Friday, February 24, 2017

US factory CEOs to Trump: Jobs exist; skills don't


You could see this coming.

One executive said in discussions with White House officials that his company has 50 participants in a factory apprenticeship program, but could take 500 if enough were qualified.  But he said that in his experience, most students coming out of high school lack the math and English skills to absorb technical manuals.




88 comments:

Dave said...

Bullshyte. So your telling me that if you could pay those kids starvation wages you wouldn't invest in training them? Or making your tech manuals easier to grasp? Typical blame the oppressed for their situation, if only they accepted their lot in life more readily, they would get a job making me rich.

Ryan Harris said...

Reset the frame and assumptions. Business leaders aren't the sharpest tools in the shed. Make a systemic change that makes it profitable to have workers in the US and every business leader will suddenly discover the magic formula and be featured in Harvard Business review for their innovative management style to uncovered the hidden talents of US factory workers. Ridiculous when you look at the barriers that the coastal elite barriers errected to doing business in the United States. No business man SHOULD find capable workers, it would be suicide for business. Look at how Germany, Japan, Korea, China, Singapore make factory jobs where they shouldn't exist. If people want to work in factories, it's not that complicated. Sure, Walmart/Homedepot/Costco and the other import stores will hate it... so sorry.

Penguin pop said...

If they were "qualified" in this exec's eyes, would they still pay them sh*tty wages and make up other excuses for why it's all the worker's fault? Just asking.

Matt Franko said...

"you wouldn't invest in training them?"

I talk regularly with people who do the vocational training and they are always trying to get the firms to pay for training for their workers (that is how these people make their munnie) and they are told they dont want to pay for it as soon as the worker graduates they leave to another competing firm who will give them an additional $1 per hour....

So they want the schools to provide better prepared workers and try OJT...

Bob said...

Who is responsible for job training in a free market economy?
No worries though, Betsy DeVos will make that question moot.

Andrew said...

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/dont-blame-a-skills-gap-for-lack-of-hiring-in-manufacturing/

Matt Franko said...

I met one of these kids (early 20s, black kid) the other day who was preparing to interview for a job with a mid-sized electrical systems installations firm...

One of the questions was 'what is 1/4" expressed as a decimal?" and the kid had no idea... he did have a HS diploma...

Matt Franko said...

Manufacturing 5' tall human vagina costumes doesn't count... this is not the skills they are looking for....

Matt Franko said...

Look at all of these people going all around saying "we're out of money!" there is all the proof you should need to understand the lack of technically qualified people out there... we are fighting this every day hello....

Bob said...

Read the article posted by Andrew. The "proof" there is a shortage is lacking.

Noah Way said...

Trump's already got it covered. Privatizing public education will certainly fix it, just like privitazting prisons fixed the criminal justice system.

Dave said...

They have no idea nor do they care. It's staggering how disconnected from reality they are.

Noah Way said...

Reality is relative. I know rich people who think what they have is perfectly normal.

Andrew said...

@Noah Way,

So, so, so true. It's quite staggering. And many of these people even got good scores on the SAT. Which may tell you something about the value of such things.

Dave said...

Matt your missing the point. It's about profits. If they can find someone from the jungles of Honduras to do their incredibly difficult assembly line work, and they dont speak English, then they can invest in training HERE. Companies do it all the time. So to seem like good people who only care about the common good, they have to blame the victim. "Poor inner city Yute. If only you didn't speak Ebonics and understood Corporate technical manuals written by idiots, then I'd hire you. Oh well, time to get a bailout from the government to cover up for my brilliance"
By the way, wasn't the CEO of campbells soup there? What freakin tech knowledge do you need to put soup in a can? But they HAD to move out of Camden NJ. Why? Was it the school system? Not knowing fractions as it pertains to chicken noodle?

These people have lost their humanity.



lastgreek said...

Manufacturing 5' tall human vagina costumes doesn't count...

Says you, Matt. There are tens of millions (if not 100's) of desperately lonely men in China. Just think of the exports!

In China, a Lonely Valentine’s Day for Millions of Men

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/world/asia/china-men-marriage-gender-gap.html?_r=0

Matt Franko said...

Dave the kids aren't so stupid they can see the offshoring and open borders so they are not attracted to the technical training as the jobs are getting fewer and less secure...

This is a real challenge and won't go away by just throwing munnie at it...

John said...

Mat: "...'what is 1/4" expressed as a decimal?"

You're being unfair by omitting the rest of the question: "...as a decimal in light years?" Hence the poor kid's inability to get the right answer within the allotted time.

The fact is that there is a supply and demand problem. The jobs don't exist, and the few that do are beyond the capabilities of the large numbers of poorly educated young adults and indeed adults who have long since left high school. Education is a sick joke on two levels: first, the education is not particularly good in many areas; and second, what's the point of demanding an educated workforce if there isn't a job at the end of the line? The public schools have been badly funded for a long time and the jobs don't exist, leaving much of the country in a state of hopelessness. The Dems and the Reps have done a real number on working and middle America.

John said...

Ryan: "Reset the frame and assumptions."

Exactly right. Bashing the intellectual and technical competence of workers is the default position of people after a quick buck and want to globalize, financialize, privatize and, yes, neoliberalize. The same people who bashed the workers in the thirties were suddenly left with a bit of a PR problem when these very same plebs created the richest and most dynamic economy in world history. But of course it wasn't the working class who made America's economy so fantastically rich and productive. No, it was the genius of corporate executives, entrepreneurs and bla bla bla...

Tom Hickey said...

I would not be too hard on the execs. They have a point. The US has exported low level manufacturing jobs and even service jobs to lower wage/benefits countries.

The obvious solution is to train and hire the surplus workers that this trade policy has created.

But workers are not fungible.

If the US is replace lower level jobs with higher level ones, then workers's knowledge and skills are going to have to be upgraded through changes in education and training.

