Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Inauguration Day!

Well…so here we are:  the Black guy is out of the White House and the Orange guy is in. Hevvin help us.

Listening to his brief, to-the-point inaugural address, it was hard to escape the thought…

What if he’s right?

Just now I’m listening to PBS News streaming off the Web, where a commentator is going on about “doom and gloom” in Trump’s speech, and how the beast was “not healing wounds.”

But…I didn’t hear doom and gloom in what he said. I heard “we’re gonna fix this.”

If he hadn’t lied until he was blue in the face..

If  he hadn’t crassly, deliberately appealed to the very worst in the American psyche…

If he weren’t a groper of women…

If he had not courted and had not been courted by (possibly to the point of treason) a foreign power that has been our enemy for decades…

If there were any inkling of a reason to believe he understands as much about running a country as he does about running a TV reality show…

I could almost get on board with the bastard. I could almost be persuaded that yeah, he’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard.

Almost.

One of the things that’s fed that feeling is the jaw-dropping obtuseness evinced by thinkers and commentators of my own political persuasion. Dayum! What part of a few international billionaires are collecting most of the money in the world while Americans can’t get a decent job don’t you  understand?

Not just a few “deplorables,” folks. But ALL OF US.

Or at least a very significant portion of us.

This afternoon NPR ran (twice!) a piece whose reporter dutifully went out and interviewed some Trumpish WT: high-school graduates working in one of the country’s few remaining steel mills. The hellish difficulty of the work was described in loving detail. The workers’ enthusiasm for just having a job was described, much as the behavior of some exotic beetle might be detailed. Then the reporter asks one woman, “Is the pay good?”

“For these parts, it’s very good,” she says.

Amazed (being a clear and present New Yorker), our intrepid reporter follows up with “Can you afford to buy a car or live in a house?”

“Well, no,” she says (subtext: Are you stupid?) “No, you couldn’t buy a house and you couldn’t afford to buy a car on this salary.”

She and her partner are getting by because they’re both laboring full time. Maybe one person could live on the pay. But two surely can’t. Still…it’s very good pay and she feels lucky to have a job at all.

Okay. We all know that people with GEDs and high-school diplomas can’t get work, and we can hear, from the reporters’ and commentators’ tone that we should believe the people who voted for Trump are the ignored and ignorant white underclass discommoded by globalization.

But…what about the rest of us? Do you know how many jobs formerly held by college graduates and even graduates of professional schools are being offshored? Lawyers’ jobs. Accountants’ jobs. Graphic designers’ jobs. Editors’ jobs. Publishers’ jobs. Carpenters’ jobs. Bankers’ jobs. Architects’ jobs. IT jobs. Engineering jobs. News reporting. Stock analysis. Even medical services.

When my associate editor Tina and I were still working at the Great Desert University, our office provided membership in a statewide association of small publishers. After we were laid off, The Copyeditor’s Desk maintained our membership until the trade organization finally collapsed.

We were hustling to make the business work. Her theory was that if we kept our rates low, we would get more business and so would make up in volume the amount that we might have made with better-paying work. So we were selling ourselves for peanuts.

One evening we were at a shindig put on by this group. Along comes an Indian guy. He has a printing company in Mumbai. The guy is thriving and is, at that time, maneuvering to get visas and green cards to move his family permanently into the United States, where he wishes to take up residence in a Scottsdale mansion.

He starts to talk fairly loosely. And without realizing that he’s telling me this, he reveals that he can take a book from the manuscript stage through copyediting, page design, cover design, typesetting, proofreading, indexing, and printing for less than Tina and I can copyedit it — at our bargain-basement rates!

I simply couldn’t effing believe it. But it was true. This guy was stealing our business. As he circulated around the room, he was telling all our potential clients that he could take their golden words to the finished product for less than a U.S. supplier could do one stage of the product at starvation wages.

Well, since then I’ve raised our rates. I figure if we can’t get much work, we’d better get paid as much as we can for the little work we do get. And we now target a different clientele: businesses and academics who need to publish to make money, not just because they dream of becoming Writers. Effectively, we offer a Cadillac editing service. We’re good, and we get paid for being good.

