I should say I don’t want to scare you, but I actually do.
When I look ahead to this new year, I find some things that should concern us, yet are not setting off alarms.
The pattern starts with General Motors and all those layoffs.
The first reactions, the first stories, concerned numbers. How many jobs in how many factories. Oh, and they were laying off a lot of white-collar employees, too.
Because broadcast news stories immediately swerved toward the shiny object that is our president and his bluster about how he was going to make GM refund all the money it got to avoid bankruptcy unless it immediately restored those factory jobs, another part of the story got lost.
I assumed that those office workers were the support staff that you would no longer need once you laid off the ones that actually did the work, those who put the cars and trucks together.
And while there might have been a few clerks in payroll or human resources who were now dispensable, the real news never got the headlines it deserved.
GM was getting rid of a lot of people who were experts in such things as wringing out the best gas mileage possible from internal combustion engines and other tasks that sound technical and impressive but in actuality would be understandable to Henry Ford or the Dodge brothers because the work was evolutionary, not revolutionary.
This was not a story about labor, it was about the future.
Who needs better gas mileage when cars pretty soon will not run on gas? How soon?
Nobody knows, so GM is betting that day will come sooner rather than later and all of those undergraduate and PhD programs at Michigan State and the University of Michigan that have been feeding chemists and mechanical engineers to the automakers will no longer need to produce those grads.
GM needs experts in artificial intelligence and guidance systems, the people who will enable companies to build those driverless vehicles that will one day soon deliver your groceries.
GM understands where that road to the future is heading and wants the staff to get it there. So does China, in so many ways.
You know who doesn’t? Donald Trump. He’s still talking about how we need to dig up more coal because that’s where we’re going to get our energy.
This isn’t even about pollution, although it starts there.
We pulled out of the Paris Agreement, the worldwide commitment to energy and pollution goals, even though it would not have forced Congress to pass a single piece of legislation.
You know who didn’t pull out? China. Sure the Chinese are still big polluters and they burn a lot of coal.
But they understood that by staying in the agreement, by staying in touch with all the nations in the world, by acting like a leader, they would be treated like one.
I’m not worried that these perspectives are missing. I didn’t think them up on my own, but I was able to find them only because I read a lot and spend as little time as possible watching cable news – a world full of shiny objects and endless repetition much better at distracting than informing.
You know, the place where Donald Trump gets his news.