Dead-End Jobs & Other Economic Concerns….

Before getting to some articles below on dead-end jobs & deficits, can we first find anything we like about Trump?  We have a president that more than any other leader we’ve ever seen who loves to brag about his accomplishments.  We just saw his braggadocious speech today littered with lies & hyperbole.  But is there really anything to brag about?  To sum up his major achievements, there’s a deal with North Korea to denuclearize (see part 1), appointing conservatives to the courts (see part 2), along with his tax cuts & restructuring trade deals (see below).  As much as I always bash Trump, I’ve given him a pass on some of these issues, taking more a wait & see attitude.  Compared to any other Trump critic, I’ve expressed hope his positions on North Korea, pro-life & trade would have positive outcomes.  Liberals may consistently love my comments while conservatives hate them, since I routinely call out Trump & the GOP, but remember my core views have always been more center-right conservatism.  So I do have personal beliefs which admittedly would disappoint the progressives among the audience who otherwise appreciate my opinionated commentaries.

 

On those key issues, I remain hopeful but am mostly skeptical.  Internationally I’m more hawkish, which I can hardly even imagine us & the world feasibly coexisting with a nuclear North Korea.  Being pro-life, I understand the importance of a conservative Supreme Court.  Tax cuts would have been fine if targeted for the working middle class, so they were simply poorly conceived & misdirected.  And I’ve always advocated for trade deals which were fair & operating on a level playing field, not the unfettered free trade where other nations were picking our pockets.  So on these issues I have given Trump some slack, hoping his renowned dealmaking skills could truly make a positive difference.  You can read the status of each of these concerns by going to the sections where I discuss them, but the signs so far don’t look good.  For a president who is as heartless as he is clueless & incompetent, it doesn’t bode well for any of those issues ultimately going in our favor, nor does it bode well for his entire presidency to do much good.  So while the one thing I do appreciate Trump for is shaking up the entrenched/entitled system in DC, like a bull in a china shop the damage will be hard to repair.

 

GDP vs. GNI

By any measure, America is still a wealthy country, as in this next article we ranked 10th.  Despite that, a few clear indicators show where our nation lags behind.  Identifying those weaknesses along with America’s leaders & the people agreeing on the need to address them, that’s half the battle in fixing what ails us.  Inside the link the-25-richest-countries-in-the-world, it measures gross national income, or GNI, being a more precise measure of the financial well-being of a country’s citizens.  GNI includes GDP as well as the net income generated by a country’s residents earned outside of national borders.  The article says the numbers are generated by 24/7 Wall St., which reviewed GNI per capita for 131 countries and special administrative regions with data from the World Bank, & here’s what is said about us:

> GNI per capita: $54,151
> 2016 GDP: $18.6 trillion
> Population: 323.1 million
> Life expectancy 78.7 years at birth

The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with a GNI per capita of $54,151. The U.S. is much more of a consumer of goods and services than a producer. Goods and services exports accounted for just 11.9% of U.S. GDP in 2016, by far the lowest share of any country on this list. Despite being one of the wealthiest nations, the United States has a relatively low life expectancy compared to other rich countries. This may be because it is the only developed nation without universal health care. Another potential cause may be the country’s large gap between rich and poor — one of the world’s largest — meaning that impoverished citizens may be unable to obtain necessary medical and preventive care.

Epidemic of Dead-End Jobs with Families Paying the Price
For the first time in our nation’s history, except for a decade-long blip during the Great Depression, a new generation is financially worse off than previous generations.  The price being paid with households enduring financial stress & lower quality of life issues are immeasurable.  This is a long-term structural concern some misguided tax cut won’t solve, or ideas from either party are wholly inadequate & mistargeted.  These excerpts come from middle-class-shame-is-real-squeezed-author-alissa-quart-on-why-the-american-dream-is-crumbling:

It is not in your head. You’re overwhelmed and scared, feeling just one layoff or accident away from total economic free fall. This isn’t the American dream you grew up believing in. You’re working harder and longer because the very idea that you wouldn’t have a side hustle is impossible. You assume you’ll be paying your student loans forever. You are getting by on less and less, and you feel like it’s a personal failing. I think about this a lot. I think about it when I’m offered a freelance writing rate that’s the same — or often significantly less — than the standard dollar a word that was considered the baseline when I started out 20 years ago. I think about it when my spouse finally got a new job several months after being laid off, and the salary was in the range he was earning 15 years ago. I think about the embarrassment that my friends and colleagues — fellow gen Xers, boomers and millennials alike — all seem to share over how exhausting and insufficient our lives seem to be. A 2017 study revealed that millennials are earning roughly 20% less than boomers did at the same life stage, but plenty of us of all ages who aren’t in the 1 percent are feeling lost and are hurting. The truth is that the deck has been badly stacked. In her new book “Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America,” author and Economic Hardship Reporting Project Executive Editor Alissa Quart (“Branded”) explores the circumstances that got us here, the deceptions that keep us held down and the tools we need as individuals and a nation to crawl out from under. In it, she shares familiar stories of economic frustration as well as hard evidence for the causes of it. It’s an often tough but deeply empathetic call to action, one that exists in the real world of family, work, debt and even dreams.

