Posts Tagged ‘jobs’

Dad Gummit and Daw Gonnit

August 22, 2015


Dad Gummit and Daw Gonnit were sittin in the tavern one Friday evening. It was about going-home time and they were tippin a couple o brewskies while discussin the state of the world.

Ole Dad Gummit was on a roll with his opinions about the way things are and the way they use to be. “The trouble with this world today is folks don’t know how to do anything anymore. Why, back in day when I was still wet behind the ears, we could crank out things on the assembly line like they was goin outa style. Then along came nafta and before anybody knew what the hell was happenin everything we use to make was comin outa China or Mexico or Bangladesh or some such place where people work for next to nothin.”

“That’s just the way of the world,” Daw Gonnit explained. “It’s free enterprise. Companies that manufacture things are always tryin to get the price of their goods down to make ’em more affordable for the average guy– regular people like Joe Sixpack and Joe Blow, John Smith and Jane Doe.

“So companies got to find employees who’ll work for less money. But folks in this country are relatively rich, compared to the rest of the world. Companies wantin to get their costs down relocate their production facilities in other countries where people can afford to work for less money, because they don’t have the big cars and trucks to keep on the road, and they don’t have the big mortgage payments and the refrigerator and the dishwasher and the microwave and the range and the mixmaster and the blender and the washin machine and the dryer and so forth and whatnot that go along with the vehicle and the house and the lawn and so forth and whatnot.”

“I hear ya,” Gosh Darnit chimed in. He had sat at the table and had been listnin to their spiels. “But that’s nothin new. This has been goin on for hundreds of years. Why, there was a time, back in the 1900s, when most of our clothes came from England, because the limeys were the first ones to figure out how to mass produce textiles and clothing. They made the fabrics and the finished goods in places like Manchester and Lancashire and sent ’em over here on boats so’s we Americans could buy ’em with our up n comin’ dollars.

“After a while, we yankees figured out how to do it, and so we set up our own plants in New England and started crankin out similar goods (maybe not as high-quality) that were cheaper because Americans worked for less money than the highly skilled limeys did, plus we didn’t have to pay the transportation costs of floatin’ them pants and shirts and dresses and so forth and whatnot across the big pond.”

Then Dag Nabbit, who had ambled in, threw in his two cents worth. “I catch your drift, Gosh. But then after awhile, there were upstart mills down south, in places like the Carolinas where folks were workin for less than the New Englanders, and so a lot of that textile and clothing work went down south.”

“Yea,” Daw Gonnit agreed. “And nowadays, with so much manufacturing goin’ to Mexico and the like, it’s just more of the same pattern as before. Owners and bosses chasin’ after lower labor costs. It just all keeps goin’ south.”

“Or east,” Gosh Darnit pointed out, “. . .even across the Pacific ocean. like the Japs did with cars while Detroit was snoozin and countin their assets. After awhile the big boys in Michigan couldn’t get their innovative assets in gear any more, so the Japs and Koreans started crankin out lean n mean little econo wheels after the Arabs ran the oil prices up with their embargo and folks was waitin in line to fillup their tanks and so forth and whatnot.”

“I hear ya,” quipped Dag Nabbit. Things that had been changin at freeway speed were  changing all of a sudden at the speed of light. Then, as if that weren’t mystifyin’ enough, Gates and Jobs started crankin the silicon dreams out on the west coast and before you know it everybody was lookin at the world through new windows and takin a byte outa the good life. Between Redmond and and Cupertino electronic techie prosperity was leapin like blue blazes. But then Steve and the guys started farmin out the manufacturin work to the Chinese and the Sings and Bangalores and so forth and whatnot.”

“You fellas got that right,” said Dag Nabbit. “Most of the American manufacturing jobs have gone overseas, and so now service industries are taking over in American employment venues. Now folks are doin haircuts and pedicures and uber and pizza delivery and so forth and what not.”