Why, we even speak English (can you imagine?). And French. And Russian. And Italian. Even a bit of Spanish. And Latin, of course.

The point is, I’m dead sure we are not alone. Large numbers of Americans with expensive college degrees who used to hold down good jobs that fit their education and experience no longer can earn a living wage. Many of us are lucky to be working at all. And IMHO, it’s fvckin’ no wonder people voted for Trump. A lot of people think it’s time for a change — and they need that change if they’re going to survive at all.

Whether Trump can make change happen remains to be seen. Personally, I doubt it. The first major crisis that hits — whether it’s a stock market crash or another plane taking down another landmark building or a gas attack exterminating half a city — will show how little he knows about running a country. The extreme right-wing organization behind him, the hideous, decayed remains of the Republican Party, will take over the instant he falters. And like the Taliban, those people mean no good at all for anyone who is not one of them.

Scary times. Scary times made even scarier by the fact that the people who could have and should have done something about it still don’t seem to get the picture.

Image: Zach Rudisin. CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20727816

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Author: funny

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10 Comments

  1. Meanwhile all the kvetchers who voted for him here are all educated and make north of $70k if not $100k a year in a moderate COLA. Their real excuse is they hate having to be civil to fellow humans because if you’re black, brown, red, or yellow, you’re subhuman. So that’s great.

    • I think people voted for Trump first because they can see American jobs being shipped overseas and substandard junk being shipped back into the country, crowding out US-made products that yes, were more expensive but that lasted long enough that one got one’s money’s worth from them. I think they voted for Trump because they believe the lies that are promulgated by a certain political party. I think some voted for Trump because they truly believe that reproductive freedom for women is immoral and that abortion is criminal. I think some voted for Trump because they are beyond sick & tired of PC that elicits orders that you cannot wish a coworker a “merry Christmas” during a holiday season that has more commercial than religious significance. While I don’t deny that many Americans (of all racial and ethnic persuasions) suffer from the human proclivity to fear and hate the Other and that Trump exploited that long suppressed but real thinking, I believe that was the least of the reasons Trump was elected.

      The assumption that all white people hate everyone who has a different color skin, a different language, or a different culture is suspect. It’s as suspect as any broad generalization. The jerk who insulted your DH while he was shopping for a car deserved a kick in the ass. I think most Americans, no matter what color or ethnicity they partake in, would agree with that.

  2. Hmmm….What a “less than refreshing post”….A bit disappointed Funny as you seem a bit “elite” yourself in this post describing those with JUST a high school diploma or GED less important. Let us not forget someone needs to make the steel, collect the trash, paint the walls, etc. for our Society to function. But rather somehow those who have college degrees are somewhat superior…more important …that they need to be treated differently…better…Not a fan. Our new President yesterday left no doubt where he stands and was quick to point out that as the economy went down the tubes the “elite” in Washington continued to flourish. Please compare the national debt from when Mr. Obama went into office and compare it to today and what elected officials made 8 years ago and what they make today.
    My parting thought is, in these times of turmoil and “Black lives Matter” (it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad ) that the X-President was wisked away to Palm Springs on our dime to attend events. Because we all know that is where the lives are that REALLY matter.

    • “Just a high school diploma or GED” is not what I said. I said ” The workers’ enthusiasm for just having a job was described,” and “Not just a few ‘deplorables,’ folks,” with the word “deplorables” in scare quotes, a device that means the same as /s.

      Employers think those who have college degrees are superior, even though in fact that’s not necessarily so. This is the reason we strive to send our kids to college, and it’s the reason parents and children put themselves deep in hock to colleges and universities: so the kid can get a decent job and NOT have to stand in front of a blast furnace to make 30 grand a year.

      Long-time readers of the blog know I believe — because I’ve said it many times — that this is neither a fair nor a healthy state of affairs, for a wide variety of reasons.

