deep dive

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Motility of Labor

Family fleeing Southwest Dust Bowl - Life

I was talking to a fairly well off friend the other day who told me that business must be great for me. The client had been staying at the Newport Beach house for a week. "Everybody is building these big houses and they have to put something on the walls." Business hasn't been too bad but I can't say that I have had that kind of trickle down.

I bring it up because economist Robert Reich wrote something last week that got me to thinking.
The geo-political divide has become so palpable that being wealthy in America today means not having to come across anyone who isn’t.
I don't write this with malice and with only a small smidgeon of envy. But I think that what Reich says is probably true. Rich means being able to insulate yourself from the disadvantaged other side in today's culture. The burden of the poor is an intellectual abstract to the 1%. Although busy with the logistics of putting the new elevator in the La Jolla pad, Mitt Romney may have and probably does have genuine empathy for the 53%, it is just that his life is very removed from their plight. As am I to a great degree for that matter. Rich means not having to look.

Reich writes something else worth considering a few months ago, Why This Is the Worst Recovery on Record.
We're now witnessing what happens when all of the economic gains go to the top, and the rest of the population doesn't have enough purchasing power to keep the economy going.
The economic status quo has become so unbalanced that it is probably untenable. Read an article the other day about the bleak future facing those now exiting high school. And I think that I see it on the street, in their eyes, the ability to win at the game has somehow become much harder.

You can find a lot of convenient targets, shiftless (insert word here) takers, liberals, minorities, etc. I think that an honest person who is paying attention would have to admit that the rules of the road have changed and that many people are not ever going to even get a sniff at an economic upturn or a way out of the morass.

Okie family heading west - Jennings and Brewster - UPI
One of the Koch brothers said something recently that also intrigued me :
We want to do a better job of raising up the disadvantaged and the poorest in this country, rather than saying ‘Oh, we’re just fine now.’ We’re not saying that at all. What we’re saying is, we need to analyze all these additional policies, these subsidies, this cronyism, this avalanche of regulations, all these things that are creating a culture of dependency. And like permitting, to start a business, in many cities, to drive a taxicab, to become a hairdresser. Anything that people with limited capital can do to raise themselves up, they keep throwing obstacles in their way. And so we’ve got to clear those out. Or the minimum wage. Or anything that reduces the mobility of labor.
All well and good until you get to the last part. The problem with minimum wage is that it hurts the mobility of labor? What do you want to do Chuck, take us back to the hobo days of the thirties, dust bowl families scouring the nation for work? The problem with child labor is that their little fingers get so bloody...

Learned a new word. Backfill. Looks like a friend might be losing a good job at a good company. Although he was at first promised that he had nothing to worry about, looks like it may be a bloodbath. "They aren't going to backfill" he told me. Backfilling is evidently when a company uses some lucky survivors from the purged old guard to fill a present labor need.


Robert from Berkeley said...

The history of regulation and laws are that individuals and corporations have caused public harm that leads to controls that protect the public. Koch's comment is typical of someone who has taken advantage of the legal system of protections and wants to take further personal advantage. I doubt that he would want to give up the subsidies and tariff protections that protect his personal income and wealth.

barbara and nancy said...

What a coincidence! My blog is about Robert Reich today, too. Or did you go to his talk at Mira Costa, too?
It was a wonderful talk. I wasn't able to report on what he said very well. You should have been there to do the reporting.

Blue Heron said...

I didn't know he was in town. Would love to get a rundown...best,


DaisyDeadhead said...

What Robert from Berserkley said!

"Mobility of labor" always makes me think of the okies too.

Richard of Del Mar said...

Excellent Blog entry Robert. The pictures are the 'Shapes of Things to Come'. I Think Pink Floyd had a song about this. Several in fact but I am thinking of 'Us And Them' of course. Then there is 'The Turning Away' from Momentary Lapse of Reason. I am also reminded of Woody Allen's line from Annie Hall when he tells her he cannot have a good time when he knows there are people starving in the world. I have always thought that Robert Reich was a voice of reason and not a bleeding heart liberal. I just happen to agree with most everything he says. Good job including him in your blog.

Anonymous said...

Or go to a communist country with a ruthless dictator and install oil wells.....