Friday, April 15, 2011

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs -- Why Nobody, Including Obama, Will Do A Damn Thing About Them (Plus Six Common-Sense Solutions)


By Adam Ash
What with the Obama-GOP dilly-dallying dance over spending cuts, I feel I'm sort of off-topic in bringing up the more basic problem of US joblessness. I feel a bit like the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who upended the course of Western philosophy by bringing up the very basic problem of our existence (he also screwed Hannah Arendt's considerable brains out, and praised Hitler, but those stories are way off-topic here). Heidegger had a word for our existence: Dasein. This has been mistranslated as Being, a snotnosed Brit coinage not nearly as down-to-earth as Heidegger's German. A better translation would be There-ness. We are here, the universe is here, we have There-ness. Our There-ness is the basic philosophical question. However, having now upended Heideggerian scholarship of the last eighty years, I will get on with the basic American problem:

The non-there-ness of millions of US jobs.

Here are my six common-sense solutions to our unemployment crisis. Of course, because they're down-to-earth and commonsensical, nobody -- including Obama -- will think of applying them; you'll find more sense in a flea's sphincter muscles than in the cerebellums of our government.

1. Shorten the work week. Start with a four-day work week. That means we can get 20% more people into the job market. With around 20% people currently out of work, or working part-time, that solves our jobless problem in one stroke. If that's too big a wrench, cut down daily work hours at firms instead of firing people. That's what they do in Germany, where they don't have our job loss (they do everything better in Europe, but don't get me started).

2. Launch a program of job-sharing. That means you're allowed to share your job with someone else. They do something similar in Germany, too. So if you have a friend out of work, you can have her come in one or two days a week to share your job. Of course, you're also putting her on your salary, so you will be earning less, but at least your friend will be earning something.

3. Slap an import tariff on all Chinese imports. Make it 20%. Suddenly, when Chinese imports become more expensive, American CEOs will have a big road-to-Damascus moment: hey, we can make our stuff here in America instead of in China. There are these people in America, they call themselves American workers, and they can actually work for us and make things. They're like Chinese workers, except they actually live here in our country. Wow.

I know, it's not free trade, but here's one thing that free trade means: 60% of what we import from China is made by American subsidiaries there. So let's agree about something: our livelihoods are more important than free trade, which has freed American corporations to export our jobs. Let's fellate free trade with a mininuke. It's not as if China doesn't put up barriers against our exports to them either, chief among them undervaluing their renminbi.

4. Invest massively in green energy, like China and Denmark have already done (Denmark!? why are those damn Scandinavians always the first to do something sensible?). I mean MASSIVE investments in green energy, as massively and transformatively as the Marshall Plan that put a bombed-into-rubble Germany back on its feet, or the Manhattan Project that gave us the atom bomb, or JFK's NASA that gave us a man on the moon in ten years. Obama already put $27.2 billion towards green energy in his February 2009 stimulus bill. But this was akin to a gnat piddling in a waterfall. A few hundred billions behind green energy: now that could solve our unemployment problem as quick and easy as you can overthrow some Arab dictators.

In fact, Obama got a second chance to do something big about green energy when the BP oil spill came along, and everyone walked around hating oil companies. But he blew that opportunity, too. Obama is a lot like what Abba Eban said about Yasser Arafat: Obama never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

5. Lower the retirement age. Yes, you read me right. The reason we need to lower the retirement age, say to 60 for a start, and maybe 55 later on, is to make room for new young workers to enter the job market. Those new workers coming in -- they'll be paying into Social Security so our retirees can retire early.

I know people are saying we should raise the retirement age to save Social Security, but that's BS. Social Security is fully funded for the next 30 years at least. This is what it says in the flyer that Social Security sends out to Social Security recipients:

“Since the mid-1980s, Social Security has been collecting more in payroll contributions each year than it pays out in retirement, survivor, and disability benefits.

