Musings in the Morning


pity this busy monster, manunkind,
not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)

                                                                                                    e.e. cummings

Trump is riding a fresh wave of success for getting Carrier to keep 1,000 factory jobs in Indiana. He said he would bring back work to America and he has brought back 1,000 even before being sworn into office.

Now, he hasn’t brought back ‘all jobs’ but Carrier does a lot of government work that is ‘signed off’ by the Executive Office in the White House so the company knows when to ‘fish and cut bait.’

According to Mohan Tatikonda, a professor at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, “This is a spot solution. It helps some Carrier employees for a period of time, but it doesn’t address the loss of manufacturing jobs to technological change, which will continue.”30carrier-superjumbo

(The 1,000 Carrier jobs is about 0.2 percent of total manufacturing employment in Indiana.)

Whether Trump can do something that benefits the working class is the question. The underlying problems are very hard to address. Trying to hold back the economic tide of automation, and the loss of middle-class manufacturing jobs, is something I’m not sure anybody can do. No president, so far, is dealing with this issue.

That’s the rub.

Isn’t just factory workers who are feeling the pinch of finding work here or overseas.

I recently heard from Barry Hillenbrand (Ethiopia 1963-65) who was responding to a question I had about writing careers. Barry after his Peace Corps years became TIME magazine bureau chief in Asia and elsewhere. He had a long, distinguished career in journalism. Barry wrote in part:

I suspect that my experience as a writer and journalist working overseas is no longer very pertinent to new writers. I was the beneficiary of the old system of foreign correspondency which was funded by the major newspapers and magazines which sent out their own journalists. And so over a long career, TIME bounced me around from Rio to Saigon to Bahrain to Toyko to London — with a few domestic stops in Chicago, Boston and LA.  They paid the bills — and me.

This system barely exists now. TIME has a few staff correspondents abroad and a bunch of contract people. Only the New York Times and the Washington Post — and perhaps the LA Times — send people from home office to foreign assignments.  And nowhere as many as it used to.

That said, there is a new system out there of reporters, many with language and cultural abilities the old group did not have. They are hired abroad, paid not very well and do terrific work.

If PCVs, or any other Americans, are already located overseas in places which generate news — and if they have language and cultural skills in those countries, they can find jobs. Not very well paying jobs, but jobs which might get their feet in the door — and get stories published. The business of journalism has changed dramatically in recent years.

But here might be an answer in the world-of-work for faculty workers that the press and everyone else calls “white uneducated bald male factory worker.”

I read about it in Wired Magazine, an article written by Clive Thompson.

Thompson suggested “programming” is a skill anyone (even an unschooled bald old white guy) can learn.

“What if we began to think of programming as the equivalent of skilled works at a Chrysler plant?” Thompson writes. “What if we encouraged high school graduates who can’t afford four-year computer-science degrees to instead take coding at the vocational level in high school?”

One could also learn how to do it at community colleges and in mid-career. Most blue collar coders would be qualified, for example, “to sling Java-Script for their local bank.”

The national average salary for IT jobs is about $81,000 (more than double the national average for all jobs), and the field is set to expand by 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than most other occupations.

In Kentucky mining veteran Rusy Justice decided that code could replace coal. He cofounded Bit Source, a code shop that builds its workforce by retraining coal miners as programmers. Justice got 950 applications for his first 11 positions.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee nonprofit CodeTN is trying to nudge high school kids into coding programs at community colleges.

When my son was 11 years old (he’s 32 now), I said to him that when he grew up he would have a job that didn’t even exist then. Somehow that comment made an impression on him. In high school, on his own (his parents didn’t know about it), he took an elective course in programming at his school. Today he is the product/manager of the Bob Vile website and manages a small staff of like-minded young adults. Equipped with a degree in English from UPenn and his computer skills, he has found a career in the Internet world.

