21 April 2011
The other day, McDonald's took applications for 50,000 positions they plan to fill.
Some are saying that's a sign the economy is "turning a corner." Perhaps it is if you're a McDonald's executive, or perhaps the owner of one of its franchises. However, I don't think that the people who waited all night outside those restaurants to fill out an application would tell you that things are getting better. Granted, some of them are young people who've never had a job before. But there are many others who had jobs that paid well, or were even professionals of one sort or another. Now they're lining up for jobs that pay minimum wage, or not much more.
I guess the economy is turning a corner. Here in New York, turning a corner can bring you into an entirely different neighborhood--and world. And it isn't always for the better.
So what are we entering? I am not an economist, historian, futurologist, sociologist or any of the people who get paid to comment on this sort of thing. But I don't think it's an economy that's going to benefit very many people.
We've heard it all: First the manufacturing jobs went overseas. Then customer service went to call centers in India. Now we're seeing lawyers', engineers' and other professionals'--not to mention clerks'--work sent to countries with low wages. Those last jobs were thought to be the ones that would never be "outsourced."
So are there any "safe" jobs or professions? Some have mentioned health care and law enforcement. The former (even the so-called private facilities) are largely paid for through public funds, i.e., taxes. And law enforcement is almost entirely financed that way. We're seeing the consequences of that now: The other day, Paterson, NJ laid off one-fourth of its police force.
I think that what we're seeing is the real Republican/Right/Tea Party agenda. If people are willing to do anything to get on the lowest rung of the employment ladder, those who are hiring can demand just about anything from them. So the would-be employers are creating a buyer's market for labor. And guess who the buyers are?
There is, however, a far more insidious manifestation of the Tea Party agenda. In fact, it's been all but unnoticed. But it goes hand-in-hand with reducing large parts of the workforce to wage slavery.
On her blog, Diana described an example of what is happening. In Michigan, the Governor essentially gave himself the power to throw out locally-elected officials and appoint his own people. Those appointees, in turn, can toss out other officials and, in essence, run their localities by edict.
This scenario has already played out in one city. It just happens that city is the poorest and blackest (Yes, even more so than Detroit!) in the state. I'm talking about Benton Harbor, which has been the subject of a number of articles and a book ("The Other Side of The River" by Alex Kotlowitz) in which the city is depicted as a poster child for post-industrial decay.
If that could happen there, it's not hard to imagine, for instance, Chris Christie doing something similar with Camden or even Trenton, the state capital. Newark wouldn't be out of the question, either.
That is a corporate fascist's dream: Large portions of the population without money and without a vote, or any other form of recourse. (Think of what they're really trying to accomplish by de-funding Planned Parenthood. It's not, as they say, about "reducing government." )
Some days it's just unbearable to be teaching college students who still believe that their degrees are going to get them wonderful, high-paying jobs. I just hope that I'm helping them to open their eyes and that it leads them to vision rather than disillusionment. Otherwise, what is the point of their time in school?