True Low Unemployment Would Mean Things We Are NOT Seeing

Corporate media is fond of saying that unemployment is low, which would mean employment is up. I have previously covered the Labor Participation Rate, the Bloomberg report calculating that 600,000 jobs have been lost just since December, unreported and that report came out several months ago. However, even that isn’t necessary because the evidence that employment is as high as claimed does not add up with what we see all around us.

For one thing, if employment were truly up, we would not be having the discussion about immigration at all. We have seen incidents in the past when employment was high. At that time, the US was welcoming immigrants with open arms. Compare to what we see occurring right this minute.

Deporting large numbers of immigrants may have some impact on employment but barely enough to budge percentages or numbers. Consider that the estimate was that there were 11 million illegal immigrants in the US. Not all of those were in any condition or age to be employed. Many are children, as we can clearly see from the children being caged at the border this very minute. Others have been here for years and are too elderly to work. Still more are disabled in some way.

Thus, we can consider that possibly 3 million may have possibly been employed and most of those have worked in low-wage agricultural or similar jobs. In cases where they have occupied jobs with higher pay and skills, deporting them does more damage than good to the economy, as many corporations have moved jobs to South American countries. Those are the DREAMERS, who have gained education and skills which many natives lack. In other words, not only are the immigrants being deported but the jobs they occupied are being deported as well.

Even without the above, if employment was as high as claimed, immigrants would be welcomed to occupy lower levels of employment, allowing more skilled Americans to fill higher positions.

Next, consider that if employment were up, we would not be seeing other signs of a declining economy which we are seeing. Student loan defaults are at record levels. Vehicle loan defaults have been increasing for several years while new vehicle sales are down, causing mass layoffs in the auto industry. New and used home sales are declining. Consumer credit debt is rising rapidly as consumers are forced to use credit to meet basic needs. While we already have the highest level of consumer and corporate debt in world history.

In times of high employment, pay and benefits increase because employers compete for the best, most qualified workers first and then move down the skill/experience ladder from there. Wages do not remain stagnant at any level.

It is well known we are living in a “gig economy”, with a large percentage of jobs being contract or temporary work. I had written that this was coming in 2001, beginning primarily with medical professionals and then spreading to other fields. That is precisely what happened. However, what has changed over time has been a decline in pay and benefits for such positions as they became more common across industries. In fact, that is why it has become more common. Temporary and contract workers were once used to fill positions which were short-staffed and as a result, pay and benefits were above average. They typically led to offers of permanent employment for good workers. Today, these positions are used to avoid the need to hire full time staff. Workers are offered part time and contract positions or nothing at all, while they rarely lead to offers of permanent employment. This does not happen in times of high employment because employers are anxious about being stranded with inadequate staffing. In fact, they would be offering nearly unlimited hours to the best temp/contract workers who have already shown their value.

In times of truly high employment, one can see an initial anomalous dip in the stock market as employment rises due to wages being seen as a cost. Then stocks increase as profit margins rise due to consumer spending due to the employment and wage levels.

Right now we see prices rising in comparison to wages. In times of high employment, prices rise but only secondary to higher wages and employment. Yes, tariffs are playing into inflation but there has not been a time that prices have decreased at any time since the 2008 crash. In fact, rent in general has continued rising unabated since that time.

In times of high employment, employers will eagerly subsidize or even pay for higher education for valuable employees wishing to advance. Today, companies are mandating continued education at employee expense, with or without advancement. Note that some may use the example that employers once paid for travel and attendance to conferences and this has become less common. I find this not anything abnormal with technology advancements which have resulted in video conferencing becoming far more common gradually over time, reducing the need for travel.

When employment is high, increased wages and benefits result in a decrease in out of pocket costs for workers. That leads to increased consumer spending. Increased consumer spending results in a further cycle, maintaining and creating more jobs. Right now we are seeing reduced consumer spending outside of absolute essentials. Tariffs would have some effect to slow the volume of goods being sold but would not by itself result in a depressed consumer market resulting in mass layoffs and loan defaults.

Obviously, capitalists will be capitalists and rent prices will continue rising, as we have seen in this battered economy. That leaves even less disposable income for consumers to spend.

These conditions are only going to get worse due to Trump’s trade war with China. No matter how much he gives farmers in subsidies at our expense, that does nothing for downstream jobs in trucking, packaging and shipping. Tariffs are a tax on the American people which slow consumer spending by volume purchased. When consumers have a limited budget, that budget does not increase because prices do, meaning they spend the same but obtain less. The tariffs do not mean more profit for retailers, so they see reduced sales volume. Less sales volume means less requirement for labor. That means more layoffs but will be less immediately evident because it will not be mass layoffs and instead be widespread and gradual reduction in staff. Then more downstream reductions in trucking, shipping, manufacturing and so on.

When corporate media is telling you anything about how well the economy and job markets are doing (among other things), it is highly advisable to question it very critically.

Automation- Your Job Is Not Safe From Indirect Effects, Pt 2- Solutions

Part 1 of this series addressed the challenges involving automation which affect our economy and job market. Part 2 addresses solutions which we cannot avoid having to implement at some point. If we do not implement these solutions at some level, our economy and our society as we know it will continue to deteriorate and ultimately collapse. We’re already well on the road to that conclusion.

There is no stopping it. You will not stop the advance of technology and automation. It’s here to stay and is accelerating. Technology has been advancing since prehistoric times. Technology multiplies technology. Humans have always used tools to build bigger tools, better tools, buildings and factories to create tools. Computer programs speed the development of better, faster programs. We now have programs that write programs. Computer hardware is used to develop the next generation of hardware, faster, more capable, more resilient. The more the tools advance, the fewer the number of workers needed to accomplish the greatest amount of work. The only time this is bad is when it happens in a capitalist system. Remove money for survival from the equation and it is a positive. Keep money in that equation and it becomes deadly.

WE need to adapt our attitudes. Many Americans are still stuck in the concept that Socialism is bad. Never mind that without Socialist-leaning programs our economy would collapse right this minute. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schools, public roads, health departments, fire departments, police, jails, prisons, etc. Millions of jobs rely on a Socialist ideal right now. The problem with the advance of technology is that our economy has not kept pace. Our attitudes as a society have not kept pace.Most of this is because of capitalist ownership of media and domination of education, all pushing a capitalist agenda. “Capitalism good, Socialism bad.”WE need to evolve beyond this mindset. Stop giving in to fear of change. See what is happening. Stop trying to prop up a collapsing building.