Opportunity knocks.

Meanwhile, the US is cutting back on these vital investments like education and R&D because "no money."

This is not the workers' fault but a result of policy makers' ignorance.

Tom Hickey said...

Agree that the article at 538 linked to by Andrew is a must read on this.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/dont-blame-a-skills-gap-for-lack-of-hiring-in-manufacturing/

Dan Lynch said...

the kids aren't so stupid they can see the offshoring and open borders so they are not attracted to the technical training as the jobs are getting fewer and less secure...

Well said, @Matt.

Employers have ALWAYS complained that they can't find good help. It's what employers do. Take it with a grain of salt.

Remember when WWII started and country bumpkins went to work in the defense industry? The factories had to make the jobs simple enough that a country bumpkin could perform them. A few smart people were required to design and manage things, but it was not necessary for every employee to be a rocket scientist.

The same is true today, except today there is very little on the job training, and apprenticeship programs are largely a thing of the past. Instead, employers try to poach experienced workers from their competitors. This is a good thing if you are a skilled worker, but not a good thing if you are a new guy trying to get a foot in the door.


Tom Hickey said...

Reality is relative. I know rich people who think what they have is perfectly normal.

Followed by, "What is wrong with those people?"

When one thinks entirely in terms of individual incentive and personal effort it seems obvious, but that kind of thinking is simplistic. although convenient for them.

lastgreek said...

Tim Bourret‏@TimBourret Jan 21
Of the 103 early entries for the NFL draft 8 players have degrees. Four of the 8 (Watson, Williams, Scott and Gallman) are from Clemson.

Bourret should know -- he's the football sports information director at ... Clemson.

I have a lot of funny (ok "sad") anecdotes from my American cousin who lives in Florida and who owns a land surveying company, about employees in general. I still remember, man, this is going back to the early 90s. his reaction when I first asked him why he puts in 16-hour days, each and every day, except for Sunday when he puts in "only" 8. One day I'll share a few ;)

Dan Lynch said...

@Tom said But workers are not fungible.

Very true!

There are some generic manufacturing skills, like welding and machining, but a lot of manufacturing jobs -- like semiconductors -- are highly specialized, and the reality is that employers are going to have to provide on the job training.

Many manufacturing industries are cyclical so the employees who are hired and trained during boom years get laid off in bust years. IMHO that is the real reason employers are reluctant to provide on the job training.

Andrew said...

They're reluctant because they're cheap and don't feel it's their job. It's a lack of imagination. And if you're in an industry that you know is cyclical, you'd think you'd be trying to find some venture to help smooth out the transitions -- if you're smart, that is.

Matt Franko said...

"Remember when WWII started"

Nooooooo.... ;)

Michael Norman said...

The comment also belies the fact that wages have not kept pace with skill level and productivity. It's been shown that wage growth for highly skilled workers, such as software engineers, have lagged behind profit growth.

If it were truly the case of a skills mismatch, then the people with the most sought after skills would see their wages faster than the rate of productivity or the rate of growth of profits.

Michael Norman said...

Furthermore, if asked, I bet every single one of those execs would be against a job guarantee (where skills could be learned) and likely support government spending cuts on education, healthcare, childcare, etc. By corollary that's the stance of, "let's keep them dumb and unskilled."

Dave Wilcox said...

Agree Mike. Question for you: if skills were the problem, and if Trump wants to really help workers, isn't there an MMT answer to this problem? Coukdnt he recommend a government program of tax credits for businesses that offer skills training? You would know better than me, that's why I'm asking.

John said...

Tom: "I would not be too hard on the execs. They have a point. The US has exported low level manufacturing jobs and even service jobs to lower wage/benefits countries."

Well, yes, strictly speaking, they do have a point. But what about the wider and far more crucial point regarding their involvement in the current state of affairs? The execs are the ones who bought and paid Congress to export these jobs and latterly bought and paid Congress to create the current dysfunctional economy of high private indebtedness, unemployment, job insecurity, poor working conditions, wealth inequality and financialization, which included fraud as a business model! They also bought and paid academics to poison the minds of an entire generation. Along the way, the execs made out like bandits.

I'm sure you agree, but I thought it might be helpful to point that out in case a newbie comes across this thread and misunderstood the general MMT position.

lastgreek said...

Remember when WWII started...

What?! Who wrote that? (Where is that "find on page" function, damn it!)

You Americans! Man, you Americans have no idea how lucky you are -- and that's all I'll say for now lest I lose my temper and go all politically INcorrect.

Matt Franko said...

"misunderstood the general MMT position."

Well the alt-MMT position is: "They're stupid."

John said...

Matt, whose stupid? The people who own the country and have CLEVERLY crafted the policies that have ravaged working and middle America? They're doing pretty well, wouldn't you say?

Matthew Franko said...

John there is NO EVIDENCE that they are clever... there is PLENTY of evidence they are stupid...

Matthew Franko said...

Going all around saying stupid shit all day is not being clever...

Magpie said...

@Andrew and Bob

This “skills mismatch” theory is a favorite of corporate executives and the think tanks they fund.

And favorite of other people, too, it seems.

------------

That's a good article and, believe it or not, pretty much the same thing happens in Australia. But here in Australia it's easier to see what's behind those complains about unqualified workers.

You see, to enter Australia legally is a complicated business: there are a huge number of visa categories, giving different rights to visitors. One of those categories is 457. It was created to fill alleged skill shortages. As in the US case, Aussie employers were desperately pleading for workers, but candidates, allegedly, were not forthcoming. Examples of skills shortages given then were medicine doctors willing to work in rural areas: apparently, Aussie doctors were unwilling to move to crappy townships. So, let's bring in foreign doctors to work temporarily.

Call me simplistic, but I would have thought that if one advertises a position and either one gets no candidates at all, or the candidates one gets are unqualified, it was a sign one had to increase the pay offered. You know, supply and demand?