“Flippin’ burgers, pitchin’ fries, waitin’ tables, detailin’ cars, sweepin’ floors, with the car-wash blues, recyclin’, mass transit, interior designin’, website designin’, programmin’, unstoppin toilets, flippin’ real estate, things like that,” said Old Dad Gummit.

“. . .not to mention lawyerin’ and doctorin’ and bankin’ and financial consultin’ and day-tradin’ and mortgage brokin’ and so forth and whatnot. The service industries are not all on the low end, y’know.” quipped Dag Nabbit.

“True dat,” agreed Old Dad Gummit, nodding his head slowly as if pondering on the essence things. He was thinking of what Sun Yat-sen had said about looking into the nature of things. “The world has sho’nuff changed since I was a Nehi,” he mused.

“Yeah, but you know what?” queried Gosh Darnit. “When you get right down to it, every person needs their shot at makin’ it in this world. . . makin’ somethin! whether its goods or services, high multiplier or low multiplier, whether they’re in America or Greece, or Asia or South America or Africa, in Shenzhen or Pleiku or the Outback of wherever place on earth. Everybody wants to get a piece of the action; everybody wants a slice of the pie.”

Dad Gummit looked strangely content, as if he was about to slip into another realm. “Everybody gets born with their own little window on the world, and desirin’ to get a byte outa the big App,” saith he, thoughtfully.

Daw Gonnit mused, “You so right, boss. Everybody git to take a shot at life, even though they’re born into times and maybe circumstances different from what their mom n pop were born into. And I guess they got to work with whatever they got–whatever they’re born into, wherever they be borne into it, whether they’re in Peoria or Seoul or Bangalore or Timbuktu or wherever.”

“But sometimes I catch a glimpse of the big picture, and I think it’s all on a long, downhill slide into hell,” Gosh Darnit opined. “. . .what with the perpetual wars, and terrorists and riots and police shootings and oppressions and so forth and whatnot. . .”

Ole Dad Gummit straightened hisself up; he looked around the establishment as if he wanted to say something profound, which he did: “As long as God Dammit don’t show up, I think we’ll be all right.” He drained the last of his IPA, then looked at Daw Gonnit in the eye.

“Maybe that’s what’s needed,” said the younger man.

“Could be,” crooned Dad Gummit.  He smiled, stood up. “Catch you boys on the flipflop.” And with that cloture, he strode out like a cricket among the embers.

Glass Chimera

Them Immigrants

November 22, 2014

She said  Send me 

your huddled masses yearning to be free.

He said Lend me 

your immigrant asses yearning to work for me.

She calls out for all mankind

have a little compassion willya cuz they need some time

to get their act together, find some opportunity–

to make it on their own, juz like you and me.


He insists they play by the rules

cuz  our ancestors were no fools–

they broke the ground,  forged their own tools!

She said yeah but that was then and this is now

they just got off the boat–they don’t know how– 

not yet.

Just get

me some productivity he said,

while masses toiled and earnings fed.


But then the Great Recession changed all that;

by n bye entitlements got fat;

while jobs went stale, wages flat.

All that pie in the sky we be been dreaming of

went splat in the face when push came to shove.

So now them huddled masses yearning to be free

dun scooped them jobs from you an me,

or so they say.


But hey,

it’s all good in the ‘burbs, it’s hunky-dory in the ‘hood,

them doin’ what them could, we doin’ what we should,

raisin’ upward mobilitators, squeezin’ out them couch potatoes,

’til black swans fly o’er white doves’ gains,

and burnin’ wood doth move against more-of-the-same.



Wage Deflation

April 11, 2012

It is no coincidence that the last three callers–Shawn in Cincinnati, Philip in Louisville, and Edward in Baltimore– on yesterday’s Diane Rehm show made comments about wage deflation, because this is what is happening in America.

The developing world, BRIC countries et al, are now cranking consumer goods much cheaper than we can. No way around it. The great expansion of national wealth and productivity that we were manifesting a hundred years ago is what the emerging countries are now in the midst of. There is nothing wrong with this; its the way the world has always been. The lean and vigorous youngsters have always surpassed the older folks . This applies to nations and whole economies as well.

