Thursday, March 02, 2006

Through a Glass Darkly

I enjoy sparring with a guy known as lonbud, whom some of you may know from BrosJudd, at his blog I Just Have To Say.

He's the most moonbatty Leftist I know who's also (usually) polite and well-spoken. That shouldn't be confused with "rational", but it's a good place to study the Far Leftist mindset, and hone my arguments. (I even occasionally win one).

For instance, lonbud is convinced that the U.S. Dept. of Labor's employment numbers are being manipulated, that there is massive and widespread unemployment, and that the American middle class is a dying breed.

Frequent commentor Tam O'Tellico also writes with elegance, and is responsive.

Anyway, lonbud recently wrote this comment on his Your Papers, Please thread, and I had to share it:

Actually, it’s NOT just like the Republicanuts who thought Dole could beat Clinton. At the time, that was a much closer call than Bush/Kerry was.

The pudding now is obviously beginning to set. Bush’s approval rating is 34%. Iraq is on the verge of imploding. A year ago 10 people a day were getting blown up there; today it’s 40. There’s tape circulating around the internet showing Bush was fully apprised of Katrina’s devastating potential before it hit and he still went off to raise funds and play golf. The impeachment movement against him is gaining steam.

While the press conspired to keep the most obvious evidence of [Bush's] incompetence hidden from the public prior to the [2004] election, the fact of the matter is dawning on more people every day. George W Bush will be written into the history books for what he’s always been: a privileged, incurious, conniving, mendacious, incompetent failure. [Emphasis added].


Blogger Duck said...

If you let yourself become too consumed with politics, I think you'll inevitably give into conspiracy theorizing. It happens on the right as well as the left. My brother happens to work for the Dept of Labor, he's a manager for the software group that maintains the programs to calculate the CPI. Many of the economic doom and gloomers think that the CPI is cooked to understate inflation. I can vouch for the fact that, at least at the management level of my brother, there is no "cooking" going on. Although the complaints are with the methodology, which is openly known, and not with any nefarious backroom machinations with the numbers.

Lonbud'd complaint probably has to do with the fact that the unemployment stats don't count people who have given up looking for a job. This is a complaint of the doom and gloomers too. There are two ways to look at this fact - one, these people have figured out how to live without an income, or 2, these people haven't become desperate enough yet to take the kinds of jobs that are available. I'd say that these people fall into the second category, and that their retreat from job seeking is a temporary condition that will be cured when they hit rock bottom economically.

I have a friend who went through that very scenario. He had a good paying software development job until he was fired four years ago.
He was very bitter about the firing, and let his emotions cloud his judgment to the point that he didn't look actively for a new job for a year. He didn't have a college degree, and the software language he was knowledgeable in was an archaic, proprietary tool that offered him very little in the way of marketability. But he was finally forced back into the workforce, taking an unskilled job that paid about 20% of his old salary. He ended up in bankruptcy, lost his house and many of his posessions, and now lives paycheck to paycheck.

So there are examples of people that fit Lonbud's profile. The question is whether there is a large scale shift of people from the middle to the lower class.

My friend represents the kind of people who were living temporarily above their skillset. There was a shortage of software development talent during the 90's boom, and many people who had no formal computer science background but who learned to use a 4gl GUI development tool could earn a pretty fat paycheck. Outsourcing is taking a lot of this basic, low value business software development work away from American developers.

But that is only part of the equation. My friend has suffered from a lot of self-inflicted wounds as well. He was not careful with his money, but was living beyond his means even before being fired. And he has not made the effort to gather additional skills or further his education. I think that there will continue to be plenty of opportunities for workers who are displaced by outsourcing or foreign competition, but it requires flexibility and initiative to remain competitive. The middle class is still there, it just takes more work to stay there than in the past.

March 04, 2006 10:25 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

The CPI is overstated, not under-, so that crowd is truly nuts.

There are only about 1.4 million "discouraged workers", or about 1% of the active workforce. If we include them as "unemployed", the unemployment rate shoots up to all of 5.5%.

And you're right, most of those people aren't discouraged because they can't find a job, they're discouraged because they can't find the perfect job, or a local job.

I don't have much sympathy for someone who hangs around an economically depressed area, while jobs go begging in other states or regions, although I recognize that there's an emotional cost to leaving.

Further, I don't think that we should bundle the 16 - 21 age group in with everyone else when reporting unemployment, as teens and young adults ALWAYS have higher unemployment, for a variety of reasons.

If we look only at "adult" unemployment, including discouraged workers, it's at around 4%.

Finally, I disagree that it takes more work to stay middle class than it did in the past. It's just that it's harder to become middle class with only a strong back and a willingness to work hard.

March 04, 2006 6:04 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

By "more wok" I mean working on your career, not the actual work done at work. Yes, once all it took was a working set of hands and the willingness to use them. You showed up at the factory door after high school graduation, and you had a job for life that could get you the trappings of the middle class dream. Now those jobs are gone, and you have to expect to retrain yourself several times during your working lifetime. I think that is the fact that is most unsettling for many people. It was for my friend, certainly.

In the 80's here in Minnesota the Iron Range region in the northern part of the state saw economic decline due to the decline of the Iron market. There was a loud political clamor for fixing the local economy, which was 90% driven by the mines. We heard the sob stories of the families who had lived and worked there for four generations. Well, mining is a boom & bust business, unless an area diversifies, you can't expect that everyone gets the luxury of living and working there for life. Since I had just moved to Minnesota in search of a job, I didn't have very much sympathy for those who wouldn't move to where the work was. I'm very un-crunchy in that way.

March 05, 2006 5:59 AM  

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