The State of The Economic Recovery From Ground Level

Updated on June 7, 2021 in General Stuff
17 on April 30, 2021

After a career of turmoil, I finally settled into a job in my ZIP code about 5 years ago. Our little factory makes belting for conveyors, mostly for the food industry (Tyson, etc.). I’m an engineer (well technically an “Application Specialist” working in engineering due to my lack of an engineering degree. But that’s a rant for another day) working in a customer facing role dealing with product development and customer service.

Anyways, a massive part of our business is in steel, both stainless and carbon depending on application. One of the major steel mills in this country, ATI, has now gone on a Caterpillar-like strike that nobody knows when it will end. These guys supply pretty much the entire industry with some products. So we have been engaged in trying to find substitutes for a couple weeks now since lack of materials could force us to shut down if we can’t find any. We’ve located a place in India (buy America only goes so far when your back’s against the wall) that we think can get us what we need (in the end there are no hard promises anymore) by maybe June or July. To fill current demand we’re scouring any distributor that has anything that’s been on the docks and technically unclaimed (even if it’s intended for a competitor) and finding suitable substitutions if we can.

One of those substitutions is known as T301. Outside of some minor welding issues, it’s a good substitute for 200 series stainless in that it doesn’t precipitate in heat leaving black specks on customers food products (yuck!).

So we found about 70,000 lbs. of that that we’re intending to cover our 200 needs.

Yesterday a customer presented us with an order requiring 50,000 lbs. of T304, which we’re also out of and which 301 will also cover.

Needless to say, I’m glad that I was knocked off my first hill management track career a decade ago.

Another issue I’ve got is that about 2 weeks ago I was driving over to Costco at lunch and stopped my truck at an intersection to let a semi pass. The young lady behind me didn’t and got up under my rear bumper tearing the rear quarter aluminum. No real biggie, her insurance is covering it.

So I dropped it off at the local collision shop on Monday and picked up the rental. They shipped it to the local branch that can handle aluminum repair. Got notification Tuesday that their completion date is estimated for MAY 21. Apparently because, along with all the newsworthy shortages of chips affecting Ford, apparently the supply chain for everything is completely bumfuzzled and it’ll take that long to get a new quarter panel.

In addition, even though I asked for a truck as my rental, I had to settle for a crappy Kia SUV with the biggest interior area among the choices available. I’m on the waiting list but for the time being I’ll have to haul my grass clippings to the dump in the rental SUV.

Kind of goes along with the inversion last year when trucks became the biggest sellers in the country despite the $50-60K minimum price tags as actual people reject the “greening” of the auto industry.

Now I’m not an economist, just a guy on the street, but good lord, this is going to get rough for a while. Glad I’m old.

 
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0 on April 30, 2021

That’s kind of sort of funny. Except it’s not. But it is. A little.

My personal experience on these lines is this: I’m looking for a semi-decent drill press. This will ultimately be used in production for my motorcycle parts project, so it can’t be just a consumer-grade POS.

In the binder business, finding ring metals has turned into a real headache.

And so it goes.

 

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0 on May 1, 2021

There’s also the dockworker’s strike, and the record number of ships off our port of entry shores, stacked up and waiting for someone to unload them.

 

Just in time delivery works only so long as folks are just in time.

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1 on May 6, 2021

Finally found a drill press. Not exactly the one I wanted, but it’s the one I could get.

on May 7, 2021

Sweet!

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0 on May 12, 2021

So the state of the economy today is that materials are non-existent, gas can’t be found, prices on all kinds of stuff are tripling every week it seems, everybody’s hiring but nobody wants to work, and now according to Redfin (wife’s hobby) the value of our house that’s been rising steadily dropped $10,000 in the last 3 days.

Jimmy Carter 2.0 – The Redemption. 1979 redux. “Last one out of Michigan turn out the lights” (the auto companies are particularly being brutalized with chip and steel). Stagflation combined with labor demand/rising unemployment. A twofer of impossible. And rather than 4 years to make everything suck, Biden’s done it in 3 months.

Holy cow.

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1 on May 12, 2021

You forgot to mention that war has broken out in the Middle East.

on May 12, 2021

How could I forget that? And don’t we have some Olympics in the near future?

