Friday, August 13, 2010

The Word "Duh" Comes to Mind

By Daniel Gross at Slate:

Employers shouldn't be surprised that Americans won't take their crummy, low-wage jobs.
At "Mechanical Devices, which supplies parts for earthmovers and other heavy equipment to manufacturers such as Caterpillar Inc., part owner Mark Sperry says he has been looking for $13-an-hour machinists since early last year," the Journal reports. Thirteen dollars an hour, 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year—that comes to an annual salary of $26,000. (In the adjacent Peoria, Ill., metropolitan area, per capita income was $39,965 in 2008.) Or take Emirates Airlines. When it held jobs fairs in cities like Miami and Houston, only about 50 people showed up, "compared to a global average of about 150 and as many as 1,000 at some events in Europe and Asia." The jobs don't require much in the way of education, and they come with benefits, free accommodations, and a starting salary of $30,000. But you'd have to move halfway around the world, to Dubai—an alien and expensive place. Would you uproot yourself and your family for $30,000 a year? Don't you think both of these employers would find many more interested applicants if they offered higher wages?
Despite this shortage of applicants, however (via):
Profits are up 41 percent since Obama’s election; yet half of American workers have suffered a job loss or a cut in hours or wages over the past 30 months. They’re saying around 28 million people either have no job or one that doesn’t yield them enough money to get through the week. On Friday, August 13, the Bureau of Labor Statistic noted on its home page that “Employers initiated 1,851 mass layoff events in the second quarter of 2010 that resulted in the separation of 338,064 workers from their jobs for at least 31 days.”
Perhaps the employers got rid of the workers they already had because they intended to replace them with new workers at lower wages, without benefits (assuming the old workers had them, which I admit is a stretch). Given the comfortable rise in profits, the corporate sector's poor-mouthing (we have to get rid of workers and cut wages in order to stay competitive in this age of globalization) can be dismissed as propaganda.

Meanwhile, the war on Social Security continues on its 75th anniversary, led by its Commander-in-Chief. Obama just delivered a ringing defense of Social Security against the Republican running dogs, but don't believe him: for one thing, his ringing defenses usually presage an ignominious retreat soon after. He's also fond of the diversionary lie: he declares his opposition to privatizing the system (not that he should be taken seriously even on that, given his record), but that doesn't rule out cutting benefits (via) and raising the retirement age, which appears to be his current goal. For another, he's packed his National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform with right-wing corporatists, working with Pete Peterson, a right-wing billionaire who's been crusading against Social Security since at least the Nixon Administration. (Peterson's Potemkin "Town Hall" meetings, rigged in an attempt to show public support for his agenda, backfired.) Doug Henwood of Left Business Observer promises a new major article on the subject, but links to this 2005 defense of the system.