Memorial Day

We Remember…Our Pursuit of Happiness

“…here at home our faith dwindles, political division causes tensions to kindle. We should never forget who stands at the door, who shields us with armor and shall forever more…” Enigmatic Evolution, by Muse

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Toward the pursuit of happiness

We remember.

We remember those who served and lost limbs and lives in their love for America.

But we remember too: the jobs, the security, the faith in our economic system, the confidence that working Americans would be looked out for…as they looked out for America.

What has happened to the American Dream? There is so much disillusionment today. The manning of the U.S. Army is steadily declining due to a variety of incredible issues, chief among them…a plain lack of interest in service to America.

A recent article by Army Major and West Point scholar, John Spencer says that there are 34 million 17 to 24 year-olds in America. Of that number 71% would not qualify for military service due to mental health, physical health, education or criminal convictions. Furthermore, he relates a Washington Post survey that found 60% of 18 to 29 year-olds said we should use ground troops against ISIL but 85% said they, probably would not, or definitely would not, enlist in military service. Major Spencer’s article:

I think this picture of our American youth is just an example of the creeping despair among Americans. I think working Americans, young and old, have seen their ability to pursue happiness slipping away over the decades…one job title at a time. It started long ago:

  • The economist John Maynard Keynes predicted in 1930 that efficient technology production would eliminate jobs faster than new jobs would be created. But today there is little talk about dealing with it. It’s as if it were a question about climate change in the 1950s.
  • “Machines and organizations and the pursuit of efficiency have robbed the American people of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Kurt Vonnegut in “Player Piano”, 1952
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Brooklyn’s Domino sugar closed in 2004 after 148 years

We all remember the days of U.S. manufacturing power. When American employment was basically for life. Factories were the heart of America. That’s all gone…and secure retirements too. What’s happened to our America?

So many Americans have played by the rules their whole lives only to see the economic rug pulled from beneath their feet. They can’t retire. Their children, many well-educated, are saddled with debt and can’t find meaningful employment. (Average pay for the college educated has risen only 64 cents per hour in the last 14 years, high school graduate pay dropped 49 cents per hour. (NYT 5/22/16) CEO/worker pay ratio in 2015 was 335/1 while many of their workers return home to live with Mom and Dad, to sleep…once again…in their childhood bedrooms.

So many adults working multiple part-time jobs, jobs they once pursued as teens to pay for gas for their first cars, jobs with no benefits. Retirees depending on help from their kids, community relief services, or reverse mortgages to get them by…till natural death lifts them from this vale of tears. Some retirees don’t wait for natural death.

  • Retiree suicide is on the increase:
  • In 2014 American middle class income was 4% less than it was in 2000.
  • Net worth for middle-income fell from 1983 to 2013 by 26%.

Blame for middle-class economic decline has been on trade issues: China, NAFTA, the Trans Pacific Partnership. What is certain is that the chasm of income inequality keeps widening with the few becoming bloated with wealth while middle class dreams lie punctured and deflated.

The exasperation is evident this year in the appeal of political outsiders:

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Jobs are self checking out

Americans are throwing ice-cold water into the faces of insiders who maintain the status-quo, whose main concerns are…to keep their jobs! Many Americans feel that businesses consider them expendable units.

Most of us just want to make a living as our parents did, to work hard, save, invest, and have a dignified retirement. We just want to be treated fairly.

Sure, life itself is unfair. But we all need to be protected from systemic, political unfairness.

There’s much talk about bringing jobs back to the U.S. But if companies come back will that really change the picture?

What about the creeping surge of automation, robotics? The return of factories to the U.S. is not going to address industry’s ability and tendency to replace men with machines.

Machines work 24/7. No health plans, no vacation, no sick leave, no need for Human Resource oversight. What could be sweeter for a company? Or more sour for the working man?

CEO think: Survival means staying competitive. And that means lowering costs either through outsourced labor or replacing human labor altogether with machines. I’m sure many CEOs don’t like to let go of employees…but math mauls compassion.

The Economic Report of the President, Feb. 2016, states that robotics will take substantial numbers of jobs away from humans leaving them technologically unemployed.

The report: “While industrial robots have the potential to drive productivity growth in the United States, it is less clear how this growth will affect workers…technological change is partially responsible for rising inequality in recent decades…At present, this question cannot be answered fully, largely because of limited research on the economic impact of robots.” (my italics) pg 237:

“Less clear”? “limited research”? On one of the most important challenges facing America?  Could the research be limited because the results of such research would be cataclysmic? They seem to be saying, “you need to believe our report…not your lying eyes.”

The race for greater efficiency and lower costs will not cease.That’s just a fact.

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Olive Garden. No wait staff?

We hear there will be jobs in building and maintaining these automatons. Are we to find solace that some of us will be employed in building the economic gallows for the rest of us? We face a future with far less human-labor manufacturing…or service jobs.

That’s right, service jobs are going too:

In the meantime…we have mean times. America’s middle class is struggling badly.

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Come back to OUR huddled masses

Where will these job losses leave our home-grown huddled masses? Where will our American “tired and poor” go for their “pursuit of happiness”?

Yes, we need to bring back those jobs any way we can, with any incentive or coercion or bargaining available. Get those long needed infrastructure projects going with American union labor. Yes, all that will help us in the near term. But we are still heading toward an America with greater population and far fewer good paying jobs.

No research sunlight is falling upon this too-dark-to-fathom future. Are we waiting for the unemployment sea level to rise…till it’s too late? Till long lines of Americans form around automated soup kitchens?

Recent estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics say there will be actual increases in employment in the near term, a decade or so. But beyond that, the future, well…not so much: 47% of jobs will be computerized in the next half century and Americans see a dismal future:

Maybe we need a whole new economic paradigm, a new playbook. Maybe unions need to re-form and demand enhanced profit-sharing as part of the solution. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: 2015 union membership was 11.1%, In 1983 it was 20.1%

Maybe what we really need is a more blended economy of isms, capital or social, brand it as you like. But an economy that supplements workers incomes who lose jobs through technological efficiency or outsourcing. The majority of both major parties have low opinions of their candidates. Is it time for a third party? For these majorities?

There is an upside to all this…lives will be saved:

Most of the jobs being replaced by machines are monotonous, even dangerous. The Domino sugar factory employed well paid union workers. But they often worked under severe conditions, the kiln area saw temperatures at 140 degrees. Very fine particle dust of acid and lime filled the air. There was much cancer in the factory: Throughout history thousands of fingers, hands, arms, legs and lives have been grist in the cogs of America’s production machinery, those gruesome worker-fates have been greatly diminished.

I think America’s young feel they’ve gotten a rotten deal re: education costs and jobs. Who is the pursuit of happiness for? The few? Less than one percent of Americans serve in our military, while a very different one percent hold 23% or our country’s wealth. The youth of America know that. We all know that.

Our military veterans, our worker veterans, the Americans who manned the front lines and assembly lines keeping America free and prosperous face a future that is “less clear.” Well maybe it’s time for it to be clearer. Working Americans have always answered the call from America. Can America answer the call from them?

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Of course there are those who will serve…just because they love America. Those souls will continue to serve and defend…for family, for country, for freedom. But America needs to serve working Americans…what they deserve…what they demand.

God bless America’s armed forces. God bless America’s working men and women.

“We should never forget who stands at the door, who shields us with armor and shall forever more.”

God bless America

Lee Winters, USMC ’59-’63

shedding a little light wherethesundontshine

See my alternate blog:

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An Army poster recently placed on our Long Beach, NY boardwalk. If you’re up for it, contact Staff Sgt. Waylon Westby 887-835-2976 or text him at 516-749-3400



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