      Notice that Mr. Trump and his friends also flourished when the economy went down the tubes. And the economy did NOT go down the tubes under either Clinton or Obama: where do you get that idea? It went down the tubes under George Bush the Younger, when (among other things) banking regulation was relaxed so that people who couldn’t afford loans could borrow stupid amounts of money. As Obama leaves office, unemployment is at 4.7%, as compared to the 10.2% (think of that: TEN PERCENT) that we suffered in 2009, thanks to Mr. Bush and his cronies.

      It’s important to remember that a government is not a household and not a business. Unlike personal indebtedness, the national debt is not necessarily a measure of the health of the government’s economic status. You may find this article useful: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/economics/10/national-debt.asp “When debt is used appropriately, it can be used to foster the long-term growth and prosperity of a country.”

      Alas, I have to run around to get down to the women’s march this morning. Back later!

  3. Hmmm….I’m always confused by Mr. Obama’s unemployment numbers. It would seem the average household income would be more important and to find out what percentage of the population is actually working. Both which are down and student loan balances are up. I have run into quite a few folks who have used all their unemployment benefits and have just quit looking for jobs….or just decided to take their SS at 62 …. because they can’t find work…so they are no longer counted.
    And I have always been troubled by the harsh treatment of Mr. Bush. Imagine just for a moment that you are President, days into your term, and the “unthinkable” takes place, as you are at an elementary school for a reading program when given the news of “Twin Towers”. I for one will never forget that day….I will never forget Mr. Bush despite objections from security went on the very sight to see recovery efforts and shake hands with first responders….I will never forget his speech….with “you are either WITH us or AGAINST us” within…..I will never forget him landing on a carrier deck in a jet…I believe a first for a sitting President. Mr. Bush bears too much of the blame for the crash and many of the lending practices were pushed thru by the previous Clinton Administration so “everyone could own a home”. I would ask how would you have responded differently if you were in his shoes? I guess I will always be a Devoted Deplorable….who just can’t understand why Progressive thinkers while demonstrating would think it is OK to set our Nation’s Capital on fire…

    • “… the average household income would be more important and to find out what percentage of the population is actually working.” Yeah, you’ve got something there…on BOTH counts. A fair amount of the optimism we hear (when we hear it) ignores the base facts of former middle-class life: that people are earning less and that more and more people are underemployed. And IMHO a part-time gig, contract work, or a side-gig inflated into a “business” (such as mine own…) is not a job: it IS underemployment.

      Well, hmmmmmm…. WAS Bush the Younger just days into his term? He was inaugurated on January 20, 2001. The Twin Towers attack occurred over 8 months later, on 9/11. How long do you have to be in office to be able to cope? He put on a good show of supporting the troops, but it was also noted, quietly, that this was a guy whose military service was, shall we say, shaky, and apparently was engineered to keep him out of the draft, and, more specifically, out of Vietnam. This is interesting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W._Bush#Military_career

      The crash came 8 years after Clinton left office. Blame for it has been laid squarely on Republican trickle-down theories and deregulation of the financial industry, also a Republican strategy.

      Truth to tell, I think you should stand tall as a Proud Deplorable — as should a bunch of us, maybe all of us in the former working and middle classes. We need a T-shirt, by gawd!

    • Just as unemployment figures to not capture those who have stopped looking for work, taking a top line time series look at the labor force participation rate can also produce inadequate analysis. The denominator of the ratio includes all people in the US who are 16 or older, while the numerator includes those 16 or older who are working. At the younger end of that spectrum, we know greater numbers of people are delaying entering the workforce to complete post secondary education, which as young people delay entering the workforce we would expect the numerator to trend downward. Similarly, we need to account for older folks. People are living longer on average, and are living longer in retirement. So people in older age are spending longer out of the numerator while continuing to be in the denominator. The large Baby Boomer generation is hitting retirement now which will continue to put downward pressure on the ratio. I’m sure there are plenty of other factors that can influence the ratio in both directions. None of this is to say the labor force participation ratio should never be used, but to use it as a proxy for working-age people who have stopped looking for work/unemployment (especially in time series analysis) we need to account for other factors that may skew the results.