Advances and opposition. Technology will continue to advance no matter the economic system. It is part of our evolution. It is the human drive to solve problems and defeat challenges. The first humans that used rocks as hammers made no monetary profit. The first humans to develop bronze, iron and steel made no money. The problem is that the same mindset to evolve and defeat challenges in our economy is opposed by a barbaric need to dominate, by greed, by ego. It is an absolute indication that our society has not evolved socially. It is this barbaric mindset which holds us back, which is apathetic or even sadistically jubilant at the suffering of human beings who lack the resources to dominate, even if that person is born with artificial socially imposed disadvantages which have nothing to do with their capabilities or true potential. It is this barbaric mindset which refuses to grant anything for free and pushes to make even the most basic needs like clean water a commodity available only for an ever-increasing price. It is that barbaric mindset which keeps those born or forced to the bottom of the economic ladder constantly fighting for mere survival until they have no time, energy or resources remaining to even make the attempt to climb higher. Mental slaves to that barbarism attempt to blame the victims of this system for their alleged failings. Surrendering our minds to that barbaric mentality means surrendering our lives, our society, our health, our children and our futures to someday be on the victim side of that equation. Many are experiencing this today as the middle class loses ground and becomes ever more insecure.

Limited options. There are only a limited number of solutions to the conditions which we are facing. Every one of those solutions involve some form of Socialism. Trickle-down economics is a demonstrated failure. Capitalists still try to claim that only capitalist solutions can save capitalism. Yet none of that is true. We have watched the flow of wealth to the top over nearly 40 years and we are now in crisis mode globally. You can cheer for your favorite gazillionaire all you like, that doesn’t mean that your paycheck grows any larger, that your personal future becomes any more secure. The rich have had sycophants groveling at their feet through all of history but when you no longer present a profit to the rich, your purpose has been served and you get thrown out like so much garbage along with everyone else. Stop licking boots.

Drop the resentment of the poor. Resentment of the poor does no good. Let’s say that some people take unfair advantage of welfare and avoid that argument. The fact is, if 25%, 1 out of four of Americans, took advantage of welfare to the tune of $1000 a month every month, that would equate to an annual cost of $990 billion. Now consider that most of those welfare recipients are likely to be supporting families. Consider that this spending would be spent in the economy, supporting jobs and incomes. The government surrendered more money than that giving tax breaks to the rich in 2018. The rich responded by using that money to buy back over $2 trillion in stock. In other words, enough to give HALF of Americans an extra $1000 a month. Yet that tax break created exactly zero jobs. Bloomberg recently reported that the job market declined by 600,000 since December 2018.

Solutions. It is obvious that the only way that the general population and capitalism itself will survive is by implementing some form of Universal Basic Income (UBI). As more jobs cease to exist, competition for remaining jobs becomes more fierce and as a result wages plummet, we are driving headlong into conditions ripe for unbridled civil war. You can deny it but that doesn’t change the truth. Look through history and the same conditions have always resulted in civil war by some name. Call it revolution, uprising or anything else, they all mean the same thing. The only thing missing at this point is some spark to light the final fuse. That fuse is lit. Flooding in the midwest, decreased imports and increasing prices due to tariffs mean that we are now facing a shortage of resources which will only be available to those higher on the income scale. As resources become more exhausted, it will mean more jobs are lost and prices escalate further. Cutting social support programs to support warfare and corporate welfare is exactly the wrong thing to do at exactly the wrong time. Yet that’s what is happening.

New ideas. It is obvious that new ideas and approaches are needed. We cannot keep applying the same old ideas which have NEVER worked and expect them to suddenly solve our problems. We have to be brave enough to accept the fact that the old system has failed and will continue to fail. Remaining in the same system for fear of change is no different than remaining in an abusive relationship because the abuser tells you that you cannot survive without them. It is the rich, the capitalists who will not survive without us. We literally don’t need them at all. Workers build and produce everything. Our national resources, including intellectual property, belong to us, not them. The profits from our efforts, our lands and waters do not belong to them by any authorization but our allowance, which has cost too much destruction, too much suffering, too many lives. The time for UBI is now. Not later. Later will be too late. Corporations are not your friends. The rich are not your friends. Corporate media are not your friends. Politicians who push the capitalist agenda are not your friends. The sooner YOU realize that, the sooner we can move forward together and build something better than we have. The other choice is that we all fail together.

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I am an independent writer with no corporate sponsors or backing. The only income I make from my writing comes from views. At least I have reached the point where it makes more than it costs me! lol! (Not by much.)My writing is done in between full time (and overtime) nursing, shared custody of my brilliant daughter and mundane existence.

I have opened my new website which is intended to be a central listing of protests and political rallies across the US. It’s still a work in progress but is functional. You can find it at http://RallyAndProtest.com

Please consider becoming a patron on Patreon. I try and average at least 20 articles a month, so a $1 a month donation would come down to 5¢ per article to support independent, non-corporate writing. My Patreon page is here.

If you care to share articles with those who do not have Medium or Patreon accounts, I also post most of my articles on my own website, which has no advertising and I pay for with income from writing. My website is at https://issuesunite.com/ and all articles can be shared freely. You can always quote me, no attribution required. My goal is spreading information and awareness. The whole point is building a better, more peaceful, more equitable world for us and future generations.

Automation- Your Job Is Not Safe From Indirect Effects, Pt 1- The Challenges

I’ve been writing about the effects of automation reducing jobs for several years now. More jobs are being eliminated through automation than the number sent to other countries.

Jobs which become automated will never come back. Period. The jobs do not even have to be automated in this country. They can be automated in another country. The result is the same, that the job no longer exists.

I still encounter people continuously that insist that technology creates more jobs than it eliminates. When challenged to explain how that works, they consistently fall silent. All they have is propaganda which they regurgitate, either programmed into them or which they directly promote with full knowledge that their words are false. Many of those who have challenged my statements work in the tech and robotics field, trying to justify their positions. I will admit that some of them seem to be trying to ease their own conscience. Sorry, I cannot be that nice to them.