A More Colorful Phrase For Dead-End Jobs

No matter what we call them, be it BS or low-wage or dead-end jobs, there are way too many of them which can’t support a family or provide much of a future.  Let’s get creative!  We need a dramatic fresh approach in how we look at careers, restructuring them so there is purpose & meaning (& better pay) to these innovative new occupations.  And not only do we need to invent new & better jobs, but we should aggressively pursue advanced training programs, so workers can gain the skills to fill the numerous good jobs that are currently available but going unfilled.  The first paragraph posted here is the beginning & the second the conclusion to the article bullshit-jobs-book-david-graeber-occupy-wall-street-karl-marx:

Do you have a job that you secretly believe is pointless? If so, you have what anthropologist David Graeber calls a “bullshit job.” A professor at the London School of Economics and a leader of the early Occupy Wall Street movement, Graeber has written a new book called Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. He argues that there are millions of people across the world — clerical workers, administrators, consultants, telemarketers, corporate lawyers, service personnel, and many others — who are toiling away in meaningless, unnecessary jobs, and they know it. It didn’t have to be this way, Graeber says. Technology has advanced to the point where most of the difficult, labor-intensive jobs can be performed by machines. But instead of freeing ourselves from the suffocating 40-hour workweek, we’ve invented a whole universe of futile occupations that are professionally unsatisfying and spiritually empty.

 

We need to change what we value. I thought Occupy Wall Street might have been the beginning of something like this. People were really waking up and realizing that they wanted to do something useful, wanted to help others. They were realizing that something is wrong, that if you go into a profession like education or social services, they treat you poorly and pay you little. I think we need a rebellion of what I call the “caring class,” people who care about others and justice. We need to think about how to create a new social movement and change what we value in our work and lives. People have a sense of what makes a job worthwhile; otherwise, they wouldn’t realize that what they’re doing now is bullshit. So we need to give this more articulation, and we need to unite with other people who want the same things. That’s a political project we can all get behind.

Tax Cuts
It shouldn’t surprise us the Trump tax cuts for the rich are growing increasingly unpopular: poll-gop-tax-law.  Relying on antiquated trickle-down strategies & not targeting it to the sectors in the economy needing it the most, along with CBO projections showing huge spikes to long-term deficits, it’s not such a stretch to call it a scam.  See these excerpts from trumps-tax-cut-scam-will-only-deepen-racism-and-inequality:

The six-month anniversary of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act passed last week with little fanfare. Despite Republicans’ dishonest spin, most Americans recognize that President Trump’s crowning legislative achievement was a plutocratic heist that will do nothing to help working people. Greedy corporations have used their windfalls to reward chief executives and stockholders, while workers’ wages have actually declined. Barely a third of Americans now support the law. Yet the racial implications of Trump’s tax scam have been radically underreported and remain poorly understood. While fair tax reform could reduce the impact of structural racism in the economy, the law that Republicans passed in December will make it much worse. That’s the conclusion of an important new report from economists Darrick Hamilton and Michael Linden of the Roosevelt Institute (where I serve on the board).

 

 Start with the obvious fact that it disproportionately benefits corporations and the rich. This will clearly lead to greater economic inequality in general, but it will also exacerbate the racial wealth gap, because the wealthiest Americans are overwhelmingly white. As the Roosevelt report notes, median net worth among white households is about 1,200 percent larger than it is among their black counterparts. Any tax policy skewed toward the wealthy, then, is also racially skewed against people of color. Trump’s tax law doesn’t only lavish riches on the most powerful members of society. It’s also a vehicle for disempowering the working poor and communities of color. Americans deserve better than a tax scam that exacerbates the structural racism and inequality that have plagued our country for so long.

CBO Estimates Are Shocking

I just mentioned about CBO projections that our deficits are going way up.  Economic adviser Larry Kudlow lives in an alternative trickle-down utopian-universe, since his magical dynamic-scoring forecast that tax cuts can miraculously grow our way out of these deficits are pure poppycock!: larry-kudlow-lies-about-federal-deficit-on-fox-business & also  trumps-top-economic-adviser-says-deficit-is-coming-down-rapidly-contradicting-all-available-data.  See CBO-Trump-s-tax-cuts-likely-have-economy-headed-into-a-buzz-saw & also posted here are the main takeaways from the-federal-debt-is-headed-for-the-highest-levels-since-world-war-ii-cbo-says:

Government debt is on track to hit historically high levels and at its current growth rate will be nearly equal in size to the U.S. economy by 2028, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday. By the end of this year, the ratio of federal debt to the United States’ gross domestic product will reach 78 percent, according to the CBO, the highest ratio since 1950. The debt is projected to grow to 96 percent of GDP by 2028. The CBO projects the Republican tax law passed last fall will add $1.84 trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years. Republican leaders have argued the cuts will jump-start the economy, creating enough economic growth to offset much of the additions to the debt. But CBO and other nonpartisan analysts have repeatedly rejected that claim.