That's not how things happen in Oz: here workers have to take that job, whatever the pay offered. So, let's bring foreign workers.

The downside of coming to Australia on a 457 visa is that, although you do get a residence right, this right is conditional upon your employment. You lose your job, and you have one or two months to get another one in the same occupation; if you don't, you are out. This puts a pressure on the foreign worker to keep that job, come what may. That includes putting up with lower pay than offered, longer hours, abuse, harassment (including sexual harassment), unsafe/unhealthy environment. When the compensation package included housing, people were given overcrowded accommodation in essentially slums.

(There are other drawbacks, but let's leave things at that.)

That's not very good, either for local or foreign workers, yes?

But it gets worse: employers now claim they cannot find kitchen hands, cooks/chefs, customer service, shop assistants, van drivers.

Read a longer account here:
http://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2016/11/official-457-visas-not-skills-shortages/

Dan Lynch said...

@Magpie, your 487 workers sound a lot like our H1-B visa workers, and immigrants in general. Besides the obvious wage suppression that is going on, employers prefer immigrants because they are easier to control. When is the last time H1-B or 487 workers unionized and went on strike?

It's rugged free market capitalism for the workers and socialism for the big corporations.

Andrew said...

@Magpie,

Labor isn't a simple supply/demand exercise. Very little is.

If there are 1000 doctors and you need 1200, no pay increase is going to fix it. If there are 1000 doctors and 1000 openings and but 200 are in crappy places where doctors don't want to work, you're going to need a big pay increase to draw people and even then you might have trouble.

That said, such visas probably do make it cheaper for some to hire. In the US, H1-B gets a lot of blame, but there are only 85,000 total of such visas in an economy of 150+ million jobs. It's not a big factor in the total employment situation and it's not at all clear that wages are suppressed (there was a study released recently that showed some small wage suppression back in the Internet boom, but that study struck me as crap. Most most economic studies strike me as crap as they make bad assumptions and wrap them in math to make them seem legitimate. People just talk about the headline conclusions.)

Magpie said...

Andrew said...

Labor isn't a simple supply/demand exercise. Very little is.

You may be right on that, Andrew. But it's mainstream economists who claim to believe in supply and demand. Aren't they who say that supply and demand rules everything?

Ah, but when it comes to wages, they change their tune. And nobody tells them, wait a minute, whatever happened to all the supply and demand talk you use all the time?

Dan Lynch said...

@Andrew, the 85,000 number you quote is PER YEAR, not total. There is no official count of the total number of H1-B workers, but one 2009 estimate put it at 650,000. That's a huge number relative to the number of STEM jobs.

Paying rural doctors more will not create more doctors overnight, but it could improve the rural doctor/patient ratio overnight by encouraging existing urban doctors to move to underserved rural areas.

Uncle Sam knows full well how to create more doctors -- fund more med schools & teaching hospitals. The doctor shortage is deliberate policy due to AMA lobbying.

Magpie said...

Blogger Dan Lynch said...

When is the last time H1-B or 487 workers unionized and went on strike?

I don't know about the H1-B, but I do know with absolute certainty about 457 and can answer in one word: never.

And the same applies, here, to working holiday tourists and foreign students.

It's rugged free market capitalism for the workers and socialism for the big corporations.

That's one of the things that really piss me off: it's the double standards and the hypocrisy. It's that even those people's bullshit theoretical explanations and moralising are contradictory.

Andrew said...

@Dan Lynch,

I don't put much stock in what CIS is peddling, but you're right. I didn't realize the visas were good for at least three years. Somehow I missed that on Wikipedia, but it's there.

I have yet to be convinced it's any big problem. It seems if you have a clue, you can get a good job and with a very good salary doing tech work (I've never had a problem getting work and I get paid well, but that's anecdotal evidence :). Unemployment among college grads is very low. The larger problem is that lots of jobs outside of tech don't pay well.

I try to understand what makes any particular number of people in the country the "right" number at any time and I don't think there's an answer. The strength of the economy is about much more than the number of people participating in it.

Magpie said...

@Dan Lynch and Andrew,

Dean Baker has long advocated making immigration to the US easier for graduates. His argument is quite similar to what Dan said:

Uncle Sam knows full well how to create more doctors -- fund more med schools & teaching hospitals. The doctor shortage is deliberate policy due to AMA lobbying.

But Baker wasn't talking only about doctors, but every professional category, presumably including economists and finance people.

Interestingly, most left-leaning professional economists -- otherwise quite enthusiastic about immigration -- don't seem too keen on Baker's proposal, particularly as a part of a Democratic platform.

It would diminish upper-middle class support for the Democratic Party, they say.

Andrew said...

This seems timely, though it seems we've changed subjects a bit.

https://www.stlouisfed.org/publications/regional-economist/first_quarter_2017/mixing-the-melting-pot-the-impact-of-immigration-on-labor-markets?

Andrew said...

@Magpie,

Where did the Dean Baker quote come from?

Magpie said...

I remember him arguing that as far as in The Conservative Nanny State, when he presented figures and made a lengthier argument

In his latest, Rigged, Baker doesn't go into numbers, but it's worth the long quote:

The conventional story is that we lose manufacturing jobs to developing countries because they have hundreds of millions of people willing to do factory work at a fraction of the pay of manufacturing workers in the United States. This is true, but developing countries also have tens of millions of smart and ambitious people willing to work as doctors and lawyers in the United States at a fraction of the pay of the ones we have now.

