The Lost Decade

Here's some interesting numbers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in October of 1999 there were 109,487,000 non-farm, private-sector jobs in the United States. 10 years later, there were 108, 401,000, a loss of 1,086,000. The US population grew by 34,573,000 in the same period.

This decade was largely counted as a period of "growth." And for a lucky few, it was. These are the few who control the economy, or what's left of it. For the rest, not so much. Indeed, we would have to add 10,000,000 jobs just to get back to where we were in December of 2007, when the Great Recession began. Where are all the jobs going to come from? Beats me. The Obama administration is pinning its hopes on the "green" economy, but even if that is the next boom, why wouldn't these jobs be outsourced just as all the others were?

Americans can compete with foreign workers, if the playing field is leveled. Indeed, Americans are the most productive workers in the world, or close to it. But we cannot compete with currency manipulations, slave labor, disregard for even minimal environmental or health standards, etc. Without abandoning the whole "free" trade ideology, an ideology peculiarly divorced from any actual reality, we cannot revive the economy. There are other things that need to be done, but without this nothing can be done.


Mr. Piccolo,  Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 3:52:00 PM CST  

I hope there is a real movement towards economic patriotism in this country, but I feel it will be hard to change the opinions of the relatively comfortable (middle- and upper-middle class), (who I think tend to see free trade as something that benefits them through a cheaper and more diverse array of consumer goods), without some degree of suffering on their part. For example, it is my perception that many white-collar workers don't care that so many manufacturing jobs have disappeared. I think a lot of well-educated workers look down on blue-collar people who work in factories, for example, and figure that they don't deserve job security or a family wage. Whenever I raise my concerns about "free" trade and outsourcing to my well-educated friends, the usual responses from them are that “those factory workers should have paid more attention in school,” or “factory workers are all lazy,” or the best: "they should accept much lower pay to compete with foreign labor." Yes, because I really want to see the American worker reduced to the material level of a Chinese worker! Talk about a race to the bottom!

Now of course, I don’t really want anyone to suffer. I think it would be better if people saw that good, family wages and secure jobs are necessary towards building and maintaining strong communities, something we all benefit from as a country. Unfortunately, I feel that Americans have become increasingly selfish and individualistic, and so we may have to wait until the more comfortable feel the pinch from outsourcing too, which I think is probably underway in some professions already.

Note: I don't mean to knock white-collar workers or the educated per se, it’s just that my perception is that our society, and especially our schools and media, push globalism and "free" trade while tending to encourage a bias against blue-collar workers, especially those engaged in manufacturing. Instead of the current state of things, I would prefer a system of solidarity between workers in various fields.

Anonymous,  Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 8:40:00 PM CST  

What can be done until the average Joe Lunchbox is willing to pay more to avoid purchasing electronic goods produced by enslaved Chinese political prisoners? Our reliance cheap food and clothing is far more culturally damaging in the long run than our "addiction" to foreign oil. But then again, I may be all wet.

Eric J. Peet Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 12:20:00 AM CST  

Mr. Piccolo, I couldn't agree more. The prevailing ethos in our nation today is, unfortunately, one of selfishness and greed.

"I've got mine, to heck with the other guy" is our creed and while this crosses class barriers, it seems to me to be best (or worst) embodied by the middle classes as a whole.

The existence, or the survival, of any society, from the family unit, to a mighty empire like our United States, necessarily requires a certain amount of sacrifice.

Without the members' willingness to sacrifice for the others in the group, the whole thing will turn out badly.

One can see an almost total unwillingness to sacrifice even a modicum of comfort or wealth for one's compatriots in our culture whether it is in the realm of commerce or in issues such as health care. Tacky cause magnets on one's SUV oughtn't, in my opinion, count as a sacrifice.

The irony is that this dogged concern for our own well being, and no one else's, leads to a situation, like our own current one regarding free trade, where everyone eventually loses.

A spirit of cooperation, solidarity, and sacrifice, would do much to pave the way for a much more just economic system than the one in place right now.

Chris Campbell Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 7:25:00 AM CST  

Well said, John.look foward to finishing the videos of your talk at the college in Romania

Anonymous,  Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 3:05:00 PM CST  

Mr. Piccolo said... "I feel that Americans have become increasingly selfish and individualistic, and so we may have to wait until the more comfortable feel the pinch from outsourcing too, which I think is probably underway in some professions already."

Unfortunately that seems to be our history. Things always have to descend to the level of crisis to get people's attention. I agree that the more comfortable are starting to feel the pinch, and I firmly believe that this year may well be the time they go from "uncomfortable" to real "pain" with even more layoffs and business closures. The small business persons are hanging on by their fingernails and Obama's "jobs stimulus" will only be more of the same tired old government handouts to entrenched bureaucracies like the "one stop job centers" and community colleges for "job retraining" that are nothing more than bureaucrats in disguise. What is needed is business incubators to help micro business start-ups with an exemption from taxes and regulation to get them off the ground.

Septeus7,  Friday, January 8, 2010 at 10:17:00 AM CST  

Any doctrine of free trade violates freedom of association because it forces a community to into an economic union with the economic practice another community and then claims that any attempt to declare independence or change the economic situation violates the so-called "right to free trade".

Free trade is nothing more than a doctrine of oligarchy where the determination of trade policy is determine by the greatest purchaser of goods i.e. the "free trader cartels" and the working people are slaves to what the "free traders" determine their conditions will be because the "free trader" has freed the masses (libertarianism) from any political process that has the power to effect this centralized control over the economy that the cartels have already via acquired (stolen) wealth.

Oligarchs love the idea of "small government" except for the "police function" to enforce "property rights" that according to some are the only kinds of rights and thus only kind of state you get a called police state i.e. everything is the privatized property of the Oligarchy and the police are merely private corporate security and the courts a department of the same corporate bureaucracy. This is what liberal freedom and the freedom of free trade has always been about.

If you want government that is small then have distracted from projects of building it’s police capacity and have it build roads and bridges and give handout to poor people because that is less threatening ever expanding police force to protect increasing concentration of private power and wealth.

I’m thinking about writing a book called “Free Market Fascism” or maybe “Libertarian Fascism” ala Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” right wing drool that tries shows that Hilter was a union loving vegan anti-war hippie fighting capitalism.

John Médaille Friday, January 8, 2010 at 10:55:00 AM CST  

Sept, free trade as a violation of the rights of association (or non-association) may be the most original observation on the subject I have read in a long time.

Americans were raised with individualism as the ruling orthodoxy; it is no wonder that we act the way we do.

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