Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Jobs System is Failing

To make the above picture accurate for today's job market, you'd need around 1000 players
and one chair sitting there.

In the video ignore the use of the word "Recession", more like a Depression. They are more hopeful about new jobs being created then they should be. AP IMPACT: Recession, tech kill middle-class jobs
NEW YORK — Five years after the start of the Great Recession, the toll is terrifyingly clear: Millions of middle-class jobs have been lost in developed countries the world over. And the situation is even worse than it appears. Most of the jobs will never return, and millions more are likely to vanish as well, say experts who study the labor market. What's more, these jobs aren't just being lost to China and other developing countries, and they aren't just factory work. Increasingly, jobs are disappearing in the service sector, home to two-thirds of all workers. They're being obliterated by technology. 
Year after year, the software that runs computers and an array of other machines and devices becomes more sophisticated and powerful and capable of doing more efficiently tasks that humans have always done. For decades, science fiction warned of a future when we would be architects of our own obsolescence, replaced by our machines; an Associated Press analysis finds that the future has arrived.
More Jobs Predicted for Machines, Not People

A few years ago, I wrote on  a message board, that technology was doing away with a long list of jobs and there was nothing being put in place to replace all that. Is all technology a good idea? Is progress making life easier or nicer? I don't think so. You'd think human beings would be more wise. A bank like the one shown in the video with automated tellers sounds like a nightmare.

I refuse to use those self-check out stations, those things drive me crazy, where the weight has to be consistent and it constantly bleeps at you if you do not move fast enough. Think of all the cashiers now out of a job because of those things! More of us should refuse to use them on principle. So shopping becomes even more impersonal and the disabled and elderly have more work to do, just to get out of the grocery store. So what's great about that? Less service, more work for the customer and now someone is out of a job. The days where one could ask for a fill up for their car were BETTER, though they still exist in New Jersey.

One thing life has become far more utilitarian, think of the 1970s even where an endless amount of leisure activities from roller skating to hiking filled the advertisements. Who has time or money for any of that? In the 1980s, people actually collected knickknacks and minatures!Can you imagine that in our days of low expendable income?

In the 1950s, one could find hat shops, shoe shops and many more businesses there to serve your needs. Now they have outsourced everything overseas. Some of you like me may have grown up even shopping for FUN with Mom and Dad taking you to the mall, now such an idea is really strange to think about, spending money on things you don't need? Well with all that wiped away so is a slew of jobs that dealt with those services, leisure activities and items.

Newspapers are dying, the publishing world is on its last breath, printers have to worry about those electronic books, killing their industry, who makes anything here anymore? Even farming has been taken over by mega-corporate conglomerates that even have the cows milked and eggs turned and collected via machine. Did anyone think this stuff out, where the machines would take all the work away? What would be the result of all the jobs being sent overseas for cheap labor? In the 1980s, they sang the praises of the "service" economy, but whose left to serve when no one can afford the extras of life? I haven't had my hair cut since 2004, it's easier just to whip out the scissors and cut it off myself. There's only so many rich people left to service restaurants, cruise ships, and luxury hairdressers for.

The colleges are so out of touch it isn't funny, selling degrees, you know there are no jobs for. I remember an ad that ran a few years ago, where they would teach you design video games. How many video game designers does one nation need? They are there to keep their money flowing in though they barely pay the adjunct professors anything who often need food stamps when they thought their Master's degrees and PhDs would mean a middle class life.

The young people are promised jobs and careers that simply aren't there, or are so short in number that the thousands of graduates released into that particular field don't know what awaits them. The people who have the math brains, and mechanical know-how and technological aptitude for so called STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math careers], have more of a fighting chance, but even there IT lay-offs and more outsourcing has made that less of a guarantee. Unless you have big bucks to get through medical school or exceptional talent or financial resources to open your own business, then obtaining the middle class seems harder then finding that needle in the proverbial haystack. Don't think law school will solve your problems either. It is well-known a glut of unemployed lawyers exists out there. That was one worry I had as I went to paralegal school.

Some of the employers claim there are jobs out there but many of these are highly specialized and technical jobs that you can't even imagine someone even finding a proper school to teach them the in's and outs of. Anyhow all that nonsense about how we need more education in America, is a joke. We already have the phDs on food stamps and hundreds of thousands of college degreed people working as waiters, and house cleaners.

Take a look at the job listings sometime. Your kid's college isn't preparing them for this. The only decent paying jobs there are seem to be restricted to the techno-engineer class, that only a few sliver of a percentage of American people even have the ability to do. Usually one can read those job ads and not even understand what they want, they are so extremely specialized. What on earth is an ETL Administrator? Within that toss out a few college bubble threatened college jobs that you probably need connections to get like admissions director, a few decent paying health care jobs, truck driver jobs, warehouse jobs and then notice, the professional line kind of ends there and the rest are all low-paid jobs from $8 dollar an hour health care staff to various office assistants and waitresses etc.

