Monday, March 16, 2015

Working Hard Doesn't Work

Middle-Class Betrayal? Why Working Hard Is No Longer Enough in America - NBC

Anyone that grew up on a small dairy farm knew LONG ago that working VERY hard has NEVER been a guarantee of any sort of life -- even being able to keep the farm, as many small dairies went bust and have been superseded by multi-thousand cow mega automated farms.

Choosing to be a librarian as this young woman did was also never the road to riches, and with the advent of computers and the internet, it has the kind of flavor of becoming a blacksmith as the auto catches on. People have always needed to pay attention to what was happening around them as they selected a career at which to work.

All that aside, the tone and many of the facts of the article are true for our time -- MUCH as many articles were in the late '70s and early '80s, the last time we were in a long term "malaise".

At some point, we will have to compete again in the world. People will stop saying things like "Well, you can't compete with Chinese slave labor wages making a $1 a day" (or some other suitably small number). No, we ARE competing -- with China, India, Brazil, etc, etc -- we are just competing badly, which is known as LOSING.

Back in the '30s we made a determination -- as Europe did as well, that it was possible for a nation to provide a "safety net" of increasing capability that was available to ALL, independent of their earnings. Today, our labor participation is the lowest in non-depression history, our Federal debt is over $18T and rising, and that "safety net" for the elderly at least is an unfunded liability (meaning a promise to pay with no cash or assets to back it up) of $60T or so as of 2030.

Those of us lucky enough to have worked hard in a reasonably lucrative career and even saved money find themselves between a risk rock and a tax hard place. Pull a little too much money out of our accounts full of stocks and other financial instruments, supposedly safer, but still paper, and we get a big AMT tax surprise. ... That particular problem is a little too personal ;-(

Economic collapse is natures way of settling the books when poor assumptions are made about the way things work. As the Bible says in Thessalonians: 'For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either."

There is nothing any more profound in that statement in the long run than "What goes up must come down". Create a system in which people believe that work is optional, and to some degree even worse, lose the drive to invent, create and risk in search of new sorts of  riches and lifestyles beyond the imagination of most, and the end is certain. We will come down. 

There is no certain positive outcome from innovation, risk and hard work, BUT, there is a certain outcome from playing it safe, sloth, and looting those that continue to work hard. 

I believe all of us understand this in our souls -- Gordon Gekko was wrong in the movie" Wall Street" when he said that "Greed is good". It isn't, it is a deadly sin, but it is better than Envy -- also a deadly sin. Greed is an active sin, it can provide drive. Lust is often bad -- but again, it is active, it is better than apathy which drives nothing at all. 

To be human is to be imperfect. Inequality of outcome is imperfect -- but so definitely is human administered EQUALITY of outcome, because it has MANY costs, not the least of which is taking resources by force from those who earned them and passing them to others that did not. In doing so, all are corrupted -- those that take, those that receive, and those from whom their earnings are taken. 

Working hard was never a guarantee, but as we have increasingly focused a lot of our "working hard" on the corruption of our system, it increasingly fails. We all fail. 

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