Retirement Programs Unsustainable
Our retirement programs are broke or soon will be, including Social Security, Medicare & pensions: us-pensions-underfunding-is-rising-and-will-worsen-in-next-recession.  The U.S. healthcare system is way too expensive & inefficient, & represents a crucial area to our economy where we should be copying systems from other countries that work much better than ours.  Healthcare coverage badly needs a fix, with deductibles spiraling higher being one of several problems: sky-high-deductibles-broke-the-us-health-insurance-system.  These excerpts from the-real-disease-price-transparency-key-to-saving-medicare-and-lowering speculate there’s massive waste within our Medicare system:

Entitlement spending grabbed headlines last week, with the news that Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will become insolvent by 2026, three years earlier than previously projected. Social Security, meanwhile, is expected to remain solvent until 2034, keeping in line with previous projections. Driving the insolvency is the unsustainable spending that has come to characterize America’s entitlement programs. Over the coming decade, the government will have to borrow $2.8 trillion dollars to keep these programs afloat.

 

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. This is not the first wake-up call to emanate from a Medicare Trustee’s Report — in 2011, they predicted the trust fund could have become insolvent by 2016 — and it won’t be the last. Despite this, the folks Washington will continue to abdicate responsibility, try to pass the buck to their political rivals, and refuse to cut a single cent from our bloated entitlement programs, or raise revenue to pay for them. All the while, they will keep condoning trillion dollar deficits without even attempting to address the hundreds of billions of dollars we lose annually in waste, duplication and fraud. No wonder we are where we are.

 

In 2016, Medicare alone comprised around 15 percent of federal spending, while Social Security made up another 24 percent. Toss in Medicaid, CHIP, and ObamaCare subsidies, and you’ve got half of the federal budget. In other words, a majority of entitlement spending goes to health care, which means our entitlement problem is really health spending problem. 

 

The reason we waste a third of what we spend on health care is the same reason Medicare doles out billions of dollars of improper payments annually: there’s no transparency on price or quality. Our health care system is so clouded with insurance, government subsidies, and profit-seeking middlemen, that no one knows the real price of any given health service. Mandating price transparency will not singlehandedly solve Medicare’s problems, but it’s a big first step. If transparency eliminates even a third of what Medicare spends on improper payments, our country saves $20 billion. That’s $20 billion that can be put to better use, increasing federal revenues while decreasing federal expenditures.

Tariffs & Trade Wars
I’ve complained for a long time some of our trading partners have manipulated various factors to give themselves an unfair advantage, which to some extent have resulted in the decline of thriving factory towns around these parts I remember as a kid, which now look more like bombed-out war zones.  So one of the few areas I looked at Trump with some optimism is hoping he could strike trade deals in leveling the playing field.  So far instead we’re seeing tariffs that are leading us straight into disastrous trade wars.  I’m still willing to give this administration time to rectify the situation, but whatever deals are being crafted better not drag on too long, since severe damage to the economy is just over the horizon.  Rubin provides these thoughts only-trump-could-be-surprised-that-trade-wars-hurt-the-united-states & the excerpts here come from factory-workers-arent-getting-what-trump-promised:

Factory workers and farmers are slowly learning that President Trump’s fanatical protectionism — plus Congress’s economic absenteeism — has left them painfully unprotected. That’s not what Trump promised them, of course. A little more than a year ago, Trump invited executives and union representatives from Harley-Davidson to the White House. There he vowed that the motorcycle manufacturer would flourish under his economic stewardship. “Thank you, Harley-Davidson, for building things in America,” he said. “And I think you’re going to even expand — I know your business is now doing very well and there’s a lot of spirit right now in the country that you weren’t having so much in the last number of months that you have right now.” This week, Harley-Davidson became among the highest-profile casualties of Trump’s escalating trade wars.

 

It is no coincidence that so many Trump-voting areas will suffer. That’s because of two unfortunate developments. First is our businessman in chief’s baffling lack of sophistication about supply chains. He still does not seem to understand that placing tariffs on intermediate goods such as steel and aluminum will hurt the downstream manufacturers that purchase those materials and that employ an order of magnitude more Trump Country workers than the U.S. steel and aluminum industries do. Second is the much more strategic retaliation by our furious trading partners, which are deliberately targeting industries located in politically sensitive areas. Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans remain strong. But as these tariffs and countertariffs steamroll across Trump Country, supporters may eventually get tired of all this “winning.”

