We can’t make it here: a political blog about joblessness & such
I wrote quickly an earlier version of this in the morning and posted it up on dailykos. Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ll amend and publish here as well.
Paul Krugman’s editorial of the day argues that we in the U.S. are in the midst of our third depression.
To which my first cup of coffee response was: duh!
I mean not to make fun of a
much-decorated Nobel-prize-wining economist, for I am but a humble, barely employed former member of the fringe media.
But as the James McMurtry song from which I’ve stolen today’s title argues (in part, and in part I simply like his bile), the problem is that that our economy is simultaneously in tatters from pathetic self-interested management, and undergoing a fundamental transition. Which may well be linked to the same self-interests. (And, yes, I’m playing nice and adding links and stuff…just this once.)
Here’s how the job picture looks to me…
First off, I hit the Googles. I queried something about where are the jobs of the future, and this, from US News, came up first.
Maybe this is a strawman, and I’m sure y’all will tell me if it is, but I ran through all 50 of those top jobs as fast as my hillbilly internet would let me.
(1) Almost all of them require advanced technical degrees. That’s the first problem. Let’s get this out in the open: Not everybody can or should go to college, and building an economy around the elite who can become genetic engineers (or whatever) is errant folly.
(2) NONE of those jobs (save plumber, which I’m sure they put in just to make a crack or two) involve actually MAKING anything.
(3) Most of those new and desirable jobs are not available to retrained oldsters like me (assuming I were retrainable). Sure, there are jobs in public relations. But y’know what? They go to young, pretty people, they don’t pay well, and they don’t lead anywhere. Sure, there are long-term careers in PR, but mostly it’s a glass ceiling gig that one ages out from somewhere in middle age. To be replaced by younger, prettier, cheaper help.
(4) It’s not on this list, but I keep hearing that there are jobs in retail (in fact, I have one). Which seems odd to me, since the meme remains that brick & mortar is dying.
(5) Software knowledge is an excuse not to hire old people. Older people. Employers keep forgetting that it’s the work that matters, not what program you use to do it. And software developers keep writing new things that make the work more complicated, but not necessarily better. Or, rather, they write for a computer logic that is intuitive to one generation, and alien to the generation before, who was once accustomed to doing things by hand. (I am speaking, here, of graphics; I’ve done design since the mid-1970s, and on computer since the mid-1990s, but the software geeks keep making it harder and more expensive to stay in the game, so maybe I’m not in it anymore.)
Look…I never had a union gig, and so maybe I shouldn’t comment, but I think we whip a dead bovine here by wishing for the era of the union to return. Ain’t happening. We’ve built just enough workplace safeguards into federal law to give employers a figleaf. There is no such thing as job security in the new economy, nor will there be. (This is why we’re now told to expect, what? five careers in our lifetime.) And unions were, best I can tell from history, a response to cruel working conditions in manufacturing. I’m not sure the logic — nor the passion — transfers to the new economy.
Anyway, the corporations would appear to have won.
We can’t make it here. We DON’T make it here. Try to buy products made in the U.S. You still can, sometimes, but it’s a lot of work.
We can’t simply value the kind of intelligence which blossoms during standardized tests and manifests as a degree in biochemistry. We have to recognize that the guy/gal who can build something is not (see: Jesse James, West Coast Choppers, et. al) simply a cool retro thing, but an essential part of society. Or the folks who actually GROW things we eat.
The hegemony of the nerd (and I am one, just not the right kind, apparently) needs to come to an end.
We have to be able to make it here. Because if we can’t, when petroleum does become prohibitively expensive and suddenly the overseas manufacturing plants are less than viable…
…when they begin to unionize in China, to demand fair wages…
…we’re going need to be able to make it here. Just a reminder to the defense establishment: if we can’t make it here, we’re not going to be a very competitive empire for long.