“Surplus funds are invested in U.S. Treasury bonds, which represent an implicit promise by the U.S. government to repay Social Security when and if additional money is needed to cover benefits.

“According to Congressional Budget Office, the Social Security Trust Fund holds more than $2.5 trillion in government bonds and is projected to grow to $3.8 trillion in 2020. This money will be sufficient, along with current tax revenue, to pay all scheduled benefits through the year 2043.”

In other words, Social Security will be fit and healthy right through the big bubble of the boomer generation collecting it. Plus, anytime you need to, you can get more money by raising the annual income limit beyond which you don't pay into Social Security, now pegged at $90,000. Anybody who tells you Social Security is in trouble, is trying to steal your money so they can go play with it. It drives Wall Street absolutely nuts that there are all those trillions they can't get their hands on. Their hands itch worse than Nietzsche's foreskin when he was going crazy with syphilis. It drives retired Wall Street billionaire Peter Peterson so nuts, he's spending a billion dollars of his personal stash to attack Social Security through his foundation and his America Speaks program.

6. Start a public works program a la FDR's WPA (Works Progress Administration), which produced eight million jobs between 1935 and 1943. It worked great then. But today, it depends on Obama. And he ain't no FDR. He likes to read books about Reagan, the poodle of the rich. FDR stood up to the rich. Obama can't: he needs their money to get re-elected. It's odd how everyone in America cops that our crumbling infrastructure needs fixing, while millions are jobless, but no one can muster the wherewithal to solve these two problems at one stroke. Not even Obama, whose job it is. We've got people who need work, we've got infrastructure that needs repair. Put the two together and voila! problem solved. Simple, right? But our common sense and our let's-do-it gumption, and the nous of our President, are flying somewhere weightlessly in space like astronaut's poop floating wherever the heck they deposit their waste.

Instead, Obama is only interested in window-dressing. Sure, he would like for there to be a slight upwards tick in employment in the three or four months before his re-election. But that's next year, not now.

Take Obama's latest bit of window-dressing. It's called his new “Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.” And Obama appointed the CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt, to head it up.

This is nothing but a big suck-up to big business for campaign dollars, just like Obama's Catfood Deficit Commission was a big suck-up to our professional debt and inflation worriers.

Appointing Immelt as head of a Jobs Council is a cosmic joke, because Immelt is a master at losing American jobs. That's what he and GE have been doing since the days when CEO Jack Welch started mass firings at GE. Back then Welch was known as Neutron Jack because, like a neutron bomb, he annihilated the people while he left the buildings standing. When Immelt became the CEO in 2000, GE employed 340,000 workers. Today he's cut it down to 304,000 workers, with fewer than half in the US.

1. GE IS THE WORLD'S BIGGEST MANUFACTURER BUT PAYS NO U.S. TAXES

In fact, Immelt has turned GE's operation in the US into a Wall Street-like bank (GE Capital Services) built on a hollowed-out manufacturing base that gets most of its business from the government, and allows GE to use its government manufacturing contracts -- corporate welfare -- to leverage its financial arm into another Wall Street casino. Today, GE is the perfect US corporation: a hideous combination of Wall Street skullduggery, government handouts, and tax avoidance. Its main manufacturing, which makes it the biggest manufacturer on the planet, happens overseas. GE Capital Services is not classified as a bank, but loopholed its way into TARP, and received tens of billions in bailouts, because it owns two small banking institutions in Utah. Along with Exxon, GE didn't pay taxes in 2009. Yet GE is #4 on the Fortune 500. In 2010, GE earned $14 billion -- $5.1 billion from US operations (all that corporate welfare) -- and paid no taxes again. In fact, it claimed a $3.2 billion tax benefit straight out of your pocket.

For Obama to put CEO Immelt of GE in charge of an American jobs commission is a little like God putting Satan in charge of heaven.

But then God doesn't need Satan's money to keep getting himself elected God.

