Not making a difference since 2006. Blog motto: Always be sincere whether you mean it or not.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

More About The Happy Jobs

Part of Udolopho's comment on my last post:

"The question becomes, are we building an America that can support people of all stripes and talents, or are we building a two-tier society that offers riches to certain white collar classes and working poor wages to everyone else. I don't want to live in a country with Mexico's class structure, but that is what we are building. I wish I were a little older so I could be spared the inevitable outcome of this reckless experiment. If we keep this up there is socialism in our futures. Frankly, I'd rather work in a factory."

I must have sounded cavalier in my last post, even though I was not speaking about immigration but the loss of jobs overseas. One certainly does not wish to offend Udolpho for the treatment he can deliver is withering. Actually, as bad as the one just linked to is, this one is far more devastating.

Someone who spent years in a job and sees it go away can feel desperate. I actually know what that is like. Twelve years ago, the company I worked for left and took my so called professional job with them. That job was lush and I knew in our declining area of the state it could not be replaced. And it wasn't. We adjusted and I am one of the self under employed of this country. We could have followed the company but they were headed to a place where we would not have wanted to raise our kids. I have no regrets even though I know the day I turn 65 will just be another day.

As to that blue collar thing, The departure of factory jobs is a mixed blessing. Yes, some higher skilled and paid jobs leave, but a lot of industrial accidents never happen. If you've been around when someone's hand gets caught in a machine, it is not pretty. That can happen in real work. When my son was small, a classmate's dad, working as a truck mechanic, was killed when something sprung lose. We don't have many industrial jobs here and that was not factory work, but it was enough to remind me that I am glad I escaped the box factory.

As to Udolpho's question about the nature of what the economy is to become, that is a lot to think about, but, I don't expect we disagree much on the nature of our future social structure. I have a problem with the word "we" as in "are we building an America that can support people of all stripes and talents, or are we building a two-tier society." We don't get to build anything. Either it evolves or someone is deciding things elsewhere and is not consulting the we. At least I don't remember any one from the government or a cabal calling moi.

Anyway, I am working class myself and I expect a tad older than Udolpho. I remember the largest employer's workforce going out on strike for near a year and only going back when Taft-Hartley was invoked. The kids of the strikers got free lunches in school. My own father was out for a summer on strike. It was always a stratified society, you knew it in the town I grew up in. Oh, that largest employer is gone and my father's company has merged a number of times and is no longer recognizable as the old New England icon it was.

Post WWII may have been the only time in the history of the world that working people were allowed by the amount of their paychecks to think of themselves as middle class. How long could that last and how much had it to do with us being the only economy standing after the war? Beats me. I'm no economist and they disagree anyway.

As to the world Udolpho sees coming to pass, I may not agree in every particular, but the ongoing invasion can only bring changes. Will they all be Camp of the Saints type. Probably to a great extent, as an inundation of workers can only result in beggar thy neighbor and decline of wages in declining industries and service jobs and the overclass prefers every new group over their lumpen countrymen. Yeah, it should not be pretty.

Actually, it is not pretty now in this country. I go to a suburban mall maybe once a year unless I can avoid it. The young people I see there are in no way ready for the Tsunami coming their way. On the way home today, I listened to a talk show where callers carped about the Brazilians (a growing presence here). All of a sudden a couple of restaurant owners called in to say though the chefs are American, they never hire Americans for grunt work because they are not as reliable as Brazilians (they did not mention if they are paid less). If it were a choice between Joao and an overly tattooed* American kid** who is also doing an imitation of a pincushion, I would probably decide on Joao from Sao Paolo. Joao's kids will not work as hard or get along as well.

Why this is happening against the wishes of most Americans is the big question. I understand that corporate donors want it. I don't understand why that feeling is pervasive among them. It is only in the dirtiest of industries that third world immigrants toil for corporations (e.g meatpacking). Around here it is busboys, chambermaids and landscaping, etc. not big business.

So why the big push. Let's go across the pond and look for a paranoid conspiracy theory that at least sounds plausible. The English libertarian, Sean Gabb looks at what is happening in his country in his Free Life Commentary Issue Number 143.*** I have highlighted what I think is most relevant to our situation.