      We can also look at average household income. That data is published by the St. Louis Fed. It will show an overall upward trajectory with dips corresponding to downturns in the economy. It will also show that there has been significant recovery since the 2007/8 crash. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_States#/media/File:US_Real_Household_Median_Income_thru_2014.png) But like the labor force participation rate I talk about above, the real story likely isn’t in those top line numbers. I don’t have time to do the analysis, but my hunch is that if we instead looked at the average household income by quintile, we would find that the growth has not been even across those quintiles. There are many reasons that could happen, but I won’t conjecture without looking at the data first.

      Have no fear, I also think the top line unemployment figures that get reported are a poor indicator as well. That figures treats all unemployment as equal. All unemployment is not equal, and treating it as if it is is dangerous. Structural and economic unemployment have different causes and solutions. In the US we do not like to talk about structural unemployment, but no matter how well the economy does the jobs of those who are structurally unemployed are not coming back. We should be looking at both measures of unemployment. Economic unemployment is a measure of the health of the economy while structural is a measure of the health of the labor force.

  4. I agree with you, Funny. This is something I’ve suspected all along. Is this country perfect? No. Are we completely free of racism and bigotry? Of course not. But my point is, when there is great financial inequality, great financial stress, race relations worsen because too many of us are competing for too few jobs that no longer pay as well as they once did. Also, automation of tasks and jobs moving overseas complete the trifecta. Factor in wealthy, powerful people who are ingnorant of just what it takes to earn a living wage… we wind up with a president who likes to talk, promise, brag, and obfuscate, but what will he actually accomplish? Trump seems to think that if he says it, it will be so. Wow! We’ll see about that.

  5. There’s no doubt that jobs at big manufacturing plants have disappeared. People who had those displaced jobs most likely need to “re-tool” their skill sets to do something else, though. Expecting that we can do the same job at the same employer for all of our adult lives isn’t feasible anymore (if it ever was).

    Most of those manufacturing jobs were lost to automation, not offshoring. Yet that narrative is too complex for people to grasp, I guess? Or maybe (probably?) the misdirection and finger pointing at other countries is done on purpose because it’s always easier to blame someone else for your problems.

    There are many jobs that can be done without a college degree and are difficult to offshore: plumber, electrician, carpenter, welder, roofer, road construction, waste management, landscaping…All of these are skilled jobs that require training, but don’t require a college degree.

    I think that offering people a healthcare option that is uncoupled from employment was a step in the right direction. We all need to be able to act as “free agents” of our careers so we’re not tied to a company for our benefits. But now that is under attack. It’s ridiculous.

    • Yes, I think you’re right that people _perceive_ that jobs lost to new technologies were sent overseas. Probably it’s easier to blame off-shoring than it is to explain that one is not a Luddite when one is indulging in Luddite arguments. :-0D

      Yet a LOT of good jobs in fact HAVE been sent overseas. I remember when a friend who owned a clothing manufacturing business announced that he was closing down his shops here and sending all his clothing fabrication to China. He was quite a liberal man and it pained him to do so…but, he explained, the savings were so marked that he really had no choice, given what he could get people to pay for his products. Globalization and free trade have given a big fat shaft to a whole lot of American workers. Or, we might say, former workers.

      Not everyone has the physical strength demanded by the trades. Have you ever watched a roofer at work for any length of time? Ever known a guy who builds roads? Ever spent time talking with a guy who does landscaping? Ever climbed into a 120-degree attic with an electrician? Most women and many men are in no shape to do these jobs, and never will be.

      Yes, absolutely: if I were a young man, I would learn a trade, get very good at it, learn how to run a business, and then start hiring employees to do the work. But that requires an entrepreneurial cast of mind, management skills, some understanding of accounting and business operations, and money or some very good credit. How do you get those when you’re working on a roof in 80- to 100-degree heat? Most people working in the trades are too busy WORKING to acquire the skills to start and operate a successful business.

      If I were a young woman again? Trust me: I would not want to become a roofer, a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter (welll….maybe a carpenter, okay…), a welder, a roofer, an asphalt layer, a garbage collector, a landscaper, a painter. I was not then and was not ever likely to become physically or temperamentally competent to do those jobs.

      We need the jobs that have been sent overseas.