Not too long ago most people in the U.S. worked at jobs that required skill and competence; jobs that paid enough so that a family or individual could live a decent life. Today, nine of the top 10 jobs pay such low wages that they put a worker supporting a family of four in near poverty.
Who is being Served in our ‘Service Economy’?
Service economies, by definition, serve; they do not produce. For example, in 2009 only 8.9 million workers had production occupations. Workers in those occupations averaged a salary of over $33,000 per year. By comparison, there were 11.2 million workers in food preparation and serving related occupations, making just a little over $18,000 per year, on average. (The jobs with the highest levels of employment in the U.S. today are service jobs: cashiers, general office clerks, food preparation and service workers, and nurses.)
In just over one generation most of the skilled work in U.S. is gone and now advanced globalization and de-industrialization is starting to take the managerial and professional jobs. No job it seems is safe. (…get thee to a foundation job or non-profit; but that’s for another post…)
What is the psychological impact of such a rapid vaporization of a way of life? What happens when almost overnight competence is no longer valued or needed – when skills are obsolete, when the greatest demand required of working people is to stock shelves and greet customers?
This is where we are today. America is a country in crisis and because we, as citizens did not take responsibility and investigate what was being done in our name, we lost our structural order and we lost economic and emotional stability. “Free trade” was a scam of the highest order. Globalization, off-shoring, deregulation, downsizing have not served the American people. Through our complacency we have created a system that serves a small group of affluents and their corporate protectorates.
Germany, Japan and Europe “…have not seen the same rising in inequality or hollowing out of their middle class,” writes Heather Boushey, a senior economist with the Center for American Progress. Not like what has happened here in the U.S. Americans compete with 113 million Chinese who averaged a wage of 81 cents-per-hour – just three percent of what their U.S. counterparts pay!
Where is the Marshall Plan for the US? Maybe Germany and Japan can help?
A living income can be our nation’s Marshall Plan; a way to jump start a real service economy; one that serves the people. A living income is a start for those who no longer have money to pay for homes and health care; who are not contributing to the tax base, who see cuts in necessary public services like police and fire protection; who live with crime increasing; an environment that is neglected and decaying; drug and alcohol abuse, family violence and depression, the prevalence of pornography and the decline in cultural resources – all have contributed to a massive loss of faith in ourselves, our government and what we believe can accomplish. A living income is the start; a service we can gift ourselves as a start to a real Service economy.
Note: Every predator drone strike costs U.S. taxpayers $4.5 million.