Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jobs #2


Salutations.  As perhaps a few of my readers may remember, it has been my intention with this blog to chew away on subjects rarely dealt with in the media -- "What's Left Out" -- , and that hasn't changed.  I am returning here for one last -- I hope -- attempt to deal with what is only too hot a topic these days, Jobs, because it is so important and because a number of you have gotten back to me, mainly on e-mail, to agree with -- and challenge -- whatever conclusions I reached.

It seems to me that the intractability of the jobs numbers is the consequence of a number of rising trends and unattended if highly exploitive practices which now characterize what's left of our economy.  It is much trumpeted that the American corporations are doing very well despite the recurring recession.  This is attributed to their advances in "productivity."  But productivity, examined day by day, is achieved by firing employees in America and replacing them with machines or much cheaper workers overseas.  As the principal executive at Bain Capital, Mitt Romney specialized in profitably downsizing the work force in companies he and his partners bought out.  What might we expect from a Romney presidency?

But there are larger elements in play.  Howard Schultz, the head of Starbucks, noted on the air recently that there are now nine million Americans working in manufacturing and thirty million working for the government, local and federal, from mail carriers to four-star generals.  If this isn't de facto socialism, where would we find it?  As is increasingly noted, the result has been that the trade union movement has largely collapsed, the judiciary and the Congress is increasingly corrupted, and special interests continue to hollow out the laws and mythologize the easily verifiable -- Global Warming -- to our inevitable disaster.

Meanwhile, entire professions have disappeared overnight.  Outside the mansions of the superrich the category of backup work that once occupied millions of people -- maids, cooks, personal assistants -- has largely disappeared.  Clerical jobs have also thinned out -- even the most exalted communicate by e-mail, I myself carry on direct running exchanges on the internet with individuals who range from CEOs of giant corporations to a Saudi prince.  Old ladies wear electronic alert buttons around their necks and let their paid companions go.  Jobs, millions of jobs.  Joe Nocera opened a NY Times column on August 16 by observing that, during the 2008 financial crisis, German companies instituted a program known as Kurzarbeit, short work, and government subsidies helped by supplementing the workers' paychecks.  Imagine getting that one by the Teabaggers.

Special favors are destroying the federal revenue stream. To pump up profits for a handful of corporations we have diverted or cut off the revenue flow we will have to have to support the entitlements programs on which most Americans depend.  Trillions of uncollected tax dollars are sequestered in corporative accounts overseas, where they have shipped American jobs, while their executives engage in tantrums in the press, demanding another Bush-era "tax holiday" so they can repatriate the money and fatten their own remuneration packets.  Because this works for a handful of exporters, our tariff level vis-a-vis China is two percent, while the Chinese exact an eighteen percent tariff on American goods, which provides them a lot of cash with which to pile up American bonds.  The Koch Brothers continue to observe from the wings, writing checks and applauding.

Down in the American street, millions are washing into poverty.  One neighbor of mine, a roofer, has been so devastated by brutal property taxes and his effectively unregulated insurance requirements that he has given up his business.  He staved this off for a few years by picking up an adjustable-rate subprime mortgage on his house, but inevitably the interest rate was jacked up until it approached twenty percent and he is awaiting foreclosure.  His family has fallen apart, and there is no way out. Multiply his case by millions.

Meanwhile, we attempt to inflict what we call civilization on the angry tribesmen of Afghanistan at the American taxpayer's expense.  A trillion-dollar stealth fighter-bomber program we have been pursuing for decades has produced a plane that is unflyable.  But there is not going to be enough money in the federal treasury before long to continue with Medicaid.  What will be left to defend?

But you get the idea.  Cheers!



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