An Economy of the Poor and Productive
By Winter Trabex
If you’ve happened to read any of my previous pieces on this site, I haven’t exactly come out strongly in favor of the current economic system we have today. Although it’s better than some others (such as whole nations full of starving, desperate people), there are problems I have observed cropping up in other, unexpected ways.
These problems, when viewed individually, don’t seem to be too bothersome.
Taken as a whole, however, they point towards an unsettling pattern.
Workers are being denied opportunities. They’re not being trained or taught any new skills while on the job. The current system appears to prefer them to be both poor and productive- never advancing socially, yet always working.
For the sake of convenience, I’m going to enumerate my points in no particular order.
1). Working is exhausting
Having been in the workforce for many years, I can’t ever remember a time when work was as exhausting as it is today. This is largely due to managers demanding more and more production out of their employees for increased profitability for their company. While it doesn’t help that rules and regulations make the cost of operating a business increasingly burdensome, I’ve begun to notice that workers are being pushed harder and harder- sometimes even to the point of death.
As the prices of products, rent, and other various expenses increase, more and more hours at work are required just to make ends meet. Those who haven’t grandfathered themselves into the system by successfully investing years ago find it very difficult. Not everyone is capable of putting in 50 to 70 hours at a job every week.
Those who can’t earn enough money are stuck spinning their wheels and praying for the chance to learn new skills so that a better job may one day come.
2). Today’s Jobs Are Not Enough
Company bosses everywhere have by now realized that everyone has to work. Everyone has bills to pay. Accordingly, there’s no real reason for them to pay top dollar for anybody to come in and work. They need only say that those who can’t work hard enough or well enough will be fired. It’s not their business if the people working for them can’t make ends meet.
The government would have you believe that median wages have been steadily rising since 1990. For once, these statistics are not far off. Even adjusting for inflation, the median wage in America rose by about 4000 dollars per year.
However, just page alone doesn’t mention the cost of increased taxes, increased fees, the sudden explosion in debt, the increased cost of medical care, to name a few. Trying to pay everything out of pocket on an hourly wage is impossible. Since rich people (ie, those who can afford to run for office) largely make the rules, they’re not all that concerned about whether someone else has it too hard as long the unemployment rates don’t go up too high.
While there is both anecdotal and statistical evidence, people in leadership roles both in business and politics ignore such evidence as long as they can afford for themselves what they need to get by. There’s no incentive for any boss to pay more as long as the business keeps running. There’s no incentive for a politician to back off levying new taxes, not when he can skim a bit off the top for himself.
3). There’s No Room for Quick Advancement
Trying to get into a managerial position at any company is like trying to solve a Rubix cube puzzle blindfolded with both hands tied behind your back- you have to wait until someone will do it for you. That’s what the current economy is all about: waiting. An employee has to show up everyday and wait until someone notices their hard work.
The problem is, there’s no discernible way to tell which boss or manager will be appreciative of one’s efforts and which will not. The corporate ladder is greased with nepotism. Those who appear to be the most favorable to the decision makers will advance. Hard work and dedication don’t factor into promotions, if they ever did.
This is why some people consistently fail upwards while others are never selected for advancement. The current economic system is not a meritocracy. This word has a root of “meritorious,” the antonyms of which are corrupt, unworthy, improper, dishonorable.
Are there any other words in the English language to better describe a boss or manager who has obtained their position not because they deserve it, but because they just happened to know the right handshake?
4). The Fallacy of Vehicle Ownership
If you’ve ever looked through a series of job postings online, doubtless you have come across a requirement for the ownership of a driver’s license. Whether a person owns or doesn’t own such a license has nothing to do with their ability to arrive on time to work every day, or how capable they are of doing the job. They could live within walking distance, or a bus ride away, from the job site.
Yet the boss, who likely has a salary that enables him to own a car outright without monthly payments, wants to hire people who like himself- capable and successful.
(Except that the pay rate is often so low that the really successful people aren’t even bothering.)
In this context, a boss requiring a driver’s license is essentially requiring car ownership. There’s no other reason why anyone would go through the trouble of a written exam and a driving test, on top paying 30 to 50 dollars, just to have a piece of plastic sit in their wallet that they’ll never use. People only get a driver’s license to avoid being pulled over and fined by the police- while driving.
While self-driving cars and the radical economic shift they represent is coming (eventually), it isn’t here yet. And maybe not for a while. In the meantime, people need to get back and forth to work somehow.
Not everyone needs or uses a car. There are bicycles, trains, buses, cabs, ride-shares, carpools, and so on. In fact, there are so many commuting options other than driving a car that it must be asked why so many people insist on it in the first place- especially those who have a short commute back and forth to work every day.
What really matters is whether an employee is reliable and capable of doing the job correctly. Requiring vehicle ownership is an expensive, unnecessary barrier to employment that automatically demonstrates just how far out of touch a boss really is.
5). Skills Aren’t Easily Learned
Training almost never happens at any company any longer. Employees have to come in with their skills and experience already obtained from somewhere else. Eventually, this system will eat itself away from the inside out: a person needs experience to get a job, yet they need a job to get experience. While some companies are so desperate for people that they’re willing to take folks off the street, they won’t train them up so that they’re full capable of doing their job within a month. Employees have to make mistakes along the way while managers use punishment as an instructional tool.
It doesn’t matter whether someone has a willingness to learn when nothing substantive is being taught. Such a phrase is really just corporate double-talk for “willingness to obey.” The demand for obedience within a company is greater than ever as private companies come more and more to resemble military organizations with rigid hierarchies, inflexible pay, long hours, and disparate treatment of managers (who are highly exalted beings) and employees (who are peons).
Just try to observe the difference in any military organization between an enlisted recruit and a highly decorated officer; the corporate world unfortunately mirrors too much of how these two people are treated.
It is a ridiculous fact that people have to pay to institutions of secondary education to learn the skills they need to get ahead in the world after they just finished up going to school for twelve or more years, often through public education. Young people are increasingly coming out of high school with little to no skills or training for life in the real world.
This, more than anything else, drives the increasing student debt problem. High schools in America are a disaster. People don’t learn skills from their employer because nobody wants to train another company’s employee. Those who don’t have natural advantages (such as a wealthy family) are stuck.
For them, the American dream is disappearing.