When I was much younger, growing up in Mississippi, we spent much of our summers around the local swimming hole. On many a summer’s day, we’d hop on our bikes and head over to a nearby lake. There was a rope swing hanging off an old oak tree that served as a spot where the older boys would congregate to smoke cigarettes and talk about girls. You would swing out over the lake and drop – probably a good 30 feet or so. Taking a turn at the swing and plunging into the water served as a rite of passage from boyhood into the grown up world of teenagers.
Well, one summer when we were about 12, my friend Charles and I went with some friends to the rope swing, and Charles was bragging all the way – talking bravely about how he was going to be the first from our group to conquer the swing. He wasn’t afraid – not one bit. We parked our bikes. He boldly walked up to the edge. Looked over into the water below. Took two steps back. And fainted.
The memory of Charles and the rope swing came flooding back last week when I saw the latest job figures, which showed a decline of 20,000 construction jobs in the U.S. in November – in an economy that is supposed to be recovering. You know what that is? That’s the result of the construction industry, government construction and the business sector looking over the cliff and then pulling back. Just like Charles did. It’s the faint before the cliff.
We can debate all day about who is right and who is wrong regarding taxes, spending, entitlements and the debt ceiling. But what we really need now is less posturing for the voters back home and some good old fashioned courage and leadership – from both sides – to get these issues settled before the end of the year. The clock is ticking, and the business community – and voters – are watching. This is no time to faint.
President, National Precast Concrete Association