The Beginning Of The End
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Goodbye Full-Time Jobs, Hello Part-Time Jobs, R.I.P. Middle Class

GraveyardA fundamental shift is taking place in the U.S. economy.  In fact, this transition is rapidly picking up momentum and is in danger of becoming an avalanche.  The percentage of full-time jobs in our economy is steadily declining and the percentage of part-time jobs is steadily increasing.  This is not a recent phenomenon, but now there are several factors which are accelerating this trend.  One of them is Obamacare.  The truth is that Obamacare actually gives business owners incentive to cut hours and turn full-time workers into part-time workers, and according to the Wall Street Journal and other prominent publications this is already happening all over the United States.  Perhaps this is part of the reasons why the U.S. economy actually lost 240,000 full-time jobs last month.

In a recent article entitled “Restaurant Shift: Sorry, Just Part-Time“, the Wall Street Journal explained the choices that employers are faced with thanks to Obamacare…

The Affordable Care Act requires employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent workers to offer affordable insurance to employees working 30 or more hours a week or face fines. Some companies have said the requirement could increase their costs significantly, although others have played down the potential hit.

The cost for small firms to comply with the health law will depend largely on the number of additional full-time employees that sign up for employer-sponsored coverage. Average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance in 2012 were $5,615 for single coverage and $15,745 for family coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That is up from $3,083 and $8,003, respectively, in 2002.

Thankfully the implementation of this aspect of Obamacare was recently delayed, but a lot of employers are saying that it won’t make a difference.  They know that it is coming at some point, and so they are already making the changes that they feel they will need to make in order to comply with the law…

Restaurant owners who have already begun shifting to part-time workers say they will continue that pattern.

“Does the delay change anything for us? Absolutely not,” Mr. Adams of Subway said, explaining that whether his health-care costs go up next year or in 2015, he will have to comply with the law. “We won’t start hiring full-time people.”

This is very sad, because we have already been witnessing a steady erosion of “breadwinner jobs” in this country.

It is very, very difficult to support a family if you just have a part-time job or a temp job.  But those are the jobs that our economy is producing these days.

In fact, if you can believe it, the second largest employer in the United States is now a temp agency.  Kelly Services is actually the second largest employer in the country after Wal-Mart.

Isn’t that crazy?

And full-time employment continues to lag far, far behind part-time employment.  The number of part-time workers in the United States recently hit a brand new all-time record high, but the number of full-time workers remains nearly 6 million below the old record that was set back in 2007.

For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “15 Signs That The Quality Of Jobs In America Is Going Downhill Really Fast“.

At this point, employees are increasingly considered to be expendable “liabilities” that can be dumped the moment that their usefulness is over.

For example, employees at one restaurant down in Florida were recently fired by text message

It’s bad enough losing your job, but more than a dozen angry employees say they were fired from a central Florida restaurant via text message.

Employees at Barducci’s Italian Bistro said they lost their jobs without notice after the restaurant suddenly closed and are still waiting for their paychecks.

This shift that we are witnessing is fundamentally changing the relationship between employers and employees in the United States.  The balance of power has moved very much toward the employers.

Most employers realize that there is intense competition for most jobs these days.  If you get tired of your job, your employer can easily go out and find a whole bunch of other people who would be thrilled to fill it.

So why has the balance of power shifted so dramatically?

Well, for one thing we have allowed millions upon millions of good paying jobs to be shipped out of the country.  Now American workers literally have to compete for jobs with workers on the other side of the planet that live in nations where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.

This should have never happened, but voters in both major political parties kept voting for politicians that were doing this to us.

Now we all pay the price.

Another factor is the rapid advancement of technology.

These days, businesses are trying use machines, computers and robots to automate just about everything that they can.  The following example comes from a recent Business Insider article

On a windy morning in California’s Salinas Valley, a tractor pulled a wheeled, metal contraption over rows of budding iceberg lettuce plants. Engineers from Silicon Valley tinkered with the software on a laptop to ensure the machine was eliminating the right leafy buds.

The engineers were testing the Lettuce Bot, a machine that can “thin” a field of lettuce in the time it takes about 20 workers to do the job by hand.

The thinner is part of a new generation of machines that target the last frontier of agricultural mechanization — fruits and vegetables destined for the fresh market, not processing, which have thus far resisted mechanization because they’re sensitive to bruising.