Gains from trade work the same with doctors and lawyers as they do with textiles and steel. Our consumers would save hundreds of billions a year if we could hire professionals from developing countries and pay them salaries that are substantially less than what we pay our professionals now. The reason we import manufactured goods and not doctors is that we have designed the rules of trade that way. We deliberately write trade pacts to make it as easy as possible for U.S. companies to set up manufacturing operations abroad and ship the products back to the United States, but we have done little or nothing to remove the obstacles that professionals from other countries face in trying to work in the United States. The reason is simple: doctors and lawyers have more political power than autoworkers.[ 4]

In short, there is no truth to the story that the job loss and wage stagnation faced by manufacturing workers in the United States and other wealthy countries was a necessary price for reducing poverty in the developing world.[ 5] This is a fiction that is used to justify the upward redistribution of income in rich countries. After all, it is pretty selfish for autoworkers and textile workers in rich countries to begrudge hungry people in Africa and Asia and the means to secure food, clothing, and shelter.


Baker, Dean. Rigged (Kindle Locations 137-142). Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Ryan Harris said...

In the long run, of course education is the only way out for society. But social issues like poverty mean, IT'S NOT POSSIBLE in the near future to educate our way out of the immediate problem.

Good jobs, challenging jobs are needed for people create the stable conditions where education and schools can do their job properly. But it takes years if not generations to break cycles of poverty, addiction, dysfunctional communities, corrupt government, racism all the structural issues.

Alot of pieces have to come together orchestrated simultaneously by effective governance to make education, industry, jobs, safe healthy communities. We have ivy league leaders in government that don't understand the basic systems of governance and nearly all schools teaching fairy tale economics, even today. There is an attitude among elite that the many people are simply deplorable and there is nothing that CAN BE DONE.

Magpie said...

Re-reading the last few comments, I think I get what's the problem readers are finding.

Free trade requires two things: free mobility of capital and free mobility of labour.

One needs to understand that there are two ways to pit underdeveloped and developed country workers against each other. The way depends on the industry that employs them.

To pit Chinese and American Apple workers, for instance, Apple has to move assembling to China (outsourcing it to Foxconn). There's no way around: capital moves from the US to China. Workers don't need to see each other's face, so to speak.

To pit Indian against American doctors, Indian doctors would have to move to the US. It cannot be otherwise. Likewise with Indonesian and Australian checkout chicks: Indonesian checkout chicks must live in Australia to compete with Aussie checkout chicks. It's labour that moves: from India to the US.

Now, American doctors, being more influential, can avoid competing with Indian doctors. American autoworkers (or Aussie checkout chicks) can't. Australian doctors (what we call general practitioners), apparently, are less influential than their American colleagues and can't stop the hiring of foreign doctors.

Joe said...

Dean Baker is a schmuck among schmucks... yeah let's just give Americans vouchers to go to other countries to get their health care. Dumbest idea I've ever heard of, after that one, I can't take Baker seriously. He also constantly harps on how the US isn't in debt trouble because investors are willing to accept such low interest rates. Totally wrong paradigm. And his whole thing ao but professionals making too much munnies so let's import foreign professional... jesus fuck... if Dean had his way, we'd all be working at chinese wage.

I'm more-or-less with Magpie on the issue. If there really were a skills shortage, we'd see the wages offered increase. But like Andrew said, more pay won't instantly produce 200 new doctors. But you should still see the increase in pay offered, whether or not there's an applicant to take the job. AFAIK we haven't seen tech wages go up proportionately to the bitching and moaning of the people wanting the H1B's.

Employers just don't want to pay. We saw a few years ago some silicon valley firms in secret agreeing to not poach employees from each other, explicitly to keep wages down (yes indeed Matt, it's a conspiracy, but there's emails proving this one is true). Like the garlic story last week, the guy offered more money and the applications came rolling in.

If we really want more doctors, maybe we'd do something to produce more doctors. Bringing in foreign doctors is a bad idea just because we're too fucking stupid to make our schools decent enough to produce or own doctors. Fix the actual problem.

Mobility of labor as being on par with mobility of capital is just a stupid concept. People uprooting and spreading apart their family is in no way comparable to a corporation moving their capital from country to country. There is such a thing as community and family life. There is more in the world than economics.

Joe said...

Baker's ideas are so stupid, I almost wonder if he's being sarcastic (in writing, I have a difficult time recognizing sarcasm.) Is he really serious that we should give Americans vouchers to go to other countries for health care? And that we need to reduce the pay of professionals by importing foreign ones? Don't the foreign countries need their own doctors? Do the all the poor of India already have all the access they need to a doctor?

Magpie said...

I don't think so, Joe. What Baker is pointing to is the basic hypocrisy and ill-faith inherent in the way globalisation and free trade were implemented. How selectively the sacrifices were allotted to different people.

We the little people bear the costs and when we complain, we are selfish. American doctors and lawyers pay no costs, that's why they can be so unselfish.

And the really rich can keep themselves at the margin, looking at us fighting among ourselves.

Call it telescopic philanthropy.

Dan Lynch said...

Medicine is not my area of knowledge, but I'm told that the bottleneck for producing doctors is teaching hospitals, which rely on Federal funding.

Cuba has plenty of doctors. Are Cubans genetically smarter than Americans, or is it because Cuba has free med school? How many Cuban doctors specialize in cosmetic surgery for rich people? How many talented Cubans work in the FIRE sector?

My state does not even have a medical school.

Doctors per 100,000 people
My state -- 172
Cuba -- 591

Andrew, I am an engineer by training, but have rarely been able to find employment as an engineer. I have engineer and scientist friends who are unemployed or underemployed, or who were forced to retire early. The majority of STEM graduates do not work in STEM occupations -- why do you suppose that is? Age discrimination is HUGE in STEM fields.

I was involved in hiring engineers and technicians at one of my former hi-tech employers. They would receive BOXES of resumes with the basic qualifications, yet somehow none of the applicants were good enough for the company. The employer NEVER hired old people unless they were an expert in their field. Instead the employer preferred to hire H1-B's and recent graduates. So yes the H1-B's are a problem for American workers.

Magpie said...

Dan Lynch said...

Medicine is not my area of knowledge, but I'm told that the bottleneck for producing doctors is teaching hospitals, which rely on Federal funding.

