As Americans are losing their mediocre, fairly crappy-paying jobs left and right (the U.S. Department of Labor reports 247,000 jobs lost in July alone), the choices they find laid out before them are getting ever slimmer. High-priced spin doctors can try to paint a sunny, happy face on the economic climate, but the real outlook is grim, and getting grimmer.
Job training sounds great, but that isn't always the case. Too often, training-program participants emerge hundreds or thousands of dollars lighter with an irrelevant skill set and a paper certificate. Some training is actually just recruitment for a corporation whose goal is to pay the lowest wages it can. Here, a trainee gets the skills necessary for a low-paying, short-lived job, if he is lucky. There are a lot of people in line for that very same job, and many are willing to do it even cheaper.Consider a common scenario many businesses face: the domestic price of raw material for a given item is often greater than the finished imported product's price. This illustrates a striking trade imbalance, outsourced and perpetuated by the nation's leading corporations. These are the same corporations who lobby for, and succeed in passing, every piece of legislation they need to facilitate their business agendas.
But wait, what about the big boom in clean- and green-tech markets? Aren't there emerging, sustainable business models that need many new workers? According to the Fortune 500, the top five revenue growth industries in the United States in 2008 were oil and gas, mining and crude oil, petroleum refining, engineering and construction, with pipelines ranking No. 1.
So there's the national focus, that's where the money is, and that's what dictates policy. After all, business dictates policy like the chicken and the egg. Nothing has a chance at legislation without a well-funded lobby behind it. In existing government process, monetary support is the only real factor effecting policy. This monetary support doesn't come from voting; it comes from corporations whose profits primarily depend on bleeding the American consumer, and secondarily bleeding anyone who has any blood left to bleed. The "customers" are actually targets and victims. This is how policy in America is dictated, and it is not a democratic process.
The downward pressure on wages is real and not temporary. The number of people looking for work is not going down, it's going up. The populations of California, the United States and the world are growing, not shrinking. The fact is that simple economic principles like supply and demand are as real as our need for water and oxygen, and won't go away. This means that as long as there are more workers than work, wages will continue to fall.
This is great news if you are in the top percent of the corporate class. Most corporations require a steady stream of cheap labor to maintain existing revenues, and cheap labor can be the antidote for a corporation hemorrhaging cash, assets and total value. For some, cheap labor is the difference between operating a business vs. closing up shop.
A steady stream of cheap labor can also be essential in negotiations, like when a labor pool begins to realize that wages won't pay for the costs of living. Representatives for labor will start making demands, and vocally unhappy workers are bad publicity. So make way for a new batch of labor, dying for a chance at low wages. Indeed, workers can age and get injured, and both conditions are terrible for profit margins. Lowered production simply will not stack up when the beans get counted.
It's not hard to see how the lack of an immigration policy directly puts money into corporate coffers. It's also easy to see how that money finds its way into government via the lobby system—certainly no secret. And if anybody still really believes that their single individual vote has an influence, go ask your leading lobbyist how much your vote is worth to him. Be prepared to listen to a hearty laugh.
Jason Schwartz is a freelance writer living in Santa Rosa.
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