Something has gone profoundly wrong with the American dream.
There are rumblings of change that have not yet shown on the radars of mass media information feeds. AI looms across the horizon now of most of the comfortable new collar & white collar jobs. Among the college educated parents I have made the acquaintance of in recent years, there is a considerable recalculation of the job prospects for their high school graduating children. College expense & a shrinking if not disappearing landscape of the college opportunity employment is causing a majority of them to encourage their children to enter a trade school; electricians, plumbers, welders & medical technicians. The last still requiring a college education sometimes. The great rush to the electrification of our vehicular transportation has revealed that most blue states are not only lacking the power generating capacity for this & the infrastructure but also the trades to bring this about. Solar power being pushed by a government seeking the bribes & subsequent control of the new green economy are discovering to their dismay that the electricians to install & connect the solar panels are not to be found. They are retired or living in states where an electrician can afford to do so.
Perhaps the next 2 decades will see a return of the rise of the working class while the laptop crowd will become the hopeless homeless carrying old non functional laptops the way the homeless now carry large stuffed animals as a relic of a life they once had. They will carry ancient coffee encrusted Starbucks cups to wave at their once despised political opponents as they pass by in their hybrid SYVs & hybrid trucks on their way to church.
Few of those employed within Amazon fulfillment centers actually work for the company. The only visible difference between the “temps” and employees is often the color of their badges, but the working conditions, wages, and hours are far worse for those who’re outsourced.
Not that the janitor is even part of the company anymore. He’s outsourced. As the economist Nicholas Bloom put it, “He is not invited to the holiday party.”
I never really considered this aspect to the "new" economy, but it makes a whole lot of sense the way that you tie it into these other factors.
The demise of working class America has been virtually ignored by the elites, especially when Trump talking about it put him in the White House. And the elites don’t want anyone to look at their great ideas that caused the mess. There is plenty of blame to distribute among almost every branch of progressive thinking.
There was a time when being willing to work hard was enough to provide at least a decent life in America. At a time when we moved to an information economy, our education system started turning out huge numbers of functionally illiterate graduates. Progressive teacher unions hid the problem, caused by their ridiculous ideas, behind inflated grades and social promotions.
The “pro-labor” progressive left encouraged manufacturing unions to demand pay and benefits far in excess of what could reasonably be supported. As a result, manufacturing jobs were outsourced to cheaper foreign countries. The progressive globalists cheered for this development, and the union workers never understood how their government backers had actually destroyed jobs while pretending to be the workers’ champions.
Progressives encouraged the idea that a benevolent government would take care of everyone. The working class enthusiastically voted for the candidates who promised more, more, more. The working class is finally understanding that the promise was never intended for them.
"Something has gone profoundly wrong with the American dream."
Boy, has it ever! You left out the fact that companies no longer care about their employees. Employment, to some extent, used to be a two way street. The company took care of the employees, and the employees were fiercely loyal to their companies. (You can leave the auto manufacturers out of that as far back as I've been told about the working conditions and management.) When the companies decided to care more about the bottom line than their role in the community and to their employees, everything started to go to hell in a hand basket.
They can count votes for a month and call it normal. He will win again but not be elected. Same as last time.
Very impressive data. The conclusions are justified; it's not all just a statistical anomaly.
I think that since TV put the world in every home after WWII people's expectations increased. Kids saw themselves growing to be rich, famous, artists, movie stars, famous scientists, professional athletes... Like the people on TV.
Starting in the 50s, peoples' standard of living did increase rapidly. But then the industrial jobs were moved to foreign countries...
People who have to face the fact that they are never going to realize those big dreams, or even small dreams, become depressed. Real depressed. It's probably going to get worse.
I think it's sad, sad that Hilary Clinton dismissed Trump's bass and referenced them as a bunch of deplorables. A term played out over and over. In regard to what Chris Offutt said I experienced something different having 2 friends who really were very poor, and while most of us lived in houses they lived in 6 family dwellings and owned little to nothing. One day I went over there and just stood in the doorway waiting for Valerie to get her crayons. Everyone was talking, but no listening was happening, like usual. Her mom was cooking up something at the stove that filled the air with grease and got sucked into your nose, like always. Her dad was home, he always was, and he was drinking bear in the afternoon like he always did, and like always his cigar was smoking up the room. No one was listening to each other, just talking all at the same time, and I remember thinking there was no tomorrow hear. Valerie's family lived in the present because they were survival oriented which gives rise to living in the now, with little thought given to the future. We bought a Charlotte Russe after school one day, and it dropped to the floor, but Valerie scooped it up and wanted to share it, and I said no, because had germs, and she say, well you can't see them. True. Also during the Trump years the "intelligentsia " of the north played it up as well. A meme on Facebook picked up by a cousin said his base is an immoral, ignorant lot. I notice these so called liberals of today often contradict themselves.
Death and disability are only going to increase in the next few years. Many healthcare workers are disabled or dead already. Our patients are dying at an alarming rate from all cancers. Including people under 30.
I grew up there. Rural America. Small town. There have always been 2 places to work for a halfway decent paycheck. One makes boxes. The other makes furniture. I drove 3 days a week 90 miles one way and then again back to get a degree. My mom was addicted to oxycontin. She died at 51 from complications of chemo. My step-dad was an electrician. He did well enough, but it was hard. I go there to visit my sister and my husband's sisters 3 or 4x a year. They are still trying, but there has not been 1 new store, no growth for 20 years. Lots addicted to meth. They work at the factory and buy everything from the same 2 stores. Reminds me of a mining town where you get paid only to spend your money in a store the factory owner owns. At least he's still there, I guess.
This is a grim story and one that very much needs telling. It would be good to see life expectancy graphs for non-college, non-whites to provide a broader context.
A great article.
I just heard about something Jeff Bezos may have said in an old interview, and if it's true I think it's a mind blowing example of the hypocrisy we fairly often see in rich white virtue signaling liberals: he was supposedly talking about Amazon's warehouses in the south, saying he prefers a diverse labor force cuz the workers are less likely to form deep friendships or bond in groups, and therefore less likely to unionize. It's most likely a true thought he has, but saying this out loud feels like a cat he'd rather have in a bag. One thing I DO know about Bezos and Amazon: there's zero chance he was pushing to end lockdowns and school closures and Fauci's destruction of small businesses. Amazon sells the wood my local gym now has over its windows.
In backwards, redneck, hicktown Tennessee, we elected a businessman governor. He knew the major barrier to manufacturing was lack of manufacturing skills. He started this program to fix it.
great essay Brad.
this reminds me of some of the points Eric Hoffer made in The Ordeal Of Change (1962).
it’s not a long read. I think you would dig it...
If you want to dig into suicide rates University of Washington did a study piggybacking off of 20 years of Dutch research where statically speaking money does buy happiness.