The CEO of Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc. thought “I knew I couldn’t compete,” as described in a front page article in the Wall Street Journal (“U. S. Furniture Survivor Tries to go Global,” Friday, March 6, 2015). Products from
were cheaper and of better quality than those made by his company. Immediately
he went to his Congressman desperately seeking help. Republican Steve Gunderson, his representative
from western Wisconsin,
said, “You need to prepare to compete.” Further, he told Ron Wanek, also founder
in 1970 of the privately-held family firm, not to expect any government help.
Ashley, then with thirty-five employees, was and still is located in Arcadia, Wisconsin, with
a population of 3,000; 45 years later, it is now the largest manufacturer and
retailer of furniture in the U.
S. with nearly $4 billion in revenues.
“In Selma, Struggle and Hope” (page A3 of the same paper) the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the violent civil-rights clash that helped usher in the 1965 Voting Rights Act” is lauded. With a population just over 20,000,
Selma is one of the poorest cities
and 80% black. Its black state senator, Hank Sanders is quoted as saying, “ Selma has been left out
of the very progress that it helped create.” President Obama will go to Selma to celebrate its
past (and doubtless, ignore its bleak future). The Journal article features
Jerria Martin, Selma resident and civic leader,
who is executive director of Selma’s
21st Century Youth Leadership. According to its website, “The mission of the 21st
Century Youth Leadership Movement is to inspire, assist, organize, and develop
young people of all ages to be skilled community focused leaders, resiliently
and creatively empowering themselves and their communities.”
Among other goals it is focused on training young people to create a community
garden; beautiful perhaps but nothing to help the financial future of Selma’s youth. Ms. Martin
earned a master’s degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and wanted to use
the skills she learned there for “transformative change.” State Senator Hank Sanders,
a Democrat, received degrees from Talladega College and .
Wikipedia writes: “Hank has helped found
or build many [non-profit, at least partially government-funded] organizations.”
His wife, Faya Rose Toure, also a lawyer and an activist, wants the anniversary
to reconnect youth with the past civil rights struggle, and the “long hand of
slavery and segregation that is still affecting consciousness today.” Harvard Law School
And there you have it. On one hand, free enterprise thrives in a tiny Wisconsin town; Ashley employs 13,000 private sector workers in the
United States. On the other hand is
upwards of 50 years of public sector “assistance” and White House encouragement
in a poverty-stricken, majority-black, Alabama
city. For his part, the President of the United States has encouraged more
community activism and government dependency instead of growth in the private
sector. President Obama, through his takeover of the student-lending process,
has enabled college students (both graduates and dropouts) to borrow over one
trillion dollars from the U.
S. taxpayer (funneled by the U. S.
Department of Education). If these debtors, around 50,000 Americans, go to work
in non-profit organizations or government entities, their loans can be forgiven
in ten years. If they go to work for for-profit companies it will take twice as
long for the government to forgive the loans. Since they can restrict their
payments to ten percent of their wages, it pays them to work in low-pay
These two articles present a sad commentary of the stark contrast of the two municipalities. Are there lessons to be learned? Does government “help” encourage more Selmas and the maintenance of poverty I wonder? Then I wonder, is this kind of government for the benefit of the
United States of America? Or for the Democratic Party? Further, what if
Selma had been
told it couldn’t compete, and that there was no government assistance
available? Would the leaders have stepped
up and started for-profit companies and thrived? The CEO of Ashley was told
he’d get no assistance. He had a free choice. Perhaps give up, sell out or
think of how to compete. No doubt luck had something to do with the difference.
Mr. Wanek “has long been inspired by the hardy stock of rural Minnesota
But are the workers in Selma
not hardy stock? Do they work less hard? Wanek was a leader, being president of
the graduating class of 36 in his hick town high school, but “didn’t stand
out.” Clearly there are leaders in Selma,
but perhaps the Democrats in power don’t trust the private sector enough to
steer these leaders toward the
profit-seeking, prosperity-building private sector.
There are vital lessons to be learned in analyzing the two entities, if anyone cares. But, then, there must be action if such lessons learned are to be fruitful.