There are some other things Obama could do but won't. Since small start-ups are our sole engines for job creation (cutting taxes sure aren't; the Bush tax cuts for the rich lost jobs), and since most start-ups are done by folks in their 40s, he could invest in work-study programs for older people, which will also help retrain people in their 40s for the new kinds of jobs that new technology creates. He could also make college education free for those who can't afford it, since kids without a college education have a tough time finding jobs (heck, kids with a college education have a tough time, too).

Obvious solutions, don't you think? Here's the thing: all big problems have obvious solutions. You want to solve our big debt problem, for example? Simple. The first obvious thing: raise tax rates on anyone's earnings above a million a year to 50% or 60% (the top tax rate under Eisenhower was 90%, and those were the golden days of capitalism, when there was one earner per household -- the Dad -- and he could own a house, put two kids through college and retire graciously with his wife, all on his one factory job salary). Getting rich people to pay more taxes is a solution that has the country behind it. A 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll asked what the "first step" to balance the budget should be: 60% of Americans said "increase taxes on the wealthy." Or how about this idea Donald Trump had in 1999 -- a onetime net worth tax on individuals and trusts worth upwards of $10 million, affecting less than 1% of Americans. Trump calculated that a 14.25% levy on this net worth would raise $5.7 trillion. In case you feel sorry for the rich, let's not forget that our top 1% got 65% of all household income growth between 2002 and 2007. As far as I'm concerned, they can go trade in their diamond-encrusted dildos for plain rubber ones tomorrow.

The second obvious thing: slap a minimal tax of as little as 0.5% on every financial transaction on Wall Street -- the so-called Tobin Tax.

A third obvious thing: get out of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, shut down our more than 800 military bases all over the world, and slash the Pentagon budget. Years ago, in 1953, President Eisenhower said: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

A fourth obvious thing: get private enterprise out of our healthcare system and extend Medicare to everyone, which will cut our healthcare costs in half down to what it is in the rest of the industrialized world. Any two or three of these four things would have us out of debt tomorrow. Obvious, right?

In the same way, a deft combination of two or three of my common-sense solutions could solve our unemployment problem overnight. Obvious, right?

But will any of these solutions happen? Probably not in your lifetime. Why not?

2. AMERICAN BUSINESS DOESN'T NEED AMERICAN WORKERS

Here's the point about our unemployment problem that everyone seems to miss: it's not a problem for anyone except the poor sods who don't have jobs. Like herpes is not a problem for anyone except those herpes carriers still in the market for a bonk.

Nobody in business or government has a stake in solving our unemployment problem. They don't give a damn, and they don't have to give a damn, which is why the unemployment percentage hasn't come down significantly since 2008. Only the people who are jobless give a damn, and they're too poor or too worried or too discouraged or too ashamed or too suicidal to do anything about it.

It's not a problem for business, that's for sure. For them, our unemployment problem is actually a solution. American CEOs love cheap Chinese workers; they hate American workers. Their allegiance is to money, not country. They love exporting our jobs, especially after Clinton generously gave them the Democratic Party seal of approval with NAFTA. They get tax breaks for exporting jobs (yeah, Satan is getting extra roasting spits from the Archangel Gabriel). Our business elite can even get all humanitarian about US joblessness -- as one hedge fund manager told journalist Chrystia Freeland: “If the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that's not such a bad trade.”

So if you've just lost your job, or you know someone who has, console yourself: four foreigners have gained from your loss. Think of your joblessness as an act of charity. Or your contribution to foreign aid. Stop whining and suck it up. You're luckier than an Afghan -- at least some vicious foreign government didn't come and bomb your family to smoking bits of hamburger.

Currently, big business in America is doing so well, they have two trillion bucks in hard cash which they've saved from firing people, with which they could hire people, but for one thing: they like hoarding cash more than they like hiring people. So they will continue to create more joblessness. Forrester Research predicts US employers will move 3.4 million white-collar jobs and $136 billion in wages overseas by 2015. A University of California at Berkeley report finds 14 million US jobs are at risk of being sent offshore, and predicts job losses will exceed the Forrester study's projections.