Cuba has plenty of doctors. Are Cubans genetically smarter than Americans, or is it because Cuba has free med school? How many Cuban doctors specialize in cosmetic surgery for rich people? How many talented Cubans work in the FIRE sector?


I'm no doctor either, but I suspect the bottleneck story cannot be the only reason, for even if funding were available to build teaching hospitals, it would still take time to train teachers, so they can teach. Once teachers are trained, it takes time to train students, so they can work in the field. All of this presupposes that there are moneyed students willing to train either as teachers or as practitioners.

If the lack of doctors is a pressing problem, by all means, invest in teaching hospitals and teaching teachers, but the short-term solution still needs importing doctors.

The same would apply to dentists, lawyers, and economists (who are very handsomely paid, btw, when compared to other graduates).

Bob said...

Free trade requires two things: free mobility of capital and free mobility of labour.

I don't believe it "requires" mobility of labour at all. Keeping people penned up behind borders creates supply/demand bottlenecks which result in differences in the standard of living. Free mobility of labour would accelerate the rush to the bottom. It would do to the economy what open immigration would do to culture.

Matt Franko said...

"Yes indeed Matt, it's a conspiracy, but there's emails proving this one is true"

Yes agree the key here is the evidence.... get me some emails documenting the "neoliberal conspiracy!" and ill believe that too....

John said...

Matt: "there is NO EVIDENCE that they are clever... there is PLENTY of evidence they are stupid..."

What are you smoking? They've been smart at looking after their interests, not the country's. You're making the assumption that they should care about the decline in manufacturing, unemployment and all the other devastating social and economic ills that have hit America like a biblical plague. Why should they care? They've never shown any national or social solidarity in the past, so why expect them to do so now? They saw an opportunity to make crazy money, and they took it. Why is that inconceivable? When you see a military veteran begging in the street, drugged up to the eyeballs on crack, what do you think? That it's an oversight that this poor bastard ended up with no care? That it's an oversight that there are thousands like him? That's a lot of oversights? No, rather it's a well-thought-out policy of using up human cannon fodder and spitting them out when they serve no further purpose. Eventually some heartless lying politico will either salute them and say "Thank you for your service", but only when the media is around, or make their plight part of an orchestrated and nationalistic speech to endear themselves to dummies in the crowd.

Meanwhile the segments of society who buy politicians have done very nicely out of all the policies they've ensured have catered to their interests, as all the comments above have shown. America could easily have the finest healthcare (for all) in the world. A choice has been made not to do so. Is it because congress is stupid, or is it more likely because they pass legislation that serves their wealthy and powerful masters? As others have mentioned, is Cuba - CUBA! - in a better position to provide healthcare to its citizens or the richest country (with the best medical schools and medical technology) in the world? Cuba made a choice, and so did the US. Was it accidental that the trade agreements were designed in a way that serves the richest but hurts the poorest? You can call that a lot of things, but the one thing it isn't is stupid. It's a neoliberal conspiracy, or if you prefer a neoliberal policy.

If there is a will to create these skills, then they will appear. If the US decided to fund an extra million medical students and build the teaching hospitals, what's to stop it? It's a choice made by certain powerful segments of society, and not because they're stupid. It's because they're smart. The rest of the population needs to come together and bulldoze through the policies they want, and not let itself be kept hostage to the insurance companies and rich doctors who do well out of this and pay congress to keep things as they are.

Noah Way said...

But workers are not fungible.

Nuclear physicists, maybe, a lot of "ours" come from India. Dishwashers, checkout clerks, construction labor, taxi drivers, garbage men, janitors, delivery men, bookkeepers, etc. are.

Tom Hickey said...

Nuclear physicists, maybe, a lot of "ours" come from India. Dishwashers, checkout clerks, construction labor, taxi drivers, garbage men, janitors, delivery men, bookkeepers, etc. are..

There are other issues like mobility.

Seriously, economists and business people assume that workers unemployed in one region can just pick up stakes and move to another region to take jobs they are qualified for that are open there.

No consideration of "transaction costs."

Ignoring transaction costs is one of the big reasons that theoretical economics is bonkers. Externalities is another. They are not dealing with true cost.

Their models are idealized representations that don't take "friction" into account.

Tom Hickey said...

I don't know how much clearer it can get about a neoliberal conspiracy that Maggie Thatcher holding up Hayek's The Road To Serfdom and declaring it compulsory reading.

LADY THATCHER'S RELATIONSHIP WITH FRIEDRICH HAYEK AND MILTON FRIEDMAN

Then there is Greg Palast's report of the founding of the EZ as a neoliberal project.

Robert Mundell, evil genius of the euro

Then there was Pinochet's imposition of Hayek and Friedman's neoliberalism on Chile with CIA involvement.

Looks to me like this was directed at the highest levels.



Tom Hickey said...

"there is NO EVIDENCE that they are clever... there is PLENTY of evidence they are stupid..."


Stupid people end up owning just about everything but were not clever in accomplishing this? Must have been giant strokes of luck.

John said...

Tom: "Stupid people end up owning just about everything but were not clever in accomplishing this? Must have been giant strokes of luck."

Yet again, Mr Hickey succinctly making the kind of point that I tried and failed to make over paragraphs! Clever bugger - he definitely must own a lot of assets!

John said...

Tom: "I don't know how much clearer it can get about a neoliberal conspiracy that Maggie Thatcher holding up Hayek's The Road To Serfdom and declaring it compulsory reading."

Funny the kind of things people carry around with them!

The Irish revolutionary Michael Collins allegedly always carried a copy of G.K. Chesterton's "The Napoleon of Notting Hill".

I never leave home without Trump's opus and intellectual treat "The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received".

John said...

PS. Only because Trump's "Think Big and Kick Ass" is far too much to contemplate and may cause a brain seizure akin to reading Kant, Hegel and Wittgenstein.

Magpie said...