I am not a Luddite or against technology. As a nurse, I prefer computer charting and despise paper charts. They’re a pain in many respects. They may be more secure for privacy but there have been many cases of paper charts being damaged, burned or destroyed. Once they’re gone there is no backup, they’re just gone. Forever. Plus the whole thing of chasing down the single copy of a chart when multiple offices or doctors want to access it while medical records sits on their thumbs is not fun, to say the least. As a writer, this effort relies almost exclusively on technology. Accessing information today takes a fraction of the time it once did. Sharing valid information is done in milliseconds. Mass social movements can be built in short order in this way. Independent media relies on technology, allowing us to bypass the multibillion dollar corporate propaganda machine.

Their rationale fails every time. The point where the tech propagandists fall is when I ask them to explain why companies would invest in expensive systems to reduce labor, when it would only result in more labor cost. I’ve stated before how jobs for auto workers, telephone operators, print setters, proof readers, toll booth attendants, accountants, bank tellers, cashiers, file clerks, manufacturing jobs and many more have been eliminated due to technological advances. Once systems are built, it takes only a few workers to maintain them. Updating software is done remotely, so one worker in another state or country can maintain systems. One or two technicians for a large company or from a contractor can maintain hardware for a city or several cities. Repairs are a matter of replacing disposable components.

No, trades are not safe. Of late, I have heard from people who say that trades are secure. No, they’re not. One person replied to a comment by saying he is a painter who does mold remediation. I concede that his job is secure. For the moment. Yet over time it will not be. This is true for many occupations.

The threat does not need to be a direct one.

The race is on. On his own statement, I directed him to do a search on YouTube. Right now there are many companies and universities in multiple countries developing home painting systems. Each one first does scanning and mapping of the space to be painted, stores a 3D model and then starts painting. So they are not limited to a set environment. It is a race for the first system to be patented and implemented. These systems do not do remediation but focus on viable structures and new construction.

Now, think about the implications.

Overcrowding. I’ll stick with the home painting issue as an example. Painters do not all do remediation. However, once robotic systems become widely used which eliminate an ever-growing number of jobs for new and stable construction, painters who relied on new or stable construction for income will acquire new skills which add on the their existing skills. Like mold remediation. This results in increased competition, driving down prices for remediation. Reduced pricing then results in reduced income per contract. The number of contracts will remain constant, while more workers will be competing for them. Less income per job, fewer jobs available.

Expand the concept. I have challenged the growing cry of people claiming that trade skills are secure. See that article here. However, let’s say that they are correct and I am wrong. If other occupations continue being eliminated while trade/vocational occupations remain secure, what happens? You’ve seen this before. What happens is that the number of people entering those careers skyrockets. The field becomes overcrowded, competition for those jobs becomes fierce, driving down wages and available opportunities are spread among a greater number of workers.

Ask a Programmer. One of the claims that will not go away is that there is an increasing need for programmers. That information is sorely outdated. Years ago, there was a demand for programmers who developed entire programs and systems. Those who had the skills could demand high wages. Today, thanks to competition, a programmer who could once demand $100 an hour can barely demand $30 and have to compete for that. Today, rather than building programs and systems, we have developers who develop applications or “apps” which run on top of operating systems. In many cases, apps can be developed with drag-and-drop programs developed by someone else. Even that has seen competition which demands short development time, perhaps only a few hours, at lower cost, meaning less income. In fact, tech development has resulted in systems which can create simple apps with no human programming needed. Tell the system what you want the app to do and it compiles an app for you with pre-written scripts pasted together. Developers have developed themselves out of jobs.

We already see the effects. The dwindling number of remaining occupations, the increasing number of applicants into these occupations is already apparent. Careers which once demanded high skill levels have been “dummy-proofed” through technology. That means fewer literal skills are required for most occupations. That means companies can pay less to workers and offer fewer benefits. Corporations can move entire operations to different states or countries and hire people with no skills at all. Just follow simple instructions for actions they repeat all day, every day for years. Auto workers demand far less pay than they once did. Programmers rarely program. Cashiers don’t have to be accurate. Trust me, I used to run a manual cash register. Riveters don’t rivet, they push a button and the robot rivets.

Many jobs are centralized. Talk to a telephone operator in your own state lately? Customer service technician in your own country? When you get invasive sales calls, chances are they are in New Mexico, Texas or some other country routed through a US number. I lived in San Antonio and New Mexico and those jobs have a high level of competition. My brother made a decent income decades ago as a telephone sales person for the San Antonio Light Newspaper. The Light no longer exists, driven out of business by Rupert Murdoch long before Fox News ever existed.

Worker productivity. We hear reports on financial news that worker productivity keeps rising. This is good news to investors, not to workers. Increased productivity means fewer workers are need to produce the same amount of goods. That means fewer jobs available. It’s that simple.

This is the end of part 1 of this series. Part 2 will delve into solutions.

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I am an independent writer with no corporate sponsors or backing. The only income I make from my writing comes from views. At least I have reached the point where it makes more than it costs me! lol! (Not by much.)My writing is done in between full time (and overtime) nursing, shared custody of my brilliant daughter and mundane existence.

I have opened my new website which is intended to be a central listing of protests and political rallies across the US. It’s still a work in progress but is functional. You can find it at http://RallyAndProtest.com

Please consider becoming a patron on Patreon. I try and average at least 20 articles a month, so a $1 a month donation would come down to 5¢ per article to support independent, non-corporate writing. My Patreon page is here.

If you care to share articles with those who do not have Medium or Patreon accounts, I also post most of my articles on my own website, which has no advertising and I pay for with income from writing. My website is at https://issuesunite.com/ and all articles can be shared freely. You can always quote me, no attribution required. My goal is spreading information and awareness. The whole point is building a better, more peaceful, more equitable world for us and future generations.

Return Power To The States?

Some people, mostly Republicans and Libertarians, keep suggesting returning power to the states on some laws and government systems. The truth is that they are trying to use that rhetoric to attempt to end various programs and laws.

When examined more closely, returning control of many things to states would be disastrous and more expensive than they are now. Not to mention decrease oversight and accountability, leading to higher risk of corruption and fraud. We’ve seen this movie and know the ending.

