Saturday, February 13, 2010

How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America - The Atlantic (March 2010)

How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America - The Atlantic (March 2010)

2010 in America is Like Germany in 1925 is our Future the Same?

I came home yesterday to find my new copy of the Atlantic Monthly in my mailbox.

This in itself is so 20th century. But as a quaint response I brewed a cup of tea and read the Article Jobless America and the Future which is linked above.
Many have fatiqued to this conversation and many no longer want to discuss what the author Mr Peck describes and thus he confirms his thesis that America has changed and not for the better. Writers from the right like David Brooks and from the left like EJ Dionne have begun to make a point that needs to be spoken loudly-- America is not only in decline but if you want to see the future of large parts of America you need to go to Michigan and get used to all of America looking like that.
What has happened is that a whole generation of Men many white and in their 30's and 40's have already made the most money they will ever make in their lives. The result of this reality is going to be a profound change. Peck argues that White males who are now middle class- with college or especially no college are going to look like a group much more like inner city Black men in the future and I have to say that I see this all around me. I see formerly Middle Class men relegated to being dependant or worse violent and no one cares because in the 'old' mindset these men are the oppressors but in reality these are an old ideas whose time has passed.

It is convenient for political expediency to argue that Heterosexual White Men are the oppressor and every kind of "other" are oppressed but in fact this is no longer reality. America's colleges are now approaching 58% female. According to many studies if you are a highly educated woman you are more likely to be hired as the same man and for working class men you have no prospects. The fact is that White Males in America who are not in the elite are becoming marginalized and that is not a good place for them.

If you look at every major statistic working class males without college degrees are today America's most vulnerable population of adults apart from Black men. The problem is that no one in the Elite cares about these men and this will be to the nation's detriment. According to Peck all aspects of society are in deep decline among White Working Class Men . Religion, Civic Groups, and more are simply not serving these people's needs as huge segments of the economy melt away. The reality is that what happened in the Black community in the 1960's; that is the destruction of Black men's role in society is now happening to White Men and Boys.

It is not politically correct to say this but we have created a society where a working class, high school educated White Male is a marginalized figure but it its true and it is bad. This has moved beyond those who worked in Auto Plants. Every former middle manager I know who is jobless is a White male whose life is melting away.

There is allot of unemployment among other groups but never before have so many middle class families been reduced in this way. If you want to know where the Tea Party Movement comes from go to any unemployment office and listen to the people who cannot find work and who have no prospects. Listen to their stories. The issue for the next period in America is not what to do to make 'oppressed groups' lives better it is trying to save the Middle Class as Elizabeth Warren has said. All aspects of these people's lives are now in doubt and a man with nothing to lose is a dangerious thing as Malcolm X once said.

There is allot of kvetching about budget cuts, state budgets, education cuts et cetera and all of that is the result of the destruction of the middle class. I would tell my academic friends if you want to see the California University System funded then we need to solve the problem of Middle Class job destruction and most of those jobless are white men. The most important societal problem we have in this country is a place in it for these White working class men if they become totally marginalized we are looking at a new political order that will not do anyone any good.

There was a time in the past where a similar situation existed and that was in Germany in the 1920's. Whole segments of the German economy in the 20's were destroyed by this type of social dislocation. I would remind people that the German people did not turn to the Left for respite but to the Nazis. If you want to see a parallel to Sarah Palin and the Tea Party People look for it is Der Sturmer.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hiroshima today is nicer than Detroit

Recently I was watching ESPN U's Coverage of National Signing Day for High School Seniors for College Football. One of the announcers who also happened to be an Ohio State graduate began to talk about why many of the best players come from the south and west and he blurted out- because all the older areas of the country have lost their manufacturing bases and populations and so sick people cannot produce good football players.

It was an unwelcomed reality check amid something that I am sure ESPN did not wish to become political. But this comment brings be back to the website that is featured on the top of this blog comparing Hiroshima to Detroit, Michigan.

Hiroshima along with Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt and Tokyo have been rebuilt from ruins and today those cities are places with levels of infrastructure and industry that no American city can even hope to attain. In both Japan and Germany a decision was made after the war to build public institutions. In the US for over 40 years the choice has been to "let the market dictate". The result of letting the market dictate is Detroit, Michigan, Cleveland, Ohio, St Louis, Missouri, and other formerly great cities that are now empty shells with less than half their populations. The reason for this most conservatives would lead you to believe is that the free market made these places obsolete and they could not keep up.

The truth is that a conscious decision was made. Newt Gingrich said in 1982 that Alvin Toffler's vision for the future where most American's would be "knowledge workers" was our destiny. The result of this is that the American fabric had been torn asunder. The knowledge workers dwell in southern states, a few urban cities of the north and university towns while huge swathes of the American landscape have become like Michigan and Upstate New York. Empty and destroyed. Smaller towns like Newton, Iowa and Galesburg, Illinois have seen a huge decline with the closing of factories places like this that were middle class towns are now devistated by Meth and Unemployment.

So who won World War 2?

The Big Corporations did.

In 1945 most states outside the South had good, free or cheap universities. Good public schools, manufacturing jobs, and the world's best infrastructure. We had so much money that we could afford to make the swamps and deserts of the south and west habitable. We transfered huge amounts of wealth to build cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta and Las Vegas. Big corporations did not want to pay the taxes needed to support this growth and so unlike the Europeans and the Japanese we began to neglect our great cities.

Just go to Detroit,Buffalo, Cleveland, most of New York City, Chicago outside of the rich areas, St Louis, Cincinnati or Philadelphia and compare them to any city in Europe or many new places in China and ask yourself what is wrong with this picture?

I think that President Obama has elicited so much vitriol because he has dared to ask these questions. The Republicans believe that it is because of Unions and Liberals that Detroit declined. The fact is it was corporate America that decided that they did not want to bargain collectively and they did not want to build their communities and moved jobs first to the south and then to China and they caused all of this and now they are complaining because Americans are not buying anything?

It makes you wonder and now a whole generation of "knowledge workers" are out there looking for jobs and the curtain is removed to show what a lie it all was.