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Our Jobs Are Disappearing


Our Jobs Are Disappearing

Paul Buchheit

Americans are feeling the impoverishing effects of the shift from middle-income to low-income jobs. The disappearance—or, more accurately, downsizing—of living-wage jobs is documented by numerous reports that reveal the suddenness and the extent of this affront to middle America.

First, the Neoliberal Explanation: It's Not Really Happening


The narrative needs to be rewritten so that the priority is on meaningful human activity and not "jobs" per se. The latter locks society into slavery to capitalism, while the former recognizes the human need for a sense of purpose. Once human values supplant those of usurious fiat money a more appropriate currency might arise that ensures basic societal commitments to all, such as food, shelter, education and health care. The current economic system is based upon a frontier that no longer exists; there really is no more available land and the extraction of resources has been proven to cause unacceptable environmental consequences at a global scale. Without a new decision making paradigm, it will be business as usual--and business hasn't proven itself to be such a good friend.


Well this isn't news to those of us who went from good paying middle income jobs to lower paying jobs. Not news at all, really. It is confirmation of what we have been experiencing, and not just since the recession. This was the trend after the Nasdaq bubble burst several years prior to 2008; I myself went from a middle income position in the graphic design trade to a service sector job (to be fair, both were jobs that 'service' the public; graphic design doesn't evoke pictures of call center employees or burger flippers, however) before the recession; I've been stuck there ever since, as there's nothing with comparable wages available in my old field. My partner went from a mid-tech position in telephony to a service sector job as well, once the recession hit. I have had to tell him, more than once, that my opinion is that our old jobs are not coming back.

I have to agree with what WiseOwl says above - we don't need JOBS per se. We do need income and meaningful activity. I believe the government can and should develop a guaranteed income policy. (We can find meaningful activity without their help however... )



We need the jobs that switch us from fossil fuels to renewables. Those jobs run the gamut from installation to manufacturing to engineering and so forth.

The jobs are out there waiting for us.


The author's analysis of understating unemployment is key.

After Republican Ford lost the 1976 election and Democrat Carter lost the 1980 election, both results heavily influenced by the losers being blamed for high inflation. Ever since then, both parties have revised calculation methods to understate unemployment, inflation and cook the consumer price index (CPI) figures.

Cooking the CPI has enabled the 1% to enrich themselves at the expense of the 99% by keeping wages in a downward spiral, inflating the of the cost of essentials, and creating the subprime mortgage crisis and resulting 2008 meltdown.


A tax on financial assets, which is just like a property tax on residential real estate, could easily finance a jobs program. Two thirds of the nation's $85 trillion in private savings is held in financial assets. A financial transaction tax or a direct tax on assets in excess of $50 million would net a large amount. There's are several articles about direct government job creation, one appeared recently at Center for American Progress "Expanding National Service" --
The other "Why Obama Should Care About Care" is older, at the Levy Economics Institute. The CEPG.org group also has a proposal for 9 million new jobs. The programs almost pay for themselves by reducing the outlays for Unemployment Insurance and other support programs. Philip Harvey at Demos has proposed in Back to Work a large program. And the government can also print money and issue it to the Department of Labor to create real jobs, which add real improvement to our lives -- stimulus without debt, a proposal by Lawrence Seidman.


We need to rethink the entire structure of our society. Crawling to employers for support only works when employers need people badly enough that they are willing to pay a livable wage. The whole premise that American society is built on is the failure of this system. People need to learn how to live off the land again, and not rely on employers anymore. But first we need to free up the land and make it available to people to use again. We have thrown away our real survival skills and traded them in for employment skills instead. That was a fatal mistake. Most people's great grandparents could easily survive without crawling to employer for a paycheck. Almost no modern Americans could do that anymore. We don't have employers to blame. The employers are only offering Americans what the labor markets demand. It is our dependence on employment that we need to eliminate.


Arbeit macht frei.


The farming industry is just like Walmart vs. Mom and Pop. It isn't a level playing field. The markets have been manipulated to drop prices to a level where individuals can't compete and the economy can't keep everyone employed. Small farmers could success before farming went industrial. They won't be able to succeed as long as there is not a level playing field, and employees won't be able to survive as long as employers like Walmart exist. We don't need to find new jobs; we need to create a new system that has a level playing field. If we don't, the future looks pretty grim.


A guaranteed income? Please, don't make Wall Street laugh. They're still working on looting your retirement funds, never mind giving you a nickel more. Further, Capitalism has a very reliable method of dealing with a pool of surplus of labor: war.

