America Breaking Soft

Overpopulation and privilege in this country has led to an inability to do the tough work and creativity necessary for our economic survival.

Yes or no? 


Well emphatically you would say no if you are talking about the troops in Iraq or Afghanistan fighting unpopular wars in places so difficult and fraught with danger that you and I shudder at the thought of being there. How about cancer, ALS, or other victims of such life threatening diseases and conditions struggling everyday just to make sense or completing their daily activities?  Or people barely making minimum wages that clean up our cities, our homes, take care of our privileged children and help with our aged parents and friends. What about the chronically disabled, physically or mentally unable to fend for themselves and everyday a battle to not only understand their predicaments, but be able to somehow find hope in a society that would mostly rather forget they even exist?

Toughness is certainly not in question there.

But what about the general population?  

For example, those of us who have chosen to be lawyers, accountants, financial consultants, customer service workers, sales executives, teachers, technology purveyors, beauracrats – in total the white-collar masses that exchange money, collect/deliver information and shuffle paper from one place to another. Not that these folks don’t fulfill some important functions, but what do they really create, manufacture and make that other people want to not just consume, but to purchase because it has real substance, value, meaning and function in their lives.

Do any of those people build your house, manufacture your car, build your furniture, make your carpet, manufacture your television, computers, DVDs, cell phones and myriad of other electronic devices?  It is the manufacturing sector that creates, builds and maintains all the things we take for granted, while we are off moving all that money, information and paper around. 

David Brooks, a conservative columnist for The New York Times:

Today’s economic problems are structural, not cyclical … We’ve drifted away from the hard-headed practical mentality that built the nation’s wealth in the first place.

New York Times September 9, 2010

Where is the real value in this country?

Many Americans today have totally forgotten or never learned that it was not Wall Street or Goldman Sachs that secured the building of an industrial nation, but the skilled craftsmen that go to work everyday and actually produce something that is tangible. Value that can be touched and felt. Convential wisdom indicates blue-collar workers are expendable – too expensive to maintain – and should be replaced by lower cost workers from other countries, dumbing down valuable trades and lowering living wages for all other skilled craftsmen trying to make a reasonable living and provide for their families. Or even more deplorable, outsourcing jobs to foreign countries with their “sweat shop mentalities” and more profit margins for corporations already top heavy with overpaid executives.

We often treat trade unions today as economic encumbrances, completely forgetting their crucial influence in overcoming, balancing and controlling the glaring excesses of free market capitalism,with multi-national corporations constantly trying to bleed the last dollar out of American workers.   

It is inconceivable that we truly believe that the machinist at Boeing, the welder at Ford, the millwright at Alcoa, the pipe-fitter at General Electric or the electrician at Intel has less value or worth than anyone on Wall Street. It isn’t the people on Wall Street doing the real work of this country, but others that produce a tangible product.  We didn’t win WWII through the efforts of paper pushers in Manhattan, but the average Joe/Jane out there creating and making the war materials necessary for our survival.

How can it be that there are many people in this country, wealthy and apparently arrogant enough, who believe that they are incapable or unwilling to mow their own lawns, prune their gardens, paint their houses, repair what needs to be fixed, prepare their own meals, clean their homes and for god’s sake take care of their own children. Have we come to the point where we have to employ illegal workers from other countries, for incredibly low wages, to do what all of us should be doing ourselves?

Now there’s an indictment of a culture in serious decline! 

THE WEEK editor goes on to add to David Brooks’ op-ed:

Are we still an industrious people? Or have we become too soft to dirty ourselves making and selling things?

THE WEEK September 24, 2010

So, what do we actually do in this country anymore?

Corporate influence peddling and outright propaganda has convinced lawmakers, policy makers and the public that we don’t need the actual makers of useful products, but instead we need to ship (outsource) those jobs overseas to third world countries for substantially lower labor and production costs. If not outsourcing then bring in illegal workers who work for wages no American can live on, creating high unemployment and shoddy goods at cheap prices.

Great for corporations, not so good for the average worker in this country.

All the while we go on adding to our overpopulation woes, importing illegal workers, escalating unemployment in traditional blue-collar sectors of the economy while subsidizing an exploding Underground Economy that fuels illegal activities whose members use more taxpayer services, but pay taxes for none of them. All of this is a “fool’s game” if ever there was one, and we all go along with it! 