True, my son was never in the Peace Corps, but he does work for an RPCV. Bob Vila of This Old House fame was also a PCV in Panama 1969-70. (That puts him at least a little closer to heaven.)




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  • What is missing from the Carrier story is what additional incentives, if any, Indiana gave to Carrier? If any were given, it establishes a model for other companies- threaten to move to Mexico and renegotiate from the last offer of the State in tax breaks, etc. Hardly a national model to follow since the taxpayers foot the bill in every case.

  • Thanks, Marty. Nothing was missing as that wasn’t the point of my morning musings. I am more concerned about the lack of adjustment to the new world of technological changes and ‘adjustments’ in this brave new world we are living in. Therefore, my quote from E.E. Cummings,,,”progress is a comfortable disease” is the central idea of how we have to ‘adjust’ and ‘live’ with the future.

    Just today, I learned that SELF Magazine is ceasing its print edition and going online. With the shift, 20 editors are out of work as Conde Nast moves another publication online.

    This tide of changing technological changes can’t be stopped, even by the President of the United States, or whatever deals he might cut with companies.

  • This is a colossal question, which would require a book to really address. I would simply add that if anybody is imagining that all the coal miners and factory workers can be retrained as lower level computer programmers, they’re overlooking the reality that THESE very programming jobs are top targets for offshoring to countries like India, Pakistan, and China. Right now, Federal Gov’t policy is set up to facilitate this, in a never-ending succession, whilst American incomes are, by design, to be slashed, to “level the playing field”. That’s what “Globalism” is all about, if one digs past the cliches and slogans.

    It was back at the turn of the 19th Century, with Teddy Roosevelt and the “Trust Busters” that the Nation examined the question of what is the ultimate outcome of unbridled, unregulated Capitalism. The conclusion back then was that the drive toward monopoly would only accelerate, until the entire economy and society were controlled by a few corporate boardrooms. Eventually consolidation would result in ONE corporation essentially owning and controlling everything, writing their own laws to facilitate more consolidation, shelter their monopoly, and keeping a facade of constitutional government around to do the “legislating”, externalize their expenses, control a struggling society, and make wars to extend consolidation and monopoly to other nations.

    One earmark of all this monopoly, the analysts concluded, would be destruction, by either buying out, forcing into bankruptcy, or corrupt legislation, any competition in the manufacture of goods and services. At that point all innovation through competition would cease, constitutional government would essentially cease, Middle Class initiative would cease, and society would atrophe and shrink.

    The Congress of the time decided this was a slow-motion course to disaster, and enacted things like the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and a lot of labor-rights laws. Not enough, however, and a couple decades later it all collapsed in the 1929 Crash, and what looked like the end of American democracy. The result was legislation like the Glass-Steagall Act.

    Today, what is termed “The Shadow Government” or “Deep State” is determined to pretend we don’t know what we know, and start this discussion all over again. And this time, make sure the government is effectively neutralized to prevent corrective action like it did a century ago. What would one expect of a large multi-national corporation, obsessed with greed and monopoly, and with NO sense of loyalty to America, in the understood sense of the word ? By enlisting the facade of Constitutional Government, they’re conveniently able to label any critics as “unpatriotic”.

    So what is the reason all the coal miners should be retrained as computer programmers ? On the face of it, it’s the facile solution of training for the jobs of the present. More likely it’s to take advantage of this country’s existing remaining prosperity and orderliness to use as an incubator, to develop programs, until their debugged employment can be exported en-masse. We saw it all with what we thought would STAY here — reading medical X-rays, making medical diagnoses, &c, much of which now is quietly performed in India (without the knowledge of the patient). Then, in time presumably all the computer programmers, we’ll be told, need to be retrained as something else. Eventually as street sweepers and hamburger flippers.

    As cynical as this sounds, all of the evidence is that this is the big scheme, disguised by slogans and cliches. When the vaunted playing field is finally levelled, Americans had better get used to commuting by bicycle, sleeping six people to a bedroom, using beds in shifts, and a major decline in health and longevity.

