Thursday, November 19, 2009

Divinipotent About Indispensability

“The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.”
~ Oscar Wilde

The stock market is rising, many leading indicators are improving and people are starting to whisper about "recovery." Yet even as the economy expands, jobs continue to contract. Two weeks ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the unemployment rate had reached 10.2%, the highest since 1983. Meanwhile, unofficial observers speculate that the so-called "true unemployment rate" — which includes the underemployed and those so discouraged that they've given up looking — is closer to 20%. And no one is predicting job expansion any time soon.

What's happened to all the jobs? Well, we all know that millions of them have moved overseas in the past few decades. In addition, right here in the U.S., ever since the the mergers-and-acquisitions boom started building steam in the 1980s, Wall Street has been buying up reasonably profitable companies — companies that employed people — and stripping them down to their parts for sale. Use whatever dumb euphemism you like — downsizing or the heinous "right-sizing" — it's still putting massive numbers of people out of work so that a handful can have more money.

Speaking of which, we are now stuck firmly in the era of obscenely inflated pay packages for the job-killing geniuses at the top. This chart (courtesy of Wikipedia) makes the latter trend graphically obvious.

As many have noted, the top 1% of Americans control 90% of the nation's wealth and have reaped most of the income growth in recent years. This chart from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities shows that the share of wealth flowing to the country's wealthiest citizens is now at the highest level  since 1929.

Last week, New York Times writer Timothy Egan wrote a poignant, stinging piece about the destruction the directors of Anheuser-Busch brought to the people of St. Louis when they chose to fatten their pockets by selling the company; it's called "The Betrayal" and I highly recommend it.

With the people at the top taking and keeping so much, is it really any surprise that there is little left to pay for jobs for the rest of us? Yet the financial industry considers the greedy geniuses who destroyed jobs and very nearly destroyed the global economy "indispensable."

Here's what I think is indispensable: jobs. These emperors are naked.

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