So what happens when the big corporations that dominate our economy are able to automate everything?

What will the rest of us do?

How will the middle class survive if they don’t need us to work for them?

Over the past couple of centuries, we have witnessed several fundamental shifts in our economy.

Once upon a time, a very high percentage of Americans worked for themselves.  There were millions of farmers, ranchers, small store owners, etc.

But then the industrial revolution kicked in to high gear and big corporations started to gain more power.  Millions of Americans went to work for these big corporations, but it was okay because they paid us good wages to work in their factories and the middle class thrived.

Unfortunately, the big corporations have realized that things have changed and that they don’t really need us anymore.  They can replace us with technology or with super cheap labor overseas.

So that leaves the rest of us in quite a quandry.  Very few of us own our own businesses.  In fact, the percentage of self-employed workers in the United States is at an all-time record low.  And the number of us that are needed by the monolithic corporations that dominate our system is dropping by the day.

All of this is very bad news for the middle class.  The only thing that most of us have to offer is our labor, and the value of our labor is continually declining.

Unless something dramatic happens, the future of the middle class looks very bleak.

We Are Witnessing The Death Of Small Business In America

Historically, small businesses have been the primary engine of new job creation in the United States.  If the economy was getting healthy, we would expect to see the number of jobs at new businesses rise.  Instead, we are witnessing just the opposite.  We are told that the economy is supposed to be “recovering”, but the number of “startup jobs” at new businesses has fallen for five years in a row.  According to an analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data performed by economist Tim Kane, there were almost 12 startup jobs per 1000 Americans back in the year 2006.  By 2011, that figure had fallen to less than 8 startup jobs per 1000 Americans.  According to Kane, the number of jobs in the United States at businesses that are less than one year old has fallen from 4.1 million in 1994 to 2.5 million in 2010.  Overall, the number of “new entrepreneurs and business owners” has fallen by more than 50 percent as a percentage of the population since 1977.  The United States was once known as “the land of opportunity”, but now that is fundamentally changing.  At this point we truly do have a “crisis of entrepreneurship” in this country, and that is a huge reason why America is in decline.  We are witnessing the slow death of the small business in America, and that is incredibly bad news for all of us.

Unfortunately, the problems that small businesses are experiencing right now have been building up for decades.  The economic environment for small businesses in America has become incredibly toxic.  Sadly, we can see this in the numbers.  According to Kane, the following is how the decline in the number of startup jobs per 1000 Americans breaks down by presidential administration

Bush Sr.: 11.3

Clinton: 11.2

Bush Jr.: 10.8

Obama: 7.8

Obviously, we are headed very much in the wrong direction.  Kane speculates about why this may be happening in his paper

There is anecdotal evidence that the U.S. policy environment has become inadvertently hostile to entrepreneurial employment. At the federal level, high taxes and higher uncertainty about taxes are undoubtedly inhibiting entrepreneurship, but to what degree is unknown. The dominant factor may be new regulations on labor.  The passage of the Affordable Care Act is creating a sweeping alteration of the regulatory environment that directly changes how employers engage their workforces, and it will be some time until those changes are understood by employers or scholars. Separately, there has been a federal crackdown since 2009 by the Internal Revenue Service on U.S. employers that hire U.S. workers as independent contractors rather than employees, raising the question of mandatory benefits. New firms tend to use part-time and contract staffing rather than full-time employees during the startup stage. According to Labor Department data, the typical American today only takes home 70 percent of compensation as pay, while the rest is absorbed by the spiraling cost of benefits (e.g., health insurance). The dilemma for U.S. policy is that an American entrepreneur has zero tax or regulatory burden when hiring a consultant/contractor who resides abroad. But that same employer is subject to paperwork, taxation, and possible IRS harassment if employing U.S.-based contractors. Finally, there has been a steady barrier erected to entrepreneurs at the local policy level. Brink Lindsey points out in his book Human Capitalism that the rise of occupational licensing is destroying startup opportunities for poor and middle class Americans.

Kane raises some very good points in his analysis.  Without a doubt, small businesses in the United States are being taxed into oblivion.  If you doubt this, just read this article.