  • For me, outsourcing is a two edged sword. I know that our economy depends on good jobs in the US. As an RPCV, I know
    that salaried jobs are a way out of the extreme poverty I saw in the developing world. Volunteers are working in the sector of economic development, in partnership with the multinational corporations. such as IBM.

  • And may I add, from a poem or ‘meditation’ of mine:
    TIGERS AND RIDERS* a testament

    David and Jonathan exchanged clothes,
    Anthony and Cleopatra switched theirs,
    Enkidu & Gilgamesh grappled swept
    through love.
    I do my own steps and I have ridden the tiger.


    *Who rides the tiger may not dismount.”(old saying)

    ©Copyright Edward Mycue 3/December/ 2016 for Anthony Rudolf London/ Menard Press

  • Thanks, Edward. Let me add another bit of wisdom: It’s a lot of fun starting a snowball down a hill. But once out of hand, it continues accumulating mass and velocity — until it hits the bottom, and wipes out everything standing there. It makes more sense when one recognizes the single-mindedness of greed. The hallmark difference between today’s “Deep State” Globalists, and legitimate government, is that the former assume no responsibility for what happens when their snowball hits the bottom. That ain’t their worry. The reason Globalists never want to actually overthrow legitimate government. If they did, then by default they would accrue responsibility. Another pirated bit of wisdom” “Everything I needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten.”

    As for Joanne’s idea that outsourcing a nation’s jobs is a “two-edged sword”, so is grand larceny. What harms the victim is a tremendous benefit to the thief. Apply that to the residual pesticide residues we find on imported produce (here along the border, where I live and work). Tremendous benefit for outsourced agribusiness and their impoverished field hands. Not much fun for the victims. Eventually it finishes off the field hands, too. And the agribusinessmen, with the assistance of their “Trade Tribunals”, follow their wealth to Switzerland. Everything they needed to know, they learned in Kindergarten. JAT

    • John, What are you talking about? Outsourcing is not the same as grand larceny. There are some important issues here to be discussed, not dismissed with some bizarre analogy.

      -Is automation the real threat to the replacement of manufacturing and many other jobs that are labor intensive?

      -how important is outsourcing jobs to foreign countries to the loss of jobs in the US?

      -what should be the role of Peace Corps, specifically, and US foreign aid generally, in promoting
      developing in foreign countries to help reduce poverty?

      -what are the benefits and costs of US promotion of this kind of overseas development?

      As for residual pesticides, John, that is a world wide problem, including in the United States. Peace Corps Volunteers in the early decades, of course, promoted their use to increase production.

      • I have to say that each of the questions posed by Joanne R would require a small book to address, and probably not appropriate here — absent consent by J Coyne. And I certainly agree that these are BIG questions, and timely.

        I don’t think my analogy, tongue in cheek, was inappropriate. Regardless of the means by which one takes from one to give to another, there always will be a loser doing the losing, and a beneficiary, benefitting. Hard to escape that arithmetic.

        As an RPCV I would draw a strong distinction between offshoring of discreet American jobs, and the development and training/education work that generations of PCVs (and USAID) have pursued. It’s one thing to take from someone else, vs to create NEW capabilities in a host country, so their own citizens can meet their own nation’s and region’s needs, earn wages, and benefit accordingly.

        Likewise, the role of automation in reducing American jobs is something debated since the Eisenhower Administration. First touted as freeing housewives from chores like doing dishes, or running clothes through a wringer washing machine — later it would appear in the industrial workplace. Today, robotics are the latest in “automation”. Nothing new, and everybody understands it. I don’t hear anybody complaining about it. At least not since the Luddites set about to destroy English weaving machines, which were replacing hand-looms in the 18th Century. That’s NOT the case with exporting of existing American jobs. LOTS of people, from factory workers and families to the Pres-elect, are griping about that.

