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Commercial Printing Outlook : Bootstrap Time for Printers

December 2013 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor
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When the late, great President John F. Kennedy uttered the famous phrase, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," little did he realize how prophetic and timeless his statement would be. More than 50 years later, the U.S. government can't make up its mind whether it intends to help the populace or stay out of the way and let the natural machinations of capitalism grind out a better future.

Americans have become frustrated with Congress' inability to do anything more than portray the opposing party as a hindrance to economic recovery and prosperity. It's evident that senators and house members alike are keenly aware of this reputation. The most recent election reflected this; it was nearly impossible to identify party affiliation during the campaign, as signage, literature and advertising seemed to be missing elephants and donkeys. Candidates didn't want to be seen as being one of "them."

The country isn't likely to do anything for you at the moment, except coerce you into purchasing health care coverage from an ineffectual online system that, at press time, was promised to be fully functioning at the end of November. Observers pointed out that there was no reason the online insurance purchasing interface could not be as streamlined and effective as those of, say, Amazon or eBay…it took more than 10 years of tweaking and honing for those online behemoths getting to where they are today.

What Congress and the Obama Administration seem intent on delivering can be found at your local home improvement center: tape and spackling. Washington's version of the Punt, Pass and Kick competition offers fixes and temporary solutions to an operating government, as opposed to budgets and long-term game plans. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe might as well wait for Godot while he's anticipating postal reform; even bipartisan support for an overhaul can't bring a bill to the mark-up stage.

Economy Continues Drag

In short, the economy is largely on its own. It is still recovering very slowly, and the final numbers for 2013 should see it posting less than 2 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, notes Dr. Ronnie Davis, senior vice president and chief economist at Printing Industries of America (PIA). His office measured $156 billion in printing-related activities for 2012, and it took a strong second half in 2013 for the printing industry to reach that same level.

 

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