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0 on May 12, 2021

Other than my difficulty in obtaining the drill press, my new project is coming along.

EXCEPT…

…for the fact that I’m going to need to add at least one more 3D printer in the next few months. So far, that is looking extremely unlikely, for the same supply chain problems you identified.

I remember when Covid first struck posting something on the SH to the effect of “I’m less worried about people having money than I am whether or not there is anything to buy”.

We’re there.

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0 on May 14, 2021

Today’s entry from the “I Shit You Not” files here in the most fascinating place to live in the world right now:

  1.  Local news piece from yesterday talking about $7 gas in Richmond.
  2. The pipeline company paid $5 million ransom to get the pipeline started again. Yeah, that’ll teach ’em to not try that again.
  3. The Loudoun county (richest county in the country, just over the Blue Ridge) featured a televised parent reading session of the new softcore porn required reading for middle schoolers. Then the school board purportedly voted to extend the program to even younger kids.
  4. My 20 minute drive to work featured no less than 3 hiring events on the radio.
  5. I got in to work and everyone on my side of the building was asking me why I’m still wearing a mask. I had to explain that I don’t intend to get vaccinated so according to the CDC, I still have to wear a mask while they don’t. Fortunately, HR has already been advised by legal counsel that they can’t make me get vaccinated. Haven’t been out to the floor yet, but should be an interesting day at the office.
  6. Some medical folks sued in a low court to force aftermarket car parts manufacturers to stop tampering with emissions systems and follow EPA regulations. It’s quite complicated and may not survive on appeal, but a year and a half ago we told you to go pound sand on your gun restrictions. Now you’re going to cancel redneck’s NASCAR. Dude, you really ought to stop while you’re ahead.
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0 on May 14, 2021

Regarding the pipeline stuff, I’m astonished at the brazenness of the Biden admin response. Their posture was largely “this is a private business and a private matter”.

Unbelievable.

I say the attack was an act of war. Were the “bad guys” a state actor? Maybe. Maybe not. It makes no difference. What took place was, in substance, no different than if the pipeline had been bombed.

And the US Federal response to the pipeline is to shrug tell Colonial “sorry, my Dude, that’s a you problem”.

Snowden etal have done great work exposing the vast US cyber spying apparatus. We’ve spent countless billions supposedly building the most sophisticated cyber capabilities in the world.

So where is it? Where is this vast capability we’ve built? Why can’t the NSA (and all the other letter agencies) identify the precise location of the bad guys and send a cruise missile up their ass? Why didn’t they stop this proactively? Why weren’t they able to pull the required encryption keys out of their servers and provide them to Colonial?

Instead, Federal cyber officials are busy combing through data hacked from Gab looking for “white supremacist” Americans to put in jail.

I’m reminded of a quote from Trump: “They’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you. I’m just in the way.”

Hyperbole? Perhaps. But the manifest refusal of the Biden administration to protect Colonial from “all enemies, foreign and domestic” gives one pause.

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0 on May 17, 2021

Should be a fascinating day today. Following last week’s end-of-week complete pants shitting by the CDC and the Biden Administration, masking requirements in this state ended abruptly Friday at midnight. People walking into the Costco over the weekend looked somewhat dazed because there are no obvious announcements that masks aren’t required but they just let you walk on in and if you’re a masker you look around in the middle of the store and 2/3 of everybody doesn’t have a mask.

Still waiting for guidance from my bosses, but that could get bizarre.

Game, set, match.

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0 on May 28, 2021

Masking here in WA has largely broken down via observable political lines. The state U still requires masks for everyone through the end of the year, regardless of the vaccination status of the participants in question (I was told by supervisors that the mask policy was still in effect, even for private lessons where both I and my student are fully vaxxed).  In the organic-y groceries, eg. Trader Joes, everyone is masked; in the hardware store or office depot, nobody is.  And so it goes. The posted policies on masks post-CDC revision have become a reasonably good litmus test of ideological leanings at the top level of any public facing organization. It’s not like we didn’t already know that this thing is fully politicized, but we have now arrived at a point of irrefutable confirmation.

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