It would also have ripple effects on the economy of the nation as a whole. Take food stamps as an example. The states that have the highest number of people on public assistance (by percentage) are the poorest states. Those states have the least resources, including education. I won’t bother examining here what the concern for education is in those states. As a result, the more affluent states contribute more to the social support programs in those states. Proponents of ending this system claim the system is unfair but do not realize the benefits which are returned to the more affluent states.

Some of this is a repeat of things I have written before but still relevant to this discussion. When a person spends food stamps, they spend like money does. Each $1 in food stamps does not simply buy food. It pays for jobs across state and national lines. When you spend money or food stamps they pay for cashiers, managers, stock people, maintenance people, delivery drivers, food processors, farmers, ranchers, feed and fertilizer providers, warehouse workers, dock workers and more. Each one of those jobs represents a consumer who pays for goods and services. Groceries, retail sales, vehicles, cell phones.. They are also taxpayers whose taxes pay for road repair and maintenance, libraries, schools and more. Each of those jobs also represent consumers and taxpayers in a system that ideally runs in a cycle.

That cycle extends to gas stations, power generation, sewage and all the employees, vehicles, pipe makers, electrical cable makers, delivery drivers, trains, planes and automobiles involved in producing and delivering supplies for those jobs. Each one a consumer and taxpayer.

Breaking that cycle is narrow minded and does not consider the long range and long term effects. You can apply the same view to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and any other social support system you can name.

The military relies heavily on these very same low income states for recruitment precisely because of the lack of opportunity in those states. Of course, I have detailed before that this is not likely to be such an issue because I expect a draft to be reinstated in the near future. I’ve written about that before, here.

One also has to consider the additional costs involved with expanding or establishing and administrating duplicate systems for the same purposes in each individual state, each with different rules for eligibility. We have enough of a problem with that even with federal rules overseeing social support programs to some degree. Some states would completely eliminate environmental protection regulations, which would have cross-border implications with neighboring states and maybe countries. Then try and apply liability laws to what are currently major violators of those controls.

However, the major thing to consider is that if power is returned to the states while different states do not agree with many federal policies and decisions, there tends to be almost no reason for states to remain member states of the United States. There is increasing risk that states may begin breaking away from the union to form smaller, independent countries, possibly to form a confederation of countries, each with their own government. This risk becomes compounded when considering the move to eliminate the electoral college and increases further if the draft is enacted. Then consider the national debt. If a state breaks away to form their own country, they would no longer be liable for the national debt. They would establish their own currency, to separate their currency from the dollar.

I don’t fully expect any of this to happen until the dollar starts to decline. If they wait and the dollar crashes in value suddenly, countries we owe debt to may not accept the dissolution and could well take steps against the US, legally or militarily. If multiple countries formed a coalition against us in such a situation, it would be grim. Other countries have no obligation to recognize a new currency from a previous state and could appeal to the World Bank, the UN, etc to boycott all American currencies and trade.

To make things worse, the states which would be most likely to secede first would be the most affluent states. Like California, which if ranked as a country would have the sixth largest economy in the world. New York, Florida and Texas would also be candidates for states that could easily survive as independent countries. Ironically, those are also the states that would determine every national election if the electoral college were eliminated.

There is no actual positive to the concept of returning power to the states. This is not the 19th century and even then states were more interconnected than most people understood. Today the states are far more interconnected, though could become disconnected much easier than most assume.

The only thing holding this country together as a nation of states is rhetoric and marketing. If we do separate, it will be into some countries that are strong economies and other countries which have struggling third world status.

Growth And Productivity Are Toxic

Via capitalism, we are constantly barraged with the idea that continual growth is mandatory. Who came up with this concept? I’ll give you three guesses and your answers will probably be the same all three times and will probably be correct. Capitalists, of course.

The capitalist propaganda is that constant growth is necessary for capitalism to even survive. No, it is not. That is not even necessary for the stock market to survive.

Continuous growth is toxic. The striving for continual growth is what destabilizes markets, leading to highs and lows, including market corrections, retractions, crashes, recessions and depressions. Market stability is far more desirable and economically healthy. However, that is not desired by major investors because then the market flattens out with little movement. No huge profits for speculators who buy low and sell high on a daily basis.

The fact of the matter is, competition on the scale we see today is not healthy. There is no problem with one company being an industry leader in one geographic area and another company being a leader in another geographic area. The so-called competition we see today destroys companies and reduces choices in the consumer market. Hostile takeovers and mega-mergers serve no positive purpose for consumers or the labor market.

Productivity is another myth. Increasing productivity effectively decreases wages. If you work for a company and you produce one widget per hour for $10 an hour, the company makes a profit for what you produce. If the company introduces a new machine or process to increase your production, you may produce two widgets an hour. However, your pay remains $10 an hour. One assumes that the company is making twice the profit for your production but the truth is that they make more than double the original profit. If demand has not increased to the point that the company is now selling twice as many widgets, what happened is that one job is eliminated. This is what most commonly happens. So now the company is paying half the wage but also paying less in benefits. Less spent for vacation, sick time, insurance, liability, possibly health insurance and payroll services. Chances are good that if they reduce personnel enough, now they need fewer lower and middle management.

This is also one way that entire factories can cease to exist. If a company has two factories and double the output at one of those, they may close one factory. Like I have explained before, this has downstream effects. If a city or town has a significant part of the local economy dependent on a factory which closes, the results can be devastating. Now workers have no income, there are fewer jobs available in general, the unemployment rate increases, consumers spend less which impacts other local businesses. The other businesses may lose so much business that they are then forced to lay off workers or close their doors completely. There is less tax revenue collected which goes to fund schools, libraries, road repair and other municipal services. If it is a small town, the entire town may cease to exist.

Capitalism is a machine which never stops consuming, devouring all it encounters. Marx predicted 150 years ago that capitalism would reach the point where it would ultimately consume itself. That is the point we are at today. Increased productivity, automation, centralization and consolidation reduce the available jobs and career paths on a daily basis. Mergers and acquisitions have become larger than those of us over 50 could never have conceived 30 years ago.

