2012-02-18: Time to Stop Lying To Ourselves
It is time to stop lying to ourselves, and to stop letting our political and financial leaders lie to us.
What am I talking about? Well, many things, but let us start with a couple of the whopping big lies we're being told.
LIE: Youth must finish high school and go on to college, or they won't be able to get good jobs. In actuality, you mean corporate jobs in a higher-paying industry? High school, followed by trade school or possibly college is a requirement, but not a guarantee of obtaining one of those jobs. On the other hand, most of the jobs being created in our nation are not in higher-paying industries, but in low-wage service industries such as hospitality (hotels, motels, restaurants, fast food, retail, janitorial services). By telling students that they must attend college, we are burdening them with humongous student loan debt, which will take them most or all of their working lives to repay, yet most of them will not increase their earnings enough to make college financially worthwhile.
Actually, there is substantial doubt as to whether there are enough high-paying corporate jobs available for the number of college graduates anyway. As more and more people attend college, and as more and more corporations cut domestic (e.g., US-based) staff and rely on outsourced overseas labor, it gets more and more questionable whether your kids or mine should invest the time and the effort required to obtain a degree, knowing that they are likely to find that either "Gree-C Burger" or that big blue discount store are the only places that will hire them.
LIE: The reason you should attend college is to get a better job. There was a definite connection in the first 20-30 years after World War II, when large, out-of-area corporations (LOOACs) were strong and growing, and export markets around the world were eager to snap up anything that was marked "Made in USA". Since the late 1970s, first high school diplomas, then many community trade school certificates, and finally college degrees (at the associate and then bachelor level) overtook the number of positions available for those who completed said schooling. The reality is that the best reason for attending college has always been the broad, general perspective that graduates bring with them once they hit the workplace.
I was a business administration major. I also worked my way through school. As part of that, I went through a number of supervisory and lower-level management training courses. In my experience, people whose training only includes company-specific "management" training are far less prepared when something unexpected comes up. Likewise, those whose work experience only includes one company or one industry are far less prepared to deal with the changing environment that is a reality for most businesses these days. A career-changer or someone whose college degree is in a completely different subject than the job being offered is likely to perform better than someone "reared-up" within a particular industry or enterprise?assuming, of course, that the person has the aptitude and motivation to learn the job and the industry, and to ask questions and tap the subject expertise of those who have been reared up in the industry and / or company.
The truth is, I would rather hire a "Liberal Arts major" instead of an inside candidate for any kind of management or supervisory position, all else being equal. No matter what education or experience someone has, the employer (or more accurately, the employer's staff) will have to train that person, and if that person's background within the field or industry is extensive, that person will have much to unlearn before being ready to start learning. The liberal arts major will have a broad background, but little specific knowledge of the company or industry. If he / she is motivated, he or she will be performing at the expected level in 90 days, where the insider will just be reaching the point where the employer's staff can begin teaching the person the specifics of the job.
That is not to say that an applicant without work experience but with a college degree would be worth hiring. If you send your kids to college, make sure they get at least a part-time job, and that they keep it all the way through school. Yes, they will find their employing organizations are not the love-and-kisses lands portrayed on recruitment materials. Yes, they will have to compete for more work hours during slow periods and find ways to prevent work schedules from interfering with their progress in their classes. They'll also have to learn to keep their hormones from affecting the workplace. Most importantly, they will learn (I hope) to apply themselves to the task at hand.
LIE: Not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship. Some people are just worker bees. Back in the 1940s through the early 1970s, this may have been a reasonable perception. But with corporate loyalty to employees lower than it has been since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, even if you have a job, you need to treat it like you are an independent contractor?including keeping close track of work tasks, work training, compensation for work performed, being sure to obtain and document outside training and education, trends in available work opportunities in your local area and in your field of work, managing your reputation online and off (i.e., stop that repeated whining on Facebook about your life), and probably the most important, managing your financial life such that you forgo purchases that may later have a negative impact on your credit rating or ability to save money for the future?so that you are prepared for the day when that job is gone. I have read that the average American worker is now expected to have six "careers" during his or her lifetime. If you fail to prepare for the end of your current job and your current industry, you are being foolish.
