Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Robots, a bit of a ramble

The above clip is about Apples manufacturing process.  It is the thing that started off this ramble.   Don't blame me, blame Apple computer.

Notice how few people you see in the clip.  When you read the information available to us flesh and blood, you will be struck by the small number of people who will be employed by the making of these little marvels.

So, on a personal note, as I sit every day in my FedGuv cubicle, doing work for eight hours, I feel at the end of the day that I have done my bit and was part of the process of getting the mission completed.

That will be going away soon.  The new computer system that will be coming on line will make four of the six people who prepare the paperwork every day extraneous.  This is at a single VA.

No going back on this decision, nor am I certain that going back would be the right thing.  But the truth of the matter is, that decisions like this are removing jobs for people in this country.  When you add the moving of manufacture to foreign countries,  the increasingly disposable nature and inability to repair things, you are looking at an continuing loss of jobs here in the USA.

The jobs that most of us hold are really not all that important; they can, as in my personal instance, be easily replaced by a not-all-that-sophisticated computer program sold by General Electric or Oracle.  But the issue that is becoming increasingly important to the country and to millions of folks caught in the same middle class trap that I inhabit is simple.

What will I do to survive when this is gone?  The dogma espoused by the free-market types is that I will get up on my shanks mares and go out and find a new job with the new businesses constantly being pushed out of the ground by the saintly forces of "creative destruction" and the "invisible hand".

But, increasingly, businesses are coming to the conclusion that a simple purchase of capital equipment to replace the workers that used to do the jobs is vastly preferable to dealing with the vagaries of the workers.


The state of the job market can be shown easily (Hat Tip to John Williams over at ShadowStats)

Now, I am not saying that Williams has the complete right of matter, he is not the all-seeing Eye of Providence, but I would tend to trust his take on things over the politically-motivated pablum over at BLS.   So the idea of just up and finding a new job with an unemployment rate of >20% is not really in the cards.

This doesn't even consider the hard reality of my 60 years on the planet.   More than a third of unemployed older workers have been out of work for more than a year, and 55 percent (1.1 million) have been unempoyed for more than six months, up from 23 percent in 2007.  Older workers are great once you have them, but the truth is, they have a lot of problems that employers just don't want to deal with.

So, you are looking at options.  The options don't seem to be there.  Education is out, going to school at sixty to learn a new profession isn't a decent option, you will never earn enough to pay for the schooling itself.  That is just a straight dumb-ass move.

Moving to a new city where jobs are plentiful.  This mythical creature doesn't appear to exist.

So more and more, we are being cast loose in a society that really has no use for us.  The industrial base is being converted to a non-human format, and the wealth that once went to workers is now being distributed around the other wealthy.  The workers that remain are becoming increasingly susceptible to
the recursive processes described above.

I really can't see where this is going.  The flow of money to the already wealthy has to stop when the customer base that is systematically being destroyed by automation and outsourcing is finished.  When than happens, the pendulum will start swing the other way.  But who knows when that will occur.


NoHype said...

I wish I could post pictures here in the comments. I'd show you a couple of charts I generated using the BLS' own data tables.

If you plot the percentage of total population with jobs from 1948 onwards, you find that it has been falling since 1999 (for both men and women).

If you believe this trend will continue, we'll return to the same ratios we had in 1948 when single-earner households were the norm (~55%) by 2020.

If you believe the Keynesian economists (e.g.: Paul Krugman), and we can re-kickstart "growth" in the way we've always experienced it (in our lifetimes), then we'll return the employment nirvana (~65%) we had in 1999 with male and female participation rates roughly equal for the first time in our history by 2020.

In both cases, however, the new jobs added won't pay like the old ones. Since the turn of the century, recessions hit men the hardest and when they return to the workforce, they tend to get rehired at female wage rates. Thus we will soon achieve equality, not so much by raising women's wages, but by suppressing men's wages.

Either way, the consumer economy is toast. Wealth, as it is currently defined, is a set of claims on the future labor of others. If the value of labor declines, all of our "wealth" declines with it.

russell1200 said...

We aren't even into the seriously bad part of the upcomining aging democraphic shift.

Sounds like the slow collapse scenario people are going to win the arguement.