Since the Industrial Revolution, as technology has advanced, we have gone through cycles of technology creating jobs, then mechanizing and automating jobs nearly as quickly. When was the last time you met a telephone operator? Print setter? Proof reader? Copy shops were once a common sight, far more rare today. 3D printing and self driving vehicles stand to eliminate millions of jobs in the next few years. I’ve pointed out many times that one self check register eliminates 4–6 jobs, with an average of 10 per large store, multiplied by tens of thousands of stores nationally. McDonald’s alone set a goal in 2016 of eliminating 55,000 jobs through order kiosks. They met that goal and are only one chain of many using them. Sit down restaurants are using touch screen ordering systems to reduce wait staff.

At each stage, productivity is increased while jobs are eliminated. The contradiction and danger is that each job eliminated reduces consumer earning and thus spending.

Consumer credit debt is at the highest level in history. Credit is easily available, though credit at affordable interest is only for the privileged. A huge percentage of those with credit debt have interest rates on that credit which is formidable and leads to consumer failure. That system is collapsing at this moment as we see repossessions and student loan defaults rising. Millions are trapped in a cycle of using one credit account to pay on other credit accounts while millions more are trapped in the payday loan cycle. This is no longer a distant early warning sign. This is a klaxon signalling impending collapse in the very near future.

The trade war with China is not a surprise. It is not a mere political stunt. It was inevitable under our current system and has been coming for many years. It is not reported as such by corporate media but the real point of the tensions with Russia, Iran and Venezuela are also trade conflicts. I do not expect it to be long before tensions increase with India, as they are a rising manufacturing and consumer powerhouse. We can also expect more tensions with Mexico as wages and employment in Mexico increase, which will result in an improving consumer market. That will cause increasing pricing on goods coming from Mexico as the domestic Mexican consumer economy competes with the export market to the US.

Yet one of the biggest problems of all is that sustained expanding growth is simply not possible. There are limits to consumer need. No matter how many crops are grown, people only eat so much. No matter how many vehicles are produced, people can only drive so many cars at once. All of this is limited by the ability of consumers to purchase goods while gainful employment (sic) continues to contract. See my last article, here.

All of this is completely aside from increasing environmental damage accelerating as climate change worsens and our deadline draws near to change course.

I’m really not sure what the rich and greedy expect to happen from here. Can it truly be nothing more than to be more comfortable than most as the world is incinerated? Even if they have bunkers to hide out in which the population cannot breach, what kind of life is that? How long do they think they will survive?

Without radical changes to the capitalist system, we are absolutely doomed to failure. Not only as a country but as a species. All for the greed of a limited percentage of the population. Unfortunately, that change will only occur if the most radical of us become far, far more radical than we are. The general population will continue believing what they are told by corporate media and corporate politicians until they have absolutely no choice. By then it will be too late.

So we have to act. Entire nations need to work together. The rich need to take what they have and decide they finally have enough. Because growth and productivity have reached their end point.

Real Unemployment Information

So, how about all those new jobs you hear about on the media? Those low unemployment rates?

If you want a realistic look at unemployment, you cannot simply look at the official unemployment numbers. You have to look at that plus the Labor Participation Rate (LPR). This is a number which states a percentage of US residents over the age of 16 are employed or seeking employment.

The Labor Participation Rate is one of the few numbers which the government keeps fairly current. You can find the official rates here, updated monthly. It is current through January 2019 because February is not yet over.

If you open the page, it gives you a graph and table. What this information shows is that labor participation has declined fairly steadily since 2009, with fairly minor variations. In 2009, it reached a peak of 65.8%. The lowest rate in 10 years was 62.7% in 2016. The lowest in 2018 was also 62.7%. The current rate is 63.1%.

So, what do these numbers mean?

I could not find information about ages 16–18 which was reliable. However, percentage of the population under 18 is 22.6%. Actual US population is estimated at 327,167, 434 as of July 2018. That gives a population over 18 of 253,196,634 people. Those are the numbers I will work with, which should be fairly accurate for this purpose. For simplicity, I am using the 2018 population as a constant and am rounding numbers.

So with these numbers, we had an LPR in 2009 in total numbers of 166,603,385. In 2018, we had a low of 158,754,290. In current numbers, we have an LPR of 159,767,076.

So, between 2009, the height of the recession, we have seen a decrease in the LPR of 6,836,309 (January 2019). That many people have dropped out of the job market for one reason or another.

What is striking is that the number of people entering or re-entering the job market has increased since September 2018. The birth rate has been dropping for at least two decades, so this is an indication that retired people are re-entering the job market.

The official number of unemployed per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is currently 6.5 million. But that does not include the number of people who have dropped out of the labor market completely. When we add the 6.5 million to the decreased number stated above, that equals over 12.8 million Americans not employed. So, more than double the 8% unemployment rate being stated.

The BLS also stated that unemployment increased slightly in January.

I have explained before that the median income is complete BS. The way that works is an average, which looks like this: If a CEO makes $990,000 a year and their employee makes $10,000 a year, the total is $1 million. Averaged out, median income becomes $500,000. And that refers only to wages, not income.

Let’s go further with that. If one investor makes $100 million and 99 people are in the LPR with NO income, the median income becomes $1 million, making it appear as though all those people made $1 million each that year.

The US Census Bureau estimates that 12–13% of Americans are currently below the poverty line.

48% of Americans earn less than $30,000 a year. 69% of Americans earn less than $50,000 a year.

I have pointed out previously that the bar for being considered employed is extremely low. If you work 1 hour a week, you are considered employed. So obviously unemployment does not mean you earn a living wage or anywhere near it.

Of course, I have already written about the fact that corporations are laying people of by tens of thousands, nearly all permanently. Ford, GM, GE all announced mass layoffs in Nov and Dec. Harley-Davidson closed one plant and moved the operations to Thailand. Carrier announced layoffs in the US, with a new location in Mexico. Sears/KMart went bankrupt and is unlikely to recover this time. Toys R Us and numerous other retail chains have ceased to exist. There are more to follow as equity retail space loans come due in balloon payments.

Vehicle repossessions are rising. So are defaults on federal student loans, which carry penalties which can impact a consumer’s credit for life, even after IRS seizure of refunds, income and assets. Consumer credit debt is at the highest level in history while income remains stagnant. Home sales are on a downward slide, not just domestically but throughout the western world. The number of Americans without health insurance has increased by 7 million in 2 years.

