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Dow changes but Sen. Randolph rings true

September 12, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
History was made on Sept. 10.

It was announced that, effective Sept. 23, Alcoa was dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, along with Bank of America and Hewlett Packard. Joining the Dow 30 were Nike, Goldman Sachs and Visa.

Nike? Visa?

Nike manufactures shoes that drive up the price of all sports shoes, though its production is offshore and the company is quiet about its production contracts. Goldman Sachs? Too big to fail, Goldman Sachs? ‘nuff said. And Visa? Charging our way to being a great nation isn’t working for the government or individuals.

With the dooting of Alcoa, Pittsburgh has no companies on the Dow Jones average for the first time in about 100 years. There was a time when the average included US Steel, National Steel and Westinghouse, all powerhouse companies headquartered in Pittsburgh, according to reporting from the PIttsburgh Business Times.

I don’t hold a grudge against Dow. Times change.

The average has to reflect a true average of what the market is doing. Giants such as Apple and Google aren’t on the average, either, though for quite opposite reasons than Alcoa.

The former Aluminum Co. of America (which is headquartered in New York now, not really in PIttsburgh) is small compared to what it was 50 years ago when it was tapped to be among the 30 members of the Dow. Google and Apple, with their stratospheric valuations, would have skewed the average upward unrealistically.

Still, the good, old Amurrican in me, who is the product of a steelworker father, marvels at the change, especially when considering that the average now includes such stalwarts as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola and Disney in its industrial average.

All I could think about when I read the Alcoa story was an interview I conducted while still a college lad toiling in the newsroom at WEIR. Sen. Jennings Randolph was visiting Steubie U, and partly as a student, and partly to show off to classmates that I get paid to interview senators while I was a big-time radio guy, I got some one-on-one time with the West Virginia Democrat.

The experienced man, both at life (he was probably about 80 years old then) and the Senate (he was elected to the higher chamber in 1958 and had 14 years in the House, too), I figured would have something important to say about just about anything I wanted to ask.

Steel was just past the beginning of its long slide toward oblivion as an American stalwart, and the talk among us youngsters was about how service jobs would eventually replace heavy industry in our lifetimes.

“Son,” the Senator said to me when I asked his thoughts on the process, “you cannot build a nation by selling each other insurance policies and flipping burgers.”

I still think he’s right. Without some durable goods as the foundation, we are lessened. And nobody has figured out how to build a skyscraper out of bits, bytes and data, either.


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