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Monday: Structural unemployment is a lie

It’s bullshit.

For those of you scratching your heads, it’s the idea that the reason so many people are unemployed is because they don’t have the right skills, education and technological training or they’re located in the wrong places in the country.

I can only imagine the titans of industry at the job junkets where they go to speak to former presidents and cabinet members, whining about how if they could only find more graduates in STEM fields, they wouldn’t have to send all this work overseas or import so many H1-B visa workers.  Woe is they, crocodile tears, wringing of hands.  It’s just pathetic.

And it’s a lie.  It’s the biggest lie in the country these days.  Lie, lie, lie.

Paul Krugman doesn’t believe it and has been writing about it for the past couple of weeks.  He thinks unemployment is a problem caused by lack of demand.  But even that doesn’t tell the whole story.  In the STEM fields, unemployment is a deliberate, calculated, psychopathic and destructive strategy for reducing costs at the expense of the research industry and consumer health.  It’s just a way of extracting wealth.  There’s no demand problem.  There are more than enough projects to keep every scientist alive busy for the rest of their lives.  And there certainly is no shortage of people suffering from diseases.

And now, here comes Zachary Karabell in Newsweek who disagrees and says that we have a structural unemployment problem and who has apparently not been following Pharmageddon:

Distressingly, this framing of the debate limits so many options. You can view the waves buffeting society as structural and long-term and then argue for cogent government action—and yes, spending—that acknowledges and addresses that reality. But where can that view be found in the current policy framework? You could argue for aggressive government action to manage a generational shift, to seek productive employment for the unemployed à la the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s. After all, if we are going to spend tens of billions a year on unemployment benefits, and if those benefits make people feel simultaneously helpless and worthless, why not spend the same money allowing those people some gainful use of what skills they have? And if there truly is a generation lost in the transition, then we owe that generation a solid net—but we do not owe that to the generation now emerging. Instead, they deserve the opportunities to acquire the skills and training that they will need in a post-manufacturing world as surely as those farmers in 1900 needed new skills in a 20th-century manufacturing world.

Ok, he’s got the first part right.  We need a WPA program for unemployed scientists so we can use the skills we already have.

But he totally fails when he ignores the reason for the generational shift (greedy bankers and shareholders) and says that we need more skills and training.  We have hundreds of thousands of people who are plenty skilled and trained in science and technology who can’t find jobs or can find jobs and are willing to move, or have moved and find themselves laid off again.

What we really need is a leader who is determined to put his or her foot down with the finance guys and has a vision of the future of American recovery where we use the people we already have.  Otherwise, when the finance guys have done drinking the milkshake of pharma and come to the realization that they need American researchers just like the good old days, there won’t be *any* STEM workers because the next generation won’t be caught dead in a lab in a dead end job and no job security.  Then structural unemployment will have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

STEM students aren’t stupid, you know.  Well, not anymore they’re not.

***************************

For those of you who haven’t been following the saga of Trustus Pharmaceuticals, here’s a recap of the chocolate cookie of the apocalypse:

First, the bad news that the company is going with throttle up on the alpha12 project:

Second, the sign of the endtimes for the alpha12 project- the project polo shirts (I’ve been there but on our case, it was shirts and color changing coffee mugs with comic book character graphics and ads that would have made Don Draper proud.  And that compound looks very familiar, probably a HTS screening hit I threw out.):

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6 Responses

  1. I just read your post (head nodding!) and a Truthout article by Chris Hedges and find the two to be in perfect sync…

    “The response of a dying regime—and our corporate regime is dying—is to employ increasing levels of force, and to foolishly refuse to ameliorate the chronic joblessness, foreclosures, mounting student debt, lack of medical insurance and exclusion from the centers of power. Revolutions are fueled by an inept and distant ruling class that perpetuates political paralysis. This ensures its eventual death.”

    http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/9112-why-the-occupy-movement-frightens-the-corporate-elite

  2. This has been happening in IT for more than a decade now.

    The off-shoring and H1B hiring is still happening but I don’t think anyone believes it is a panacea anymore.

    Many companies are starting to realize the boomers are retiring. Oops! Now there aren’t enough “experienced” programmer types to perform technical lead roles on projects because there weren’t enough entry level programmers hired for the past 10-15 years.

    I wonder what industry Wall St. will destroy after science? It seems like they can’t shake the fantasy of getting Walmart pricing on labor and never notice the quality difference – until years later. Of course all the smart money got the bonuses and moved on before the stupid shows.

    • Thank you I was going to note that they went after the IT people first- my sister is a unemployed computer programmer. The companies outsourced to India because they could paid those workers peanuts and work them like dogs. But the price of that, besides American job losses was a massive decline in the quality of the IT work as quantity was pushed over quality. My sister talked about how the last few months she was at her job what a massive disaster the programs they received from India- all kinds of bugs the smaller and smaller American IT staff had to fix. And here’s the kicker- all this messed up stuff ended up costing the company more, but it was all about dumping out the decently paid American IT people for grossly underpaid workers in India.

      Then the poison spread from there, even reaching into the public sector in the last couple of years…

      • And there’s also using outsourcing as a cover for job discrimination, even if your sister might not agree. Most IT shops now are or are nearly 100% male, as opposed to 60% or less twenty years ago.

  3. Perhaps one could call it Structural Disemployment through Mass Jobicide.

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