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Steve McIntosh Report Blog

Posts from August 2013


Should the U.S. attack Syria?
There is no argument here: the video of the victims is disturbing and infuriating. Rows of dead children, allegedly victims of chemical weapons in the hands of their own government.
What is the appropriate response?
One time America went to war in the Middle East over the unproven allegation that a nation possessed chemical weapons … or W-M-Ds … weapons of mass destruction. In Syria, there is much better evidence.
If the U-S strikes, it will be punitive … making the Syrian government pay for its transgressions. Will it prevent them from doing the same thing again?
Americans are weary of war after ten years in Afghanistan and Iraq. The loss in blood and treasure has drained our will to jump into another situation in the Middle East.
We’re not getting support from our allies, and vetoes will sink us in the United Nations.
We have the capability to bomb the heck out of Syria … but to what end?
 
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Our thought for today is from Charles Caleb Colton:
 
“Deliberate with caution, but act with decision; and yield with graciousness, or oppose with firmness.”
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Topics: PoliticsWar_Conflict
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Locations: Middle East
People: Charles Caleb Colton




 
Happy birthday, mom
Today is my mother’s 92nd birthday. She was born and raised 18 miles west of Larned, in western Kansas. My grandfather was a man who could build and/or repair just about anything. He always stayed busy, but never made much money. Mom was a child of the Dust Bowl and the Depression.
She met my dad while they were working at Beechcraft at the beginning of the war. The marriage lasted well over 50 years, until dad’s death.
Mom raised four boys … often alone because my dad’s work took him on the road.
Our clothes were always clean and the meals were regular. We were always on time for school and sports … thanks to mom.
There’s been plenty of sadness and tough times in mom’s life; my father and two brothers are gone now. But we also had many happy times in our home.
It was nice to have a mother who was always there, taking care of business in a house full of men.
Happy birthday, mom.
                     
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Our thought for today is from Mark Twain:
 
“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”
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Topics: Human Interest
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Locations: KansasLarnedWestern Kansas




 
Pay kids for grades?
I made straight A’s in school until the fifth grade, and my parents never said much about it. I continued to make good grades through school, but I wonder what I might have done if I’d had a little parental praise … some sort of pay off?
Flash ahead a few years to fatherhood. My wife and I devoted a great deal of attention to our children’s grades, encouraging them and declaring that both would be graduating from college someday. We sweetened the pot with cash for results.
Both children made excellent grades … both graduated with degrees. Was it because of the money? I believe the answer is “yes”, at least partially, though simple parental attention was the primary motivator. The cash demonstrated that we were serious.
There is a danger in rewarding grades. Kids may get a distorted view of the workplace … that excellence is rewarded consistently. It is not.
The greater lessen is instilling a compassion for learning and excellence. I think our kids got that … along with the cash.
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Our thought for today is from John Ruskin:
 
“The highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.” 
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Topics: Education
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People: John Ruskin




 
The worst scenery in America
Business Insider surveyed more than 1,600 people … asking their opinions about states other than their own, in several categories. New York was voted “rudest”, Mississippi “dumbest”.
“Worst Scenery” went to Kansas. To an extent, I have to agree. The Flint Hills resemble hills we can see all over the West, with Wyoming sticking in my memory.
Southeast Kansas comes close to the Ozarks … without the hills. Our lakes are unimpressive and we have no mountains.
My favorite area is Highway 54 between Wichita and Pratt … with lots of trees, some small hills, and a number of bridges over the Ninnescah River. But it’s the kind of scenery you can see in most any state.
The enormous expanses of flat, nearly-treeless prairie that dominate the western half of Kansas can be downright depressing, if you have to drive through them.
So, I guess I might agree with the survey … but I haven’t seen all the other states.
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Our thought for today is from unknown:
 
“The really happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery when on a detour.”
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Locations: KansasMississippiNew YorkSoutheast KansasWyoming




 
Back to school
There are about 60,000 students starting the new school year in Wichita alone. With more than 50,000 students, Wichita’s 259 is one of the largest school districts on the plains. Add in the Catholic schools, the independents, and the suburban schools and we have about one in four residents in the area going to class in K through 12.
I haven’t even mentioned those attending the several universities in the Wichita area.
The beginning of the school year is an exciting time for many of us. As a grandparent, I’m looking forward to another year of educational growth, along with all the extracurricular fun my grandkids will enjoy. I think it’s good to remember that school is not only meant to prepare young ones for the working world. There are also a great many social skills to be learned, and art and athletics and clubs to be enjoyed.
Education is not just “the 3 R’s”. We expect our schools to develop terrific citizens.
Some look at education only as a huge expense. But I think it’s also a crucial investment.
 
