Opinion

WALLY'S WORLD: Neither party willing to deal with sick economy

Well gang, in the last year it has become quite apparent our economy is more screwed up than anyone suspected and there’s no quick fix on the horizon.

Though the chairman of the Federal Reserve said he won’t let it happen, it’s beginning to look like another recession is possible – the so-called “double dip.” The latest statistics indicate businesses are ordering fewer goods, have stopped hiring and, though they may have no plans to retract, they also have no plans to invest in future projects. Sales of both old and new homes are at the lowest level in decades.

Last month, the unemployment rate more or less remained flat at 9.5 percent. It might have gone up or down a few ticks but, owing to the nature of statistics, we can’t say for sure. However, we can be certain actual unemployment is higher than this official figure because it doesn’t include those “workers” who have dropped out, quit trying to find a job and are living on the street. If these people were counted – as they should be – the official rate would be more than 10 percent. When you combine the unemployed with those who are working part-time at McDonald’s because they can’t find anything else, our employment situation is the worst we’ve seen since the 1930s.

U.S. businesses show few, if any, signs they intend to start hiring. In the past 10 years, they’ve had the worst job creation record since the Depression. This is especially true in the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing jobs are fleeing this country at an astounding rate, going to Mexico, China and India where the labor is cheap. Of late, politicians toy with the idea of taxing companies that send their jobs overseas, but the consequences of such a move may be more drastic and detrimental than imagined. If taxes in this country get too high, businesses may simply pull up stakes and move their headquarters and entire operations to Brazil. International corporations don’t necessarily have any allegiance or commitment to America.

But the lost of our manufacturing jobs isn’t the main problem. There’s something more profound going on. It’s a shift away from the Industrial and Manufacturing Age towards the so-called Digital Age.

In the future, there will be fewer and fewer jobs to go around. Small businesses and giant corporations will continue to make money, but the goods they produce won’t require much of a work force. Instead, robots and international computer links will handle things and many laid-off employees, waiting patiently to be re-hired, will discover their old positions have been eliminated. Gone forever. We better get used to double-digit unemployment figures because I don’t believe they’ll be coming down anytime soon.

It’s an economic change – really, an economic upheaval – that will raise hell with the American middle class. Most of the work created in the new economy won’t be the high-paying jobs that sustain the lifestyle we’ve known in years past. Apparently, the public at large senses this transformation because fully 45 percent of today’s parents feel their children will have a lower standard of living than they had.

Furthermore, it’s a social and economic adjustment that neither political party, Republican nor Democrat, is prepared to deal with. We’re breaking new ground here.

The next decade should be quite interesting. Hold on tight, friends, because at times the ride will get a little rough and bumpy.

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