Is America’s economy on the mend or on life support? Here’s the answer gleaned from anecdotal evidence and face-to-face discussion on our recently completed 1,500-mile, six-state Harley adventure.
And what an adventure the trip turned out to be! A little more than halfway into our trip, after a great visit to Lake Placid Lodge and then Bar Harbor, we were about an hour north of Portland, Maine, when what would turn out to be a blown regulator put Deb’s bike out of action.
No sooner had I gotten on the phone with Harley road service than a white van pulled over and a friend from Lynchburg, Virginia, got out. By chance, she and her husband had chosen this particular week for their annual road trip to the coast of Maine, and she recognized us on the side of the road as she passed by. You simply cannot make up such good fortune. Our friends, Brenda and Yank, squared us with a great B&B suggestion in Rockland, The LimeRock Inn. More importantly, they hooked us up with a terrific aftermarket Harley shop, Rock City Cycles.
I always travel with battery cables, so even though the charging system was temporarily disabled, we were able to jump-start Deb’s bike and ride it to the cycle shop. I always carry loads of emergency stuff, which regularly makes me the butt of jokes. But when a set of cables, a trickle charger, an Allen wrench set, or a satellite phone is needed, I’m the guy to call. And I cannot tell you how important the satellite phone has been, as we are out of cell range as often as not.
The guys at Rock City Cycles were top-notch. When given the option, I’ll always deal with custom shops. They’re more apt to be run by veteran bikers and not green kids just out of the training schools. So thanks to our amazing coincidence and emergency preparedness, instead of a pain-in-the-neck couple of days of towing and dealing with a Harley dealership, we had a happy ending. By noon the next day we were back on the road.
We run through small towns and cities and stay off the interstates when possible. As a result, I am able to get the economic pulse of dozens of places. I ask a lot of questions of restaurant owners, employees, and fellow travelers. And we often run into fellow Harley bikers, so they’re a great secondary source for research. Riding down so many main streets across so many states, I get a broad-brush look at the local economies through “for sale” signs, out-of-business indications, and empty storefronts. Combining direct observation with dozens and dozens of miles in grillings, I am able to gauge the economic pulse of commercial areas we ride through with a perspective that would be impossible in most any other way. And my reports and analysis are real-time, not delayed and distorted by some statistical presentation or economic model.
Number one on my Q&A, of course, is “What do you think of our young president?” Then, “Did you vote for Mr. Obama?” I follow up with some questions on Senator McCain, Sarah Palin and the TEA party crowd. Finally, I conclude with “How’s business?”
Given that we are touring a six-state region that includes New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont, it is to be expected that many of those I spoke with voted for Mr. Obama. They did in large vote for the president—and, in shocking numbers, they now are damn sorry they did and will not vote for any Dem this fall. The feedback on the Obama crowd is foul. How about McCain and Mrs. Palin? No thanks on either one. And certainly no thanks on either the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. People want our troops home now and ideally redeployed to seal the Mexican border. I asked about amnesty for illegals and was told “no way.”
As to the TEA party crowd, what a huge difference in tone. They said they love the TEA party. They’re sick of both the Obama income-redistributionists and the Neocon industrial-/military-complex crowd. How about Obamacare? I got the nastiest response by far on this question.
I saw signs of the state of the economy that would make you rip-snorting angry and grief-stricken, both at the same time. Empty storefronts as I have never before witnessed: out of business, for lease, closed, 50% off. And I was struck by the many sidewalks to nowhere, brand-new sidewalks in front of boarded businesses and deserted development projects, in one town after the next, and leading up to a number of interstates. They are Obamaways—roads to nowhere. And big and bold beside each new sidewalk travesty are signs boasting of the American Recovery and Redistribution Act. Your hard-earned money right down the old rathole. Economic stimulus and “reinvestment,” my keister. Rush rightfully calls the program the “porkulus.” The tip-topper of all was an endless file of empty dump trucks sitting on a blacktopping job in upper New York State—all running and no drivers in sight. What a massive boondoggle. A friend of mine—a former New York State highway supervisor—tells me he used to take pictures of these lines of empty behemoths and circulate the photos where they might do some good.
Folk are mad. Loads don’t have jobs. Few have any stomach to spend. And fewer yet say business is good. I have been conducting this sort of anecdotal fieldwork for nearly 20 years and have over 100,000 miles on my Harley as proof. You may or may not like my findings, but they are what they are. It is just that simple. I am reporting facts from the field straight to you. No filtering. No statistical mischief. No possible room for error. What I saw is what I saw. Americans are sick and tired of the politicians of all stripes. They hate Obama and would love for him to resign. The likes of the Bush crowd of spenders and warmongers don’t sit much better. And few believe Mrs. Palin has any answers.
The folks I profiled want tax relief. They want the spending stopped and the deficit slashed. They are terrified of higher interest rates and inflation ahead. And they want Obamacare repealed. The bright yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and T-shirts are ubiquitous. They certainly are at my house. It’s long past the time for a brand-new day.
To stay informed, return daily to my Insight and Incite site. My team is on the ground getting the answers you need to better craft your family business, as well as to manage investment and security issues. You will get a straighter scoop from me than from most anywhere else. I, as an independent, have no axe to grind with either of the major parties. With that said, I do take a largely libertarian approach to things, and as a Cato benefactor, find much to like in the writings of Thomas Jefferson, Sam Adams, Milton Friedman, Barry Goldwater, and Ayn Rand. So I most assuredly start with a base of reference.
America, in my roadway analysis, is on the wrong track in a big way. A new course must be set and fast, or you and I are going to be looking down the barrel of a financial shotgun that will be a lot more broad-based and devastating than what we all endured in the recent past. Black storm clouds are overhead. And the young neophyte in the White House has not a smidgen of an idea as to what to do next. Nor does he have the intuition, background, or advisory support to right the ship. Makes one almost long for the Lewinsky era by comparison. I wonder what the Clinton crowd and their always bombastic and entertaining Mr. Carvell are thinking and plotting. My guess is the pot is in the oven. Make it a good week.
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