US unemployment is a gift to US business. The unemployed scare the employed to the point they'll work harder and longer for less. It's what big business always wanted: an employers' paradise.

3. UNEMPLOYMENT IS NOT A PROBLEM FOR OUR GOVERNMENT

Our government will do nothing about our unemployment problem either. Heck, they created it. Under Clinton, our government supported the export of American jobs. Under Clinton, our government deregulated Wall Street and removed all oversight from derivatives, which enabled Wall Street to cause the Great Recession, which is another way of saying that Clinton gave Wall Street the tools and the elbow room to loot us and make us lose our jobs and our homes. It took the two worst presidents in history, Clinton and Bush Two, working in a double-punch follow-up sequence, to punch out the US economy completely flat on its back, where it now lies out-of-breath and bleeding freely from its bloodied proboscis.

Remember how Obama used to talk about “green shoots” in our economy? Then the White House talked about “the summer of recovery.” Now he's saying our economy is “moving in the right direction.” Soon he'll claim our “economy is on track to come back.” Whatever. I measure our economy by how many Americans have jobs and can afford not to live in a tent city. If you believe in Obama's ongoing spin about our downgoing economy going up, I've got a pound of crap I dropped this morning that I've painted a radiant gold to sell you.

OK, Obama saved maybe a million jobs with his 2009 stimulus bill, and 50,000 jobs with his Detroit takeover, but he hasn't created any NEW jobs.

He could create new jobs with a public works program. The government is already paying out millions in unemployment, so why not use that money to employ people and give them something to do while they're collecting their unemployment, so to speak? Like, for example, fix our crumbling infrastructure, which badly needs doing. Many of the lost jobs are in construction anyway.

But Obama hasn't done that, which means he won't do that. He just doesn't have the imagination or the balls for it. He's no FDR, not even an LBJ. Ever since Nixon, every president we've had has been a screwup, and Obama is one of them.

As for us growing fast enough to add more jobs, we don't even grow fast enough to accommodate young people entering the job market, let alone making up for our lost jobs. The U.S. economy, which is supposed to be rebounding, added 36,000 jobs in January 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 125,000 are needed just to keep up with the increase in the population of Americans wanting and needing work. And 300,000 a month are needed for at least five years straight to get back to the employment we had before the Great Recession. So the 192,000 new jobs created in February is not nearly enough. Plus, they're crappy jobs with crappy pay. The Great Recession's biggest losses were jobs paying $19.05 to $31.40 an hour. And the past year's biggest gains? Jobs paying $9.03 to $12.91 an hour. The good jobs aren't coming back. And even if you have a good job, and do something socially useful -- like teaching -- you're going to get demonized by Faux News, who like to create scapegoats for their Tea Party morons to hate, so the Tea Party idiots won't get pissed with the real culprits milking us dry: our overpaid CEOs.

Moreover, we're in so much debt, we'll never spend enough to create more demand to create more workers to create more stuff for us to demand.

Also, technology has brought us to a point where it not only replaces and reduces labor, but also puts us in a position where we're able to produce much more than we can buy. Capitalism has kind of run itself to ground. Unless workers here and everywhere else get paid more, they can't afford everything they can produce. Unless our elite spreads more of the surplus value around, there will be constant under-demand for our constant over-capacity. (The latterday Marxist scholar David Harvey usefully defines the ongoing capitalist crises as “surplus capital and surplus labor existing side by side with seemingly no way to put them back together.”) And we know our elite are not in the mood to pay us more. That old anti-Semite Henry Ford was the first and last capitalist who realized you have to pay your workers enough for them to be able to buy the products they make. Our owner class has finally gotten so greedy they're undermining their own system. US capitalism is snacking its own tail.

To sum up:

(a) We'll never grow fast enough to outgrow our unemployment problem.

(b) We'll always be in debt.

(c) Big business will keep exporting US jobs.