And the regulatory environment for small businesses is more suffocating than it has ever been before.  Unfortunately, our politicians never seem to learn that lesson.  During his first term, Obama piled on mountains of new regulations, and now that he has won a second term he is preparing to unleash another massive wave of new regulations.

But many times the worst offenders are politicians on the state and local level.  There are some areas of the country (such as California) that have created absolutely nightmarish conditions for small businesses.  California had the worst “small business failure rate” in the country in 2010.  It was 69 percent higher than the national average.  And in 2011, the state of California ranked 50th out of all 50 states in new business creation.

Yet the politicians in California just continue to pile on even more regulations and even more taxes.

Sadly, this kind of thing is happening from coast to coast and it is killing off hordes of small businesses.  Just consider the following statistics…

-According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. economy lost more than 220,000 small businesses during the last recession.

-As a share of the population, the percentage of Americans that are self-employed fell by more than 20 percent between 1991 and 2010.

-As a share of the population, the percentage of “new entrepreneurs and business owners” dropped by a staggering 53 percent between 1977 and 2010.

-The average pay for self-employed Americans declined by $3,721 between 2006 and 2010.

So what needs to be done?

Well, first of all, the tax burden and the regulatory burden on small businesses both need to be greatly reduced.

Secondly, the balance of power in our nation needs to be dramatically shifted.  Conservatives run around talking about the need to reduce the power of government and liberals run around talking about the need to reduce the power of corporations, and actually both of them are right.

Our founding fathers intended to establish a Republic where power would never be concentrated in the hands of just a few.  That is why they tried to strictly limit the power of the federal government in the U.S. Constitution, and that is why they greatly restricted the size and scope of corporations in early America.  For much more on this, please see this article: “Corporatism Is Not Capitalism: 7 Things About The Monolithic Predator Corporations That Dominate Our Economy That Every American Should Know“.

Our founding fathers wanted to empower individual citizens and small businesses.  They never intended for us to have a system where big government and big corporations dominate everything and crush the “little guy” at every opportunity.

Even as we witness the death of the small business in America, corporations are absolutely thriving.  The following chart shows how corporate profits after tax have exploded to new record highs in recent years…

So has this been good for workers?  No, it has not translated into more jobs and higher wages.  In fact, wages and salaries as a percentage of GDP are now at an all-time low…

That is why it is imperative that we change “the rules of the game” so that the balance of power is shifted back in the direction of individual citizens and small businesses.  We desperately need to turn back to the principles that this nation was founded upon.

If nothing is done, these trends are going to get even worse.  Barack Obama certainly has no plans to reduce the size and the power of the government.  Since he was elected, an average of 101 new federal employees have been added to the government payroll every single day…

In the 1,420 days since he took the oath of office, the federal government has daily hired on average 101 new employees. Every day. Seven days a week. All 202 weeks. That makes 143,000 more federal workers than when Obama talked forever on that cold day in January of 2009.

And if nothing is done, the monolithic predator corporations that dominate our economy will just get even larger and even more powerful.  Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands more small businesses will close up shop all over the country.

Unfortunately, most Americans seem totally apathetic about these issues.  They seem content to wear “meggings“, watch “Honey Boo Boo” on television and let our government and corporate overlords run everything.  Most of them have even been brainwashed into believing that this is the American way of doing things.

So where do we go from here?

Well, this nation will probably continue to keep doing the same things that it has been doing, and it will continue to get the same results.

The death of small business in America is happening right in front of our eyes, and everybody can see it happening, but very few people are doing anything to stop it.

If You Are A Blue Collar Worker In America You Are An Endangered Species

Have you ever heard of the dodo bird?  Once upon a time, dodo birds lived on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.  But if you go there today you won’t find any because they are extinct.  Well, if you are a blue collar worker in America today it looks like you are headed for a similar fate.  Blue collar workers are truly becoming an “endangered species” in the United States.  In the old days, the balance of power between business owners and labor was more even because they both needed each other.  But today that has all changed.  Thanks to robotics, automation and computers there is simply not as much of a need for physical laborers anymore and nothing is going to reverse that trend.  Big employers will continue to look for ways to replace men with machines, and there is nothing wrong with that.  But there is another major trend that is also destroying blue collar jobs in America that we should do something about.  Right now, it is perfectly legal for big corporations to shut down manufacturing facilities in the United States and send the jobs over to nations on the other side of the globe where it is legal to pay slave labor wages and where there are barely any regulations.  As you will see later on this article, this has been the biggest reason for the shocking blue collar job losses in America over the past decade.  The big corporations don’t care that you need to pay the mortgage and put food on the table for your families.  All they care about it the bottom line, and if dramatic changes are not made soon, the number of blue collar jobs leaving the United States will continue to increase.

