Sunday, September 15, 2013

America is Rich So Why Do We Feel So Poor

America is rich. We are fabulously wealthy. We talk about America's wealth here. But there is a problem. We don't really feel wealthy. Politicians are always telling us we are going to run out of money- and this is absurd- we deal with this absurdity here, but We really do feel poor.

Not enough jobs. The jobs being created are low pay, high stress jobs. Today's youth compete with grown adults for jobs in fast food restaurants- which in another age, were introductory jobs- jobs you took where you learned responsibility and where you had every incentive to move on to another better paying job. In 2013 these low paying service jobs are what people are trying to build a future around.

The very things that have made us richer have reduced our need for human labor. In past decades, humans, sorted widgets, did repetitive labor in factories. big burly guys wrestled pig iron and hot ingots in foundries. 10s of thousands of people worked at power looms to create fabrics. Productivity has multiplied many times over and many fewer Americans do these kinds of jobs.

All these advances are good for America. Here is one for you. Working on the exterior of buildings used to require elaborate scaffolding. Today, modern systems are much safer and they pretty much put themselves up. This is great. Makes us more productive as a culture.

But what do we do with the people no longer needed in these repetitive jobs?

Once upon a time, businesses had typists and stenographers, and human hands to do all the things that computers and technology do now. This means we are much richer as a nation. It means we are challenged what to do with people.  There is ever growing crescendo of progress linking technology with digital software. We see an accelerating pace of labor saving tools, devices, industrial processes...

What do we do with the people put out of work by labor saving processes?

And then we have to talk about robotics.  Robotics make us much more productive and prosperous as a nation. It leaves people without jobs, without income and stressed out.

So what do we do about the gathering of wealth in fewer and fewer hands and the gradually weaning of working class people of opportunity?

How many jobs in America have been shipped overseas in the last decades? Well we talk about that here. but in we need to address it in the context here.  Outsourcing of jobs has made America more productive. We learned that we could produce goods for less overseas.

Was there a more enlightened way to improve productivity in America without sending all these jobs overseas? That is a huge story and discussion to have later. Those jobs have flowed under that bridge and so what can we do from here? What do we do with people?

What do we do with the people out of work and the communities they live in?

We have to reconcile this issue, and the answer is not- and this is an emphatic NOT- because people are lazy, and people just want to sit on their couch and eat on their SNAP largesse.

We have to Toss out the BS about People Being Lazy and Come to Grips with How to Create Opportunity for People- How to come to grips with people working less because there is less for them to do. 

We have to get real- deal with reality and understand that the usual BS about people being lazy does not work- the usual BS about big corporations being the "job creators" - big corporations are shedding employees in America faster than a dandelion shedding seed pods in a wind storm.

We have a huge problem with political influence by the rich and power. Too many politicians are rich and greedy. These traits are what the existing political system select for. Those not rich and greedy are often supported by special interests nonprofits doing the bidding of billionaire donors. Our American Interests do not match up well with the interests of Billionaires- with the Interests of Fossil Fuel Companies. Billions of dollars go to selecting for the right politicians in the early primaries- to influence politicians in office. There is this really ugly dance between politicians looking for campaign money and the rich and powerful looking for political favors. The results of this dance leave no time for wrangling with big intractable issues in America, but serve to distract over hyperbole and slight of hand to keep people distracted from the key issues outlined above. We move on to political change right in our own communities later- change depends on you and me being sheepdogs and helping the sheep understand what is actually in their own interests. LINK

But here we need to finish up the point. America is hugely rich. We only feel poor, and when we figure out what is happening, and get ready to do something about it, well we can and we will. We have to put aside the usual BS and understand key issues. We have see politicians for what they are and the nonsense they spout.  We are rich. We have so much untapped talent. We have room for it all. We are not in a zero sum game here. We can invest, we can invest and we can innovate solutions to really serious problems. We just have to understand what really stands in our way.

We are rich here in America but we are out of shape. We have a huge problem with income inequality and it is only getting worse. It is not healthy for the 1% to hold so much wealth in America. It is not even good for the 1%. Inequality is inherently unstable. It is dangerous ground for America to be on.  We discuss inequality separately but for now we have to understand the fundamental.

We can change this. We have many options. All of which the 1% will oppose. But what we do is good for us as Americans wanting opportunity, good for our kids and the youth of America and good for the future of America. It is even good for the 1% if they actually knew what was good for them. They have a serious problem. They are corrupted by having too much money.

Why do we feel so poor in America when we have never been richer as a nation? Well, we have to come to grips with  really intractable and difficult issues? But we are rich. We have huge talent. We just need to adjust our thinking and elect a whole crop of new legislators.

Feel free to add your thoughts below.

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