For those who believe America is in decline, that our economy is about to crash and our standards of living to plunge, I have just two words: lawn tractors.
And for those who say we Americans have lost our work ethic, I have one: listen. Chances are that when you go home tonight are work every evening, you hear lawn mowers and tractors roaring in your neighborhood. And today, a day of rest, a short stroll is likely to reveal several folks down on their hands and knees, sweating profusely as they attempt to get some plants to grow and others to die.
Now that's a work ethic.
Back to our economy: Each year, Americans spend about $2.5 billion on riding lawn tractors and similar equipment. We shell out another $2.7 billion for non-riding mowers and other lawn and garden equipment, and another $750 million or so for attachments. That's nearly $6 billion a year - more than the gross domestic products of about 40 countries (Haiti's GDP, at about $7.4 billion, is just slightly more than what we in the U.S. spend to cut the grass).
And that's just what we pay every year to buy equipment to maintain our lawns and gardens. It doesn't count plants, seeds, chemicals, etc. Just one firm involved in the business, the Scotts Miracle- Gro Co., reported net sales of $2.8 billion last year (and a gross profit, interestingly enough, of more than $1 billion).
Really smart young people understand the big bucks aren't in computer software. They're in front yards.
A couple of years ago, without thinking, I took a young neighborhood lad up on his offer to mow my lawn. When he'd finished, after about an hour and a half, I asked him how much I owed.
Fifty bucks. Not a bad hourly rate.
One young man of my acquaintance paid for his last two years of college by mowing grass during the summers. That's all he did during June, July and most of August, and he made lots of money.
So, no, we Americans are still doing all right, at least in comparison to billions of people in the world. At least when our Social Security system goes bankrupt, we'll still be able to brag about our Kentucky Bluegrass.
Myer can be reached at: Myer@news-register.net.