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Our thought for today is from Og Mandino:
 
“Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.”
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Studying religion in public schools
Wichita’s Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet School teaches students about the five major religions of the world … including geography, major symbols and figures, and the religions’ places in world history. That’s why Minneha had a bulletin board depiction of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Somebody put a photo on the internet, saying the school had “banned all forms of Christian prayer”. School district spokeswoman Susan Arensman says that it not true … that “students and staff have the right to engage in private prayer or religious activities as long as it’s not disruptive”.
The bulletin board was “disruptive” and it was taken down, at least for the time being.
The district emphasizes that teaching about religion doesn’t mean attempting to convert students. The district believes that knowledge is a good thing.
The Minneha bulletin board illustrates American education at its best … sharing useful information with students. I have serious doubts that most Muslim schools allow the study of other religions, including Christianity.
That’s a good point to consider.
 
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Our thought for today is from Frank Herbert:
 
“The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.”
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The College Hill shuffle
What a way to begin a school year! A fire heavily damaged College Hill Elementary in east Wichita … just days before the beginning of classes. What to do with more than 400 students and 50 faculty members?
The district had a vacant school on the near west side. So they sent in workers to bring Bryant Elementary up to snuff in record time. This week the College Hill students and teachers began the year at Bryant.
I know this is a huge inconvenience for parents, students, and teachers. I attended five elementary schools … a couple, six or seven blocks from home. Junior high was a four-mile drive and high school seven miles from home. So, I know what it means to commute to class. Carpooling was essential because my friends and I were involved in sports.
This is going to be a challenge for those College Hill people; organizing rides and getting up a little earlier to make the cross-town trek. But they’ll survive … and may wind up having a great school year!
                     
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Our thought for today is from Noela Evans:
 
“Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth. Tame the dragon and the gift is yours.”
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Topics: Education
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Americans' thoughts on economic recovery
The Pew Research Center recently surveyed nearly 15-hundred Americans … four years after the official end of the recession. 44% say it will be a long time before the nation’s economy recovers. 28% say the economy is recovering and 26% say it will recover soon. Those numbers haven’t changed much since March.
In the July poll 17% said economic conditions are excellent or good, while 82% rated them as only fair or poor. That 17% compares with 23% in June rating the economy excellent or good … the most positive measure in more than five years.
If a “good” economy … or a “good” recovery equate with creating well-paid, full-time jobs, then the Pew research is not surprising. Big companies are reportedly sitting on mountains of cash, but they see no reason to spend that money on hiring people.
It seems to me there is still a lot of uncertainty in the business world when it comes to health care and a dysfunctional federal government. That skepticism has an impact on the overall economy.
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Our thought for today is from Voltaire:
 
“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” 
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People: Voltaire




 
The federal budget deficit is not growing
I still believe the federal budget should be balanced and entitlements need to be adjusted to deal with our massive debt, but let’s be accurate on the budget deficit.
It is NOT growing … according to figures from the Congressional Budget Office.
The government reported a $97.6 billion deficit for July but remains on track to post its lowest annual budget gap in five years. The deficit is more than 37% below last year at this time … and is on track for a deficit $670 billion for the year, compared with just over a trillion dollars last year.
In addition, the 2013 deficit will be 4% of the Gross Domestic Product … dropping from a peak of 10.1% of G-D-P in 2009 … and projected at 3.4% in 2014.
Steady economic growth, higher taxes, lower government spending, and increased dividends from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have helped shrink the deficit.
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Our thought for today is from Mark Twain:
 
