It took awhile for me to comprehend what great advice that was and how truly great it was to be alone with my brain cells for a few minutes in my car. You might try it yourself (maybe you already do?) sometime soon.

Turn off the car radio. Think.

15 March 2010

The Tale of Two Senators

I sometimes post about events and people to give you the texture of my life as a member of the media, so here is another of those offerings. I have deleted names to protect the innocent, er, the Senators involved. But these are true-life stories from the last several weeks.

Life in Washington: a place where you run into U.S. Senators and Representatives in warehouse stores and street corners.
I went to a Washington Metro-area warehouse store on Friday afternoon. As I was walking towards the finish line (where those oh-yes-so-lengthy lines awaited) I saw a familiar face. It was someone I've talked to before: a U.S. Senator who represents a state where a television station is located that I represented in the past. (That doesn't narrow it down, does it? Which media group includes TV stations in the Senator's state: Hearst, Conus or ABC News?)
Back to the Senator. This sighting was sort of like catching Superman out, shopping for new tights. Except that it was a U.S. Senator, buying paper towels and potato chips. In bulk.
This particular Senator is known for being very good natured and open. I interviewed the Senator several times in the past, so I said hello. The Senator was true to form: friendly, easy-going and open. No, those 4 gallons of milk in the cart weren't slowing the Member at all. (I don't remember much about the Senator's purchases because Warehouse Club Cart Snooping is the Washington equivalent of dumpster diving in Los Angeles. And I'm. NOT.)
We discussed the current fracas in Washington because only a few minutes before, I had written the previous blog noting how very dependent on public opinion many votes are. The Senator agreed and in fact, commented on the overwhelming prospect of understanding everything involved in the literary masterpiece of legislative work known as "Health Care Reform." (There are two: the Senate version and the House version. Enjoy!)
The Senator faces a tough race right now, and didn't want to be mentioned further... which is why you're getting only that "Senators do shop in warehouse clubs" so far in this blog, but very little more. I only influence races by reporting facts. In this case, it might be easy, but no. No.
We talked for another minute or two in line. I mentioned that a few weeks before, an old friend arrived in Washington with her (relatively) newly-elected Congressional Member husband. She and I went out for drinks and then drove over to Capitol Hill to pick up her newly-minted-Member in my (tiny but American-made) Ford Focus.
I've often thought that Congress is one of the least exclusive clubs in Washington. It's a huge, smelly, sprawling (mostly male) club of argumentative knuckle-crackers who all want their own way. It just is.
So here was this Member, on the phone when he got in my car, but trying to be nice. He folded his (rather tall) frame into the front seat (wifey happily climbed in the back seat and perched on the presidential library souvenir pillow) where he politely stuck out his hand, and did his best to greet me while finishing up the last details of his day job, working for The People.
When he got off the phone a few minutes later, he re-introduced himself and stuck out his hand again. I sorta... liked him. He seemed, I don't know, genuine? (I didn't like it when the Senior Senator from my home state hugged me on the White House lawn a few years back, but this seemed like the right maneuver.)
And then I drove them to their quarters. In my Ford Focus.
Why am I telling you all this? Just to remind you, while you're watching all the squabbling over health care reform that these are people who go to Sam's Club before weekends with teenage sons. These are people who ride without complaint in their wife's friend's messy little economy car with stains on the upholstery from too many cross-country drives. But mostly, to remind you that... these are people.
I feel a "People are Candy" coming on. See you back here at midweek.

12 March 2010

We, THE VOTERS, Choose...

I know I said I was going to stick to "people candy," and I meant it. I mean it. But I've been so caught up watching what was going on in the Nation's Capital just lately that I thought I'd explain what has diverted my attention.

The health care debate.

Not in the traditional sense. It's very hard to focus on the health care debate in totem because that piece of legislation is so huge and sprawling that unless you have every second of every day to devote your full attention to it, you miss a lot of it.
I don't have that luxury of brain-drain.

But I am finding some odd similarities between what is going on and another issue in our not-too-distant past.

I want you to think back about a dozen years to the Clinton-Lewinsky investigation and what went on during that time.

As a lot of you know, I don't have a huge amount of political party affiliation in my soul. I just don't. I also have utterly no sense of athletic competition. You could take me out on a tennis court and beat me to death with a tennis ball before I'd ever figure out why I should chase after and swing for it. I don't feel the need to cling to either political party, either. Genetic deficiency on both counts, no doubt.

But during and after the coverage of the Clinton-Lewinsky investigation, I got a good number of angry questions from RED-faced friends, all wanting to know why the media had let Mr. Clinton "slip through our fingers" unimpeached. They generally blamed the media for the failure to prosecute Mr. Clinton for what they perceived his crimes were. (Please don't write to tell me what you perceive his crimes were. I covered that mess for months. It's over. Let's move on.)

I tried to tell them that it wasn't the media's fault that Congress didn't act; it was their own fault. It was the decision of the American public indicated through poll after poll that President Bill Clinton would not be prosecuted because they were tired of the ongoing struggle in Congress. Members of Congress read those polls, along with other surveyed statements, real or implied that the Business of The People needed attending to and that if members of Congress voted President Clinton out, then voters would push them out in the next election.

A very few of my RED-faced acquaintances believed me. Others did not and decided from then on that I was either just another liberal member of the East Coast media elite or stunningly naive. Or both. I've accepted my position in their thinking. (As I said, "it's over. Let's move on.")

Now I am noticing that history may be repeating itself.
Some of my friends are now BLUE in the face from holding their breath for passage of health care reform. Health care reform may or may not pass, but it does seem to be remarkably slow in going through the motions on Capitol Hill.

And it seems possible, according to some media accounts, that Members are starting to figure out that if they vote for and pass the current health care reform legislation, they may find themselves operating outside the Beltway after the next elections.
As for me, it all combines to make me feel a bit GREEN... around the gills.