Bob said...

I don't believe it "requires" mobility of labour at all. Keeping people penned up behind borders creates supply/demand bottlenecks which result in differences in the standard of living. Free mobility of labour would accelerate the rush to the bottom. It would do to the economy what open immigration would do to culture.

Bob, I'm not saying I like it. I'm saying what globalisation and free trade are really about.

Let's think about it.

The world's population now is about 7 billion people. The population of the developed world (basically, the US, Canada, Japan, the UK, Australia and NZ, plus the European Union) is less than 1 billion people. Let's say the relationship between populations is 6 people from underdeveloped countries to 1 from developed countries: 6 : 1.

That's what globalisation and free trade are really about: to put one population to compete against another.

If they don't compete on wages, then capital invested in manufacturing (things like car manufacturing, electronics, textile, chemicals) can move to places where wages are low. That's Apple moving assembly lines to China. That's Pacific Brands moving workshops to Indonesia; Toyota, Holden, Ford and Mitsubishi closing their production facilities in Oz. They don't move there because wages in their new homes are high, but because they are low and they have a vested interest on keeping them that way.

That doesn't explain the whole illegal migration thing, but it explains some of it, surely? Not all refugees are fleeing war zones or persecution: there are also economic refugees in the mix.

Moreover, change other things, like taxation, environmental protection, H&O laws against capital and it, too, moves.

On the other hand, capital invested in mining, agriculture, and services (say, retail, education, health, transport) cannot just move overseas. A few years ago Gina Rinehart was thretening to move operations to Africa because of the Rudd super-profits tax. Everybody and their dogs knew she was bluffing: she can't bundle her mines and take them to Africa. She might as well have moved, out of spite, but the mines would have remained behind until someone else took them, and someone else would have taken them.

Free mobility of capital does little for these people's bottom line. If technology doesn't provide quick fixes immediately, the way for them is to bring in cheap labour: free mobility of labour. Add in for good measure lower taxes, no environmental protection, no H&O laws. Hence black lung returns to Queensland's coal mines.

As I see things, as long as capitalism is the system, we're fucked.

Magpie said...

By the way, Bob.

This doesn't mean that I'm against trying to find partial solutions to those problems. Nope. Quite to the contrary.

What this means is that partial solutions are just that: partial. They may improve our lives, but they won't solve the underlying problem.

jrbarch said...

In architecture, you look at the building the architect creates, but then you look at the architect. Because there are many buildings in that architect. The building may be incredible but the architect is many many times more incredible. In fact compared to the architect, the building is nothing. There is no building in the world, that is as beautiful or as complex as a tree.

For me, it’s the same with the world’s systems, like capitalism. The architect also builds in his or her flaws. And personality. A system is a product, a reflection, of a human being. The flaw in Capitalism is very simple: greed. The flaw in Governance is very simple: - power lacking love and intelligence. What is missing is kindness. People have forgotten that being human, involves feeling our essence.

What is the heart 10:23

Matt Franko said...

"The rest of the population needs to come together and bulldoze through the policies they want,"

The rest of the population like them wants to balance the budget and pay off the debt....

John said...

Matt: "The rest of the population like them wants to balance the budget and pay off the debt...."

The population barely made a peep when they had jobs and the "debt" skyrocketed. People don't care about the debt, and most of the time couldn't tell you what a deficit is, how big it is, and the difference between a deficit and the national "debt". Most of the time the population can't tell you who their elected representatives are, or even which countries border the US. The population is force-fed this hysterical propaganda every second of the day about China in the near future owning the country, and in order to avoid their children becoming indentured servants of the Chang family in Saigon they have to cut social security for granny.

What do you expect? Generally speaking, propaganda works. The same people who fear their kids will grow up to be virtual slaves of the Chinese are the same people who believed that Saddam Hussein orchestrated 9/11 and they're the same people who are getting nervous about Iran unleashing a nuclear holocaust and Russia's one aged aircraft carrier overwhelming the US Navy and leaving mainland USA open to invasion. Everything that comes out of Washington is a lie.

Bob said...

Magpie:
I don't disagree other than what you call free mobility of labour is only allowed on a selected basis. The majority of economic migrants are not welcome and have to work illegally.

Voluntary migration would be lower if it weren't for the desperation of those who risk the journey.

Capitalism is predicated on exploitation. I don't believe it can be reformed.

Bob said...

jrbarch:
What do you think of the relationship between employer and employee?
Between commodity producer and commodity consumer?
Between governor and the governed?
Are these fulfilling relationships?
Are they conducive to nourishing one's heart?

jrbarch said...

Did you watch the little video clip Bob? Prem explains what I attempted to express above, very clearly and simply. At the heart of everything is a human being. What does this mean?

Prem talks about a ‘father’ who loses himself. Just as an employer-employee, producer-consumer, governor-governee might lose themselves, in their roles. The point is, you have sacrificed something to lose yourself in the role - and that something is yourself. Everyone knows this, but consider the sacrifice worthwhile. Self-knowledge is a way of doing both, successfully – keeping in touch with you while playing out the role to the best of your ability, and enjoying yourself! Hence Prem’s presentation at TSIBA.

If Clint Eastwood carried ‘Callaghan’ into real life he would be locked up. I suspect Clint has played so many roles he has no idea who Clint is? The world is awash with Callaghans.

These roles are a ‘husk’, a ‘persona’ that we enact; and just like a coconut needs to be dehusked and cracked wide open if you want the milk; so too does one have to enter into the realm of the heart if you want to find yourself – (with eyes wide open).

So the employer and employee role do not change. These are business relations, and by their own nature are always unfulfilling (to the heart). The systems we invent are limited only by our creativity. We make up the rules. What changes is the seat of consciousness. Being in touch with the heart is conducive to nourishing the heart. Being in touch with everything else first, without the heart – well, look outside your window; it’s a circus!

Magpie said...

