Friday, June 21, 2013

Shortage of Skilled Workers in America - Symptom of America's Self-inflicted Decline

Recent immigration related headlines informs us that the American tech industry has too many jobs and too few skilled workers.  What is the tech industry's solution?  Lobby congress for support of the Immigration Innovation Act, which would increase the number of H-1B temporary work visas.

The demand for H-1B visas to work in the U.S. is so high that the federal government announced it would use a lottery to award them.   There is an annual cap of 65,000, plus another 20,000 visas for workers with a master’s degree or higher on these visas, which are awarded to foreign workers with theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, including scientists, engineers, and programmers.  An additional caveat for awarding these visas is that the bearer of these visas, by law, must be paid the same as Americans doing the same work.

I know that in the scheme of things, the issuance of a seemingly paltry 85,000 temporary work visas seems small, even inconsequential, in the face of America's huge unemployment problem.  But, the demand for H-1B visas, and the tech industries urgent congressional lobbying efforts, are evidence of a larger and more pernicious problem in America, dwindling access to necessary quality lower education and higher education. 

Who's at fault for the destruction of the American public education system and more importantly for the dramatic reduction of state and federal programs to insure the nutrition, crucial to the learning process, of the poor children who populate our public school systems? 

When a corporation entertains a consideration moving to a state and municipality, it has likely indicated that such a move is contingent on tax breaks, which results in little or no increase in state or municipal revenue.  Add to this the low income tax rate enjoyed by the corporation owners, CEO's, and investors, and an electorate intolerable of any tax increase to make up the resultant revenue shortfall.  As a result, state and municipalities have cut a host of many necessary services like fire and police departments.  But because fire and police are so important to the electorate, state and municipalities have directed much of the impact of revenue shortfalls to education.

Many of the same dynamics are play in pushing the prospects of a college education beyond most American families.  The growing income inequality is fueled by flattened wages for workers, to accommodate exploding CEO pay.  And, the cost of a college education is also increasing to levels many families simply can't afford.

So the shortage of skilled workers in America is a direct result of corporate tax breaks to, and lower income tax rates for, the same people who are complaining of a shortage of skilled workers in America. And their solution is to lobby for an increase in the number of H-1B temporary work visas.  Where is the American outrage?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Didn't See This Coming.

Did anyone, could anyone have, imagined that in the 21st century, the election of America's first African American president would have been met with a degree of congressional racist obstructionism that would threaten the very economic viability of our nation?  For most of us, it was expected that there would be some kind of racist reaction from the electorate, and for many of us, this included the possibility of harm to the first black president.

I don't think anyone in either political party, on either side of the congressional aisle, expected the magnitude of congressional reaction, until it happened. At that point, congress went from being a presidential rubber stamp, to a virtual impenetrable wall of presidential obstructionism.  OK, granted the previous president was Republican, and the black president isn't, and the House is.

While the Senate is Democratic numerically, it isn't with the current level of filibuster abuse.  Regular congressional business, that would normally be conducted irrespective of who was president, like raising the debt ceiling and passing farm bills, had become, with the black president, no longer possible.

But as the inauguration of the unthinkable approached, Republicans called a clandestine meeting on Inauguration Day to consider their unthinkable strategy.  They decided that they would bring the American government to a halt rather than consider, much less facilitate, this president's agenda.  OK, granted, despite all evidence to the contrary, they were operating under the assumption that this president's agenda was Marxist, Socialist, anti-Capitalist, and Kenyan.  So, I can appreciate some fear from their conservative capitalist perspective.

However, well into this president's first four years, when it had to become obvious to Republican that not only is this president not Marxist, Socialist, anti-Capitalist, and Kenyan, he might be more of a centrist than even Clinton.  This is the Democratic president that offered the "Grand Bargain" in his first term and Social Security Chained CPI (an actual "entitlement" cut) in his second term. 

But the Republicans decided to stay the course, they set in that January 2009 strategy meeting.  As a result, they found themselves embracing a level of hypocrisy heretofore unseen in human history.  They found themselves blocking bills and legislative concepts they had even previously authored or coauthored.

Hypocrisy is one thing, but governmental gridlock, and playing "Chicken" with America's economy is another.  What's worse is you get the distinct impression that there are those in the Republican side of congress, who not only want to bring America to the precipice of ruin, but over it.  All because electing a black president made possible the election of these insane and racist Republicans.

The Dismantling of the American Middle Class

Contrary to popular thought, the middle class hasn’t really disappeared.  It just moved back to its previous location, to what I call the “subsistence class”.  So, we're not headed towards a society of just “haves or have not’s”. It's more like a society of haves, have little, and have not's.
For much of human history, there were just three classes of economic existence: the rich, the subsistence and the poor.  In the middle ages, the subsistence class is easily recognized by its groveling to landlords and bosses to barely keep their families fed, housed, and clothed.  Not much has really changed.  The poor, having virtually no safety net, merely depended on the meager scraps from the tables of their subsistence neighbors. Often in history, there was little that differentiated the poor and subsistence class.

The concept of the “middle class” is historically, a very recent economic construct.  Born during the Machine Age in the 19th century, greatly expanded by Keynesian economics in post WWII economies, it becomes a fourth economic class, that augments the subsistence class, but not replacing it.
The birth of the middle class in America should have meant the insertion of a more attainable class for all American Dreamer to aspire to.  In reality, with the firm entrenchment of America racist legacy, the middle class just became another level of upward dependency for a subsistence class, made up largely of racial minorities. 

