The Truth About Jobs / by Jake Bronstein


Last night I got in an argument on Facebook with a guy I don't know. He called me an idiot for not seeing the connection between immigration, $3 per hour jobs, and the troubles many people feel in today's economy.

Having spent four years of my life trying to create American manufacturing jobs, build factories, make better products and believing - as I still do - in the American worker, I think this guy is wrong. HE stole the jobs (so did I and probably you too).

Let me explain. Much of my thinking starts with Eastman Kodak. In the 80s, Kodak employed 100,000 people in the Rochester NY area alone. By 2010 the number was less than 5,000. Today it's likely less.

Where did the jobs go? Was it offshoring? China? Trade? Immigrants?

It was your cell phone actually. More pictures are taken now than at any other time in history, but none of it involves film, camera, developing or commercial printing. (Fun fact: Instagram had 13 employees and 30 million users when it sold to Facebook, now the largest photo company on earth and they don't make camera's or film). That same logic applies elsewhere.

Yes, Nafta lost us 70,000 jobs over 15 years after it was signed in the 90s, but the economy often adds more jobs than that per month.

So where did the jobs go? Why is it harder to make a living? Why aren’t businesses hiring like they used to?

It was your computer. Back in the 1980s personal computers were just starting to make their way into homes. They didn't do much though. They weren't connected to anything. A program took two floppy disks - one to run and one to save. Microsoft Windows, the first version, didn’t come out until 1983 and wasn’t standard until several years after. Back then, to look up a word even, you'd need to drive to a store and buy a dictionary program first.

So who is to blame for the job loss of the last 15-20 year or so? You are.

Every time you touch a computer - any kind, from a desktop or cell phone to a point of sale terminal or info kiosk - ask yourself how long it would take to accomplish that same task in 1980 before computers got good? How many hands, people and jobs would have been involved?

Do you really want to bring all the jobs back? 
Insist your phone calls aren't connected until you talk to an operator.
Demand your mechanic throw away their diagnostic tool when your engine light comes on and that instead he tinkers all day trying to find the rattle.
Stop streaming videos. Want entertainment? Go to the movie theater, pay a human for a ticket and if you need a ride home after, get in a taxi (where the driver makes a living wage) not a cheaper uber (where the driver’s hourly rate, less gas and insurance, is pushed so low state regulators can't figure out if it's legal).

You really want the jobs back? 
Stop buying shit online. Go to the store, a mom and pop, and buy the thing.

Before you blame China for the shit you buy, how about you stop buying shit at all. Before China was cranking out cheap trinkets, people didn't buy as many trinkets.

Your grandparents didn't view everything as disposable. 
When their tv broke, they took it to a skilled TV repair guy and paid him a fair wage fix it.

If you really want the jobs to come back, before you buy anything ask yourself, “How could a company make money making this thing, give the store selling it their share, and still pay the guy who put it together enough to buy food and put his kids through school?"

If the math doesn't add up, don't blame the math, pay more for something from a company who makes it in the way you'd want it made.

Now for scariest bit: You’re not doing all of that are you? It wouldn't make sense. 
And even if you were doing it; bring back all the manufacturing you want, it’ll still take half the hands it used to to get each of the items made.

So the jobs aren’t coming back. Not those jobs anyway.

Politicians know that, but your refusal to believe it forces them to point the finger at someone or something, tell you it’s their fault, and that they can fix it.

They can’t. It’s time to think of real fixes.

- jakehimself

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