(d) Technology will keep making more jobs redundant.

(e) Obama won't do a WPA program.

(f) Labor will never be paid enough to buy what they make.

That's our problem in six nutshells. And here's the main reason nobody will do a damn thing about solving any of it.

4. THE BIG REASON WHY NOBODY WILL DO A DAMN THING ABOUT OUR UNEMPLOYMENT

There's one big reason why our big problems won't get solved in any big hurry: America is dumber than the rest of the industrialized world. We the people are dumb, and we our leaders are dumb. From being the smartest nation on earth a mere 30 years ago, we have steadily slid downward in national IQ to the dumbest. It started with Ronald Reagan, our first totally dumbfuck president, and steadily trended downward with the decline of our public schools and the dramatic dumfuckification of our GOP leaders (surely the biggest dumbfucks since Marie Antionette), and then accelerated to warp-speed with the advent of Rupert Murdoch's moronically dumbfuck Fox News for cretinously dumbfuck viewers, guaranteed to make them catatonically dumbfucked, if they started out being merely moronically or cretinously dumbfucked.

We are now the world's leading dumbfucks (let's forget for a moment that we are also the world's leading killers of ourselves and of foreign people, and the world's leaders in making our planet unfit for human habitation; as Sarah Palin likes to say, we are the exceptional nation).

Ours is the nation of five-star blue-ribbon dumbfucks deluxe who've raised a celebrity airhead like Sarah Palin into a position of great political influence, and who've elevated a lunatic motormouth like Michele Bachmann into our actual government, and a deranged raging moonbat like Glenn Beck into the position of our National Teacher-in-Chief, Complete With Blackboard and Pointer, with a classroom of millions of dumbfucks sucking up the Beck Curriculum of numero uno dumbfuckery consisting of Bizarro Dumbfuck Anti-American Liberal Conspiracies with extra credit for Dumbfuck Bigotry 101.

We are so dumb, we are currently letting a nation that still largely consists of damn peasants for chrissake, China, eat our lunch. That's dumber than a baboon who pulls his own entrails out of a bullet wound in his stomach (yeah, they do that).

Our leaders are the dumbest on the planet, too. I wouldn't let most people in Congress run a toilet concession at a high school sports meet, let alone a country. Since we are a nation of dumbfucks, we vote for a Congress of dumbfucks, and are stuck with a majority of dumbfucks on the Supreme Court, too, on whom you can rely to always rule against America and for some special interest.

We also vote for a dumbfuck president, or at any rate, our dumbfuck politicians give us only a choice of dumbfucks to vote for. Now I'm not saying Obama personally is a dumbfuck -- he was smart enough to marry Michelle -- like John McCain is personally a dumbfuck, or Sarah Palin is personally a dumbfuck, or any Republican you care to name is personally a dumbfuck (these days, you've got to be either a dumbfuck or a loon to be a Republican -- the old-style smart Republicans like Rockefeller and Eisenhower and Nixon must be drowning from their own puke in their spinning graves: just imagine what they'd think of today's GOP).

But as a politician, Obama is just like any other politician. In other words, the Compleat Dumbfuck, in his particular case with a vast region of dumbfuckery between his two big sticking-out ears.

Obama is such a dumbfuck, people thought their taxes had gone up under him. He's such a dumbfuck, he forgot to remind the American people that he had cut their taxes, or otherwise -- a case of even bigger dumbfuckery -- he didn't have the smarts to give it to them in a form they could see with their own dumbfuck eyes, like sending them a dumbfuck check, like that dumbfuck President Bush did.

Don't get me started.