Megadeath: coming soon from a sky near you. Banksters just need to determine precisely out how their positions will improve from the incineration of your family. They're working on it, I assure you. This will be a big part of Hillary's program: introducing you to a nuclear fireball.


Spoken like a neo-Luddite.


Where to start?
There are a lot of people on this forum who believe in socialist economies that protect the standard of living of America's middle class. Pause for some eye-opening.
Looking at the whole world, the world median income has gone up. In most nations their median income has gone up. The world 'absolute poverty rate' (<= $2/day) has fallen a lot. (To some extent, our loss has been their gain. One of the corollaries of Classical Economics: A rich income has to be earned, or it will be competed away by someone willing to do just as good work at a lower price.)
- The people in most of the world, if told that the American middle class is shrinking, or suffering a decline in their living standard, wouldn't be much bothered by it. Americans still live much better than they do.
- There are a long line of people, starting before 'Population Bomb' Dr. Paul Ehrlich, who believe that Americans consume too much and have to stop that. A decline in American standard of living.
- Then more recently there is that segment of among liberal & progressives, Greens, who advocate for 'de-growth'. You can sometimes find their articles here. They openly advocate for a intended decrease in the American standard of living, needed for the sake of the planet.
So stop whining about the unavailability of $50K jobs, and start planning how to live best at $30K (or less). For the sake of the planet and everyone else. Think of $30K as the new era's $50K.
(You are certainly entitled to resent that Silicon Valley techies and others make $80K or higher, and to seek to drag them down to the level of everyone else.)
(c.1993 I saw an article: 'Does America Need Land-Reform?')


It only takes a minimum wage job of just a few hours a week to lower the jobless rate! What has been lost are above the minimum wage jobs at 40 hours per week!!
That supports people in a decent lifestyle.
The unemployment rate should be based on FTE of a 40 hours/week.
So if it takes 5 jobs at 8 hours each to replace 1 of the old, then that is a truer picture of the economy!!


Live off the land? Surely, you jest. What do you think your great grandparents would say if they were given the choice of living in the 19th century or the 21st century? I wrote my thesis without the benefit of a computer and printer and did not even have a hand-held calculator to analyze my data. I did it, but I wouldn't do it that way today because of the electronic revolution.

People don't live off the land because life is so much better because of technology. It was Jefferson who thought that the country should be governed by yeomen farmers and Hamilton understood that the country would only prosper if it industrialized and people moved from agriculture to cities. Hamilton was right because we are now an urban, industrial world power and not an agrarian utopia of yeomen farmers.


We need to abandon most stats and instead use the primacy of experience when it comes to evaluating our daily lives. They could say we are at full employment, and even if it was true, does it matter? Is this a world anyone but the rich and the obsequious would choose to live in?

Are warehouse, transportation, and retail jobs something anyone wants to toil away at for their lives? These jobs translate into a death of the human spirit, and lives wasted in deleterious mundanity. There's not much point for humanity to go on if the masses are simply a perpetual disposable wealth engine for the rich.

Outright revolt, noncompliance, and planned humane transition to a cooperative sustainable economic system is the only escape route where the human experiment doesn't end up as a tragic footnote for life on earth. Capitalism represents an evolutionary fork in the road, we socially evolve past it, or our egos and lack of consciousness drive us to premature extinction.


These are fecally fetid arguments you've foisted. Allow me to retort -

  1. World median income has gone up - And? How wonderful we have driven more tribal and agrarian societies - some of which were quite content in that state - into capitalism where they sit in factories for 16hrs a day. What a success! All the while increasing the rate of climate change that's blowing decades past every worst case scenario.

  2. Americans have better lives than most - This is a half truth and subjective, first world countries are supposed to offer an example for how to improve life. If we cannot maintain our society without going into massive amounts of debt and simultaneously destroying the planet while exploiting half the global population then our example is more of a what not to do.

  3. A decline in the standard of living is necessary based on a need for less consumption - this is to assume that standard of living is measured purely in acquisition of things. "Standard of living" is an Orwellian turn of phrase created by capitalists to sell more shit to people they don't need or want. It does not take into account happiness or sustainability.

And we undoubtedly should consume less, but much of that consumption has been driven by a wasteful economy that chooses to be wasteful because it is more profitable for business. We have massive amounts of established wealth here and we should be living easy lives. Our actual standard of living is being brought down by wealth inequality and an unjust economic system.

