Life after the $1,000,000.00 bungalow, part II

The link is down now, but a few days back the Washington Post ran an article about “A Lost Decade for U.S. Economy, Workers .”  It tackled the devaluation of college degrees in the U.S. workplace.

I’m not an economist, but I think I have an obvious answer for the “lost decade” issue and I can pretty much guess why the experts in that field are refusing to see it.

Fact is, up until the mid-1960’s, the U.S. was a pretty closed society.  We created our own jobs and then filled them with our own people.  It was rare to meet someone, particularly a young person, who wasn’t born here, most often to parents who were born here.

College degrees were relatively rare and really did lead to bigger paychecks.  Then again, that wasn’t a problem because even high-school dropouts could earn living wages (this was, of course, only if they were male; women were almost completely disenfranchised back in those days).

You could expect to work for the same place for decades with steadily increasing income, own a home that would appreciate in value a bit as the years went by, and then you would retire on your company’s pension plan plus Social Security — that is IF you were male.  As I remember, there was a big problem about what to do with widowed women back then because they were almost always cut out of their husbands’ pensions and had to try to live on half the Social Security the men had earned.

But anyway, things were different.  But then, something happened.

No, it wasn’t feminism.  Feminism has benefitted women in that we are no longer automatically plunged into poverty if we outlive spouses, and women can now own property outright (which we couldn’t before) and have our own credit, etc.  And we have more career choices.  But as far as benefits go, that’s pretty much it.

So no, that wasn’t it.  It was something bigger.  It was a flood of immigrants that started as a trickle in the mid-1960’s and was a full-blown tsunami by the early 2000’s.

Now before you start calling me a racist, bite your tongue and read on.  Your answer is too easy, as well as being incorrect.  The problem is more complicated than that anyway.

I didn’t start noticing the change until the 1980’s.  That’s when an HR representative for a big oil company sniped in the newspapers that he always looked to hire foreign college grads because U.S. grads were badly educated.  I guess this wasn’t as true if a foreign grad had attended a U.S. college.

That kind of attitude snowballed and finally, at the turn of the century, we ended up with this situation in the name of the “global economy”:

(1) First low-level, then nearly all types of U.S. jobs started being shipped overseas because labor was cheaper and easier to exploit in other countries.  New job creation was also partially hindered by technology taking over a lot of the old jobs.

(2) Millions of immigrants, documented and illegal, flooded into the U.S. — some to take the high-level jobs we were too badly educated for, and many others to take the low-level jobs we were too well-educated for and, according to George W. Bush, didn’t want (fast-forward to the post-GWB days, and suddenly, as the the job magnet loses its immigrant grab, I’m seeing lots of U.S.-borns in those very jobs).

(3) Obviously no one noticed that in a global economy, one country can’t possibly employ the whole world, but…

(4) Still the immigrants flooded in and the jobs ebbed out at the same time the credit markets filled with fake money, which led to artificial and wildly out-of-control inflation of housing prices even while salaries stalled and jobs became harder and harder to find because of the insane competition and “outsourcing.”  The global economy, you know.

And then it all came crashing down.

Thing is, the economists will never be able to figure out why this happened because they are in a global-economy-thinking rut and can’t seem to climb out.  The ironies and inconsistencies will forever be lost on them.  And so will we fall back into the same trap eventually?  I’m afraid we might.

But for the time being, the immigrant tsunami has waned a tiny bit and in parts of the country, we’re getting a glimpse of how things once were (minus some of the rampant gender discrimination; unfortunately, the race discrimination seems to be as strong as ever).  It isn’t perfect, but it’s workable if you stick with it in the long run, which we must if we want to have a strong, lasting economy based on community benefit once again instead of a hysterical, fragile one based on corporate imperialism.

But then again, today’s economists and businesspeople aren’t trained to stick with anything but a bad idea, are they?

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  1. […] as the years went by, that sense of security slipped away.  (I commented on a key reason for this a few days ago.) Along with the security went the real teamwork and […]

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