Once upon a time, almost everyone who wanted a job in America could get one.  If you go back a few decades, you will find that about 95 percent of all men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job.  Today that figure is struggling to stay above 80 percent.

If you are a blue collar worker in America, you are simply not valued.  Your bosses are constantly trying to think of ways to replace you or send your job overseas.

According to Reuters, 23.7 million American workers are either unemployed or underemployed right now.  The more “blue collar” you are, the more likely you are to be unemployed.  The following chart that shows the unemployment rate during 2010 broken down by level of education comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics….

If you are an unskilled worker in America today, you simply are not needed.  Yes, once upon a time nearly anyone could go out and get a factory job, but those days are over.  Neither major political party seems the least bit interested in trying to keep manufacturing jobs in America.

Back in the year 2000, more than 20 percent of all jobs in America were manufacturing jobs.  Today, about 5 percent of all jobs in America are manufacturing jobs.

To have that huge of a shift in a little over a decade is absolutely mind blowing.

Many Americans had been hoping that Barack Obama would stand up for the working man like he promised to do.  But just like so many of Obama’s other promises, that one was totally worthless as well.

The Obama administration has been pushing hard for even more “free trade” deals that will allow big corporations to ship even more of our jobs out of the country.  The Obama administration simply does not value blue collar jobs at all.  In fact, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk is running around telling the press that there are lots of things that “we don’t want to make in America” anymore.

If you are a blue collar worker, Barack Obama does not care about you.

He never cared about you.

In fact, the vast majority of the politicians in both major political parties do not care about you.

What they do care about is winning elections and taking care of the big donors that keep helping them win elections.

Many of those donors are systematically shipping huge numbers of our jobs overseas.

In addition, now that labor has become a “global commodity”, wages for the jobs that remain in America are being steadily driven lower.

A recent White House reported entitled “Investing in America: Building an Economy That Lasts” actually bragged that our trade policies have driven wages in America down.  The following chart is from that report….

We were told that the “one world economy” would be great for America, but the truth is that it has only been great for the giant corporations.  For the average working man, it has been a disaster.

But we should have all seen this coming.  It didn’t take a genius to figure out what was going to happen once you put American workers into the same labor pool as slave laborers on the other side of the world.  After all, what greedy corporate executive really wants to pay U.S. workers ten to twenty times as much compensation just because it is the “right” thing to do?

Today, formerly great cities all over America are being transformed into hellholes while shiny, new industrial cities are popping up all over China.

For example, a couple of decades ago the Chinese city of Shenzhen was a sleepy little fishing town.

In 2012, it is a teeming metropolis of over 13 million people.

Foxconn (the builder of iPhones, iPads and many other products that we buy) runs a factory in Shenzhen that employs over 400,000 people.  Most of those people work for about a dollar an hour.

A recent article posted on Business Insider described the incredibly long hours and the nightmarish working conditions that those workers must endure.  The following is a brief excerpt from that article….

A Chinese working “hour” is 60 minutes–unlike an American “hour,” which generally includes breaks for Facebook, the bathroom, a phone call, and some conversation. The official work day in China is 8 hours long, but the standard shift is 12 hours. Generally, these shifts extend to 14-16 hours, especially when there’s a hot new gadget to build.

At Foxconn, they don’t really care about the health and safety of the workers.  Workers are expected to do the same repetitive tasks as rapidly as they can for as long as they can.  When their bodies break down, they are fired….

Some workers can no longer work because their hands have been destroyed by doing the same thing hundreds of thousands of times over many years (mega-carpal-tunnel). This could have been avoided if the workers had merely shifted jobs. Once the workers’ hands no longer work, obviously, they’re canned.

But the Obama administration insists that allowing big corporations to ship our jobs over to countries with working conditions like that is “good for the economy”.