Truckers Wanted
These next articles explain there’s a severe trucker shortage for various reasons, including onerous/restrictive new regulations, which will make anything delivered by truck more expensive.  See americas-severe-trucker-shortage-could-undermine-the-prosperous-economy & also these excerpts from opinion-where-have-americas-truck-drivers-gone:

The internet doesn’t carry goods, only more and more orders for them. Self-driving trucks are a long way off. In the meantime, somebody has to haul freight and make deliveries. So the U.S. economy needs more people like Branden Miller. But they’re getting hard to come by. Miller, 30, is a long-haul trucker, the co-owner of an Arizona-based business that runs three trucks through Werner Enterprises Inc. He says he hauls “anything that will fit in the back of a dry van.” His cargoes range from motors to toiletries to, in one case, a single envelope. He got into trucking five years ago for the classic reasons: “It’s a decent-paying job that allows you a lot of freedom to see the country.”

 

But the work definitely has its downsides. Miller sees his wife and two young children only three or four days a month — something he hopes will change as the business grows so he can hire other people to do the driving. If, that is, he can find and keep them. The U.S. trucking industry is short about 50,000 drivers, estimates Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations. The driver shortage ranked first among industry concerns in the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual survey, released last October.

 

Recent regulatory changes exacerbate the problem. So does an increasing shortage of places to park. Federal regulations require truckers to track four different timers. The first limits a driver to working 70 hours in an eight-day period. The second limits the workday to 14 consecutive hours, regardless of what the driver is doing; this clock keeps going even if the driver takes a nap. The third caps driving at 11 hours within that 14. The fourth requires a 30-minute break at least every eight hours. Since April 1, all truckers have had to use electronic monitors rather than paper records to track their driving clocks. For Miller, who has always worked with electronic logs, the change wasn’t a big deal. But for a substantial number of truckers, it was, requiring both new equipment and new habits — and cutting their take-home pay.

 

In a recent article, Theodore Prince, the chief operating officer of Tiger Cool Express LLC, laid out the math. Under the old regime, a driver making 40 cents a mile might drive 750 miles in 15 hours, averaging 50 miles an hour and making $300. His paperwork would claim 11 hours at 68 mph. Now, however, his time is electronically tracked and the 11-hour limit is strictly enforced. At 50 mph, he makes only $220. To keep even, his pay would have to rise to 55 cents a mile. That’s too high for many routes, Prince argues, making a mix of rail and trucking more efficient. Miller solves the problem by partnering with another driver. Each takes a 12-hour shift, which includes time for a pre-trip check, the required 30-minute break, and occasional restroom stops. Because they don’t need to stop overnight, it also reduces, but doesn’t eliminate, the time wasted looking for parking.

 

Even if it’s just for their 30-minute breaks, big-rig drivers need somewhere safe to stop their trucks. The more trucks on the road, the harder it is to find. “There’s a lot of parking out in the rural areas, but that’s not where I’m delivering to,” says Miller. “I might be delivering to Kansas City, where there’s no parking, so now I have to stop my day early where there is parking.” That means lower earnings. The problem is particularly bad in the Northeast, where open land is expensive and lots of freight, including fresh produce, needs to move into major urban areas. After evening deliveries in northern New Jersey, says Miller, “I have to drive all the way back out to Pennsylvania,” about 80 miles. That means more than an hour of driving — time deducted from the 11-hour day — that isn’t progress toward a delivery. It also wastes the fuel that constitutes a third of operating costs.

Things Aren’t Normal

As our nation tries to reunite kids who were kidnapped, it’s certainly quite a challenge: Trump-admin-struggling-to-comply-with-reunification-mandate.  Rubin offers these insights: so-much-for-caring-for-strangers.  And just imagine what Rubin imagines: morning-bits-imagine-we-had-a-normal-president.  Here’s a lady shown in the next link wearing a green shirt, presumably a Trumpeter, using some of Trump’s favorite bigoted/xenophobic lines.  If this lady happens to have a husband & family, please pray for them: rapist-she-yelled-at-a-hispanic-man-shes-quoting-the-president-he-thought.  Voters do have an important responsibility coming up in practically saving democracy & fighting demagoguery: george-will-is-right-vote-the-gop-out.

 

Just Forget The World
With the holiday coming up, barring a major bombshell dropping on Russia, I’ll not send my next message until a week from now.  Much like I did before the Memorial Day weekend where I stated sometimes we need a break from the news, at that time I posted the Eddy Arnold song Make The World Go Away.  So here’s a more modern song in front of a huge outdoor crowd featuring the words Just Forget The World….

 

(Click on image for full video)