Why Bringing Back the Draft is Good

November 7, 2009

Before you start jumping down my throat, hear me out. And I write this knowing full well that if the draft were, in fact, to come back, I myself as still of drafting age. And yes, I am operating under the assumption that women would be included. I have difficulty seeing a draft without women, but that is not the focus of this post.

I only ask that you keep an open mind, and hear me out.

The jobs report came out this past Friday, showing unemployment has risen to 10.2% and that the “broader measure” stands at 17.5%. That is an astounding number. That is an awful lot of idle talent, talent that may be put to effective and productive use if the draft is brought back. And here is why I think that:

  • Drafting Americans will increase troops which eliminates the issue of having more troops to send aboard.
  • Drafting Americans increases the size of the armed forces, which means that more weapons, vehicles, armor and other products are necessary.
  • Making more military products requires transform factories.
  • Transforming factories puts them back on line.
  • Putting factories back on line puts people back to work.
  • Putting people back to work makes more effective and productive use of idle talent.

Innovation is a topic that comes up time and again in this country. Innovation leads to job creation. Innovation leads to technological advancement. Innovation leads to continuous prosperity. Well, how can people be expected to innovate while unemployed? The question is tricky. Having been there, it is not easy to answer. Bring back the draft, and subsequently turning idle, abandoned factories into productive ones, who knows what innovation may occur?

Taking people off the streets and putting them into the armed forces will do the obvious: dramatically increase troop levels. But it has the potential to do more than that. Who knows what bright, idle minds can accomplish when given a set of tasks to complete? Tasks that aren’t sitting in front of a computer screen mindlessly looking for jobs, or standing in line at a career fair or the unemployment line that produces nothing. I can tell you from experience it is quite demoralizing. Endlessly applying for jobs, getting one or two interviews only to be turned down takes an incredible toll on the pysche. It makes it that much harder to repeat the process knowing that it has a high probability of being in vain.

Being put to work, though, whether as a member of the armed forces or as part of a factory team, creates purpose. It creates a goal, something that can and will be achieved. Be it meeting a quota of automatic rifle parts or coordinating the logistics of a raid, the result is tangible.

I know it may be a temporary, and highly unpopular, solution. But given the state of the economy, given the general depressed mood of the country, there are good gains to be made by bringing back the draft. And there is nothing that says if drafted you are automatically put on the front lines. The Washington brain trust wants to get the best out of its bright minds, and putting everyone on the front lines will not accomplish that goal. Strategists are needed. Translators. Support staff. You get the idea.

Mandatory service helped us out of one Depression. It is possible it can help us out of this Recession. And who knows, we may end up creating a wealth of innovation that will last for the next generation. There was great prosperity after World War II. And this time, we’re already in a war so there isn’t question of involvement. It’s a question of resolution, which now can include innovation and growth.

All options must be put on the table. Like the reset, there are good reasons to bring back the draft, and there are bad reasons too. All I ask is that you think about it in a big picture context.

After Thought: Bringing back the draft will also relieve the many service members who have served more than one deployment and, as the shooting at Fort Hood, numerous counts of suicide and homicide committed by veterans demonstrate, need a long break. And that break can be given without detracting from the goals that have been set out in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

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“Wasteful” Conferences v. Political “Stumping”

April 5, 2009

This is at the suggestion of @nancymyrland after we exchanged a few tweets on conferences and how you can’t replace face-to-face meetings at things like ABA Tech and LMA. I commented on how Obama called conferences “wasteful” when it was made public that financial institutions that had received bail out funds were sponsoring the American Securitization Conference (ASF) being held in Las Vegas.

I posted a Note in Facebook about it. Here is what I said:

There has been much negative chatter about the American Securitization Conference (ASF) being held in Las Vegas. Wells Fargo and Fannie Mae are among the conference sponsors, and since they accepted government funds, there is the perception that the money was used to sponsor the conference. There is also the perception that attending such conference is a waste of money, tax payer money if attendees are financial institutions receiving bailout money.

That perception is wrong.

Planning for a conference starts the day after it ends. So when the ASF conference ended last year, planning started immediately for this year. Part of that planning is finding sponsors. No doubt many of the sponsors from last year sponsored this year, but there are also new comers who have something to offer. Sponsoring some part of a conference is a good way to get noticed.

These sponsorships are secured well in advance of the actual conference. Money is already committed. Money that is not related to bailout money. Saying the money is bailout money shows shortsightedness and a complete lack of understanding of the conference market. It also will make business think twice about attending a conference. Why? Perception.