Well, it might be good for the profits of the largest corporations, but it is a total nightmare for the rest of us.  Just consider the following stats….

*The United States has lost an average of 50,000 manufacturing jobs per month since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

*Between December 2000 and December 2010, 38 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Ohio were lost, 42 percent of the manufacturing jobs in North Carolina were lost and 48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Michigan were lost.

*According to U.S. Representative Betty Sutton, America has lost an average of 15 manufacturing facilities a day over the last 10 years.  During 2010 it got even worse.  Last year, an average of 23 manufacturing facilities a day shut down in the United States.

*In all, more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have shut down since 2001.

*According to one study, between 1969 and 2009 the median wages earned by American men between the ages of 30 and 50 dropped by 27 percent after you account for inflation.

*According to Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton University, 40 million more U.S. jobs could be sent offshore over the next two decades.

Are you starting to get the picture?

If you are a blue collar worker that cannot find a job, it is not because you have failed as a human being.

Rather, the truth is that you cannot find a job because of the failed trade policies of the federal government.

We are experiencing the bitter fruit of a “one world economy”.  Globalization was never intended to make the lives of American workers better, and now many are finally waking up and realizing this.

Hopefully, as Americans wake up on these issues they will fight to turn this nation in a more positive direction.

Unfortunately, way too many Americans are giving up hope completely.  The following comes from a recent article in the Guardian….

The year 2011 will be remembered as the time when many ever-optimistic Americans began to give up hope. President John F Kennedy once said that a rising tide lifts all boats. But now, in the receding tide, Americans are beginning to see not only that those with taller masts had been lifted far higher, but also that many of the smaller boats had been dashed to pieces in their wake.

As I have written about so many times, we are watching the middle class in America be systematically destroyed.

The economy is not getting better.  There may be moments when the economy seems like it is improving, but the reality is that we are mired in a nightmarish long-term decline.  If you are not yet convinced of this, please see this article and this article.

Even those running our economy are saying that things are not going to be getting much better any time soon.

For example, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Charles Evans, recently admitted that the employment picture is not going to be much brighter than it is now by the end of 2012.  He recently said that “at the end of the year, we’re not going to be very different from 8.5 percent unemployment.”

And remember – history has shown us that most pronouncements by Federal Reserve officials are usually far too optimistic.

If you are a blue collar worker in America, there is simply not too much to be optimistic about right now.

You might want to think about how you and your family are going to survive without any work.

The millions of jobs that have been sent overseas are not coming back.  Even if you still have a decent job, now is the time to be developing a side business or developing other alternative streams of income.

What you don’t want to do is to just sit there and hope that somehow things will “magically” turn around if we just vote in the “right” politician.

If you want to get a really good idea of what is really going on with the U.S. economy right now, just go tour some of the formerly great industrial cities in the “Rust Belt”.

In Cuyahoga County, Ohio one out of every five houses is sitting vacant.  It is not that those homes are not needed – it is just that there are not nearly enough people with good jobs available to buy up all of the foreclosures.

So thousands of perfectly good houses are being torn down.  The following comes from a recent CBS News report by Scott Pelley….

Across America, recession-fueled foreclosures and plummeting home values have left countless properties abandoned and vulnerable to looting. As Scott Pelley reports, the problem has gotten so bad in Cleveland, Ohio, that county officials have demolished more than 1,000 homes this year – and plan to demolish 20,000 more – rather than let the blight spread and render nearby homes worthless.

Can you imagine that?

20,000 homes being demolished in one county alone?

Of course Detroit is in even worse shape than Cleveland.  If you can believe it, the median price of a home in Detroit is now just $6000.

For much more on all of this, please read my recent article entitled “Formerly Great Cities All Over America Are Turning Into Open, Festering Sores“.

It would be great if I could tell you that hope is just around the corner, but it is not.  The plight of the blue collar worker in America is going to get worse and worse.

But just because blue collar workers in America are an endangered species does not mean that you have to be a victim.

We should all seek to become less dependent on the system.

If you are completely and totally dependent on having a “job” (just over broke), then you have put yourself in a very vulnerable position.

That job could disappear at any moment.

Over the next few years, the number of good jobs is going to continue to decrease.  Things are going to be really tough.  But those that have prepared and that have tried to become more independent are going to be in much better shape than those that have not.

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