Undoubtedly we do need a more educated base in this country, for all of the obvious reasons.

But what is wrong with college educated machinists, college educated plumbers, college educated electricians or college educated blue collar workers of all persuasions with all the benefits for society and individuals that accrue from more education?  What is wrong with keeping high paying manufacturing jobs in this country? So what if we have to pay a bit more for a purchase if it guarantees everyone a standard of living that is fair and equitable.

Breaking soft or breaking tough?

Instead of most of us figuring out the newest application on our smart phones or playing the latest video game on our computers, what is wrong with all of us mowing our own lawns, maintaining our own houses, pruning our gardens, making our own meals, and taking care of our own children? Certainly, if we all chose to do these sometime mundane but necessary tasks we would undoubtedly make our lives simpler with fewer people, and in the end have a stronger, more equitable, fair and just American society.  

Revisiting the reasons for supporting a strong manufacturing base and the hard working dynamic people that are the heart of that system may not end all our many dilemmas in this country, but it would go a long way in mending the soul of our mental and physical toughness that for many has been squandered and lost.

And if we can believe David Brooks, whose analysis in his article also quoted another economist concluding that we would now have a 6.5% unemployment rate rather than the 9.5% if we had not moved our manufacturing sector overseas, certainly that alone is a compelling argument for a resurrected manufacturing sector.

What could possibly be wrong with traveling a proven road? One that certainly has had its share of difficulties and unintended consequences, but in the end could very well return us to a more stable and meaningful economy. An economy that is more independent of foreign influences and entanglements, American based and controlled, and doesn’t add to an already overpopulated citizenry.

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The Parent Trap

If Newsweek wants to understand why its readership is declining it need only look to Robert Samuelson and his latest ramblings in the Business column for the August 16th issue of the magazine titled, The Parent Trap: How our budget policies hurt families.

His major points:

  • Our society does not – despite rhetoric to the contrary – put much value on raising children
  • Present budget policies punish parents, who are taxed heavily to support the elderly
  • Tax breaks for children are modest
  • Americans may choose not to have children or to have fewer children if we have deficit reduction measures
  • Fewer children translates to economic decline
  • Societies that cannot replace their populations discourage investment and innovation
  • They have stagnant or shrinking markets for goods and services
  • Some European countries and Japan’s fertility rates are falling to 1.2
  • The United States’ fertility rate is at 2.1 and 40% of the births are to unmarried, poor and unstable mothers
  • In wealthy societies government now supports the elderly, diminishing the need for children
  • Deficit reduction must include spending and benefit cuts for the elderly and higher taxes for everyone except parents
  • He quotes another economist, parenting is “one of the most important services any American can perform”

Major points in response:

Does Mr. Samuelson not watch any television, read his own magazine or any of the other major magazines that not only emphasize, but glamorize and glorify every aspect of motherhood. There are entire industries, corporations, associations, marketing minions that do nothing else but mindlessly encourage motherhood and the value of children. Billions are spent. “Not much value”, I don’t think so!

And why shouldn’t parents bear the full responsibility for living in this society. They were raised by parents who are now elderly and need some help, especially when medical science continues to extend their life expectancies beyond their wildest dreams. The elderly haven’t chosen to be old, while parents have chosen to be parents, or at least should have chosen. What do you want to do, throw the elderly out on the street or maybe we can just euthanize those old folks. Now there’s a solution we can all live with!

Modest tax breaks for children? Get real. If you call the personal tax exemption, child tax credit, child-care tax credit ,adoption tax credit and public education modest, just go talk to the people who have no children and make up for all those credits and benefits with their increased taxes and see if they think those tax breaks are so modest. Not to say what it cost to subsidize that 40% or more of the population that have no business having children in the first place.

Women and couples are choosing to have fewer or no children because they are more educated and smarter. It has nothing to do with higher taxes, deficit reduction or whatever. Any fool can produce a child and many do. Some of the more thoughtful among us are beginning to realize their parenting abilities and skills are limited by circumstance and temperament. 