@Bob

Got it! I probably misunderstood something. :-)

Bob said...

@Magpie

Pesky words, there are so many of them (-:

@jrbarch

Yes, thank-you. The role I play here and elsewhere is closer to my heart than the responsibilities that consume most of our waking lives. As far as I know, Clint is an actor, filmmaker and producer. Seems to be a talented and versatile individual. Magpie is a Marxist Corvid and I am a bumblebee. Do you wish to know more?

Bob said...

The systems we invent are limited only by our creativity. We make up the rules. What changes is the seat of consciousness.

How difficult could this be?
What are the rules?
Why is most everything we do a kludge?

Tom Hickey said...

jrbarch: The systems we invent are limited only by our creativity. We make up the rules. What changes is the seat of consciousness.

Bob: How difficult could this be?
What are the rules?
Why is most everything we do a kludge?


Depends on the level of collective consciousness. Functionality- dysfunctionality are the outcome of the level of consciousness.

This level has two aspects, vertical and horizontal.

The vertical level is the level of universality measurable by the manifestation of positive qualities reflected in individual and group behavior relative to negative qualities — "virtue/vice ratio" based on judging a tree by its fruit.

The horizontal level is the type of formal and informal institutional arrangements that the culture manifests that display the quality of the culture and its institutions in terms of functionality. "

"Form follows function," is a design principle that suggests that structure be fitted to function. This is not true in natural selection, where form is evolved through natural selection base on suitability to function. Humans are capable of intentionality so to a degree they can overcome that limitation. But as a matter of history, human progress is iterative and incremental with a lot of exploration of options and fits and starts on the way. In addition, in social processes, which are historical, conditions shift and adaptation is required. This leads to emergence, including new challenges. So there are unlikely to many simple static solutions.

The "rules" are the informal and formal patterns that members of the society exhibit as regularities in individual behavior, e.g., habit structure, and social relationships, e.g., customs, laws. Historically, continuity provides stability, while flux provides the capacity to adapt and innovate. Flexibility is a function of the level of collective consciousness. Rigid societies become more dysfunctional over time, whereas flexible ones adapt to changing conditions and emerging challenges.

The type of natural order that arises spontaneously depends on the level of collective consciousness. At very high levels few formal rules are required and informal rules are flexible with respect to change. This is set forth in the Tao Te Ching, for example, which dates to the Axial Age of the third to fifth centuries BCE.

At a low level, many formal rules, including enforcement, are needed. The formal rule-making process can be captured so at lower levels of collective consciousness self-interest and in-group interest prevail, and the structure and function of the society are determined by power relationships.

This was elaborated since ancient times in perennial wisdom, explored in the intellectual traditions that took root in the Axial Age, and it is now studied scientifically in cognitive science, psychology, anthropology, and sociology.

Conventional economists and policy makers are clueless about this, so kluges abound in attempting to correct for dysfunctional effects of the low level of collective consciousness.

continued

Tom Hickey said...

continuation

There are basically two approaches to this.

The Hobbesian approach is that human nature is fundamentally flawed ("original sing") and a strong authority is required to prevent the law of jungle arising.

The Rousseauvian approach is that human nature is essentially good ("original blessing") and an educational system needs to be put in place that brings out the best in everyone individually and socially.

The fundamental question is, what does it mean to life a good life as an individual as a citizen of a good society, and how can this be secured for all cooperatively?

The various approaches determine the points on the political compass.

How difficult could this be? It depends on the level of collective consciousness at the starting point. Utopia are simple to construct ideally, but the knotty issue is how to get from here to there.

So rather than talk of ideal society, I believe it more practical to talk about achieving ideal society.

A big reason I am interested in MMT is that the economy is the material life-support system of a society and MMT shows how it is possible to proceed financially using the policy space that currency sovereignty affords a currency issuer.

Then the question becomes a political one about how to use that policy space to best advantage in achieving a progressively more ideal society. Policy is informed not only by political economy however, but also a lot of other knowledge from related fields. This investigation also suggests avenues for exploration in research.

jrbarch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jrbarch said...

@Bob
We make up the rules

Ever watched little kids playing? They make up the rules as they go along. Only difference to us is that generally they play nicely.

I have read of an experiment where they placed babies in a room; didn't matter what the skin colour - the babies would smile at each other, laugh with each other, begin communicating and enjoying each other. Then they placed one toy in the room - and pretty soon an argument over possession developed, ending in one baby picking up the toy and clocking the other one with it.

Adults are supposed to be adult.

Joe said...

Assume both free movement of capital and labor.
Capital decides to move from region A to lower cost region B.
The newly unemployed people in region A, being the good little capitalists that they are, eschew family and community life and decide they make too much munnie, all move en-masse to region B, accept lower wages than the people already in region B. The existing people in region B, being the good little capitalists that they are, price themselves back into the market, further reducing wages... ad infinitum. Oh and we're just supposed to ignore problems caused by mass immigration from A to B. (remember when IBM offered to move their engineers to eastern Europe, at eastern European wages, instead of laying them off? How thoughtful of them, such great capitalists)

If there's no movement of labor, capital can just move back and forth from region A to B. Heads capital wins, tails labor loses. See how wonderful it is?

Oh wait, I forgot to channel my inner Friedman.. People from A, that just lost their jobs, can now buy cheaper imported goods from regions B, out of their income they're no longer earning.. oh wait, that doesn't sound right... But if I move to Bangalore and take a taxi I'll probably get some insight...

Doesn't look like much of a conspiracy to me. Capital wins big here. The capitalist class does things and advocates policies that enhance their position. Actually, I'd call it a conspiracy if the capitalists didn't act in their own immediate interests.

Only an elite educated economist could actually believe the narrative about everyone benefitting from neoliberalism and free trade. People's stated goals are very often not the same as their real goals (Does anyone seriously believe the NRA's stated goals are actually their real goals?). It seems the whole "everyone benefits" is just a rationalization to justify your own enrichment. Perfectly normal human behavior.

