It's common received knowledge that there was a tech bubble in the late nineties, and then it burst. But what if that wasn't the end of it? What if it was really more like a tech balloon, and it had a pinhole leak? Instead of the pop we thought we heard, perhaps it's was a long slow hissing until we wake up today and realize: Ones and Zeros are not the future; let's make stuff!
"The wheel has turned. What was up is down, and what was down is up," said San Francisco investment executive Frank Husic. "And it's all because an emerging world wants to eat, drive and live in houses — things we take for granted and have for well over a century."
Dan Basse, president of AgResource, a Chicago agricultural-forecasting company, agreed. "The tech industry offered us things to occupy our minds and entertain us. But we're moving back to a world of stuff, whether that's vegetable oil or copper or zinc or cotton. Stuff that you can hold in your hand and drop on your foot."
The twin turns of fortune for the nation's Old and New economies are letting once-struggling behemoths such as U.S. Steel put modern marvels such as Microsoft to shame. The price of U.S. Steel's stock has shot up 1,000 percent in recent years, while Microsoft's has essentially flatlined.
And the changes are lifting much of America's geographic middle at the expense of its coasts. Personal income in the nation's manufacturing, mining and farming states, which are concentrated in the heartland, has been growing at an average annual rate of 6.5 percent in the past five years. The rest of the country has managed only a 5.4 percent pace, according to government statistics assembled by Moody's Economy.com.
Maybe all the people talking into iPhones along both coasts will have to stop calling the middle of America "flyover country" if this keeps up.