Looking back at 2016: Beyond the Obvious

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When I look back on 2016, it seems to me that Wyoming people need to face a true reality check.

It is time for people to realize that the current “bust” might be what we should be considering the “new normal” here in the Cowboy State.

Instead of considering our economic conditions booms or busts, we need to identify these kinds of times, which are predictable, and consider them the norm. This is what 2016 was like and how 2017 will continue to be.

To business owners and managers, 2017 will be a time when they all need to work hard, work smart and maintain strict discipline when it comes to expenses. Since a huge part of Wyoming’s economy is government-based, agency leaders need to run local, state and federal government entities in a businesslike manner, too.

My theory is that we need to make sure our “yearnings do not exceed our earnings.” To many people that is not as important a consideration as in the past. But based on today’s economic realities, it should be just the opposite.

In some places living within your means is not considered a normal way of operating. We see countries and even businesses adopting what has been called the European model, where everyone gets an income, whether they are productive or not. And even if an individual does not have a job, he or she is able to get enough income from the government to live a decent life.

To many old-timers, this is a foreign concept. The concept of receiving an income without working does not compute when we look back on our own experience.

During my 55 years in the workforce, I was always told to work hard (and I learned how important it was to work smart) and if one was honest and put out a quality product, things would turn out okay.

Today, in many places and ways, this playbook has been discarded.

That is partially the result of eight years of President Barack Obama and administrations before him. And it certainly was the 2017 outlook, had Hillary Clinton been elected president. Now, with Donald Trump in charge and a Republican-controlled Congress, is there a chance that some of this will be rolled back? And if so, is this a good thing or a bad thing?

But I digress. This column is all about looking back at 2016.

Biggest news in 2016, even out here on the frontier, was the election of Trump. Republican-dominated Wyoming, typically, supported the president-elect by the highest percentage in the country. Welcome to Donald Trump Country.

When your state is almost a colony, it is hard to predict the effect of the Trump presidency. We primarily produce raw materials that are sent to other states. Once there, big companies employ huge workforces to process our materials into finished products or to create electrical power for consumers. We probably are not as bad as the Republic of Congo but still we look a lot like a colony to me.

All the governors that I have known have preached the gospel of diversification and gradually a great many new jobs have been created over the past decades. But we are still a commodity-based economy. Some day we will figure out how to add value to our raw materials here and create lasting jobs.

Until then, we will continue to plug along as a colony and thus suffer booms and busts.

Sorry about digressing even more.

The Wyoming Cowboy football team (and its amazing success) was also a favorite news story of 2016. We sure had fun watching them and look forward to a long period of success in the future.

Another big story in 2016 was the re-construction of the most famous building in the state – the state capitol. Lots of critics are harping about it but it was way past time to deal with it.

Another big construction story occurred in the far west when the LDS Church built is first temple in Wyoming at Star Valley.

Other top stories included the election of Liz Cheney as U. S. Representative.

My favorite good news story has been the boom in tourism, which was partially fueled by low gasoline prices across the country.

And I predict the real future economic success of our state will be based on how we convert a few of those 10 million visitors into permanent residents who contribute to the state’s future in a positive way.

Please “like” Wyoming Books and Columns by Bill Sniffin on Facebook. Other information available at www.billsniffin.com and www.wyomingwonders.com. Sniffin is a long-time Wyoming journalist and lives in Lander.