Now the truth comes out, what children really mean in a consumer economy is another commodity and future purchaser of goods and services. And without a steady increase in that commodity, according to economists such as Mr. Samuelson, we will wander through years of want and suffering. Declining economies decline for many reasons but lower fertility rates is not one of them. Only fools and economists believe that growth economies are infinite.

I don’t understand this concept of declining fertility rates (less people) translating to less economic investment and innovation. What kind of thinking is this?  Why wouldn’t people be more confident about entrepreneurship and more creative in their thinking with a society that lives within its means, creates a more educated and dynamic populace, and understands that a successful civilization is not measured in numbers of people but quality of its people.

Shrinking markets for goods and services is a good thing! People are forced to make choices based on real need not whim and fashion. Most Americans don’t need half the things they have already, much less anymore stuff. What we really mean is that we must produce more useless goods and services for jobs creation when we choose to grow populations. Reduce populations and we no longer have that requirement. Seems simple enough to me.

So what! Japan’s women and couples are obviously getting smarter. Why would you choose to have children if you didn’t want any and destine yourself to a life of drudgery and suffering, especially in a small geographically challenged island nation that needs less people not more. Again, the choice is not to produce children because it is your duty as a citizen or a woman, but because you actually want children, and can afford them and make all the sacrifices that come with such a choice. And as for Europeans, they have been through the war and turmoil thing for millenniums and my guess is they are finally understanding the connection between overpopulation and war – which is long overdue. We would do well to emulate them. And besides all that, their quality of life quotient – except for their growing  immigrant populations – seems to be much superior to the rest of the world’s. 

America’s fertility rate would be much less except for Latino and other ethnic groups that haven’t got the message yet. You don’t need four or five children to take care of you in your old age, and besides most of the new immigrants live in big cities not in rural farming areas.  So much for the “help out on the farm” justification. As for the 40% that Samuelson slips in as almost an aside, that speaks volumes to where we are going to end up in this culture if that trend continues. Except for Walmart’s love affair and feeding frenzy relationship with these people, I suspect most Americans would like to see this trend go away in a hurry. That 40% gives new meaning to the words, government supports and subsidies. To all of us taxpayers out there that translates, more money for people we don’t really need and less for people who truly do have needs.

Sorry, but I don’t get this. How does helping the elderly – a necessary and right thing to do in any civilized society – diminish the need for children. First of all we don’t need children, what we need are couples that are capable, diligent and dedicated enough to choose to have children.  We can all rest assured that children will never be on the Endangered Species List, at least not until we finally turn this planet into an inhabitable desert by continuing to reproduce quantities of human beings that we DON’T need! Mr Samuelson we can continue to help those elderly that need it and continue to have children, we just have to make economic choices and sacrifices that foster care and nurturing for both groups. By the way I guess it didn’t occur to you that by emphasizing quality children over quantity, we will reduce future elderly populations – exactly the group you seem to feel takes up way too much room and resources in this society. 

First, read the last paragraph again! We are all in this together, like it or not. Reducing budget deficits should mean equal sacrifices for all groups. If that means people choose to have fewer children so be it, that’s all part of it.  But I guess for you that means this generation that created this nasty, selfish economic crisis we find ourselves, should now place the burden of the debt we have created on the backs of increasing numbers of future generations so you can be assured of collecting your Social Security and Medicare checks. Wow, I get it now!

“One of the most important services an American can perform”?  Does that not seem eerily close to the German Nazi propaganda machine of WWII?  Having children is now our patriotic duty, a “service” to “perform”.  Whether cannon fodder for the “fatherland” or a commodity to fuel a declining economy, we now know what the real value of children has become. Why don’t we just line up all those unpatriotic, self-centered women and AI all of them. What could be more important than the American economy?  Instead of a “chicken in every pot”  we could have “five kids in each home”. 

Now that would surely take care of all our economic problems.


The Underground Economy

Because the population is growing and new people are continually coming onto the job market, we need to produce roughly 1.5 million new jobs a year—about 125,000 a month—just to keep from sinking deeper.

