From the Editors: Jobs and the Elections
As the political campaign intensifies so do the efforts of the major candidates to not talk about the central issue by talking all around it. That central issue is a program dealing with the economic destruction caused by the ongoing replacement of human labor by electronics. Romney and Obama attack each other over the creation of jobs as if a job is created politically rather than economically. Neither candidate dare talk concretely about creating jobs, since it calls into question the entire capitalist system.
Whether fixing your automobile or society, you cannot solve a problem you cannot describe. First, let us describe the problem. What is a job? The employer “hires” you. That is exactly the correct term. He agrees to pay you ten dollars for each hour worked. He does not agree to pay you for what you do, but for your ability to work for that specific time. That is why the radicals of yesteryear talked of “wage slavery.” The slave’s ability to work is bought and sold for a lifetime; the modern worker is sold by the hour. The slave’s value is the cost of his or her production. The worker’s wage is pegged to the cost of reproducing his ability to work plus the cost of raising the next generation of workers. The difference between the cost of producing the worker, i.e., wages and the value of what the worker produces, has always been great. It became greater with every labor saving device.
Labor saving means producing more with the same wage. However, a commodity is worth the value of labor involved in its production. Therefore, if there is more production at less cost — it becomes cheaper to produce the worker and the real wage falls accordingly. Real wages have fallen steadily since 1975. Each increase in productivity diminishes the workers’ share and increases the capitalist’s share. Thus, an irreversible polarization of wealth and poverty increases — not because of “greed,” but that’s the way the system works. The employers see the danger in this — but the market will only accept the cheapest product, so there is no going back to yesteryear.
As the search to lower production costs intensified, it was inevitable that a divide would be reached and machinery that totally replaced labor rather than assisting it would be developed. The introduction of robotics has changed the whole game.
Production without labor means job categories disappear forever — like the bowman or mule-skinner. Jobs that exist are paying lower and lower wages as robotics expands. The economic order is disintegrating.
What is the Situation Today?
Millions are living in poverty, including many who have never before known poverty. “Today, 15% of the USA — one in six Americans — are considered poor… Now among the poor,” writes Marisol Bello in her USA Today article “The New Face of Poverty,” are the college-educated, the former middle-class worker, the suburbanite and the homeowner.”
Citing U.S. Census Bureau figures, she writes:
• A record number of Americans are living in poverty — 46 million. That’s more than at any time since the Census Bureau began tracking poverty data in 1959.
• The number of families below the poverty line rose 18%, from 7.3 million in 2006 to 8.6 million in 2010. The poverty line [in 2010] was a household income of $22,314 or less for a family of four.
• More people living in the nation’s suburbs are poor. The number of poor people living in the suburbs of metropolitan areas rose 24%, from 14.4 million in 2006 to 17.8 million [in 2010]. By comparison, the number of poor living in central cities rose by 20%.
• Those who have not worked during the previous 12 months make up an increasing share of the poor. The number of poor people 16 and older who had not worked during the previous year increased by 28% from 2006 to 2010.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ U-6 measure of unemployment includes total unemployed, discouraged workers and the marginally attached, plus part-time workers who say they would like to be working more, but for economic reasons could only find parttime work. The U-6 unemployment rate was 14.5 percent in April 2012. “The marginally attached are people who are neither working nor looking for work, but indicate they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the last year. But they aren’t counted as unemployed, because they didn’t actively search for work in the last four weeks.” (FactCheck.org, 2012)
Other economists put the actual unemployment rate even higher. One alternative estimate by the economist John Williams puts the real unemployment rate in early April 2012 at about 22 percent.
Almost 50.7 million Americans are without health insurance. An estimated 50 million people were unable to buy sufficient food at some point in 2009. The demand at food banks is increasing even in upper income neighborhoods. One in four children are hungry. Rising numbers of Americans are going without water and heat in their homes. The list goes on and on.
The talk about creating jobs flies in the face of this reality. The only way to create jobs is to turn back the pages of time. Other economic systems have gone out of existence with the introduction of new equipment. There is nothing holy about capitalism. Capitalism is at its end.
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011