Thursday, March 4, 2010

Snapshots of America's Shattered Economy

I have been reading a few articles on the state of employment in this so-called "recovery". One is this New York Times article, which is also noteworthy for the 30-somewhat pages of comments by other readers that accompany it. They are very substantial, in that they reflect a growing amount of disenfranchised and disillusioned people who no longer believe in how our economy works, and more specifically, the "American Dream" that has been sold to each and every one of us. I make a habit of going on what are called "doomer" sites (my most often visited being LATOC, or Life After the Oil Crash), and most of the comments seem to echo the kind of material on those forums. If you have an afternoon or you can save your tabs, I recommend going through them. A highly telling and important comment comes from an economist quoted in the main article itself:

“American business is about maximizing shareholder value,” said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at the research firm Decision Economics. “You basically don’t want workers. You hire less, and you try to find capital equipment to replace them.”

If that is the philosophy guiding American business, and everything we have seen indicates that it is, than the government instituting any kind of major jobs program or initiative is pointless, if not counterproductive. Just as further tax cuts on business would be counterproductive. They would have you believe that it's the excessive regulation and overtaxation that has resulted in our jobs being outsourced. Actually, their endgame is for zero taxation, zero regulation, zero wages to employees. Their only goal is to siphon off the resources of nations as much as possible, and give nothing back in return. Welfare mothers on food stamps have nothing on business; they are the ultimate deadbeats.

In related news, this article from USA Today dwells on what's left of industrial communities in America, or what they call "the new ghost towns". Manufacturing is dead in America, and the "service economy" is proving to be woefully inadequate in maintaining the wages and benefits that kept America fairly prosperous in the mid to late 20th century.

My only gripe with both articles is that they don't deal with the energy scarities that lie ahead in the future. Even if we weren't presently going through an economic crisis, almost by definition, peak oil would make many of the jobs we currently do obsolete. It also further points to the folly of displaced workers going back to school to re-train themselves in positions for "soft skills" that will likely be useless in a post-peak world.

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