All of this flies directly in the face of any claims that jobs are being created or that income levels are rising. When the claims are made that income levels are rising, that refers to the median income described above. When they talk about employment, it’s nothing short of a fabrication for political expediency.

The media is not going to report the truth because it would reflect badly on their corporate advertisers. Can’t have an informed audience taking to the streets to protest against their income sources, can we?

The real impetus here is on us, to be accurately informed. To confirm the information we receive rather than believe it blindly without question. To share that accurate information with others. To call out false information as it is presented.

No, Capitalism Does Not Create Opportunity Or Drive Innovation

One of the most-oft claims of capitalists is that capitalism creates opportunities and drives innovation. This is an absolutely false statement driven by desperation or willful ignorance. Indeed, the opposite is often true.

Have you ever watched children play? Seen how their imaginations work? Children can be truly innovative. The point of education is supposed to be to guide that curiosity, that innovation using valid information which they can use through their lives, rather than “reinventing the wheel”. Learn what is already known and progress from there.

The history of mankind is a history of innovation. From first learning how to use tools to the wheel to building structures on up to electricity and computers and space flight. Let’s note right here that the first country to fly in space was not a capitalist country, it was a Communist country, the USSR.

Know any geeks and/or inventors? Inventors invent because that is their nature. Most begin as curious children who take things apart to learn how those things work. They just never get over it. It is a part of themselves they cannot deny. Yes, of course they have high hopes of creating something which will make them rich. Yet ask most of them and why do they want to get rich? Usually so they can build the workshop of their dreams and keep inventing with no monetary restraint.

All inventors and artists and writers hope to make money from their creations. For many, not because they want fame or actual fortune. Just so they don’t have to have money as a concern to limit their creativity.

Yes, I include myself in this. Of course I hope my writing takes off and becomes wildly popular. Even so I get wealthy. Of course, I would be the first to find and laugh at the irony if that happened. In my case, it isn’t likely to occur. I’m already on the radar of capitalists attempting to invalidate my work and oppress my efforts. Why do I have these hopes? First of all, I have the same concerns as everyone else. Financial security. In my own case, also so I could stop working my regular job and spend more time researching and writing. Would it be good for my self esteem? Definitely. However, it should be noted that my writing focuses on things far beyond personal accumulation or ego and that is not going to change. Yet because of the nature of my writing, it is unlikely to be published or accepted by corporate interests unless I already have gained enough of a following that I pose a profit to the capitalists. That is where the irony I mentioned comes in. Until that point, my ideas pose a threat which is easily suppressed. The subjects I and other Progressives cover are a threat to them and the capitalist system.

The history of capitalism in this country is littered with the oppression of ideas which posed a threat to the powerful and wealthy. Look at the history of Nikola Tesla versus Edison. Wind and solar energy development. Fuel efficient vehicles. Watch the documentary, “Who Killed The Electric Car?”

In many cities across the US, there were once electric streetcars. Over time, those were removed and replaced with gas and diesel burning buses. Yet electric streetcars and subways are still popular in Europe. They are efficient and less polluting than our buses. Why were they eliminated here? Why do we not have them now in more cities? Why are we the only industrialized nation to not have high speed rail systems? It’s because these things are suppressed by certain corporate interests. Car companies, oil companies, airlines. All of whom stand to lose large sums of money by the use of efficient public transportation. The lack of efficient public transportation also helps maintain the separation between affluent and poverty-stricken areas in place. When the poor have to spend huge portions of their lives or large sums of money simply getting from one place to another, they have no energy or time remaining to engage in public activism or even self improvement by anything more than basic educational needs. Which the corporations own, manipulate and use for indoctrination.

There have been legends of various inventions which have been suppressed over decades. Like a carburetor that allowed vehicles to be far more fuel efficient. That one is slightly dubious but an example. We can have no doubt that inventions which stand to limit the profits of certain corporations or industries have been suppressed, even to the point of murder. Look at the actions of our military contractors and the oil industry. They are willing to kill millions in other countries for profits. With the blessing and assistance of the highest members of our government. The same holds true for drug companies. How many medications have been approved and later removed from the market because of the harm they caused, including lives lost? If corporate and government entities are willing to do or allow things like that, why would you believe they would have qualms with taking one or a few American lives to maintain that much money and power?

How many aspiring inventors and innovators have been suppressed just by the system we have in place? Just by virtue of having to work full time jobs, pay so much for insurance, mortgage, student loans and transportation that they have too little left to invest in developing ideas and projects? How many young people who could be great innovative minds are held back by the cost of adult education and/or helping pay for medications for their parents or even their own medications? Then ask why so many young people are on antidepressants. Meaning more hours worked and more money spent for that medication.

There is no way I am suggesting that any system is without flaw. No socioeconomic system will allow every member of a society to have everything they need or want all the time. This is really a discussion of implementing a system which provides basic needs for all members of a society and interconnected systems which are most beneficial to the members of our society, creating a more level playing field.

There is nothing level in a playing field in which the rights to innovations along with the profits from those innovations consistently belong to those at the top. Where those who invent are merely subjects to the owners of capital, forced to sign away the rights to their creations and discoveries or incur crushing debt and be destroyed by lawsuits brought by oligarchs. That is not a system that creates opportunity or drives innovation.

No, The Job Market Is Not Growing. It Isn’t Even Stable.

Once again, Trump announces that jobs and wages are up. Not only do his followers cheer and regurgitate that statement but MSM continues pushing how well the economy is doing and employment is up.

When you look at the facts, they tell a very different story.

Layoffs and bankruptcies. Ford announced 25,000 layoffs in December. GM announced thousands more. GE announced thousands more. Toys R Us no longer exists. Sears/Kmart is bankrupt. A couple dozen other corporate chains have declared bankruptcy, downsized or completely disappeared. Carrier has exported jobs to Mexico. Harley-Davidson has shipped jobs to Thailand.

Many people only look at these employers and the announced jobs directly. They fail to examine the downstream effect of these job losses. There is always a downstream effect.

Downstream effects. Each one of these companies contracts and does business with other, smaller companies. Companies that produce components for vehicles, supplies stocked in stores. In addition, you have to consider truck drivers no longer delivering goods. Maintenance contractors. If the auto companies were purchasing American produced steel, that impacts that industry. Then you have dock workers, trains and more.