Imo, Rousseau was a schmuck. Humans can be incredibly viscous, regardless of education. In fact, being educated may help to exploit my fellow humans more easily.

jrbarch said...

@Bob
Hope my comment about roles was OK Bob (blame it on Shakespeare – ‘the world is but a stage ...”).

But you are asking really fundamental questions that everyone else takes for granted, and I wish there were more of it. For most people, the cranium gets opened up and the whole societal thing gets poured in and accepted – no questions asked: - an employer is an employer and an employee is an employee and that is set in concrete. Forget the human being. That is what I understand by Tom’s ‘horizontal conditioning’. Dependent upon time. Birth, life, death.

But the ‘vertical awareness’ brings us back to being a human being. Prem explained ‘what the heart is’ to him. That is the beginning – to first of all recognise the heart; to recognise the thirst that comes from the heart and appreciate it, accept it as a reality; then using that thirst as a guiding rope, plumb the heart to its uttermost depths, and see what secret it holds. A human being does not know what beauty resides within him or her. Nor the power. This has to do with our existence - and as we were created, so is our essence. It is the original frontier. The world wants to explore the outer space; the aspirant wants to explore the inner space. There is no reason why both cannot be done, successfully. This too, is human potential. Then we might understand why ‘everything on the outside is illusion’ (meant to illude you). Imagine the absolute freedom in that. Even when reading the daily newspaper (especially when reading the daily newspaper)!

Is that selfish? No it is not, because it already exists inside of you.

Bob said...

@Tom
To the extent that I understand your reply, I agree. We can come up with ideals more easily than we can live up to them in practice.

The Hobbesian approach is more common. Repress instead of inspire.

I am conditioned (or self-interested) to believe that society should be inclusive. If it doesn't start there, where else can it start?

Bob said...

jrbrach said...
I have read of an experiment where they placed babies in a room; didn't matter what the skin colour - the babies would smile at each other, laugh with each other, begin communicating and enjoying each other. Then they placed one toy in the room - and pretty soon an argument over possession developed, ending in one baby picking up the toy and clocking the other one with it.

Notions of property rights start very young ;)

Bob said...

jrbarch said...
But the ‘vertical awareness’ brings us back to being a human being. Prem explained ‘what the heart is’ to him. That is the beginning – to first of all recognise the heart; to recognise the thirst that comes from the heart and appreciate it, accept it as a reality; then using that thirst as a guiding rope, plumb the heart to its uttermost depths, and see what secret it holds. A human being does not know what beauty resides within him or her. Nor the power. This has to do with our existence - and as we were created, so is our essence. It is the original frontier.

I do not seem to have the need to explore the depths or heights of my heart. I lack the thirst to know what suffering is, nor its counterpart, joy.
We are said not to know our true power until we are put to the test. There are tests I believe I would fail. There are scenarios where I see myself giving up. Perhaps I have a "weak will to survive".

Bob said...

Hermits tend to ask these questions. Our lifestyle predisposes us to it.

jrbarch said...

I used to know a ‘monk’ with a BMW Bob! (A bit like Tom I bet)!

So, some questions come from the mind – the mind is curious and multi-faceted by nature. Other questions come from the heart – the heart is singular; incredibly focused. Getting to know the difference is one step towards recognising your thirst. Believe me, it is there. Why else would you want to be content? Or live in hope. In recognising the voice of the heart, a human being becomes alive. A deeper passion for existence is born, and a deeper wisdom.

The heart is our faithful companion, every step along the way, taken in our life. Most of the time, we think we are walking alone. The human being may waver – the heart says ‘go on, press on – I want to be fulfilled’. When the two align, then they walk in measured beat, with certainty. That can’t be faked or rearranged. The heart never fails. The heart is courage, and clarity.

When we were learning to walk, we fell over and over, again and again. We failed – but did not accept failure. When we walked for the first time, it opened up the whole world to us.

Bob said...

Doesn't Tom drive an Oldsmobile? ;)

The question my heart asks is 'what is important to me?' In recognizing what is important, I am forced to admit what isn't important, yet occupies my thoughts and consumes my time. I believe as we grow older, we begin to find the answer to that particular question. We begin to reconcile the personal sphere with the public one.

The mind is better suited for that which is not personal to us, as in questions about the society we live in. When viewed from this perspective, relationships can be seen as requiring a balance between mind and heart. Perhaps by design, hermits do not have to deal with that particular balancing act.

You can lead a horse to water, but if it isn't thirsty...

jrbarch said...

Exactly Bob! Right from the horse’s mouth ... :-)

I would like to give you (at least something to think about) a sense of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’.

Things that are personal to us and the society are both ‘outside’; hence all relationships are ‘outside’. The balancing act in this sense is on the outside, between the varying elements.

But there is one relationship that reaches from the outside to the ‘inside’, and this is our relationship with our heart. Most people ignore their heart and its ‘thirst’. Hence they ignore a part of themselves. How we would hop in circles if we ignored one leg!

The heart has absolutely no idea of balance; well, not mine at least ...! The heart is completely focused on the ‘good, the beautiful and the true’. It seeks the essence of Being – the Self. It seeks light, understanding, clarity. It has no other motivation than to drink. Once that happens, then maybe a little bit of that enjoyment will overflow into the personal life – to the outside. This too, has the potential to change the world of the human being. There is a universe without to which the mind is tied; there is a universe within which is the realm of the heart. For me, psychology is understanding the one relation we have, to the heart, as a key, that magically unlocks all of the others. Like when the little kid finally got up and walked!

By the way, I know quite a few monks, psychologists, and psychiatrists practice self-knowledge (even engineers) and they would know exactly what I am talking about – so even these ‘outside’ disciplines are not an impediment. I practiced architecture which is about as materialistic, systemic, and egotistic as you can get!