Future does not look too bright
To the editor:
I am not optimistic.
The current rate of unemployment is 9 percent. We may wish that this was the rate in coming years. I believe that it will climb higher for several reasons.
The present state of affairs that the U.S. finds itself in did not happen under George Bush or even Bill Clinton. The process took much longer and included many ingredients that, in their own way, helped to create the dwindling of employment opportunities.
Let's examine the 1950s for openers.
In Jersey City at that time if you witnessed your street being cleaned you would have observed three men with push brooms, one man following with a shovel, all of them followed by a truck into the back of which the man with the shovel would place the pile of trash. Today, one man with a street sweeper truck does it faster, covers more area and is cheaper to pay.
Factories in many cities are vacant, victims of both outsourcing and mechanization. They stand like tombstones in an ancient cemetery. The hundreds of thousands of displaced workers have in many cases been retrained only to find that they are once again victims of job displacement.
This process took root in the 1960s. At that time the U.S. was a manufacturing behemoth. We were the envy of the world for our advances in technology and work ethic.
Unions were a constant participant at the negotiating tables and most of their demands for increased salaries and benefits were agreed upon. Economic times were good.
Social Security payments were in a "lockbox" to be used only to pay benefits to those who contributed. It was financially a sound retirement ally for the workers.
The 1960s saw that well-funded system raided by the Great Society and its intention to spread the wealth. The Social Security fund was placed into the general budget and replaced by I.O.U.s Those I.O.U.s are falling short of the promises made by Congress. Soon after that raiding of this fund, the Congress added insult to injury by now taxing the retirees on their SS monies.
With the rising costs of labor through salaries and pension plans companies sought ways in which to lower the costs of production. Outsourcing to places with lower manufacturing costs became the method of choice. Free trade agreements played an important role as well.
At this time we witnessed an array of situations that helped to fuel the social upheaval in this country. The feminist movement sought to increase the visibility of women in the workforce. This helped to drive down the overall wage picture as the workplace was being increased. Many jobs, once the sole province of male wage earners, were now shared by females through lawsuits and other methods. Racial equality also opened the doors to other workers long discriminated against. The workforce was increasing. It was becoming a buyers' market for employees and the buyers were seeking workers at a more affordable wage to their particular industry. If the wages were outside of their comfort zone the company moved overseas.
Automobile manufacturers in the 1960s enjoyed a heyday. There were few foreign cars on the roads. That soon began to change as well. Again, the high cost of manufacturing could not be sustained. The high prices demanded by the U.S. manufactured vehicles as a result provided the opportunity for foreign automobile makers to compete favorably. The consumers were becoming more discretionary with their selection of cars for the family.
The manufacture of textiles and shoes were soon being imported as well. This progression saw the explosion of technology in this country also becoming an item of outsourcing. Radios and televisions long made in the U.S. were made in Mexico and other countries.
This process went on to infect other areas of employment as well. A perfect storm of economic disaster was brewing.
The loss of millions of jobs is instilling a psychological fear of future disappointment for achieving the American dream.
I say this for a reason.
If you have the money in your pocket what can you not purchase because it is in short supply? What items need to be manufactured or performed that is not already in sufficient quantity? We will educate people to do what, employ people to do what, to make what?
But there is more. Life expectancy in the 1950s was 64 years of age for males. At the present that expectancy is in the neighborhood of 75 years. People are living longer. Pensions decided decades ago are deficient in their funding. Social Security has been raided to fund other social programs as well. Whereas in the 1950s there were 17 workers for every retiree today it is about 3.25 workers.
People are living longer, prices of most goods and services are more expensive, taxes are increasing to fund more people who are not producers. The population of the world is also increasing. There are whole countries that cannot feed their population nor meet the demands of the people. What dreams are shattered for them as well?
With the current rate of unemployment at 9 percent the years to come will look at that percentage with envy.
Dr. Joseph Kibitlewski