Further downstream. Yet the impact does not stop there. You have to look even further downstream. Each one of those workers is also a consumer and taxpayer. When consumers lose their income, they spend less or stop spending. Their skills are rather specific in some cases, which now places a constriction on future employment opportunities. In geographic areas where one manufacturer was the only employer for that field, workers may be forced to relocate. Loss of sales and property tax revenue impacts municipal operations, like schools, libraries, etc. Decreasing tax revenue and population means municipal employees will then be laid off with no job opportunities in that community.

Limited skills, limited options. With manufacturers that produce items like vehicles that require a specific skill set and limited number of manufacturers in this country, relocation may have little or no benefit and indeed incur cost which they cannot afford. It is unquestionable that most will be forced to take jobs with lower wages. Possibly in locations where cost of living is higher than they have been paying.

Continued middle class erosion. This is how the middle class continues to erode. To the point that we have reached critical mass. This is how people wind up working for minimum wage when they once had a living wage income. As they climb further down the income ladder, they are less able to afford a new vehicle, a new home, new clothes and may default on current debts.

Fake numbers. The numbers cited for unemployment are false numbers. They omit those who have simply stopped looking for work. Yet they include those who work insufficient hours to make an effective living. If you work 1 hour a week, you are considered employed.

The numbers included for new jobs created do not state a balance. Those numbers exclude the number of jobs which have ceased to exist.

Median wage. When wages are stated, they are stated as a median. So if I earn $100 an hour and you earn $1 an hour, the median wage is $50. Hence, stock brokers and CEO’s earn a wage, which is thrown into a lump sum with minimum wage workers and an average is calculated to state a median wage. That’s how the claim that wages are increasing is not true in the least.

More jobs in January? Claiming jobs are increasing in January makes no sense to begin with. Many retailers hire temporary labor during the holidays, then those jobs no longer even exist in January. Agricultural jobs are over 90% suspended during winter months. Construction is at a minimum.

The biggest thing to pay attention to when job and wage numbers are being stated is that no specifics are offered. If any source claims jobs are being created or wages are increasing, challenge that claim. Force them to name specifics. If they are capable, note that they rely on a limited geographic area or even one single employer in one area. Even that employer may have relocated to that area from elsewhere, where they left and eliminated jobs. Net job creation nationally: zero.

I will concede that wages have increased nationally in one respect. The areas that have increased the minimum wage. When averaged out, that gives a false impression that wages increased nationally. Yet those are such limited geographic areas that affect such a small number of workers that the national average is negligible. It is absolutely the wages at the top of the corporate ladder that affect the median wage.

In all ways, from all sources, whether Trump or neoliberal corporate media, we have to challenge, research and reason when claims are being made that don’t fit with what are seeing before our eyes.

Nationalize SOME Industries

There can be little debate that we have specific focal problems that hold us back as a society. Income inequality, access and cost of medical care including medications and warfare being chief among them.

If Americans truly want peace, security and prosperity, the honest truth is that specific industries should be nationalized. Take away the profit motive for warmongers and apathetic capitalists who allow or even cause death and destruction of lives for their own greed.

Military weapons and aircraft. One industry that should be nationalized is military weapons manufacturing. We all know that MIC contractors are the biggest promoters of warfare. They spend huge sums of money paid by taxpayers to promote the next conflict and the next and the next. If the military weapons and aircraft industries were nationalized, completely operated by government agencies and worked by government employees, we would not be paying for advertising. We would not be paying for corporate profits. With that manufacturing accounting being subject to FOIA requests, the cost of military supplies would plummet. CONgressional representatives would be far more likely to question and criticize cost and time of development of new weapons systems. In addition, the media just might start asking critical questions about our conflicts.

The oil industry. We all know that many, if not most of our military conflicts for decades have been for the benefit of the oil industry. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, the current regime change attempt against Venezuela and much of the heightened tensions with Russia. The industry uses unsafe practices which result in environmental damages while taxpayers are left to pick up the cleanup bill. We are told that America has achieved “energy independence”. Meanwhile, oil is one of our top three exports and one of our top three imports. Why are we shipping oil out, only to replace it with oil shipped in? The answer is the petrodollar system but I am being rhetorical here. The oil industry seizes land from citizens with barely a finger lifted by elected officials paid by the oil industry. What many people don’t realize is that thousands of oil workers are injured each year. In some cases, permanently disabled. From that point on, those workers are the responsibility of the taxpayer to provide for through Medicaid and Social Security. In addition, it was demonstrated that the government subsidizes the oil industry by tens of billions of dollar a year, partly by paying for surveying new oil sources. The industry never has to repay one penny of that money, they just take the profits and run. Have you seen how much the oil industry advertises? The propaganda they promote? You pay for that. You also pay for their lobbyists and lawyers to the tune of billions a year. So, if we have to pay for surveys, security, cleanup and the care of their injured while surrendering rights to our own property and environment, nationalizing the industry just makes sense. If we are net exporters of oil, then we have no need of wars in other countries for oil. Do we? Make the oil industry directly profitable to the country and assume responsibility and accountability so we have more control over it.

Medical payment systems. Yes, Medicare For All. Medicare For All does not propose making all medical care being provided by the government. That is propaganda pushed by insurance companies. I’ve written long explanations of the money the insurance industry makes, spends and distributes which has nothing to do with medical services. Advertising, executive pay and bonuses, promotional crap, commissions for insurance agents, lawyers to deny coverage, lobbyists, campaign “donations”, stockholder dividends. You pay for all of it!!! Yet your deductible and premiums keep climbing. Chances are good that your insurance never pays one cent to your medical care, so every penny you give them goes to profits. If we nationalized the healthcare payment system, the cost of medical care could be reduced as much as half. Yet everyone would be covered and have higher quality of care. No bankruptcies due to medical costs directly.

