Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


The American Mind

The devaluation of labor

William Hillman

(9/2016) Life is so much more than just satisfying the basic needs. The human spirit needs a purpose. Individuals need something to build. No welfare state, no amount of monthly stipend can satisfy the needs of the human spirit. When we are prevented from being productive, we can become destructive.

As the devaluation of labor continues to spread across the country, and through the job market, will the destruction of the human spirit follow?

The middle class and below continue to fall further behind. On the surface, the latest job numbers look good, with 287,000 new payrolls added. Unfortunately, a big percent of these "new jobs" were striking Verizon workers returning to work. Of the jobs actually created, most were low paying hospitality and healthcare. The participation rate is anemic and the number of unemployed working-age men has never been lower.

Prosperity is never coming back to the inner cities. The wastelands that we see in Detroit, Philadelphia, and Baltimore etc. will not go away. The violence and despair may be permanent. Get used to it. And it's going to keep spreading.

During the early and mid part of the last century, there was a massive migration of African-Americans from the South to the cities of the North. This migration was spurred by the post-war manufacturing expansion. The cities offered good paying semi-skilled jobs. Taxes from the manufacturing industries fueled generous welfare and a support network.

All this collapsed. Foreign trade agreements, cheap foreign labor, the invention of intermodal shipping containers all contributed to those factories leaving the cities and heading overseas. Those that did stay modernized and automated. Cheap skilled labor in the cities was no longer needed. The people in the cities were no longer needed.

What to do with the inner city population? The answer that came from the progressive elite was simple. We just pay them off. Provide enough money for subsistence. Feed them and put them in housing. Provide food and shelter and a monthly check for other needs. What else could anyone want?

We now see how dangerous this thinking is. The human spirit needs more than to just survive.

My entire life I've considered myself a capitalist, but true capitalism may have a very real flaw. A very large part of capitalism is the accumulation of capital or "wealth".

The end of capitalism is everything owned by one person and the cost of goods and labor is zero. The "invisible hand" of Adams, has been a great thing and still is. But have we passed the point of "division of labor" and are now on a path to eliminate labor.

The manufacturing jobs that provide enough to support an entire family are gone. We have reached a point where repetitive manufacturing, semi-skilled, and even highly skilled jobs are priced so cheap via automation and cheap foreign labor. It is not that anyone has taken them, or there is some great conspiracy beyond maximizing profits. Labor evolution has led us to this point.

Massive immigration will just fuel this fire. As will trade deals that benefit corporate profits and foreign workers at the expense of American workers.

These trade deals made over the last 20 years may have increased the standard of living for the already wealthy in this nation and the poor in China, India, etc., but they have done so at the expense of the middle class and the poor in our own Nation.

In the Dicken’s novel "Bleak House", there is a caricature named, Mrs. Jellyby. She is obsessed with helping some far-off African tribe. Blinded by her "telescopic philanthropy," she ignores the needs of the children around her and her own community. Charity begins at home.

We, as a nation, can give Iran half a billion dollars without blinking, but will cast aside 1,000 of our own textile workers to save a penny per shirt.

Let us take a short glance at the race for President.

At the time I write this, we are two weeks from labor day, five weeks from the first debate, and 11 weeks until the election. Traditionally, not much that happens before Labor Day matters much in these campaigns.

It seems that Donald Trump can’t open his mouth without the media dissecting his words and then editing them to suit their narrative of hate and anger. The first big brush-up concerned the comments he made about the Khan family and their nasty speech about Trump during the DNC. It’s interesting that the media conveniently forgets that Mr. Khan threw the first punches. They also ignored the majority of the interview in question where Trump compliments the service of Khan’s son and family. The entire episode was ginned-up.

It has been reported that the Khan family was paid $25,000 to make the speech. The speech was not written by Mr. Khan, but Bill Clinton’s wife’s staffers. The copy of the Constitution he used as a prop was bought hours before the speech and then returned after the speech. Mr. Khan is an immigration lawyer in New York and his firm is deeply in debt. He owes $850,000 in back taxes. Supposedly, five other gold star families were asked to speak at the convention and all refused.

My favorite mass media repackage was the crying baby. When I first heard the report I couldn’t believe Trump said those words and had actually kicked a baby out of his rally. Well, I went to YouTube and watched. Once again, what was reported had no basis in reality. The video clearly shows Trump interacting, joking, and having fun with the mother and her baby. In interviews after the event, even the mother of the child did not understand what all the hype was about. She is a big Trump supporter and had a great time.

While Trump’s been tripping over his words, Bill Clinton’s wife is sinking deeper and deeper into her email scandal. Besides the litany of federal laws that she willingly and unapologetically broke, Clinton’s wife insists she’s above the law. Investigations into the latest emails released show correlation between donations to the Clinton Foundation and access to her State Department. I can think of no worse crime, short of outright murder, than the sale of government regulations and laws. The influence of lobbyists and campaign donors is bad enough, but Clinton’s wife has brought this insanity to a whole new stratosphere. Clinton’s wife believes in a two-door access to government: one for the wealthy and well guarded, that's always open with an express elevator to the top, and one for the rest of America. We are not sure when that door opens. We are told that door is for us, but the guard does not let us in. Much like the door of justice in Kafka’s "The Trial."

Read other articles by Bill Hillman