  1. "Greens" advocate less consumption - True, but again real standard of living does not equate to consuming more at the
    dollar store. We can have far richer lives while consuming much less through empowering local economies and deemphasizing globalization and predatory capitalism.

  2. Accept 30k jobs as the norm - While cost of living continues to spiral out of control, debt bubbles explode to tipping points of collapse, and wealth inequality exists as the primary driver of lower incomes, not real economic forces, but manufactured ones to drive up profits for banks and businesses. The need for infinite growth is not a tenable idea and will continue to regressively apply costs of doing business to the working class until there is nothing left and will lead to equity markets eventually stagnating permanently.

And your silicon valley techies, which we are ostensibly are jealous of, are now offering very little of substantial value other than to further reduce privacy and empower the surveillance state. Technology is being introduced to the concept of declining marginal utility. They do not deserve the salaries they receive for the value they are offering to humanity. Down with the nerds.


Obviously you prefer to be dependent rather than independent. I have spent my whole life creating the technology that people have become so addicted to that they make statements like the one you just made. It causes people to throw away reliable survival skills in favor of unsustainable dependencies. Do you think you can live off of a computer, a television and a car? Well you can't. Those things are expenses, not assets. Do you think the supermarkets will always be there to spoonfeed you? Do you think an employer owes you a job and an income? The only person who owes you anything is you. Living the dependent life is not freedom; it is a lazy cop out. Capitalism is social entropy. You are only advocating for dependencies.


ReasonBowl and I disagree rather less than ReasonBowl thinks.
The article discussed the stagnation of wages and the disappearance of the middle class. Maybe, although we can, and perhaps should, define the boundaries of middle class downwards, as measured by US$. Certainly other nations have their own middle class, and the people in that middle class have a lower standard of living than Americans do. For example, I glanced at a memoir written by John Lennon's half-sister. She is plainly middle-class, and just as plainly less well off than a middle class person in the US. In 1980 she was moving into a new home, and went for months without a telephone at home. She relied on taking and making telephone calls at a neighbor's house. [socialist, how good!], and it was over her neighbor's phone that she got the news of John's death.
I chose to use the term 'standard of living' instead of a decrease in income, to emphasize what that means for people. Inevitably I ran into someone who is into yoga and 'voluntary simplicity' or asceticism, who rejects acquiring and possessing things. Leaving aside that a lot of people's jobs depend on selling some object or some service to other people, even ascetics will get a crimp in their lifestyles.
World median income is up. ReasonBowl complained "How wonderful we have driven more tribal and agrarian societies - some of which were quite content in that state - into capitalism ..." Usually that is less "driven" than it is "offered", and they took it. A very large proportion of the poorest were living in China and such countries, and in many cases were already living in terrible urban slums. Their lives have gotten better.
Americans live better lives than most. ReasonBowl apparently missed the second half of my statement, that Americans should live lives that are lower standard of living and consume less.
ReasonBowl spends nearly two paragraphs about standard of living and the concept of 'things' vs. happiness. Again, aside from the fact that a lot of people's jobs depend on selling things or services to other people, and that some third parties think that the other two people should not be selling or buying some things... [For example, I think lottery tickets are stupid. My saying so doesn't stop people from buying them...]
Here is a contrast between saying and doing. I have cousins who are more left than I am, and probably donate more money to Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. They have told me that when they were kids they would give Christmas gifts of gift-wrapped library books. Of course, such books had to be read in a narrow available time window, and then returned to the library. After saying that, I saw at their Christmas that they exchanged quite a large number of gift-wrapped store-bought products. A difference between 'talk' and 'do'. --- In the future we deserve, the # of Christmas gifts are going to be fewer, and more heart-felt.
As for those Silicon Valley tech-workers I mentioned, I alluded not to 'envy' but to resentment, as evidenced in protests against 'Google Buses', and the desire of many here to drag those people down to a lower standard of living. This despite the fact that such people made the hack-proof comment section of this forum possible.


Did you make a salient point in that mess?

Was there a single reasoned point of argument?

Cliched insults, ridiculous strawman fallacies, and facile beliefs. Please continue to enlighten us with your sage wisdom of bullshittery.


To put a point on it,
The article is about complaining about the decrease in US middle class, both in income and in numbers, sliding into poverty.
--> The point I want to make is that we should accept and embrace lower incomes and the ability to enjoy less stuff. I alluded to several reasons to justify that.
-- (That said, I also acknowledged that a lot of people resent inequality. They have a right to try to drag the rich and better off down. (dragging down to our level is more likely than raising our own level at their expense...) )