A poll out today from the New York Times and CBS says 81% -- that's a lot -- say we're "on the wrong track."
Almost half of those surveyed say the era of good jobs is behind us. And over half the adults say they're worried about losing their job.
Given the high first number, the second number seems low.
Either way, we're a nation with a "can't do" spirit.
Today's topic: How do we get the "can-do" spirit back?(16 Comments)
Gasoline rose about 20 cents a gallon this week, a drain on the home economics of most people. But it could always be worse; you could be an independent long-haul trucker.
Take Danny and Carma Glascock of Jermyn, Texas, who are spending the next 34 hours sitting in the TA truckstop in Somerset, Wis. Truckers aren't allowed to work more than 70 hours in a week and the Glascocks time is up. So today they're not making a dime.
The rising cost of diesel and inflation in general has made a tough life tougher still for people like the Glascocks. Some truckers pulled off the road earlier this week to protest, but the Glascocks have loan payments to make on their trailer, which this week is hauling a giant tank down to Texas, now that they've dropped off a load of acoustical tile in Owatonna.
There was a time when diesel was much cheaper than gasoline; those days are over. Today, diesel was going for $3.99 where the Glascocks filled up. That gets them about 6 miles, and it's one of the reasons why they're picking their loads more carefully these days. It's an art, figuring out how to get the highest-paying loads from Point A to Point B, and having a load someone wants shipped at Point B so you don't sit for days on end, or you don't end up with a load that's costing you more money to move than the shipper is paying.
"It used to be alright to run a cheap load once in awhile," Danny told me today. "But now you can get into an area that you can't get out of." He pulls out a calculator to explain. "Let's say I get a load that pays $1.80 a mile for a 1,000 mile trip. At $4 a gallon, and six miles to the gallon, it'll cost me $668 (167 gallons). " The shipment will pay $1,800. Because he leases himself to a national trucking firm, the Glascocks will get 73 percent of that, or $1,340. "You can't do 1,000 miles in less than two days," he says. He figures with the cost of breakdowns, other equipment, and loan payments, he needs to make about $350 a day to survive. His hypothetical trip -- a pretty typical one these days -- will pay him $336 a day, $14 less than what he needs.
A blown-out tire costs $500. Any mechanical work costs about $85 an hour. He pays $676 a month for the loan he took out for the trailer and once that's paid off, he figures, it'll be time to buy a new truck. He has three tarps to cover the loads that wear out regularly and costs them $1,000 to replace.
The Glascocks figure they grossed about $65,000 last year, though they disagree about how much profit they made. "I think we made about $10,000," Carma says. "I think $20,000," says Danny.
They'll figure it out when they get back home to do their taxes. They get home once every three-and-a-half months.
The Glascocks started their trucking career 13 years ago when the factory that employed both closed. "The oil fields in Texas are booming again and I can always go back there and work," Danny Glascock says, " but the thing with the oil business is you'll be looking for work eventually because it's a boom-bust business. This gives me steady work."
It's not all bad, both admit. They like to see the country together. Carma says she enjoyed last Christmas, even though a load didn't come through and they had to sit and wait for one, missing Christmas with the family. "It's a good thing we were in Las Vegas," she says.
As we talked, another truck pulled in within feet of theirs. If it stays, it might be tough for both to sleep tonight, thanks to the idling tractor. That's not always the case, though. The Glascocks say the load they picked up a few weeks ago was one of the best ever: honeybees. "Nobody parked anywhere near us," Danny Glascock says. "It was the best nights' sleep I've ever had."(2 Comments)
The round of layoffs that struck CBS television stations around the country hit the Twin Cities today.
"Paul Douglas is no longer with the station," WCCO spokesperson Kiki Rosatti told me this afternoon. Earlier this week, anchor John Reger was let go in a "restructuring" that has hit local CBS stations across the country hard. About 8 persons were let go on WCCO's television side and the company is offering "a limited number of buyouts" to staff members.
Earlier this week, stations in New York, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco announced layoffs, including local big names.
In Boston, for example, long-time sports personality Bob Lobel was let go. In analyzing the situation, the Boston Globe said the layoffs mark the "end of the celebrity broadcaster in local television."
"We are still committed to this community," said WCCO spokesperson Rosatti, who blamed the layoffs on a "down economy."
CBS Corp. reported a 14.6% decline in its fourth-quarter earnings. The broadcasting division has set a 1 percent workforce reduction.
(Update: By way of comments, Minnesota Monitor has Douglas' farewell memo)
Update 4/7 10:32 a.m. - See follow-up discussion post.(50 Comments)
Truth be told, Loren Lindstrom's song -- the Mosquito Song -- isn't that good, except that the story of how it came to be is one of those tales that'll never make a big-city newscast, but which is a gentle reminder of the everyday decency of common folk.
According to the Detroit Lakes Tribune, Lindstrom was a lifelong inventor. "He was especially known for inventing a huge rolling pin that had the ability to spread out five lefse at one time, a conveyor belt that automatically brushes the excess flour off the lefse, and a small device that divides dough into 40 pieces at one time in one smooth operation. He also invented a huge mixing machine for stirring the lefse dough."
He and his wife ran a lefse plant in Washington state for 10 years before they retired to Arizona. She died a few years ago and his health began to deteriorate not long after. His family brought him north, and eventually to the Sunnyside Care Center.
He talked a lot about home but over time the staff learned of his interest in music, and that he'd written the words to a song. "Let someone else put a melody to my words," he said.
His Hospice care team took care of it. Social workers, nurses, chaplains and volunteers wrote the music and performed it for him. He liked that, so they found a volunteer in town to record it and put it on a CD for him.
But he died a week ago Friday, just a few hours before it was done. He had a final wish: that the song be played on the local radio station. And on Wednesday, it was -- a testament to the people who cared about an old man, and a radio station that understood why that's still news.