Monday, December 22, 2008

Long way down, long way to go

The shit is piling up from all those chickens coming home to roost. Did anyone really think that replacing decent paying manufacturing jobs with low paying service jobs was an intelligent plan? Not to mention creating a monstrous, wealth sucking health providing business whose goal is not providing health care?

Lori Harris, 47, waited for the job fair to open... She is paying $95 a month toward $23,000 in student loan debt. She is living with her boyfriend, who is supporting her, not always cheerfully. She has no health insurance and cannot see a specialist for a torn rotator cuff and recently applied for food stamps.

“I tried to better myself,” she said, “and I’m getting nowhere.”

She was offered one job, as a medical technician dispensing pills to patients. The pay was $7.50 an hour.

“Forget it,” she said. “I was like, ‘Is it worth going to college? Did I waste my time?’”

She wondered if her age explains the rejections. Or her Boston accent. Or the smell of her cigarette smoking.

“It’s getting really discouraging,” she said.

Unfortunately, things are going to get a helluva lot worse for the Ms. Harris's of this country. Americans' sense of exceptionalism and entitlement are largely responsible for allowing the government to get away with shipping so many good jobs overseas for a dime on the dollar. The better educated told themselves that it would be those other losers who will have to take the lower paying jobs. Most of those affected either couldn't bother to pay attention to current events, didn't have the education to understand them and/or let their attention diverted by stupid hateful Republican propaganda. Until they lose those fantasies, they'll find that there's still a long way to go to get to the bottom.

Americans will be slow on the uptake in realizing that they don't deserve squat in this world. Great wealth is bestowed on many through the lottery of birth and many others earn it through a combination of cleverness and hustle. But most people's chances come from intelligent public policy that encourages education and job opportunity. To get and maintain those kinds of intelligent public policies requires a modicum of educated self-interest from the masses. The type of person most likely to rise in both politics and big business is prone to corruption. To keep them in check requires constant vigilance. Otherwise, before you know it, everything for sale is manufactured abroad, you can't afford to see a doctor or purchase medicine, the only food you can afford makes you fat and sick, and the only job you can get pays little better than minimum wage. If that.

So in the longer term, the Ms. Harris's of this world, and I count myself among them, better start paying attention to politics, understand the economic forces that are fucking them over, then find their voices and make them heard. If we want high paying jobs, we've got to make it in the best interest of companies to provide them. Allowing them to profit by shipping them abroad will result in them being shipped abroad. Duh.

In the short term, she'd do well to quit smoking, certainly before job interviews, eat healthy, cancel the cable and study up on some history and current events.

And take that $7.50 an hour job until you can find something better. Cause if you don't, something much worse is coming along fast.