Myth #3 about job creators: Jobs != Jobs

As Michael Moore accepted his Oscar for best documentary years ago, he said:

“We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where we have fictitious election results, that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons.”

I might have rephrased it as this:

Truth is, the powermongers never liked the idea of a plularistic society and power sharing; They just don’t know how to break up with us.

This is all prologue to what I’ll show you from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to explain why

“jobs != jobs.”

Today in America, work is not a vocation. Hours worked are not all of the same quality, and working a dull job that serves corporations at the expense of society lowers quality of life for all. We are not interchangable fungible elements in some industrial machine, and the commodities we produce do not all make the world a better place just because they make some people rich. The economy is not the some of its parts. We must examine the value of each thing produced, against the cost to produce it, if we are to maintain a functioning and growing global population.

Job growth by sector, 1970 to 2012

Please remember that over this time period, the US population grew a lot too.

  • In 1970 there were 203 million Americans.
  • In 2012 there are 315 million
  • = 50% increase.

First, job trends for people who make stuff.

Looks like our economy is falling off a cliff, right? Well, it is, and has been for over a decade. This is Globalization. People elsewhere make the stuff we buy. Duh.

Next: people who deal with money in the economy.

And now people who make money with words and through the business of business – a rather vague existence in my opinion. Can you call this a vocation?

Next: People to work with ideas (excluding scientists)

Last: People who produce social services that make society great

Government employees are a tiny part of the overall economy, but I’ll show you them here anyway. (In contrast, the military industrial intelligence surveillance security complex is colossal and yet difficult to even place within these categories. If they started tracking it as a sector, I think we’d see it has really grown in the last decade.)

Note that Under Obama government hiring has frozen for only the second time since 1970.

Note: Where are the scientists and engineers? My guess is that they are lumped in with education and health and manufacturing, and information technology. But to me they belong in their own category because the way they make the world a better place is fundamentally different – they provide a reality check.

And, overall job growth since 1970…

As you can see, job growth since 2010 seems to be increasing, but these increases are barely larger than the population. Also hidden in this overall job growth chart is a sea change in the structure of families. Since 1970, about twice as many people have jobs but the population of the US has only grown by 50%. This means that families have been forced to have both parents work. If I were a social conservative politician talking about “family values” I would be starting an effort to eliminate the forced labor of both parents out of economic necessity. I do think it is a trade off, and that we are better off having a national conversation about the trade offs where neither parent can stay home.

A broader and more accurate view of our economy should emphasize these other trends that short-term-thinking journalists seem to constantly forget:

(1) The population is getting bigger at an accelerating rate. Eventually overpopulation will overtake any ability economy’s ability to supply jobs.

(2) We’re becoming more urban. We produce less tangible stuff and more ethereal rubbish (like the vapor words that journalists get paid to type).

USA population growth from 1970 to 2010. Red areas had high growth and immigration, while Blue areas had low growth and the highest exodus rate.

(3) Our economy no longer generates vocations; it mass produces jobs. And the social value of what we individually produce is becoming less clear.

If you work in the military-industrial-surveillance-security complex, are you certain you make the world better place? Or do you suspect that you’re simply paid to spy on the good people? Is your information getting sold to corporations for data mining to learn how to obfuscate reality to the public, or sell more ethereal junk to the masses? These are valuable questions to ask.

(4) That straight line growth in health and education services is a bad thing. It reflects the ballooning costs of college, public schools, and healthcare – which are all economic burdens on workers and not ‘job creators’.

So the next time someone talks about ‘job creators’ tell them to shove that myth. If “Job Creators” is a shorthand code word for those people who through Wall Street investment are opening factories or empowering small businesses with loans, the evidence above shows that our economy’s growth is not a function of these sectors anymore. America doesn’t produce stuff.

At our best, America is a place that produces ideas, builds imagination and technology, and supports the infrastructure of a sound economic world. At our worst, we are a nation of wordsmithing paper-pushers and Wall Street market gamblers with no clue what we are doing and producing nothing of tangible value for societies anywhere. Every time someone talks about ‘Job Creators’ we inch closer to the world of intangible meaningless vocationless blobbiness. We (and journalists!) should keep asking ourselves whether each job created is adding value to society at lower unit cost, or simply ballooning our problems.

4 thoughts on “Myth #3 about job creators: Jobs != Jobs

  1. Interesting points made, I’d like to see more explanation of the meaning behind the graphs in section 1. You’re showing that manufacturing jobs went down but don’t point out why that matters to your overall thesis here and I think that is really where the point you’re trying to make stands tall.

    I would like to see a larger res version of the chart in section 2 just cause I can’t read it well right now.

    “The economy is not the some of its parts” –You meant to write “sum”.

    Also I’d like to understand how point 4 was arrived at. How does more jobs in health and education services reflect a rise in education costs?

    You have a good statistical base here but I feel like your point is made in the numbers and not your words. By trying to show me and not tell me I’m left to draw my own conclusions.

  2. I threw this together between morning run and work, so it shows. All the graphs are auto-generated by bureau of labor stats that has a REALLY GOOD DIY analysis website.

    I don’t think that the loss of manufacturing jobs is the fault of Bush, or Obama, or Clinton, or Government but is due to globalization alone. So against these macro trends that relate to overpopulation and the stresses it puts on growth-only models of capitalism, we conclude that elections should not be about our economy but about global trends and whether we’re doing the best we can against a larger trend.

    spoiler alert: neither presidential candidate will reverse these manufacturing job trends. But we can at least ensure that the rest of the economy adds value to our lives without costing more every year for the same results.

    Other evidence shows that the same quality of education & health in USA costs more, so I believe (but don’t prove) that the straight line growth in these sectors is associated with that diminishing quality.

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