"It is possible to see, during the past 25 years in at least this country, a movement towards a new settlement in politics. This movement has continued regardless of who has occupied which office, and regardless of what party has won which election. It is clear that the ruling class - or that loose coalition of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, educators, and media and business people who derive wealth and power and status from an enlarged and active state - wants an end of liberal democracy. The desired new settlement is one in which those at the top or with the right connections can enjoy the most fabulous wealth and status, and in which their enjoyment of these can never again be challenged from below. We, the ordinary people, are to be stripped of our constitutional rights - no freedom of speech, no personal or financial privacy, no procedural safeguards in the criminal law. We are to be taxed and regulated to what counts in our own culture as the edge of the breadline. This is on the one hand to provide incomes for clients of the ruling class, and on the other to deprive us of the leisure that might allow us to understand our situation, and of the confidence that might allow us to challenge it. In any event, every organ of the ruling class is at work on promoting ideologies of boundless submission to the new settlement.

At the same time, structures of accountability that emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries are to be deactivated. Their forms will continue. There will be assemblies at Westminster. But these will not be sovereign assemblies with the formal authority of life and death over us all. That authority will have been passed to various unelected and transnational agencies. And so far as the Westminster assemblies will remain important, our votes will have little effect on what they enact.

We are passing into the sort of world that existed in much of Europe before the French Revolution - a world of diverse and conflicting sources of authority, all equally unaccountable. The great simplification of authority that happened in Europe after 1789, and that had happened over two centuries earlier in England, was a product of nationalism; and simplification was followed by accountability and then by liberalism. This sort of reaction is in future to be made impossible by promoting movements of people so that nations in the old sense disappear, and are replaced by patchworks of nationalities more suspicious of each other than of any ruling class."

Even if this is true, it can't work for long. Manchester, New Hampshire once had the largest textile mill in the world. They hired a French Canadian to work next to an Irishman to work next to a Pole to work next to an Italian as they figured that would stifle union organizing. The mills no longer make textiles, the mill owning class has ceased to exist, If those who plot against us execute their plan, may they disappear too.

*To me, that's one tattoo.

**This show also often does a segment on the dumbing down of American youth where callers give examples of young people who can't add or make change.

***This link does not go directly to the article. You have to search on the left side to get to Issue 143.


Black Sea said...

"The mills no longer make textiles, the mill owning class has ceased to exist, If those who plot against us execute their plan, may they disappear too."

I have no faith in Marx's prescription for the economic maladies associated with capitalism, but you know, as a diagnostician, he ain't bad. He had a pretty clear insight into what made capitalism the most productive economic system in human history, which he acknowledged. He also had some insight into its self-destructive potential.

Even from my remote locale, I also worry about the stratification that must inevitably result from both the economic and demographic changes in American society. Some these changes, I admit, are in a sense the workings of fate. I certainly don't imagine some tiny circle of top-hatted plutocrats mapping out our economic destiny. But some of it, such as immigration policy, clearly lies within the realm of public policy, and to the extent that it contradicts the clear wishes of the majority, I can't really think of any explanation OTHER than the force of wealth.

I vaguely remember, a long time ago, seeing an interview with a former Washington lobbyist. The gist of his insight was that, sure, people know money influences policy in Washington. But to really understand this process, they should consider the extent to which they believe money does so, multiply by a factor of 10, and that would be the extent to which money ACTUALLY does so.

I keep meaning to getting around to blogging about a guy I met in 2003 who had, years before, worked for Donald Rumsfeld in the pharmaceutical industry. You know, his impressions of Rumsfled the man, Rumsfeld the genuis, were not exactly consistent with those of the media in 2003. Not by a long shot.

I keep meaning to blog about this, but I'm not sure what will happen to me and my family if I do . . .

Udolpho said...

Very thoughtful post. The "we" I mentioned is our countrymen. We're all in this together.

Your perspective on pre- and post-WWII is much appreciated.

tvoh said...


Yes, we are all in it together. The problem is, we can never act with a common pupose. The people that have the most to lose, people who can labor, but do not have a trade probably can not organize (just as they probably would not blog), but could possibly be organized. That does not fill me with optimism.

tvoh said...

Black Sea,

I'm not sure what will happen to me and my family if I do . . .

I agree, discretion is the better part of valor.

By the way, in the time you have commented here, you could have had a nice long post.

I feel gratified that you comment so well here and would not wish you to stop, but I also feel a bit deprived.

Black Sea said...

As it happens, it's 6:00 am here, but I have been up for hours, reading, thinking, writing, thinking. I'm sure I'll pay for it later today, but I am cooking up something new on my blog.

Thanks for the encouragement.