If you have a young person, have them go to "" pick whatever city you live in or they desire to live in, leave the job space empty, and see what comes up. There you will see what really exists and it's getting more and more narrow by the year. It's not the stuff your high school guidance counselor is claiming nor your college admissions director.....

So what happens in a society where you are expected to hold a job, and pay your bills to be a responsible adult? I am disabled, but I remember the scraping and begging I had to do just to get jobs that barely fed me and provided no health insurance. This involved out of state moves, combining 4 part time jobs, and worse. Some may say, "You failed" due to inherent faults, or your poor health, but then I've seen it happen to too many others, some bogged down with a lifetime of student loans to pay off coming out of school with immense high hopes, only to have that balloon popped, by the fact there are far more people then there are jobs, even the low level ones. A system like that seems pretty unfair.

How many people judge those as jobless or underemployed or only part time employed as failures? How many fines, punishments and daily crushings come about just due to your shortage of money? How many get a new burden of depression, feeling like the world threw them out the door and there is no place for them? What about those laid off into nothing and poverty after 15 plus years of hard work, based on the whims of a soul-less boss? The Jobs System is failing.

Should just having a job be run like the Lotto, where only the lucky and connected get in the door? Should 10 dollar an hour jobs, have such an extensive weeding out process, that they require a resume and two interviews by committee? Should only people with high-level math and extreme technological aptitude be the only ones allowed to make decent middle class wages?

This is not to offer a solution such as the more Communist inclined may offer which is a lifelong dole for everyone, it is just to say what is, and so what is to be done? One thinks about all the talented people who see nowhere for their talents to be expressed. Some express them anyway for free, better then living a life with no expression, your so call starving artists still do art while starving but this is a trend that is definitely going to be costing a lot of people.

How many smart people are there, seeing the utilitarian landscape of the falling jobs system, realize the promises held on to them from the time they were a youngster were all a lie such as the "DO WHAT YOU LOVE mantras? The biggest trap for a kid to end up in adult poverty is to focus on "doing what they love" especially when there are only 15 jobs for 10,000 college majors in the nation in that area. Some take the gamble and lose, I did but being young, naive and upper middle class in my raising, I never really understood how hard it was to make a living. Both parents never were unemployed even ONCE! One sees too many young people told to dream big dreams, but not everyone can be a famous singer, rap star, actress, and all the other fantasy based answers to the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  

That said, the jobs system is failing. Jobs are being wiped away via technology, jobs are being wiped away via outsourcing. It's all become a crap-shoot, a game of musical chairs, where the music plays and there is a giant crowd and only a small circle of CHAIRS [decent jobs] they are all competing for. The music plays on, and many find themselves standing, outside the circle, alone, told they belong nowhere. Some play desperate attempts to run from room to room, or state to state to find a place to BE. What does this do to a society in the long run when most remain standing, when the chairs are all taken up?---The Squawker  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Holidays In The Sun (Ecuador Named Top Retiree Destination)

"Ecuador Rising" (Commissioned Contribution)

A cheep holiday in other peoples misery
I don't wanna holiday in the sun
I wanna go to the new Belsen
I wanna see some history
'cause now I got a reasonable economy

Now I got a reason, now I got a reason
Now I got a reason and I'm still waiting

(The Sex Pistols: "Holidays In The Sun")

Some time ago, we at Ramen Noodle Nation announced nominees for The Cognitive Dissonance Hall of Fame -- specifically, to salute people who appeared to be adept at holding completely opposing views, even if it appeared to make them uncomfortable.  Or, as the gents at Wikipedia like to tell us: "The need to avoid cognitive dissonance may bias one toward a certain decision even though other factors favor an alternative." 

Our shortlist of nominees included a tie between the besieged WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, and his newest, hottest patron, President Rafael Correa, of Ecuador, who offered citizenship to the besieged Swede -- a grand gesture that struck us as a trifle odd, coming from a country that prides itself on bankrupting newspapers with defamation lawsuits, hauling journalists through the court process on arbitrary, trumped-up charges, and even breaking into opposing TV newscasts to push the government's version of things.

However, we're proud to inform you that our mock middle-fingered salute to our authoritarian friends in Quito hasn't been in vain.

Now I got a reason, now I got a reason
Now I got a reason and I'm still waiting

Recorded in October 1977, "Holiday In The Sun"'s thunderous broadside against those who watch the locals' misery from afar -- a theme that's memorably captured in the opening line, "A cheap holiday in other people's misery", yet sounds no less relevant today. (The lyrics took on a doubly ironic ring when drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones split from their comrades, Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, to hang out with former train robber Ronnie Biggs, in Rio de Janeiro, and give him his short-lived bid at punk stardom).