“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”
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Wichita's city budget
Last week the Wichita City Council passed a budget for the coming year. It’s a $543 million spending plan that focuses on core city services like police, fire, and other public safety programs. Issues to be resolved in the future include arts funding, tipping fees at landfills, and possible updates to Watson Park.
There’s a million dollars in the budget as part of a plan with Sedgwick County to invest in the Wichita/Valley Center Flood Control and maintain its certification. I’ll bet most folks agree that any investment in the Big Ditch is money well spent. That channel has proven its worth time and again … most recently with this unusual late-summer rain. The Big Ditch has been running near capacity … along with the two rivers that flow through Wichita.
The city council has also kept the property tax levy flat for the 20th consecutive year.
That means the city, county, and Wichita school district have all held the line on tax increases again this year.
 
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Our thought for today is from James Otis:
 
“Taxation without representation is tyranny.” 
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Locations: Sedgwick County
People: James Otis




 
Wichita school budget
The Wichita Board of Education held a long, important meeting this week … unanimously approving a budget for the 2013-14 school year. It’s a $639 million spending plan … about $11 million more than last year. The district is looking for an increase of about 300 students and 136 full-time positions.
The property tax mill levy will actually drop slightly. This is the fifth straight year the district has not asked for a tax increase, and it’s the lowest property tax for schools in the area.
District officials say 72% of the budget goes for salaries and benefits … 88% directly focused on students and learning.
The board also approved a new contract with the teachers’ union. It includes a 2.4% increase in total value for teachers, with a one-time 1% salary increase overall. Health benefits remain the same. 88% of the district’s 4,000 teachers approved the deal.
Teaching more kids … a union contract agreement … and no tax increase. That was a pretty productive meeting.
 
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Our thought for today is from H. G. Wells:
 
“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”
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Topics: EducationLabor
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Time to buy a new car?
For most of our married life, my wife and I have tried to buy a new car every three to four years. In fact, we haven’t bought a used car in 30 years … if you don’t count our children’s vehicles.
We expect fewer mechanical problems from new cars … though that hasn’t always been the case. Between two hard working people, Shelley and I feel we deserve a nice ride.
She always gets the new car and I drive the older car, which is eventually traded in.
New car sales are up dramatically this summer and we added to the commerce. I’ll continue to drive the older vehicle, covering severe weather and collecting more hail dents. My little S-U-V meets the national average; it’s eleven years old.
Americans are showing some confidence in the economy and gasoline prices have been falling. That should mean continued strong car sales in the weeks ahead.
                     
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Our thought for today is from Doug Larson:
 
“If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day weekend.”
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Can we save the Postal Service?
Two key senators are proposing a plan to fix the Postal Service … which lost $16 billion last year, $11 billion of that in congressionally-mandated payments to its health fund for future retirees.
Democrat Tom Carper of Delaware and Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma have a plan that includes changes in how pensions and retiree health care costs are calculated … and a two-year moratorium on closing mail processing plants. The plan would allow the Postal Service to ship beer, wine, and spirits … and encourage residents and businesses to convert from door-to-door service to curbside and cluster box delivery.
Many Americans now use the internet to do what the mail service does. But my wife and I use so-called “snail mail” to pay bills and communicate notes and cards with loved ones. We wouldn’t mind going to curbside or cluster box service, nor would we miss Saturday delivery. It would present a challenge for people like my mom, who are somewhat immobile. But it’s an obstacle that could be overcome if we truly want to save the Postal Service.
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Our thought for today is from Bertha Calloway:
 
“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” 
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Locations: DelawareOklahoma
People: Bertha CallowayTom CarperTom Coburn




 
No moderation in Kansas rain
Over the years I’ve found less moderation in Kansas weather than in state politics.
People have been hoping and praying for rain in south central Kansas for several years. What do they say? Careful what you pray for?
We’ve had a couple of days when we saw a nice, gentle rain. But we’ve also seen enough wind and hail to trigger severe thunderstorm warnings across the state, including three last week for Sedgwick County. We stayed busy with Operation Stormwatch … around midnight and into the early-morning hours on KNSS.
I can’t remember when I’ve seen as much water in the two rivers and the Big Ditch. I’d grown accustomed to seeing grass and trees growing in the Arkansas River bed near my home.
It has been a truly unusual July and August in Kansas, weather wise. I guess it would be nice to get back to normal. But I’m not sure I know what “normal” Kansas weather is anymore.
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Our thought for today is from Mark Twain:
 
