It is a definite given that our country is in a slump. Unemployment is high and in a totally normal reaction we search for the cause and solution.
Well, there are some obvious givens and politicians on both sides add their spin so they can justify pointing the finger at the other side. That's also normal--nothing more than business as usual. Let's face it, we've been through two wars, corporate bailouts of a proportion that no one would ever have imagined, both sides of congress at odds with each other resulting in a stalemate, i.e., absolutely nothing gets done quickly or without lots of yelling, accusations and logjams. We have elections on the horizon so it appears the main agenda is to make sure the other guy doesn't get elected.
Somewhere along the line I thought Congress was supposed to support the good of the people, but that seems to be nothing more than a pipe dream. Fat cats are getting fatter, the "thin cats" are on forced diets and the normal sized ones--what used to be the backbone of America--are present in smaller and smaller numbers every day.
So, with all of that said, here's what hit me like a sledge hammer on Sunday. Sure, we have sent so many of our technical and manufacturing jobs to emerging or thriving nations while ours wallows in unemployment, but there is another factor no other president had to contend with to the degree it is present today. No other generation was faced with this. Think Industrial Revolution, then hype it so many times you'll lose count. The name of the other culprit is AUTOMATION.
On Sunday we drove to The Grove shopping mall and took our ticket from the machine. A real person used to be in the booth. We checked out automatically, too. Many times when we go to the movies we get our ticket online to speed things up and make sure we have a seat. High school kids used to depend upon jobs in the movies to earn expenses. Not now. Most of it is automated.
We went to the grocery store where the scan lines were busy. Less checker's jobs. We made it a point not to use the scan, but waited for the person who was hanging onto their job. Then we filled up at the gas station and inserted a credit card. How many remember the days when gas stations actually had attendants who checked your oil and washed your windshield?
The list just goes on and on. Try to make a list of all the jobs that have been lost that will never come back. Sure we still need people to do the new customer service functions, programming, and all the other things attendant to commerce, but most of them are no longer in the U.S. Once you count the jobs that are now done electronically and multiply that by the number of stores or services across the entire country that replaced real people, it becomes scary. When you only look at one automatic checkstand, for example, it doesn't seem like that much, but what about putting that into the context of over 200,000 supermarkets in the United States. The picture looks a lot different. The big question, of course, is how do we retrain people for jobs that we can then keep in our own country?
Everything we see daily in the news is of great concern, but it is only part of the problem.