Those lyrics may come back to haunt us in other ways, following International Living's release of its top U.S. retiree destinations.  For those who aren't familiar with the publication, the title does what it says on the tin: if you've ever dreamed of following the likes of Chet Baker, Jim Morrison and other A-listers to a seemingly more glamorous, less economically unforgiving lifestyle, this is the publication for you. Roll the credits, then, for the top five nations:

1. Ecuador: With dinner out costing a mere $2.50, and even potentially pricier propositions peaking at $25 (for a medical visit), it's no wonder that our favorite cognitively dissonant country captured first prize!  According to International Living (which we'll call "IL," for short) it's possible to live on roughly $900 per month -- which, in many places nationwide, is pretty close to what you'd cough up for the privilege of paying a landlord. Ecuador has held the top prize for five years running now.

In fact, IL's comments about Ecuador in general are worth reading, as this nugget from "Reasons To Retire In Ecuador" makes amply clear: ""This is one of the world’s cheapest places to live. Take $250 out of the ATM Monday morning, and your expenses are covered for the week." For the rest of the story, go here:

2. Panama: This ranking appears to be based mainly on the Pensionado (pensioner) visa, which apparently doesn't take much to get your hands on, and qualifies you for a raft of retiree discounts -- ranging from 10 to 15 percent for consultations and medications, to 50 percent for movies and theaters.  For those of us having to squeeze those Abe Lincoln coins until they scream, that might be an appealing option, no?

3. Malaysia: The only Asian country to make the upper rankings, IL cites its low cost of living ($22.50 for a dental filling and cleaning, versus $180 in the US), ease of integration (translation: you'll literally find hundreds of expats like yourself), and...tellingly...medical costs that are a fraction of those in the U.S.: "Penang and Kuala Lumpur are also medical centers of excellence and every day two planeloads of medical tourists arrive in Malaysia for various treatments. Not only is the health care amazing but it’s among the world’s cheapest. And prescriptions here cost a fifth of what you pay at home."

Now I got a reason, now I got a reason
Now I got a reason and I'm still waiting

4. Mexico: With so much ink being generated about people getting their heads cut off en masse, or wouldbe federale snitches having their knuckles massaged with bolt cutters, it's easy to forget that our southern neighbors are also one of the world's biggest destinations for retirees, and -- once again -- medical tourists, as this comment makes plain: "Across the board, health care—including doctor’s visits, hospital stays, lab tests, and devices—costs a quarter to a half of what you’d pay in the U.S. That’s assuming, of course, that you even pay out of pocket."

5. Costa Rica: Lest we forget, this was the nation that got mentioned in the same breath as the late River Phoenix ("The Vegan James Dean"), who bought 800 acres of endangered rain forest real estate in the Central American nation.  Evidently, his net worth wasn't the only factor, since IL specifically cites the country's low cost of living, large expat community, and -- mind you, this will sound like a broken record -- medical costs that don't approach the stratospheric heights of America's Disease Industrial Complex.

IL's entry mentions a couple who were paying $340 per month on prescriptions, and $1,000 per month for health insurance.  Guess what they're paying in Costa Rica?  As enrollees of the nation's universal healthcare system, Caja, Bob and his wife pay a whopping $49 per month, based on income.  Yet, with the onset of Obamacare, the best option that we get is --.the right to buy insurance, with government subsidies flowing to the people identified as "The Problem," not (ahem) "The Solution."

When you think about contradictions like these, sometimes, you're not sure whether to laugh, or to cry...and yet, the evidence is staring you in the face, regardless. For the rest of the list, and the story, go to this link, and scroll to the bottom:

"Ecuador Rising" (Alternate)

Now I got a reason, now I got a reason
Now I got a reason and I'm still waiting

Contrast the IL survey with the mood here at home, where the discussion primarily focuses on how much less we're going to have of everything, and whether we're ever going to be in a position to retire, as this despairing comment from "Brian" on a recent Yahoo News story on the topic might suggest:

"I think its sad how the media and the rich say to save "more" when I can not save enough to take my family to the movies. In all seriousness, whats the point? Lets say you can save $50 per month; without getting interest you would save a whopping $600 per year. Even with todays prices $600 might last 1-2 weeks; much less in the future where things will be more expencive; $600 wont even last a week. So lets say you save up for 30 years; congrats, you saved $18,000 in todays money. How much do you thing $18,000 will be worth in the year 2043? Unless we get paid more we will be dependant on government support."

And how about this comment, for a bit of historical perspective?:
"Actually myth number 1 should be - 'You will retire'. In a service sector economy retirement is only a dream for most workers.

"Along with competing in 'the global economy' comes living like 'the global economy'. Prepare for 3 and 4 generations of family members to share a small apartment. Prepare to take your children out of school so they can work to help support the family. Your standard of living is eroding and every time you have your wages, hours and benefits slashed the corporate CEO gets a huge bonus."

Funny, isn't it?  Remember when NAFTA passed, and how all its apologists dutifully poo-poohed what presidential candidate Ross Perot prophesied would become "the giant sucking sound" of American jobs headed south of the border?

The chickens have come home to roost, it seems.  Ecuador awaits, and President Correa thanks you for your patronage. Better keep your mouth shut, though, especially if you're planning on writing a letter to the editor...or you'll probably have a government agent kicking down your door in the middle of the night.  Some things never change...even in downtown Quito.  --The Reckoner