Just as the perception of automakers filing for bankruptcy made people even more fearful of buying cars, and those who already own them fearful that warranties will be useless, so to does the perception of conferences as “wasteful” make businesses fearful of attending them. No one wants to be perceived as wasteful in this economy.

However, if businesses do not attend conferences, then all the businesses that make conferences work will take a hit. They will be forced to lay off employees, cut benefits or close up all together. Hotels, conference centers, caterers, linen rental, companies that make promotional items like pens, bags, shirts, etc. The start-ups and small businesses that have the opportunity to generate business from conferences. All these businesses, and many others, will take a hit. The cities that host conferences will take a hit as revenue from conferences is now non-existent.

President Obama opted to spread panic and loss of confidence to the conference sector, and the ripple effect will add to the economic problems this country is trying to rectify.

After attending ABA Tech, I still agree with my original statement that the perception of conferences as “wasteful” is wrong, and I find it interesting that no one calls Obama’s “stumping” “wasteful.” He hit the campaign trail, touting his big stimulus bill, garnering support. No one called that “wasteful.” But if you stop to think for a second, it was quite wasteful. Why? Because it didn’t create any jobs and did little to help the economy. He came in, made a big speech, and left. The place was the same as when he left, perhaps worse once the thrill of having the President speak subsided.

For conferences, it is just the opposite. Yes, conferences come and go, but the effects are felt long after the conference has passed. Small businesses and start-ups use conferences as a way to generate quality leads. Quality leads that turn into new customers. New customers means additional revenue and additional work. Additional revenue means the ability to hire more people to help tackle the new work.

Quality leads. New customers. Additional Revenue. Additional work. New hires. Those sound like actionable steps towards change we can believe in, and those actionable steps take place at “wasteful” conferences.

What actionable steps towards change we can believe in occurs when Obama goes “stumping” for the economic stimulus, or to stay “in touch” with the general public?


Digression – Advice for Surviving A Lay Off

February 7, 2009

With some friends and former co-workers recently laid off, and another 589,000 jobs reported lost for January 2009, I wanted to pause and offer up the same support and advice I have given them, and that has helped me through the past 9 months…going on 10:

  • Take some time to decompress. Give yourself a week or two and just decompress. Spend more time with family, go for long walks, do the fun things you have been putting off, space out in front of the TV, anything not related to work or finding another job. Whether or not you saw the lay off coming, it is still a shock to the system, and your system needs time to adjust.
  • Organize your finances, if you haven’t already.
  • Apply for unemployment, even if you don’t want to or think you won’t qualify.
  • Network. Get involved in community activities, groups, associations, something that will put you in the company of like-minded people. Join social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Facebook offers escapes in various games, groups and other mindless fun while also connecting with people. LinkedIn is a helpful professional network, people post advice, suggestions, questions, etc. And Twitter has spawned something called TweetUps, or gatherings of other Twitter users in places like New York, Chicago, Boise…all over. If gives you some common ground, and you feel like you know the people already from following their Tweets.
  • Lean on family and close friends. They may not completely understand what you are going through, but they provide a support system and another network. And sometimes, they surprise you.
  • Talk it out. Be it to a really good friend, a family member, a therapist, mentor…someone you trust. Being laid off is a huge blow, and you’ll go through a grieving process. You’ll be shocked, in denial, sad and really pissed off. Talking it out with someone will smooth the process a little, and make it easier to answer questions about your situation, and stay professional, during an interview.
  • Ponder your previous job(s), what you liked and didn’t like about them, what you liked or didn’t like the company(ies) and slowly start to think what you want your next job to be. You may want to do the same thing, you may want to try something different. Think about it.
  • When you do start job hunting again, be sure to take a break. Take a couple days off from job hunting and do something completely unrelated. It will lessen the feelings of burn out, inadequacy and frustration. Job hunting is no easy task, and takes a its own toll.
  • Be patient. With the job hunt. With other people, friends, neighbors, family. With yourself.
  • Talk it out. I can’t stress this enough. Or if you’re not much of a talker, or don’t feel comfortable opening up to anyone, start a journal. Start a blog. Some how, get it all out.
  • Exercise. Go for a walk, go to the gym, WiiFit, something that gets your heart rate up and your blood pumping. It helps.

The world isn’t coming to an end, though it may seem like it. There will be some dark days, days you don’t want to get out of bed, days you want to left alone. It is OK. It won’t always feel that way. It took me about four months to feel like I could function “normally” again. Some of my classmates noticed a different when the fall semester started, a more positive difference than what they noticed during summer semester.

Things do get better. Remember: Decompress. Be Patient. Talk/Write/Get it Out.