Our current employment numbers do not reflect the unfortunate reality. The Republicans in Washington have pushed the economy in the direction that would have thrilled the robber barons at the turn of the 20th century. First of all, companies’ profits are increasing because they are part of a buyer’s market. They can keep wages low because their Republican friends in power are doing everything they can to break the strength of labor unions.
If you’re just out of college, lots of luck finding a full-time job with benefits. Many kids in their 20s are still living at home while balancing two part-time jobs, neither of which has health benefits. My friends who are in the 50s and are laid off have a better chance of hitting the lottery than they do of finding another comparable job. Instead, they now have to list themselves as “consultants.” That means occasional gigs with no security, no benefits, and steady source of income.
It’s utterly stupid for the wealthy to believe that they are smart in keeping wages down because that means there are less middle-class people to buy their products. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. Still, with a pre-occupation on short-term gains, employers continue to push for contract workers rather than full-time employers. Sure, it gives them more flexibility in hard times, but it’s a two-way street. I remember years ago working for a private company headed by a guy with vision. He treated his employees fairly. The result was that no one left at five. People left when they felt they’d finished the job. They cared about the quality of their work because they knew their leader cared about them.
Contrast that attitude with a manufacturing company I worked for that paid its employees weekly. One reason is that they cut put in a pink slip of paper that terminated the employee with no other notice. That’s probably where the term “pink slip” came from. No one stood in front of the main doors at five pm because they would be run over by the employees who did not want to give the company one minute more than they were contracted for.
Uber has made a fortune on the backs of employees. If there’s an accident, Uber argues that their driver is responsible because he is not really an employee. Health benefits? You have to be kidding. The hourly wages sound appealing, but employees find that after parking tickets, toll road charges, gas, and car maintenance, they earn less than minimum wage.
I talked recently with a man who used to run a small advertising agency. Now he says people will contract on an hourly basis with a free lancer to produce an ad on a PC. It’s tough for free lancers to plan their lives because they don’t have a steady source of income. How can you buy a house or send a kid to college if you don’t know what you are going to make the next month?
Fat cats argue that we live in the world of free enterprise where people are only limited by their desire and brains. That’s a lot of hogwash. It all ties in with the old Calvinistic theory that God gives people what they deserve. So, if someone is poor, they deserve to be poor because of their own failings. This is a wonderful theory for wealthy folks to have because it implies that God has rewarded them because they deserve it.
This helps to explain Donald Trump’s lack of compassion for the poor. If God thought they were as worthy as he, they would be wealthy. Of course, the poor did not have a father who started them off with a couple of million dollars.
Jeb Bush recently came out with a statement on Social Security that reflected the attitude of traditional Republicans. They never have forgiven Franklin Roosevelt for pushing that bill through. They argue that people should have the opportunity to invest their own social security money. Of course, that benefits the biggest supporters of the GOP, Wall Street. People with no financial training should not be thrown into a financial jungle. Wall Street would take a cut out of every financial transaction. Bush argues he is empathetic for poor people. After all, he fell in love with a Mexican. So much for compassionate conservatism.
So, the sharing economy simply means that the wealthy take an increased share from the poor and the declining middle class. If we don’t do something in the next few years, our country will resemble the poor countries of Central America where a few families are incredibly wealthy and live in guarded communities while the poor have nothing.