Sunday, August 14, 2011

Jobs and growth

It’s not just that the threat of a double-dip recession has become very real. It’s now impossible to deny the obvious, which is that we are not now and have never been on the road to recovery.
~ Paul Krugman, "Wrong Worries," New York Times, August 4 2011

So now the band-aid has been applied and, in the temporary respite it has provided, the mantra will be repeated ad nauseam by every pundit and his mother that creating jobs and growing the economy is the solution. For all of the high-powered experts and economists, they don't get it, do they? -- least of all the Republicans. The average householder in Djibouti, anyone with common sense, can figure out that all the measures that have been taken are just so much tinkering, re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

It's said that 70% of US GDP is driven by consumer spending. In applying stimulus funds to restart the economy, the bailout was given instead to the banks and financial institutions who have diligently balanced their books and have resumed their constitutionally-required profitability. Executives have been handsomely rewarded for their troubles but companies are still awash in cash with nowhere to invest it because consumers are not spending. Duh. Where were those consumers to get what with to spend? If they had been given the bailout instead, they would have paid up their mortgages and credit cards, small businesses would have a life-line, jobs would be saved and there would be a trickle-up effect. It would have increased purchasing power at the starting point of the cycle and set the whole machine in motion. Tax intake would be maintained and state and federal government would not be faced with cutting as drastically as they now have to do.

Main Street is where the economy is and not Wall Street, which is nothing more than a big boys' crap shoot. The "volatility of the market" is but the alternation of the sole motivations, greed and fear. The real economy will continue apace as long as the sun continues to input billions of joules, or whatever unit of energy you care to use, farmers grow crops, bakers bake, builders build, teachers teach and healers heal.

Ignoring for a minute the well-documented limits to growth, let's say some entrepreneurial venture capitalist decides to be bold and initiate the production of some new widget. In the interest of efficiency (read maximum profit), the operation will be automated and roboticized as far as possible or outsourced to the cheapest sources of labor. Where does that leave the local wage slaves who have been bred, brought up and educated to be cogs in the industrial machinery as well as consumers of its output? Without income to continue consuming and nothing to keep them occupied, their life purpose is rendered meaningless and obsolete, so what option do they have but to run amok in the streets? The young have seen their parents play by the rules and get shafted so why should they go down that same path?

The entire concept of employment, work, jobs and the education to prepare for them has to be revisited. Jobs as we know them are never coming back. Even the ones outsourced to China will leave there like water seeking its lowest level till there's nowhere lower to go. The main purpose of education will become to prepare people to live.

Another goal which our schools and teachers should be pursuing is the discovery of vocation, of one's fate and destiny. Parrt of learning who you are, part of being able to hear your inner voices, is discovering what it is that you want to do with your life. Finding one's identity is almost synonymous with finding one's career, revealing the altar on which one will sacrifice oneself.
~ Abraham Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, 1972