Furthermore, dumbfuck Obama let the Republicans take the House away from his party in the midterm elections on two issues, both of which he was too dumbfucked to counter: that (a) his healthcare bill was a “government takeover” and that (b) $500 million would be cut from Medicare, which scared the piss out of older Prevail Diaper-wearing voters, who unlike the young Obama supporters, went to the polls and voted. None of this was true (the $500 million is actually savings that'll put Medicare on a sounder footing), but Obama was too much of a fucking dumbfuck to fight black lies with golden truth. And this is the silvertongued smart fuck who is supposed to be able to orate Cicero into a state of dumbfuckedness, the finest political performer since fucking Disraeli or fucking Hitler or fucking Virgin Queen Elizabeth the fucking First.

OK, now you've got me started.

To lose an election because your opponents lied bigger and better than you could tell the truth ... oy vey is mir across the universe ... that is dumbfuckery of the most utterly utmost dumbfuckery ... solid-gold dumfuckery that follows a timeline of dumbfuckery that outlives the biggest dumbfuckery in the history of the evolution of all dumbfuckery since dumbfuck fishes crawled out on land to become dumbfucking mammals ... on a scale of dumbfuckery more supremely dumbfucked than every instance of planetary dumbfuckery that's ever been committed on Earth in the most globalized sense of dumbfuckery ... stretching forth from our planetary system into an intergalactic dumbfuckery that embraces every galaxy of our expanding universe in a cosmic dumbfuckery to the ends of the twelfth multiverse squared by an infinity of dumbfuckery ... containing and extending and implying and multiplying all and every dumbfuckery since the first split second of dumbfuckery when all that is dumbfucked came into creation with one Big Bang of Be-Dumbfucked Fucked-Dumb Dumbfuckery.

I warned you not to get me started.

So yes, dumbfuckery is definitely at the root of all our problems, but there is another factor -- what one might call the sap in the roots of our dumbfuckery, the actual lifeblood of our dumbfuckery, if you will.

5. BESIDES SMARTS, WE'VE RUN OUT OF GUTS, TOO

We have no guts. That's the other thing wrong with us. It's not as big as the fact that we've evolved into cellularly ingrained dumbfucks from our very genetic code inside out, but it's definitely a factor. It's kind of the gravy on the meat of our dumbfuckery.

We the people, the American people, have no guts. Shame on us. Or maybe the Wisconsin protests are a sign of some vigor in the American corpse. Maybe 100,000 nurses and teachers and firefighters -- the heartland middle-class being punished for the sins of the rich -- will ignite the nation.

You think? Fat chance, people. The American Dream is dead. The land of the free and the brave is the land of the slave and the wuzz. And Obama won't stop the boots of Wall Street and the US Chamber of Commerce and the GOP from kicking us down, down, down, and when we finally hit rock bottom, giving us a few more kicks just for the heck of it. In fact, Obama is incahoots with them. He's actually licking the boots that are kicking us: he's got bail-out king Tim Geithner and ex-bankster Tim Daley working for him. Now maybe Obama is just being realistic, and he needs to get re-elected to protect his healthcare reform bill from going down. Still, everyone should realize that in the eternal stand-off between the middle class vs the rich, where the middle class is always called upon to pay for the disasters created by the rich, Obama has sided with the rich, no matter what you might hope his future agenda will be.

At this point in time, in year three of the Obama administration, we the American people have become the biggest sucker nation ever. We're having the wool pulled over eyes in five shades of midnight blue. We're being snookered and conned and diddled like nobody's business. We're being played like some latter-day Chopin is tickling our accommodating ivories to the tune of "Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be, the future's not ours to see, que sera sera, what will be, will be."

Somewhere, someone is laughing, and that someone is not us. My fellow mindless and gutless and jobless Americans, the rich have won the class war, and the rest of us, aka we the dumbfucks, including you, dear reader ... you lost.

2 comments:

rahul said...

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Shawn Beard said...

Well written, a little angry perhaps - reminded me for a moment of Bill Maher. Now it's 2013, and Obama is here for only a couple of more years, and I'm a little disappointed in how little "hope and change" has been forthcoming. You're absolutely correct about our collective dumbfuckery, and I happen to find the fact simultaneously hilarious and lovable about us all. Enjoyed your post immensely, thanks!