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What happened to the jobs?

I've read that the tipping point for U.S. workers, when things started to slide downhill, was around 1973. I've also read various explanations of the cause, all of which probably have some validity, but hard to know what weight to give each. I would like to see some numbers, if anyone has them.
1. The U.S. lost its economic advantage, which was based on mass production. (Jeffrey Madrick, "The End of Affluence," 1995) Other countries recovered from WWII and mastered mass production, which then declined in importance, world-wide, as companies started to produce for niche markets, for example the small foreign cars coming into the American market in the 1960s. Consumers wanted more specialized goods, not one size fits all. (Henry Ford said customers could have the Model T in whatever color they wanted, as long as it was black.)

As foreign competition increased, American corporations started losing money. So they went "lean and mean," doing everything they could to reduce costs, especially labor costs. They got rid of as many workers as they could, fought unions and reduced wages. In many cases, I've read, mass layoffs did not help the corporations' bottom lines, but that hasn't stopped them from continuing to do it.

2. The baby boom of 1946-64, women entering the work force in the 1970s (partly due to the decline of their husbands' wages), and immigration increased the supply of workers while demand was declining. Now, I've read, the American birth rate is slightly below the death rate, but illegal immigration is still increasing the supply of workers, driving down wages. It is not considered PC on the left to point this out because we're supposed to be pro-minority, but minorities already here, who are American citizens, are also being hurt by unlimited illegal immigration. It's the corporations that benefit from cheap labor.

3. Automation wiped out most farm jobs and a lot of manufacturing jobs. Office jobs have been reduced by computers, which also made a lot of middle managers redundant (as the British say). Retail is probably next. See Jeremy Rifkin's 1995 book "The End of Work," and his introduction to the 2000 paperback edition ( http://www.jobsletter.org.nz/art/rifkin05.htm). Rifkin predicted that there would be very few jobs left in this country within 50 years. He thought about 75 percent of workers did jobs so routine that they could be replaced by machines. He had some suggestions for easing the transition: a shorter work week to spread the available work around; the government paying people to do what is now volunteer work. Ultimately we are going to have to find some socially acceptable way of paying people for not working. We should lower the retirement age, and give younger workers a break.

4. Outsourcing, which is getting most of the attention right now (illegal immigration gaining fast). Some writers claim the number of jobs lost to outsourcing is actually small. Beth Shulman, in "The Betrayal of Work," wrote that most service jobs, which now dominate the American economy, are tied to place and not outsourceable. They can't be done from India.

5. Changes in the economy make it hard to predict what kinds of jobs are safe to train for. Best to train quickly, because the door might close before you get there. Someone told me years ago that professional job demand goes in cycles. Everyone hears that engineering is a good bet so too many get engineering degrees, overloading the profession. Eventually enough retire so that the field opens up again. I've seen it happen to teachers, social workers, nurses, etc. There are other factors too, such as the amount of money state and local governments have to hire people with. Hospitals tried to increase their profit margins by getting rid of a lot of nurses, overworking those left, many of whom quit, so now there's a shortage of nurses. They're also getting older and retiring.

Some say that job training doesn't work because there aren't enough jobs there to train for.

My experience is that most available jobs are very routine, excruciatingly boring, low-paid, have no upward career path and offer no satisfaction or room for personal growth. The only kind of work that has ever given me any satisfaction has been volunteer work. Most of us would be better off never working again for pay, if we could find some other way to survive.

See Bob Black's famous essay "The Abolition of Work" ( http://www.zpub.com/notes/black-work.html): "No one should ever work. Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost any evil you'd care to name comes from working or from living in a world designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working...."

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debt does a job on jobs too 07.Feb.2005 05:52


People say that jobs are finaly increasing in America under Bush. Well, Bush added trillions of dollars to the debt, and that money is creating jobs. BUT it isn't any republitrash miracle. Give me a trillion dollar credit card that future Americans have to pay off, and I could create jobs too. And paying off Bush's bedt will destroy more jobs in the future than it created in the present.

TO: George Bender 07.Feb.2005 12:03

politics as impossible

I remember George Bender from back in the PIMC-termed "action" of the "2004 (s)election." I could not understand how Bender was pretty much, I think it's fair to say, fanatically pro-Nader. Recently, however, I see Bender's comment, somewhere here at PIMC, about the necessity for a leader if a social movement is going to get anywhere at all -- so his Naderism makes sense in retrospect. It wasn't so much Nader for President as it was Nader for leader of "the movement." I am not sure that I agree with the analysis about leadership, essentially almost a cult of leadership, but I cannot refute it either.

This article by Bender on the unemployment/underemployment situation from a U.S.A. perspective is excellent analysis and review of a great and growing disaster (including the comment about debt).

I am currently considering writing in "George Bender" if we ever have another election.

politics as impossible 07.Feb.2005 15:59

George Bender

Thank you for your kind comments.

I'm afraid during the campaign I often lost my temper, being enormously frustrated. I wish I could have found a better way of presenting our case, but the historical tide was running against us. Not to mention well-paid armies of Democrat lawyers. People were so angry at Bush that they didn't want to hear how the left might win on its issues without winning the election, and I didn't do a good enough job of explaining it. Maybe next time.

I did not feel that the Nader campaign was any kind of cult. I have a lot of respect for Nader, considering his intelligence, knowledge and many accomplishments, but I do not blindly follow him. I have a few disagreements with Nader on issues and strategy. It was a campaign, a group effort, and not really about Nader the person, especially since he had no chance of getting elected, but about presenting progressive issues and giving people a chance to make a political statement -- which they chose not to do. It was hard to get that idea across because American politics is so personalized. And parties so meaningless. We have a cult of personality. Which worked against Kerry because he doesn't have one. In the words of Gertrude Stein, there's no there there.

Nader was a focal point for the left, a way of focusing our energies. Without such a "leader" we tend to mill around in circles, each with a different idea about what to do, and nothing happens. That doesn't mean that we have to be passive followers. There is such a thing as democratic leadership, where you try to help a group focus and move forward. I've tried to do it and found it difficult, sometimes impossible. We need to learn better ways of doing it. There are people who study this kind of thing and can teach it, if we're willing to learn. One simple way to do it is to say, "Hey gang, we're going this way," and then look back and see if anyone is following. Let people vote with their feet.

Or figure out where people want to go and then try to help them get there. As some character said in the old Pogo comic strip, "There they go and I must hasten after them, for I am their leader."

There will always be jobs in the 08.Feb.2005 01:09

US Marines

I suspect that is the point of induced unemployment.

In twenty years, you will be either an imperial stormtropper, a bartender, a prostitute, or a broodmare.

Or a terrorist... more likely in label than in fact.

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