With the rich getting richer, and Republicans shifting taxes from the rich to the middle class, the only available class with sufficient income to tax, the rich, beginning with Ronald Reagan, began to openly exploit the post 60’s latent racism of the middle class.
I often pondered why the middle class is apparently so antithetical to capitalism, when it fueled the growth of wealth enjoyed by the capitalist?  Could it be that such a class, with access to good and higher education, with well earned job security, demands for pay equity, prove to be an future obstacle to unfettered capitalist greed? 
Nope.   While the consumerism of the middle class could contribute to their coffers, to the rich, the middle class were just unnecessary middle men (and women).  The rich just wanted to reclaim the wealth that would have been theirs had the middle class not existed.  They sensed that the America’s middle class, overwhelmingly white and male dominated, with its veins of racism, was ripe for exploitation.

As the racial minorities of the subsistence class began to avail itself of better than subsistence wages, mostly through the efforts of public sector unions, the rich, with a stratagem worth its weight in gold, turned the middle class in on itself, by convincing the middle class, who owes its existence to unions, that unions, with their demands for fare wages, job safety and security, and healthcare and retirement benefits, are what’s wrong with our economy.  Unions were getting pay increases for people who didn't deserve jobs, much less raises.  Unions had to be stopped or the middle class would face more tax increases, for the "job creators" and corporations could not possibly bear any additional taxes (or any taxes at all).

As corporations and the rich were granted tax cuts, coupled with jobs being moved off shore, the resultant decrease in tax revenues stretched budgets to breaking points, providing newly elected Republican governors, with their middle class and poor electorate, the ammunition to kill off more unions.  Having drunk the Kool-Aid the rich generously served, spiked with their own racism, the American middle class, simply dismantled itself. 

Around Feb 2011, America heard a very loud collective WTF (in the form of huge protest and rallies) as Wisconsin pondered what the hell had they elected to their state's government.  But it was too late.  They had already cut their collective throats to spite their collective faces.
Oh, lest we forget the poor!  What’s happening to them, as the middle class is in its death throes?  As budgets tightened, their needs are increasingly neglected, while their ranks grow grotesquely unsustainably large, as more flow down from the subsistence and middle class.  I guess it’s going to take all 99% joining the ranks of the poor before we finally address what is the grotesque greed of the 1%.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thoughtfully Ending George W's Unthought-out Wars

There are wars that need to be fought.  There are wars that shouldn’t even be considered.  In between are wars, whose purpose lurks somewhere between hype and compelling, in which defining when one has won, appear as elusive as its purpose.   Since WWII, which meets the first criteria, all of America’s wars have met the second criteria.   With incredible loss of life and treasure, the U.S. went to war only to stop the fall of dominoes of our preferred economic system from falling towards an adversarial economic system.   The first of those wars ends with the establishment of the 38th Parallel between two sovereign nations, who are technically still in a state of war, and the one not friendly to America, having nukes.  Another war in a nation the size of New England, which ends with the U.S. in full retreat, highlighted by Americans pushing perfectly good recently arrived helicopter off of carrier flight decks to make room for other incoming helicopters desperately evacuating Americans as the Viet Cong victors occupy Saigon.
George W.  Bush, and his neocon handlers, having lived through this sordid war history, did not learn from that history.  Not only did Bush seek out a new impossible war to prosecute, but his administration faked the intelligence to get Congress, the American people, and the world to go along with him with his Iraqi war.  Having already started the Afghanistan war, Bush abruptly drained the resources of this war, which was considered a just response to 9/11, to prosecute the fake war in Iraq.  This time, the feared falling dominoes were that of friendly oil countries falling and turning into unfriendly oil countries.   He later dismissed the need to find and bring to justice the persons responsible for 9/11, Osama Bin Laden and his organization, Al-Qaida.
The question of Obama being the same, or worst, than Bush is clearly answered.  President Obama hasn’t sought any new wars.  In fact, he avoided troop, and even pilot involvements in both Libya and Syria.  President Obama, missed opportunities for more aggressive troop draw downs in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  But, perhaps the logistics and/or political will to end wars appear to be much more difficult to divine than that needed to start wars.  I feel we should cut our losses in Afghanistan and pull all of our troops.
President Obama, having inherited both of Bush’s wars, spent his presidency getting us out of one war and winding down our involvement in the other.  His presidency has resulted in finding and the taking out Bin Laden, and the severe crippling of Al-Qaida.  But, did Bin Laden’s death, or the diminution of Al-Qaida, mean we won the war on terrorism?    
What of the war on terrorism?  Is it hype?  Or is Al-Qaida’s declared war on modernity and those they feel export it, a compelling threat to U.S. national security?  If so, the question becomes, how you prosecute such a nebulous war.  Put boots on the ground?  Invade Pakistan, Yemen, etc with troops?  Pay Pakistan, Yemen, etc to eradicate the threat?  Or continue Bush’s use of unmanned drones, to perform surgical targeted killing of terrorist, with as little collateral losses and damage as possible.  If so, when do we stop?  When do we know we’ve won the war?  Has the use of drones mitigated terrorist attacks on the U.S.?  If the answers to these questions are unknowable, it might be time to call in the drones, until Congress, the Executive branch, and the military write rules of engagement consistent with our and international laws, and values.  
These are hard questions that are, no doubt, under careful consideration by President Obama, but would only warranting a neocon kneejerk reaction, and a deepening quagmire under President Bush.  Obama same as Bush?  In Bush's dreams.