Tag Archives: unemployment

Think people don’t want to work? Post a job and see

24 Nov

Job Fair Held In Midtown Manhattan

I hear more and more people complaining about shiftless hordes who don’t want to work. Maybe they know something I don’t, but when a supermarket near my house opened, 10,000 people applied for 400 jobs.

At a convenience market where I buy coffee, a cashier was complaining about her job, remarking how things are done differently at the other two places where she works.

There was a time when nearly everyone could work a single job, or perhaps two, and survive. Not so today. Wal-Mart has made billions for its founders but in Canton, Ohio, one store found it necessary to hold a food drive for its own employees.

The poor work, but still draw resentment.

John R. Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, told his cabinet, “I’m concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor. That if you’re poor, somehow you’re shiftless and lazy.”

When the poor ask for more, the rich counter with charges of class warfare – hiding the fact that such a war actually is being waged in the opposite direction, and with great effectiveness.

I fully understand the propensity of the rich to take and hold all they can. Despite the efforts of Christianity and the other great religions, intense greed is endemic.

But why do so many average people believe that social programs primarily serve the indolent?

For sure, there are cheats. Lots. Nothing sends off a member of the middle class like watching someone use food stamps for groceries then buy cigarettes with cash. (This isn’t even cheating.) Such stories, sadly, prevent the recognition of real need.

In America, we are all tense and frustrated and filled with resentment and fear and sometime hate. For the angry Middle Class, the easiest target is the unemployed, who have come to represent a fault-filled force that siphons off taxes. Without such targets, many people would have a tough time getting through the day.

What can we do to stop this inner angst, this potentially explosive and destructive energy? We’d be so much better off without it.

Maybe the remedy is safe, secure, fair-wage jobs and the return of a culture of opportunity and equal advancement.

People find happiness in work, not welfare.

Corporations all over the U.S. are holding billions in cash. Might there be investment and jobs somewhere in those stashes? If we’ve all got to vent, why not send a little steam up instead of down? It’s time to stop wasting energy trying to disband a phantom nation of the lazy. It’s time to get to the real problem.

Lanny Morgnanesi



The End of Jobs

6 Oct

Imagine there were no jobs.

         Virtually none. There would still be someone running General Motors, but not a soul would be building cars.Nearly everything in America would be done with robotics, programming or overseas labor. This includes the service sector, law, medicine, education and government. Algorithms, for example, would take the places of judges, lawyers and the town council.

Cops, of course, would be cyborgs.

You get the idea.

Now the question.

If no one worked, could everyone still get paid?

Part of our economic problem today is unemployment. People who don’t work have no money and don’t consume, which leads to higher unemployment, recession and general nastiness. In some cases, businesses increase productivity and profits from layoffs. But with fewer and fewer employees overall, demand ultimately is bound to fall for all products and services.

There’s a story from the 1950s about Walter Reuther, then head of the United Auto Workers. He was taking a tour of a modern, highly mechanized Ford plant that used robots to build cars. Ford execs were on the tour and one said to Reuther, “How are you going to collect union dues from those guys?”

Reuther answered, “How are you going to get them to buy cars?”

You can’t, but you can still sell cars if you pay the people the robots replaced. Pay them for doing nothing. Give them the ultimate is a short workweek.

There was a time when the workweek was long. Not 40 hours or five days. It was at least six days, maybe seven. People put in 70 hours or more. This was necessary to produce the things we needed. With the advent of industrialization, people were able to work less – and still pretty much get the same pay.


When the U.S. was a bold nation in the 50s, living well through science and experiencing the atomic age and the space age, there was this idea that greater efficiency in the work place would allow people to work less and have more leisure time. They were using the paradigm that reduced work from 70 hours to 40 hours.

Now, in a more realistic age, we know that doesn’t happen.

When you don’t need workers, you don’t reduce their hours. You fire them.

It seems ridiculous that people believed businesses and corporations would actually pass profit from productivity back to workers and let them go home early.

So what happens when there are no workers?

Maybe the paradigm shifts again.

If no workers means no consumption, and no consumption means no profit, then people might actually have to be paid for doing no work. It would be a cost of doing business. It would keep business running.

What I’ve described here is mainly a mental exercise that is much more exercise than mental. Can an economist out there, someone who studies such things, tell me whether this would work?

One final note:

In 1780, John Adams wrote something complex that later was boiled down to: “I’m a soldier so my son can be a farmer and his son can be a poet.”

He was expressing the utopian progression of civilization from barbarism to domesticity to enlightenment.

The no-job economy will either take us back to the first stage or ahead to the last. I’m not sure who will decide which.

Maybe an algorithm.

All right, now let’s hear from those economists.

—  By Lanny Morgnanesi


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