“A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.”
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Topics: Weather
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Locations: Central KansasKansasSedgwick County




 
Huelskamp, Obama, and Kapaun
A recent editorial page offering in the Wichita Eagle quotes U-S Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas as saying of the late Father Emile Kapaun that if he had “served in Afghanistan today rather than Korea six decades ago, President Obama would probably give the Catholic priest discharge papers instead of the Congressional Medal of Honor”.
What an odd thing to say.
Huelskamp may have been referring to the Defense Department policy against “unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert” service members.
There is no record that Father Kapaun tried to convert anyone in Korea. There are records of Jews, Protestants, and atheists who grew to love Father Kapaun for his unselfish care in that awful Korean prison camp.
My son served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and never mentioned anyone trying to convert him. Believe me, Scott would have mentioned it.
I can only conclude that Huelskamp’s referral to Obama and Kapaun was entirely politically motivated. And a bit clumsy, I might add.
 
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Our thought for today is from Friedrich Nietzsche:
 
“A politician divides mankind into two classes: tools and enemies.”
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Want to buy a newspaper?
After four generations of the Graham family’s leadership, the Washington Post is sold to Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeffrey Bezos. The price: $250 million cash.
This is the paper that broke the Watergate story … the paper of charismatic editor and J-F-K buddy Ben Bradlee. When Bradlee was in charge, the Post employed more than 400 reporters. I doubt they have that many now. The Wichita Eagle lists 12 metro reporters.
With the onslaught of the internet and the challenge of cable T-V news channels, newspapers have struggled the past few years. They no longer set the pace for news consumers, nor do they command the lions’ share of advertising dollars.
I still look forward to my coffee and my Saturday and Sunday morning newspaper.
We media people understand quite well that the information business has changed and continues to change rapidly. For several years newspaper owners have wrestled with the question: where do we fit in to this new information age?
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Our thought for today is from Sir Robert Peel:
 
“Public opinion is a compound of folly, weakness, prejudice, wrong feeling, right feeling, obstinacy, and newspaper paragraphs.”
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Jobs: good news and bad news
The good news is the national unemployment rate fell to 7.4%. The bad news is, that’s still too high … and the job part of the economic recovery is taking way too long to suit many Americans.
The good news is the economy created 162,000 new jobs in July. The bad news is, the jobs created were either low-paying or part-time, or both. The Associated Press reports part-time work accounted for 65% of the positions employers added in July. Low-paying retailers, restaurants, and bars supplied more than half of July’s job gain.
Part-time work has made up 77% of the job growth so far this year.
Average hourly pay fell 2 cents in July to $23.98 an hour.
The economy has changed dramatically in recent years. Beyond skilled labor and professional positions, the right kind of education is necessary to fill good jobs. Employers seem to want workers with specialized education to do specialized work.
                     
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Our thought for today is from Eric A Burns:
 
“Greatness is more than potential. It is the execution of that potential. Beyond the raw talent, you need the appropriate training. You need the discipline. You need the inspiration. You need the drive.”
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Topics: Labor
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People: Eric A Burns




 
Wichita's gang problem
The Wichita Police Department’s Top 10 list of known gang members with outstanding felony warrants paid off in a hurry, with 10,000 social media “hits” the first week … and the location of two suspects whose mugs were plastered on every media that would hold still.
I talked with Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett and Police Lt. Scott Heimerman, who said there are about a thousand known gang members in Wichita, and about 4,000 with connections to gangs. They told me these gangs should not be compared to the well-organized crime machines we often see on T-V or in films. Bennett and Heimerman say Wichita gangs are often neighborhood-based and not very sophisticated at all. They’re hoping this new mass media approach will help locate the worst of the gang bangers and bring them to justice.
One really disturbing fact Lt. Heimerman shared with me: a 14-year-old Wichita gang member has been shot … twice!
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Our thought for today is from Phaedrus:
 
