Friday, February 18, 2011

Congress and the White House battle over the budget but won't fight the real war

What do you do when, as a result of widespread economic malaise, your nation's tax revenue can't keep pace with your nation's expenditures and states' and the populace's need for federal government spending (impoverished and unemployed Americans) has exploded?  Would you address the root cause of the problem--your nation's economic malaise, or would you address a symptom of the problem--an exploding federal budget deficit?

Congress and the White House have decided to valiantly address the budget deficit while completely failing to even acknowledge the existence of our nation's fundamental economic problems.  By squabbling over the budget, they can fool the sheeple and the Tea Partiers into thinking that they are hard at work.  However, in reality Congress and the White House are blithely distracting the American people from our nation's real problems.

Of course, Congress wouldn't consider increasing tax revenue by raising taxes on the rich, a class of purportedly downtrodden folks who are enjoying all of the increased riches that have come from alleged productivity gains and who seem to own increasing percentages of the nation's wealth.  They wouldn't dare consider tax increases because it would be like cutting off their noses to spite their faces.  Why would you want to bite the hands that feed you with campaign contributions?  Besides, Tea Party morons and Joe-the-Plumber types would regard that as an assault against everything America stands for even though higher taxes for the rich would be in their own rational economic self interest.  (I might be poor working stiff today, but I'm planning to own a business if I ever get my plumber's license!)

If the Republicans and Democrats really wanted to address our federal (and state) budget problems they could start by resurrecting our nation's comatose economy.

(1.) Over the past several decades our government has allowed millions of formerly middle class jobs to be sent overseas, which increased domestic unemployment and social welfare expenditures.

(2.) Then Congress allowed businesses to further depress wages and to displace Americans from often college-education-requiring, knowledge-based jobs (the ones Americans are supposed to retrain and reeducate for) by importing hundreds of thousands of foreigners on H-1B and L-1 visas.  The resultant laid off, unemployed, underemployed, and student loan-ridden Americans also increased the need for domestic social welfare expenditures.

(3.) Then our government allowed corporations to further depress wages and displace Americans by allowing tens of millions of impoverished immigrants to enter the country (legally and illegally).  Aside from having to spend money on health care and education (Arizona, California, etc.) for imported poor people and their families, the government also needs to spend money on social welfare for resultant unemployed Americans and working poor Americans whose wages have been further depressed.

In other words, federal government policies have exposed the U.S. economy to an economic force called Global Labor Arbitrage.  In essence, our nation's economy and job market are being merged with the economies and job markets of billions of impoverished people in the third world (Mexico, India, China).  Anyone who understands basic economics knows that when you increase the supply of a good (such as the supply of labor) relative to a static demand (capital, jobs, the need for employees) that the price point (wages, purchasing power, standard of living) must decrease.  Basically, the U.S. standard of living is going to average out with that of the third world.  Lost middle class jobs are being replaced with poverty wage jobs.

What a brilliant economic policy!  Of course, it benefits the wealthy who own the businesses that can now purchase labor at much lower price points, allowing them to keep a larger percentage of the value of a worker's contribution to the act of wealth production.  Prices for goods and services haven't decreased in proportion with Americans' decreasing wages, so in a sense this is a wealth transfer from the lower and middle classes to the rich.

Consequently, tax revenue is decreasing or at least failing to keep pace with the increasing need for social welfare (and warfare) expenditures.  In response, Congress and the White House want to balance the federal budget deficit without acknowledging our underlying economic problems.  Ever heard of a tariff?  Has the thought of completely eliminating the H-1B and L-1 visa programs crossed your pea-sized Tea Bagger minds?  How about a moratorium on immigration and deportation of all the illegals?  Traitorously, instead of addressing our nation's fundamental economic problems, our Congressmen are going to accept that the U.S. is now impoverished nation.

It gets even better!  Obama thinks that the solution is for Americans to go to college.  This way Americans will be prepared to fill the knowledge-based jobs that were sent overseas or taken by visa holders.  Selling education to the American sheeple assuages a panicked and terrified populace and tricks them into believing that they are unemployed and underemployed because they either don't have enough college degrees and/or just aren't good enough to compete for work. What's sad is that Americans are imbibing this message like Kool-Aid at Jonestown.

White House?  Congress?  Republicans?  Democrats?  Genius!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why claims that college degrees have value for "alternative careers" are almost always horse puckey

College presidents, deans, and professors are very much aware that many of their students (if not most depending on the field) will not find jobs in their fields of study.  To assuage their guilt and the concerns of their students (aka meal tickets), academic and industry shills attempt to sell students on the value and promise of "alternative careers".  "Don't fret. You can do anything with a (insert major here) degree!", they exclaim.

For example, if you're slaving away in a science laboratory working towards your PhD. and lamenting the prospect of having to invest several more years afterward working as a low-paid ($30,000/year often without benefits or job security) and overworked (think 65-70 hours per week) gypsy scientist postdoctoral researcher, don't lament the lack of solid career jobs for scientists.  Look on the bright side! Now you too can pursue an alternative career!  In fact, years ago Science magazine (a very prestigious flagship publication) even started a "Science's Next Wave" website, perhaps in part or wholly to assuage graduate students' and prospective graduate students' career anxieties.  (This is important to the industry because academic science research and undergraduate teaching assistant instruction would grind to a halt without armies of science graduate students. It's a pyramid scheme.)  I haven't paid attention to Science's Next Wave for years, but if I remember correctly, in the Nineties alternative careers were regularly discussed.

In the heavily glutted legal profession we have books such as "The Lawyers Career Change Handbook: More than 300 Things You Can Do With a Law Degree".  That's just one of the many advice books aimed at unemployed and underemployed lawyers.  The legal field is so heavily glutted that the market can support several different books, such as the aptly named Alternative Careers for Lawyers.)

Almost all of the academics' and institutions' claims are bullshit.  If our nation had a glut of people in only two or three fields and shortages in many others, then the claims of wonderful alternative careers might be truthful.  However, for years, even before the recession, we have had oversupplies of college graduates in just about every field.  How are graduates supposed to find alternative white collar career jobs if graduates in almost all of the other fields are also having to pursue alternative careers?  How are you supposed to compete for a job in another field when people who majored in that field are desperately competing for those same jobs?  Thus, claims by academics that the overproduction of graduates in their fields is justified because their graduates can find alternative white collar careers in other fields are almost completely disingenuous.  Consequently, according to one study, 17 million college graduates are working in (presumably low-paying non-white collar) jobs that do not require or make real use of a college education.

Hoping that unemployed and underemployed graduates can build productive and financially rewarding lives working alternative careers is a nice gesture, but it won't address our nation's social and economic problems.  Instead, the solution is to restore some sense of market forces to higher education so that college graduate production more closely matches the real world demand.

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