The Long View for America Is Not Good
02 December 2016 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
Much of the earlier debate was whether technical change aided and augmented labor, as it has mostly done historically, or whether it displaces it. Computerization, for example, augmented worker productivity, but today programmed electro-mechanical devices now largely target displacement of labor and lower management as well, to promote middle management convenience and long run cost savings and larger profits.
Capital and the rich and wealthy are cleaning up and labor's share of GDP is in marked decline. Income inequality continues to rise and its pernicious effects increase. All of this is generating considerable social instability, especially with present republican policies and aperiodic recessions hammering the middle class further and the social safety net being targeted by republicans for destruction.
The macro view is not good. Too many people are being vocationally and politically marginalized and left out and behind. Indeed, some 92 million adults are not even in the labor force and are poorer for it. Many excuses and explanations have been and can be legitimately made for it, but many are circular and confuse cause and effect. For example, are younger people going to school because they couldn't get a job or did they pursue that course independently, seeking a better job from the start. Interestingly, older men's participation in the labor force has actually increased, as they find they cannot make ends meet in retirement, without continuing to work.
A growing and vocationally idled and impoverished population does not make for good social stability or a healthy and vibrant nation, Political exclusion of that population only compounds the problem. The only hope becomes the ballot box if despondency and depression do not preclude that as well. But who is there to vote for, as our two party system offers little choice unlike the multiple parties in Europe.
The bottom two thirds of the middle class and upper one third of the lower class have seen their wealth and homeownership largely destroyed by the Great Recession and this group is well oppressed, but doesn't know much what to do about it . . . except to vote for change or anyone who promises it, ergo, we have Trump (and Bernie) but not Hillary, although both carry far too much luggage and it can be expected that republicans and some democrats will oppose any real change.
After Bernie and with Trump, the press of middle America is for economic change, but the real questions, rhetoric aside, are what kinds of change and how is it going to be accomplished. There are no good road maps out there, aside from those showing how to derig the economy to have it better serve all, but government and its laws and regulations favoring the rich, is only one part of the problem.
The direction of technical change and of the economy itself is yet another and much larger problem. We have few good thoughts there but can only wish many people were much smarter and well enough educated to fill the many high tech jobs that are available.