Don Peck “How A New Jobless Era Will Transform AmericaThe Atlantic March 2010


Jobs Creation and the Unemployed

  • It will take 10 million additional jobs to bring the U.S. back to a 5% Unemployment Rate
  • At 600,000 new jobs/month it will take us two years to return to 5% Unemployment
  • The Unemployment Rate is around 10% or approximately 12.5 million people
  • The Underemployment Rate is at least 17%, or approximately 22 million people

In a sense every time some one is laid off now, they need to start all over. They don’t even know what industry they’ll be in next.

Gary Burtless, Labor Economist, Brookings Institution

The Failures of a Growth Economy

 Because of short term results rather than long term value creation, and “financial engineering” rather than funding business innovation: “natural” rate of unemployment will be between 6.5 and 7.5 percent even if the country reaches complete “recovery”.

 Edmund Phelps, Nobel Prize Economist, Harvard Business Review


Trained throughout childhood to disconnect performance from reward, and told repeatedly that they are destined for great things, many are quick to place blame elsewhere when something goes wrong, and inclined to believe that bad situations will sort themselves out-or will be sorted out by parents or other helpers. Sense of entitlement and highly structured childhood results in a lack of independence and entrepreneurialism in many 20-somethings. 

 Twenge/Alsop  Atlantic Monthly  March 2010


Compounding all of the above is that skills diminish, behavior changes, and people age as unemployment lengthens. What is going to happen to all these people?


The Major Players in the Underground Economy

It is estimated that the Underground Economy could be as large as 8 to 15% of  U.S. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) or $14 trillion.  That is a total of $970 billion to $1 trillion, and is most likely expanding at a rate of 5 to 6% per year!

  1. Labor/Goods/Services: Paid in Cash
  2. Illegal Drugs/Organized Crime: UN Report Retail Value $321.6 billion Worldwide
  3. Prostitution
  4. Weaponry: Smuggling, Theft from Arms Manufacturers
  5. Alcohol/Tobacco: Tax Avoidance, Smuggling
  6. Copyrighted Media: DVDs, Music CDs, Computer Software, Video Games
  7. Currency: Counterfeiting, Exchange

The Major Factors Stimulating  the Underground Economy

  • Unemployment
  • Underemployment
  • Illegal Immigration: 9 to 20 million people plus
  • Complex/Unfair/Unenforceable/Uncollectable Tax Codes and Revenues
  • Greed

Tax Gaps and Tax Avoidance

Illegal immigraton is estimated at $50 billion per year in lost tax revenues.

Private cash contracting is estimated at $400 billion per year in lost tax revenues.

Criminal activity is estimated somewhere around $1 trillion per year in lost tax revenues.

The U.S. government deficit is 10.6 % of GDP or $1.5 trillion.

The Bottom Line 

  • America’s infrastructure including streets, roads, highways, bridges are all deteriorating at an alarming rate
  • Our Public Education System of primary, secondary, and higher learning is approaching a shambles
  • The Public Services sector including police, fire and emergency services are understaffed with rising crime rates and declining morale and are all quickly reaching crisis proportions
  • Escalating Medicaid and other social services expenditures mirror our rising underclass with poverty rates and illegal immigration a major drain on scarce resources

If individuals are unemployed, underemployed, or illegal immigrants where might they turn to support themselves and their families? The best guess is that the Underground Economy would look more and more attractive all the time. Some would simply avoid taxes by working for cash. Others of course would most likely turn to more illegal and much more lucrative forms of tax avoidance, which not only means billions in lost tax revenue, but is also costly to regulate and control by police and other agencies. 

We the Taxpayers Take a Substantial Double Hit 

  • We pay more for our share of infrastructure and schools
  • We pay more for police, security agencies, jails and prisons to regulate and control illegal activities and warehouse lawbreakers. 

As populations increase so do all the problems above, in fact if history is any indicator they will undoubtedly accelerate faster than population growth in terms of percentages and therefore overall numbers. 

Consequently, the arguments for decreasing populations rather than allowing them to increase look better and better all the time! 



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Jobs and Excess Labor

 One Job Away From Being Unemployed

To begin with, let all the employed not forget the disturbing images of the homeless and destitute here and abroad roaming the urban backwaters searching for a place to eat, sleep and survive.

With that in mind, one can only wonder at the absurdity of an ever-growing labor pool competing for a finite or diminishing amount of employment opportunities. 