“Aggression unchallenged is aggression unleashed.” 
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Topics: Law_Crime
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People: Marc BennettScott Heimerman




 
Lawmakers to tour Kansas campuses
Kansas House and Senate budget committee members plan to visit the six state universities, a community college, and a technical college later this year. Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita thinks it’s a good idea for lawmakers to get an up-close look at these institutions.
The legislature cut $44 million from state aid to universities this year and next. Kansas schools have received less and less of their money from the state for many years. That means tuitions are raised so the schools can balance their budgets. And that makes it more and more difficult for Kansans to get a higher education.
Our state universities must be responsible for every dime they receive. But it looks to me as if more than a few Kansas lawmakers think higher education is populated by big-spending snobs.
Being cheap is not a good way to demonstrate the value of education in the Sunflower State. Some of us think education is a key to economic opportunity and prosperity for any citizen.
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Our thought for today is from Malcolm Forbes:
 
“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.”
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Topics: Education
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Locations: Kansas
People: Malcolm ForbesSusan Wagle




 
Assessing contributions to society
Which professionals contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being?
The Pew Research Center polled Americans on 10 occupational groups. Here are their findings with the percentage of those saying contributing “a lot”.
Number one, military 78% … two, teachers 72% … three, medical doctors 66% … four, scientists 65% … five, engineers 63% … six, clergy 37% … seven, artists 30% … eight, journalists 28% … nine, business executives 24% … and ten, lawyers 18%.
So, the top two professionals that Americans believe contribute the most to society’s well-being … military and teachers … are among the lowest-paid on the list.
We all say we value our military greatly, but how many young people volunteer to serve? And if our military and teachers are so valuable, why don’t we pay them more?
It’s my belief that the amount on the paycheck seldom has much to do with the quality of the work performed. There is no such thing as equality in pay.
I do my best on the job every day, regardless of my compensation.
 
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Our thought for today is from Robert Frost:
 
“The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.”
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People: Robert Frost




 
Judging Thomas Etheredge
There are people around here who can never forgive Thomas Etheredge. They gave him money, they bought passes to his theme park, they believed in him.
Etheredge was paroled from prison after serving three years of a five-year term for misleading people who invested in Wild West World theme park in Park City … which closed down within a few days. Investors said Etheredge never told them he had a criminal past, even though he had written a book about it.
I first saw him on stage with the Prairie Rose Wranglers. He is a gifted entertainer. I also interviewed Etheredge on the radio.
I found him to be truly charismatic, instantly likable … a powerful presence in any room. He was fun to be around.
When I heard he was rounding up investors for a proposed western theme park in Park City, I was wary. I’ve known people like him before. I can draw a pretty sharp line between an interesting acquaintance and a business partner.
Big talk is fun to listen to … but not always to be believed.
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Our thought for today is from Elmer G. Letterman:
 
“Personality can open doors, but only character can keep them open.” 
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Ther Spirit layoffs
For some, it didn’t make sense. Why would a thriving company with a huge backlog of orders … coming off a ten percent quarterly increase in revenue … lay off 360 workers in Wichita and Oklahoma? Spirit AeroSystems says it’s part of an “ongoing, rigorous process to align our workforce with the needs of our customers and programs, and drive improved company performance”.
Sound like corporate gibberish to me.
From personal experience, it appears to me that Spirit wanted to demonstrate that it’s a lean company, just in case somebody wants to buy all or part of Spirit.
Like I said, personal experience.
360 employees doesn’t sound like many, out of nearly 11,000 Spirit workers. But if you’re among the 360 and you have a family to support, the impact is quite personal and sometimes quite devastating. I’m hoping many of those laid-off workers can find jobs at the other aircraft companies in town.
Spirit is Wichita’s largest employer.
 
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Our thought for today is from Harry S. Truman:
 
“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.”
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Topics: Business_FinanceLabor
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Locations: Oklahoma
People: Harry S. Truman




 
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