Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Recently, U.S. Navy Secretary Donald “Wizard” Winter called for shipbuilders to modernize, strongly implying there will be cuts in the defense riches flowing from Congress. He clearly stated current levels of “investment in acquisition” could not be sustained. 

Just about everyone has figured this gravy train carrying defense contractors will grind to a halt, but calling for private entities to modernize is curious. It seems shipbuilders outside the U.S., like those in Denmark and Great Britain, are highly automated and can compete with cheaper labor pools like those in China. Our guess is our European brothers and sisters are less reliant on manpower, which has resulted in fewer jobs. 

Danger! The U.S. tornado forms at the very mention of job cuts. 

Following the Yellow Brick Road to modernization, though it leads to the Emerald City of contracts and profit, also means job losses along the way (in the near term), especially among the semiskilled and unskilled of labor. Don’t these guys belong to … unions? Aren’t politicians terrified of … unions? 

… So the Wizard called for the builders to follow the Yellow Brick Road and cautioned that any resulting job cuts would unleash the wrath of the Wicked Witch who would send her Flying Monkeys to darken the doors of Congressman Cowardly Lion and senators Scarecrow and Tin Man. Then, he foretold from his vast experience, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow would say to shipbuilder Dorothy, “Not so fast there, Ruby Slipper Girl.” Dorothy, to save her beloved Toto, would abandon her quest for the Emerald City. All the boys and girls in Munchkinland would cheer because they would get to keep their jobs — until a house would drop on Munchkinland, wiping out the Lollypop League, because those boys would not update their skills. Glenda the Good Witch would move to the Danish shipyard. Dorothy would start out again on the Yellow Brick Road because she could not afford to lose another contract. (Nor could the Munchkins.) “Not so fast, Ruby Slipper Girl!” Enter the Flying Monkeys. (We’re seeing a pattern here.) Soon the Cowardly Lion and company again are off to see Dorothy. Road abandoned and another house drops, wiping out all the jobs in Munchkinland. 

Wizard Winter probably is dead on and for the long-term heath of shipbuilders and those like them in defense, they might have to take on the Wicked Witches at the unions and a few Cowardly Lions in Congress to remain competitive. More importantly, they might have to forego the government subsidies that have proved crucial for foreign yards. 

Somewhere over the rainbow?

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