Declining Wages and Excess Labor

  • The current recession, and even the current decade  has shown that wages for both skilled and unskilled labor has and will continue to spiral downward because of an over abundance of labor 
  • Legal and illegal immigration in this country and high birthrates combined with great migrations from the agrarian countryside to industrial urban centers around the world have led to destabilized economies
  • If that is not bad enough, consider the quandary of this government and others in generating and creating opportunities for its excess labor resources, especially in states and countries least able to afford and implement such expenditures
  • The Underground or Shadow Economies will surely flourish without employment planning

A Common Goal For Market Economies

  • A prerequisite for any market economy should be a cohesive relationship between employers, employees and their communities
  • That will not  happen without determined prior planning and substantial injections of both private and public financial resources
  • That planning must insure overall populations that remain small, stable and educated
  • With wages and salaries that reflect the inherent and equal value of every individual, whether owner, management or labor
  • All would share to some extent in both profits or losses  

Communities and governments must be willing and able to use public monies and regulation to create education and training facilities.   

Together education and training can nurture and reinforce limiting populations, stabilizing the supply of labor and therefore maintaining higher wages and salaries, so every potential employee can fairly compete for a living-wage position.

Labor To Be Considered a Public Good

By changing attitudes towards labor and viewing jobs as a public good, to be protected and esteemed rather than just another tool in the chain of production, businesses, companies and corporations will begin to see dramatically increased output and profits. 

That is a great benefit not only for employees, but also employers, communities and society as a whole.    


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Forget A Growth Economy

  • The time has come to seriously reevaluate our continuing dependence on the idea of an ongoing growth economy 
  • It has simply outlived and lost its relevancy and usefulness  
  • Most importantly, it has failed miserably to grow the world and the United States out of poverty and misery 

Who Actually Benefits From a Growth Economy

It is clear that Africa, Asia, South America, parts of Eastern Europe and even Central America and Mexico continue to fester in third world conditions, struggling to feed their millions or billions, while a lucky and privileged minority live in middle or upper class conditions.

Too Many People Chasing Too Few Resources

  • Because of continually growing populations that are even accelerating their rates of growth in some areas, the world is in a race to control finitely limited and already deeply depleted resources
  • It is a simple math problem: too many people chasing after, and in a deadly competition for, rapidly depleting resources
  • Every military conflict in the 20th and 21st centuries did, does now, and will in the future reflect that telling circumstance

The Fallacy of GDP and Three Percent

You can play with all the GDP and three percent growth figures you want, but in the end they only reflect more distribution of goods to a relatively small group of people compared to total populations.

And no matter how much the privileged in this world justify and try to protect what a growth economy has in many cases unfairly provided them, the fact remains that the ever increasing have-nots in this country and the rest of the world will continue to be further indentured by any economy based on increasing GDP’s for the more fortunate economic classes combined with spiraling population growth.  

That model will continue to manipulate and exploit the less fortunate, rather than free them.     


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Beggars In The Subway




The Invisible Class

I guess all of the more privileged in this country have been way too busy to notice the contradiction between extreme wealth coupled with middle class consumer values that have a left a wide chasm in The American Dream scenario.

Trickle-down Economics

  • Haven’t we been working on this Growth and Consumer Economy thing for at least the last sixty years 
  • Certainly that is sufficient time for any respectable theory to work all the “bugs” out
  • If we just continue to grow the economy at 3% per year, all the money and jobs generated will naturally “trickle down” to all the underclasses in this country

A Walking Tour of Poverty

If you seriously believe that, it’s time to take a trip through the underbelly of any large urban area. Start with say NYC/Newark/Hartford, then Philly/WDC, maybe Miami and Atlanta. Then hit Detroit and Chicago/St Louis. Don’t forget New Orleans, Houston and Phoenix. And of course finish it all off in Oakland and LA, the list is endless.

  • Forget about unemployment figures and all that government nonsense
  • These people have fallen so far “between the cracks” there is no realistic way of counting the mass of unfortunates that are also Americans

So, remember as your cups “runneth over” and you think we can continue to add to, rather than fix what’s already upon us, stop, look around and be grateful you are not one of the tens of  millions living something less than the “good life”.

Photo Credit:Beggar in the Subway:Internet Author Unknown


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