I enjoy listening to the Diane Rehm show immensely, and frequently. I caught it yesterday while painting and cleaning a vacant apartment, which is part of my job. Thank God for my job.

Susan did a nice job of filling in for Diane, as usual, although no one will ever really fill Diane’s unique footprint in public discourse. The panel was, as usual, well-chosen, with Jim, Jerry and Betsy, all of whom are highly qualified to talk about their topic at hand, jobs and the economy.

But the illustrious panel spent the first twenty minutes or so, as is typical for today’s talking heads,  in the predictable media obsession about what Bernanke said, and the snail’s pace increments of labor statistics and GDP and all the gov numbers and blahblahblah.

I got a little upset when Jerry said the major reason we’re not getting job recovery is because growth is slow. Well that’s like saying the sky is blue and leaves are green. Now Jerry had some very good points, as did the other panelists, points about international competition in business and manufacturing, discouraged workers and their segment of the unemployment statistics, the “sugar high” of Fed-generated liquidity, the “still real dangers” that threaten our hyped-up recovery, gains in the first part of the year with declines in the second half of the year and how that may be a pattern in the last few years, whether and how/why companies are producing more goods with fewer workers and less pay, the necessary once-and-future skills development and job training programs that our country needs and the emperor’s new clothes and so forth.

But those three callers from the rust belt–they really drove, and without planning it, the point home: wage deflation. Too many people looking for work in a short production economy–wages go down. Its just supply and demand, as supplied to employment. No rocket scientist needed there.

But its time that some Americans start taking new directions; we need to find something else to do. And it is no coincidence that the first caller, Chad in Lansing, spoke about his chosen field of training and employment–agriculture–and how strong that sector is in our economy just now.

Agriculture has always been the heart of our great American expansion, and perhaps it always will be, because we have an abundant resource that many nations have a shortage of–land. And, as Jerry pointed out during the enlightened part of the discussion–the demand for food is high. Always will be. Not to mention energy sustainability, appropriate technology, etc. which is another topic altogether. Gotta go to work now; have a nice day.

Glass half-Full

Shovel-ready? Hammer down

August 6, 2011

In the early 1980s, I worked with a large crew of men to construct the Linn Cove Viaduct. This massively intricate bridge project was a missing link to connect the two halves of the formerly uncompleted Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a long roadway which had begun during the Roosevelt New Deal jobs program in the 1930s; we finally finished the job in the 1980s during the Reagan years. The parkway wound through the Appalachians in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.

This is funny, in an ironic way. The bridge’s construction had been initiated by the granddaddy of American Democratic Keynesian Liberal Make-work Jobs programs, Franklin Delano Roosevelt; but its completion almost fifty years later was achieved during the administration of that great uncle of American Conservative Republican Trickle-down FreeMarket productivity, Ronald Reagan. I see some common ground there.

It must have been the presence of a rugged mile-high mountain (called Grandfather) in North Carolina, and a world war, that had prevented completion of the Parkway under the New Deal. But that was ok with me and the several hundred other guys who finished the job back in ’85 or so. We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to do the work, and thus provide meat and bread, homes, paid light bills and so forth for our families during those years.

After that job, boy, was I in for a long string of years learning lessons in the school of had knocks. But Pat and I, managed, by God’s grace and all that sweat equity, along with her embarkation on a nursing career, to get the three young’uns raised and off to Duke and Carolina. ‘T’weren’t easy, though.

But I was thinking, this morning, August 6, 2011, about that great public works project in which I played a part back in the day. Although I had been a student of English Literature, Political Science, and cannabis at LSU about a decade earlier, and although I had spent a few years after that selling debit insurance, newspaper classified advertising, and printing, I had drifted into the construction trades because–long story short–I was tired of using my mind instead of my hands. But of course I was yet to learn what “tired” is really all about.

