This week’s article is different than most. I am going to focus on what’s going on in the economy and what astrology has to say about it. Also, since we are in the midst of the Venus retrograde, which in part does rule money and finances, we indeed are in a period where it is important to try to understand the true nature of things and by implication, where things might be going. We are in the midst of another important transit that can easily be overlooked. I am referring to the opposition between Jupiter and Saturn. To put this into perspective, this is a very important 20 year cycle that has a lot to do with the general shifts in one’s personal as well as the national economy. That cycle began at the conjunction in May of 2000, which means we are now at the mid-point of that same cycle. A conjunction is like a New Moon in that it sparks the beginning of a new phase of developments that is often fundamentally different from the previous one. The opposition, which is where we are now, is like a Full Moon in that it brings to full fruition the ‘essence’ or ‘seed’ of what was born at the conjunction. In other words it takes some time for the new impulse to begin to manifest as the nature of the previous cycle slowly gives way so that something new can be born. The Jupiter/Saturn conjunction occurred in the sign of Taurus, which is a fixed earth sign. In economics terms it asks us to pay as we go, to focus on what is of ‘real’ value, not just created value and to create a foundation that we can really trust. If this is not done, then sooner or later, there will be severe consequences. If we examine the first 8 years of this cycle (2000-2008) we see that the exact opposite of Taurus was occurring. Debt was rising, values had become distorted and very few people were yelling at us to stop the coming train wreck. For example, no longer were people buying homes to live in. They were buying investments to be turned over. No longer were people motivated to pay down their debt, but were instead financing major remodels thereby increasing their debt. And all of this was due to the popular belief that the price of real estate was going to rise forever or at least for a very long time. Now, when in the history of mankind did everything go up forever? Answer: NEVER. Yet, this was overlooked and the result was that this new ‘Taurus” demand for focusing on REAL value was ignored and we have been just waiting for the crash that MUST inevitably come. It came in 2008 and is still with us today.
In our society, so much is politicized that at times we, as a people, may not be able to see straight. Economics is one of those areas of life. So to take a look that is as objective as possible, I often turn to Fareed Zakaria. He makes an effort to bring on guests that he feels are smart and very well-informed; he asks great questions and follows up in ways that truly clarify the matters being discussed. If a guest can’t handle that, they don’t come on his show. This Sunday he had a special show called “Restoring the American Dream.” His guests were CEO’s of Alcoa, Google, Coca-Cola and an Executive who had been CEO of both IBM and American Express. By the way, did you know that Coca-Cola is manufacturing its drinks in 260 countries? That’s more than the number of countries in the United Nations. To some of my readers this may seem like a group of men (and yes they were all men) who are biased. Yes, they are. But none of them could get anywhere if they were not grounded in reality and all of them are quite familiar with how the global economy is affecting this country, so they are worth hearing out. For example how will we deal with unemployment when most experts believe that due to tremendous improvements in technologies, when the economy does improve, that 30-40% of the old jobs will not come back? Those jobs will NEVER come back. A huge transition is happening in the world and we are only now beginning to become aware of its nature.
I will summarize as succinctly as I can what their main points were:
About the role of government – since the early 1950’s, government financing of research and development of new technologies (primarily but not exclusively through the Dept. of Defense) totally fueled the growth of our economy. Recently, China publicized its achievement of having developed the fastest computer in the world which was funded by its government. For the past few decades, the U.S. government has been spending less and less on R&D, especially on new technologies as well as ‘green’ technologies, which has resulted in the fact that now the U.S. is ranked #6 in the world. China is #1 in the development of new ‘green’ technologies. Most of us believed that certainly the U.S. would want to be the leader in this newly emerging field. This does not bode well for our economy since more and more future jobs will be in this field. To the executives on this show, we need to become #1 again, especially since we no longer have an economy based on manufacturing.
Education – Believe it or not, 40% of the doctorates (PhD’s) awarded last year were given to foreign-born students, the majority of whom were forced by our immigration laws to leave the country after receiving their degree. That’s a lot of brain drain leaving a country that is quickly losing ground to the rest of the world. The percentage of PhD’s that are given to foreign-born students is a severe condemnation of our present school system, but at least they had to come here to get advanced degrees. Why not encourage them to remain here? By the way, the U.S. ranks #52 in the world in the quality of science and math education, slightly behind Viet Nam.
Training and Retraining employees – Many countries work hard to retrain employees as they realize that their national economic security and interest depends on this. In Germany, for example, unemployment has been DROPPING the last several years while ours has been steadily increasing. Most feel that this is due to their strong emphasis on retraining workers as they regard this as an investment rather than as just an expense.
How we regard teachers – for a long time now, teachers and teacher unions have been the whipping boys and girls of politicians, but that’s not how the executives see it. If you look historically at teachers, it has never been regarded as a profession. During and after World War II, teachers were women who wanted to make a little ‘extra income.’ Fortunately many of them were very good. But since then, teaching has not been given nearly as important status as it needs to be. If it were regarded seriously as a profession two things would have to occur. Salaries would have to rise significantly and the quality of teachers would also have to rise with that. At this point, how will this be paid for?
The group of CEO’s made four general recommendations:
- All were concerned about the high degree of divisiveness in our political discourse. It has gotten so bad that we cannot agree on anything which, of course, prevents us from doing anything. Finding a way to come together as a nation on a commitment to national goals was the first recommendation they made. This includes politicians ceasing to have a mentality of ‘my district first.’
- Find ways to encourage startup businesses knowing that many will fail, but that some will not and may then become real forces in the creation of a new economy.
- Revive manufacturing to some degree, even if it does not reach levels it used to be in the past.
- Changing the nature of our economy – for the past 30 years we have bought into the idea that we could have a sustainable economy based solely on consumption. This means borrowing money is seen as a way to fuel the economy. But it cannot be sustained forever. The economy must change to the focusing on creating either things or new ideas and information. Fareed recommended we create a value added tax (a national sales tax) for the sole purpose of funding new innovation, just like we did in the 1950’s and for decades after that.
All of this is actually what the Jupiter opposition to Saturn is encouraging us to look at. Here are some ideas that Fareed suggested we might do as individuals:
1. Do something unique (remember that we are in a Jupiter conjunction with Uranus ruling uniqueness?). Find a field you enjoy and become an expert in it. Bring back artisanship, craftsmanship and focus on customizing rather than on just making commodities. China can make commodities, but no one country can compete with people who create unique or customized things.
2. Go local – do something within your community that cannot be outsourced.
3. Make yourself indispensable by becoming an expert. Such things are learning a new craft that is difficult (like astrology?); or learn a new language since the global economy is here to stay, etc.
These are just some of the things we can do, but all of them and many more depend on one thing. We must recognize the fact that things have changed forever. The old economy has died. It is not dying, it is dead. For many of my readers who are already in varying degrees alternative, some of this is not new. Many of you have been doing this for some time and will continue to do so. Because Jupiter and Uranus have begun a new cycle, what I’ve written here is likely to be the wave of the future. Innovation will be accelerating in importance and hopefully many of us will be either on board with it or founders of something that is unique.
As always, I look forward to your responses, but especially to this article. Tell us what you are doing to yourself to make these things happen in your life. If the difficult times we are clearly in result in a resurgence of innovation and creativity, we can use these harder times and put them to good use.