        I was working my way through my undergraduate working on an assembly line when the earliest “automation” began to appear. First it was in the paint stalls, and then automatic multiple spot-welding of subassemblies. Then what was called “numerically-controlled machining” for repetitious operations on things like engine lathes and milling machines. I know a little bit about it. Being on the assembly line is a different perspective than sitting in an office speculating. The precise nationwide details today, I can’t say. I doubt the US Dept of Labor can either. But that doesn’t mean we don’t understand what’s going on, and where it’s going.

        Lastly, I need to correct one facile, contrived misconception that exporting of American jobs is limited to labor-intensive, minimally-skilled jobs. Evoking images of illiterate Mexican seasonal workers picking lettuce and grapes in the Central Valley of California, the sham worked for a while. Nobody can compare the skilled machinists in a manufacturing plant in Michigan to field hands picking lettuce. This was a fraud from the beginning, appealing not to reason, but to emotion. The fraud bought enough time that a lot of things couldn’t be reversed, and that probably was the plan.

        I have something else to share sometime. From a trucking company which is entirely devoted to dismantling and hauling heavy machines (like rolling mills, punch presses, stamping mills, engine lathes, die casting machines) from American factories. All headed for Mexico. Everyone knows they never are coming back, and probably never will be replaced. Standing at the border in places like El Paso, or Laredo, you will see the trucks lined up, a block long, waiting to cross. It’s like being at a funeral, thinking of the factory workers who once manned these machines. The factory hands whose fathers made America the manufacturing power it once was. For me there is a particular poignancy. Those were the manufacturing jobs and machine tools which made it possible for me, and my generation, to work and pay for an education — without incurring debt. Probably never again. At least not by flipping hamburgers at McDonalds. JAT

        • John,
          You are right that it would take more than a comment section to discuss the issues about factors impacting employment in the United States. I think it would take libraries, not just small books. However, it is a very important topic. I would like to respond just to this statement of yours:
          “As an RPCV I would draw a strong distinction between offshoring of discreet American jobs, and the development and training/education work that generations of PCVs (and USAID) have pursued. It’s one thing to take from someone else, vs to create NEW capabilities in a host country, so their own citizens can meet their own nation’s and region’s needs, earn wages, and benefit accordingly.”

          Peace Corps can not control what happens to citizens in host countries. Education can absolutely prepare HCNs to work in call centers and computer networks that are part of the “outsourcing” of jobs from the United States, as well as manufacturing jobs. It is a dilemma, a two edged sword, not a crime.

          The most important thing I learned from my Peace Corps service is that as a culture, the US (and the industrialized world) does not have generational information about our technology. We can not predict unforeseen consequence, both positive and negative, from the world wind whirl of new technologies.

  • If you (both) believe that the total of world economic activity is FIXED, and nothing can be built without subtracting from someone else, then you’re naively mistaken. How about a new company or effort to serve a need NOT NOW BEING MET ?? Anyone travelling about any developing country and imagining that all needs are already being met, is in a fantasy world. There is a VAST amount of need in the world not being met: some already recognized by host country nationals, and some not.

    Do either of you really believe that somebody training nurses where there are no nurses, really is taking from someone else ? Or someone starting a vegetable garden to feed hungry people in, say, Africa, MUST be subtracting vegetable farming from the US or somewhere else — somewhere else not addressing nor even aware of that need ? What you seem to be claiming simply doesn’t stand the reality of UNMET NEEDS ! Even training a host country national to work in the Post Office, isn’t subtracting from a Post Office anywhere else. Consider language requirements.

    And you seem to be equating general education, which has intrinsic value in itself, with narrowly focused job training, a vision which I doubt would be shared by many PC teachers. In fact, trying to transcend limited student aspirations (like getting a job in the post office), has been the bane of many PC teachers.

    Tell me again that you really were Peace Corps Volunteers, and not employees of a multinational. JAT

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