All the current discussion about JobsJobsJobs! got me thinking about this. After hearing Democrats theorize these last few months about the FedFix making jobs, and shovel-ready jobs and infrastructure and why-cant-we-do-it-in-the-road projects like the WPA and like Interstate Highway constructions beginning with Eisenhower and so forth, and after hearing the Republicans wax eloquent about Main Street and balanced budgets and job-creators and free markets and efficiency and productivity and so forth, I woke up this morning thinking about that amazing work we did on Grandfather Mountain to finish the Blue Ridge Parkway, back in the day.

Believe me, it was no “shovel-ready” project. In fact, I’m wondering about this whole idea of shovel-ready, and make-work for the sake of keeping unemployment levels down.

The Linn Cove Viaduct on Grandfather Mountain, about twenty miles from where I live, was an astounding feat of engineering expertise. The design and calculations for that bridge had required, I am quite sure, years of preparation. As a novice steel worker–what they call a “rodbuster” who ties rebars together with steel wire–I had nothing to do with the brains part of the work. And I had nothing to do with the “shovel” part of the work either. I just did my job tieing steel, 40 hours a week, until all 53 segments of the 1/4 mile structure had been assembled and passed along to the concrete crew.

After each of those multi-ton segments had been intricately constructed in steel and concrete, with varying specifications in each segment determined according to each segment’s unique position in the 1/4 mile S-curve–after all that–the huge pieces were taken on even huger trucks out to the bridge site on the side of the rocky mountain. And since there were, in the 1/4-mile length of the bridge, only seven direct-support points, an elaborate system of high-tension cables was strewn through the entire structure as it was being built to keep the thing up in the air.

And a multi-ton crane was driven out onto the cantilevered, epoxy-glued, cable-held roadway-in-mid-air with support at only one end, until seven segments had been erected and the next support structure was reached.

Maybe you didn’t follow all that, but perhaps you will believe me when I say this: what men and women have figured out how to do on the face of this God’s green earth–and what they subsequently do–is amazing, and seems miraculous. Furthermore, as this bridge project was an example of what humans can do in massively intricate works of concrete and steel, consider this:

The nano-projects we undertake beneath the world of electron microscopes and DNA and gene-snipping, and laboring viruses, amino acids, and polymers among the electrons with quarks and neutrinos and so forth is perhaps even more amazing. But I’ll not go there, as if I could.

For general improvement of the human condition, we have a lot of work out there that needs to be done. Its good work, if you can get it. But so much of it, especially these days, is for smart people, skilled people, in this age of pioneering technology. If we can find ways–whether by FedFix make-work infrastructure projects or by MainStreet SmallBusiness, or by some combination thereof, I know not–we can make the employment happen. Perhaps we can make connections between the work that truly needs to be done and those skilled workers who are properly trained to design the work, engineer it, and then do the work, and thus keep unemployment numbers down to reasonable levels.

As for the unskilled folks, I’m not so sure how we’ll keep so many of them busy. We make wisecracks about MickeyD’s and the everybody’s-favorite-store-to-hate-even-as-we-shop-there. But I do know this. Everybody has to eat. And I’m not convinced that it is FedFix’s constitutionally-mandated responsibility to feed all these people, and pay their mortgages and light bills and flat-screen tvs and cellphones and whatnot. Such a massive undertaking is, as they say, unsustainable. Not only that, but its downright socialistic, and counterproductive in terms of inspiring the much-needed innovation and creative systemic improvements.

I suggest its time for unskilled folks to get back to the land. Grow food for yourself, your family, your community, instead of buying it all from bigbox stores that have been supplied by fleets of petroleum-spewing trucks that may be carrying suspect salmonella in their highly-processed payloads. This is advisable for skilled workers and educated people as well, if you have time. You might need to cut down on the tv time.

And while you’re tending the garden, take some time out of the hot sun to do courses at your local community college or university. Thereby, you may learn how to make this nation, and this world, a better place.

Glass Chimera