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Reversing the trend: as standard-of-living slips.

Reversing the trend: As standard-of-living slips

Last year, the United States was the only country that suffered a decline in its standard of living. That startling news jumped out at the reader on a recent Sunday from a newspaper article done by Jim Nesbitt of the Newhouse News Service.

It went on to point out that Labor Dept statistics confirm that a family headed by someone 25 to 34 years-of-age has $1584 less in real dollars to spend than it did in 1979; that take-home pay for an ordinary worker, adjusted for inflation, has fallen from $295 in 1970 to $257 in 1990; that 91% of America's renters can't afford to buy the median $79,000 home; that employers are contributing 43% less toward pension and savings plans in 1989 than in 1980. All that even though the number of working mothers soared from 13 million in 1975 to 33 million in 1989.

The country is bankrupt. The interest payment on the national debt--which will be inflated by $362 billion next year--will top $344 billion by 1995. It'll be larger than the social security or defense budgets. Societally we are deteriorating. Teenage suicides have doubled; half of today's marriages will end in divorce.

Now, admittedly, the US still enjoys the highest standard of living in the world, but most economists, Nesbitt writes, expect things to get worse. They see the decline continuing for the next two decades, or until the US economy adopts the new rules of the global marketplace.

What's worse is that we seem to have resigned ourselves to getting along with less. It's clear the US is moving from a "can do" psyche, to living with a "sorry, we're broke" attitude.

An A T Kearney Inc study, done for the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ), hints at the same conclusion. It points out that although trade and investment opportunities for American firms in Japan have improved, of the barriers still remaining, not all are created by the Japanese.

The study found "significant restrictions emanating from the United States." They include the short-term management perspective driven by the need to record quarterly improvements in operating profits; an unwillingness to modify products for the foreign market; or to strive for Japanese quality standards which often exceed norms outside of Japan.

"These issues are exacerbated by a lack of understanding of Japanese markets, customs, and business practices...that significant amounts of competitive information can be obtained within the market, but few outsiders attempt to obtain or develop a means for its proper use," the study concludes.

Japanese and other manufacturers have established a strong beach head within the US market. It took serious financial commitment and substantial personal sacrifice to come here and understand foreign customs and languages. Until US firms and individuals are willing to do the same--to engage the world market on its terms--there is little hope that we'll be able to pass on to our children the opportunity to build a better life as successfully as our parents did for us.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Modic, Stanley J.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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