Drug manufacturing. Many new drugs are developed by universities funded through grants, paid for by taxpayers. Corporations bid for the patent and claim all profits from that point and for many years. They never have to repay the development costs which the taxpayer funded. Look at many other countries that are developing new treatments that surpass our own. Drug prices on common medications for blood pressure and diabetes, let alone cancer, have risen to the point that many chronically ill people cannot afford their medications and then suffer catastrophic health events including death, stroke, heart attack and kidney failure as a result. Or they have to make a choice between medications and food or shelter. Insulin has increased by 700+% in recent years. Once again, look how many drug ads you see. Look at corporate executive pay. Look at stock dividends. Look at chain pharmacy profit margins. Look at how many drugs have been approved which were later pulled from the market because they were unsafe to begin with. Look at how many lawyers drug companies retain and pay. Look at campaign donations and lobbying. You pay for that before and above the cost of your medications. It is no longer enough to even suggest regulating drug prices. The entire drug industry should be nationalized. If we spent our money to have universities developing new medications, that money would go toward improving education. Cutting lobbyists out of the equation would allow the FDA to do what it was intended to do. Our medications would be safer and more affordable.

Adult education funding. We’ve been having the conversation for years now about student loan debt and cost of advanced education. Student loan debt does a massive amount of damage, not only at the personal level but at the economic level to the whole country. As a nation, we spend billions of dollars per month on adult education. It is spent on student loans over decades and tuition costs over years. In many cases, the degree obtained never benefits the student. Tens of thousands of people declare bankruptcy every year thanks to student loan debt. That lowers their employment and earning potential for the best jobs. It is another system that benefits the rich and punishes the poor. If you are married and your spouse dies with a federal student loan debt, youare liable for the balance of that loan. Did you know that? If you default on a federal student loan, the IRS gets involved. They can seize your tax refund, part of your pay for years, your bank account, your car and your home. You will not be eligible for government employment at any level and may be barred from many other jobs. Federal student loans cannot be discharged for poverty, bankruptcy, chronic or critical illness, disability or homelessness. Your credit rating will be decimated for life. Did you know that? Many people do not. Millions of Americans never attend or finish college because of the cost or fear of debt. This is making the US fall behind other countries on advanced education, while we already trail much of the world in basic education. The money being spent on education and student loans is subtracted from the general economy. So that is billions every single month which is not spent in local economies to create and maintain jobs. Hundreds of thousands of people cannot buy homes because of student loan debt and it limits their options for renting as well. Colleges and universities over some years have been basically selling off parts of their facilities and educational programs to corporations. In exchange, the corporations get to dictate curriculum for various programs. Which means students are less educated than indoctrinated. While I would not yet advocate nationalization of adult education itself, it is far beyond time for us to nationalize funding for adult education. This would benefit the economy, our educational ranking internationally, the students and allow institutions to be freed from corporate shackles.

Many people still fear the term Socialism. Yet, as you can see, capitalism is far more destructive to our economy and our society than Socialism could even aspire to be. The speech against Socialism is propagated by capitalist media and politicians under the dictate of corporate entities.

Many people are pushing for complete Marxist Socialism. That’s not something I personally advocate. If we nationalized (socialized) the industries listed above, that would be a major move in the right direction which would allow true capitalism to flourish, as opposed to the corporatism we have in place now. It would lead to more secure lives, better health, better education and a more peaceful diplomatic nation.

Maximum Income

I thought I had posted this one over before but guess not. This was published on Medium on 6/26/18.

For years we have been discussing income inequality. However, we are taking the wrong approach.

Yes, trickle down economics CAN actually work, if handled properly. It has NEVER been handled properly and is not intended to work as promoted.

On income inequality, the common argument is that it will cause inflation, increased prices, etc. While there is some minor validity to this, that is minor. But I am not going to analyze that issue here.

Instead, the most effective route to achieving greater income parity is not to increase the income at the bottom. The best and most effective approach is limiting income at the top.

I am referring to establishing a maximum income. Not a maximum wage, but income.

This is not inferring anything should be taken away from anyone that they already possess. It would not limit your possessions that you could retain which you have or may purchase with your income. It refers specifically to taxing future income from all sources. This is not suggesting any ridiculously small number. I am suggesting a maximum income of something like $500 million a year from all sources.

No, that does not mean a lifetime limit. That means PER YEAR. If you need more than $500 million per year to live on, there is truly something wrong with you.

Yes, that income would also be taxed with an incremental tax system. If you do not understand incremental taxes, look it up. The rich (and willfully ignorant) like to claim that people at that income level are taxed at (for example) 40%. When you look at how incremental taxes work, the truth is that the real number is closer to 20% or less.

Yes, I know. That would leave them with ONLY $400 million per year to live on. The struggle is real. Oh, the horror.

When we talk about a maximum income, that would include stock packages, free insurance, corporate paid vacations at resorts, stock dividends. Anything that adds to your income and benefits would count as actual income for tax purposes.

Of course, anything above the established maximum would be taxed at 100%.

On the corporate side, we should be limiting corporate profits at a percentage. For example, a 20% cap on corporate profits after expenses. Once again from all sources. Because it would be set at a percentage, if a corporation makes $1 billion a year profits, if they want more it means they have to produce more. That means more production, creating more jobs, more sales.

The effect of more jobs existing than workers to fill them would be increased wages as companies try and attract workers. That would mean they would also spend more money on benefits for workers, such as better insurance, etc.

And that is how trickle down economics could actually work. It is not how it is happening now because there is no limit on profits. Companies increase profits by eliminating jobs, decreasing wages and benefits while performing stock buy-backs to increase their stock value (then there are fewer and fewer absolute stocks available, held by fewer and fewer people).

The additional effect is that it would stabilize the stock market. Fewer radical highs and lows because there would be no benefit to massive buying and selling. No stock price increases as companies announce layoffs. The only way a stock would increase in value would be by increasing sales and production, meaning more jobs being created instead of eliminated.

There is no question this entire idea will be attacked by those who say it cannot happen. Keep in mind that ALL grass roots movements begin this way. It starts with an idea, spread among people. Past grass roots movements have been the female vote, desegregation, domestic violence. Take the last one. It took years to convince people that it was bad for men to beat their wives and children. In fact, it was sometimes expected. How long did it take to gain legislation on that?

Those past movements took long periods because of the times in which they happened. Today we have the advantage of the internet. Social media in many forms. We share ideas in milliseconds across vast distances and millions of people. Yet it still begins with us. We cannot wait for a hero. I have said many times and will keep saying it: We are our own heroes. Let’s act like it. Defeatism has no purpose.