In certain ethnic groups and certain neighborhoods, entrepreneurship is even more important. First of all, you have to understand what entrepreneurship really is. It comes from a French word that means risk-taker. But that does not adequately describe it. An entrepreneur is someone who attempts to take control of the supply side (that is, earning income) of his or her financial and economic life. I consider it even riskier to rely upon the LOOAC or government agency where you currently work to still have work for you at your current pay level or better (inflation-adjusted, of course) than it would be if you left to start your own business, but entrepreneurship is not necessarily starting or running a business. Entrepreneurship is taking control of your own income, whether that means starting a business, pro-actively leaving one employer for another, or starting / becoming active with a local non-profit.
Black and Hispanic Americans (US citizens, nationals, or residents) are the least likely to obtain employment, the least likely to earn at least a middle-class income, and the least likely to keep their jobs during recessions or corporate outsourcing / offshoring. It is the height of foolishness to tell young minority kids that their hope for staying out of poverty is to get in with LOOACs. LOOACs have been mostly eliminating people since the late 1970s, and few of them are in the impoverished urban neighborhoods where many members of ethnic minority groups live.
LIE: We'd be better off if only the were out of office. The fact is, Democratic policies hurt ethnic minorities in urban areas and Republican policies hurt those who work hard, save their money, and invest it in stocks and bonds. Democrats control the cities, and have huge bureaucracies that necessitate high taxes. They also enact insane numbers of regulations which prevent low-income residents from starting businesses in their homes. Republicans fight against regulations that help level the playing field for smaller, locally-owned businesses (SLOBs) in order to enable top executives of large, out-of-area corporations (LOOACs) more freedom to overpay themselves, defraud their investors, underpay their employees in the name of competitiveness, and to selectively use bundling and underpricing to lock out competition.
Ethnic minorities and those who live in urban areas need to start building businesses. Smaller businesses. Locally-owned businesses. Locally-managed businesses. Businesses that are staffed by people in the local community. Businesses that can begin to pay their workers enough to make it desirable for local youth to come and work at those businesses instead of selling and consuming illegal intoxicants.
LIE: Minorities, especially in urban areas, get welfare and use it to buy illicit drugs. That's why there are so many of them in prison, and why so few of them have jobs. Before I answer that, let me point out that I don't like or use recreational intoxicants other than alcohol, and I probably consume about twelve beers each year. One time, I had a prescription for hydrocodone. I had never heard of it, but soon found that it had intoxicating effects I found unpleasant. Within a couple of days, I had flushed it down the toilet. I find the whole experience of not being in control frightening. So I am not a drug user, nor am I an alcoholic. I am also not in favor of drug abuse, although I do believe our drug laws have failed and we need to look at an alternative.
Anyway, the last time I saw numbers, whites were more likely to use illicit drugs and more likely to use hard drugs. It isn't blacks that fly bundles of pot across the border, and it isn't blacks driving the vehicles with all the secret compartments to hide dope. Having said that, there are a lot of blacks that use drugs, just as there are a lot of every other ethnic group that use drugs. There are also a lot of people in every group that do not use drugs. I should also point out that wealthier people (usually white) use white powder cocaine, while poorer people buy cocaine adulterated with baking soda, known as "crack". Last I heard, using cocaine with non-intoxicating baking soda mixed into it would bring a longer prison sentence than just using the original substance.
Furthermore, there are more whites on welfare than any other ethnic group. I am sorry to burst your bubble of racial pride and politics, but there are good people and bad people in every ethnic group.
LIE: The abortion debate is about women's reproductive freedom. It is pro-choice versus anti-choice. In the US and many other countries, legalizing abortion has always been about suppressing the growth of ethnic minorities. In the US, Planned Parenthood's founder wrote about using abortion and other means to suppress the propagation of unwanted groups, such as blacks, hillbillies, and those of Greek or Italian ancestry. Countries like China and the Soviet Union did likewise. Late in the USSR's existence, ethnic Russians were declining as a percentage of USSR population, as people in the southern (Islamic) Soviet Socialist Republics had higher fertility rates. In response, there was a campaign to limit population growth in those SSRs, while encouraging ethnic Russians to have more babies.
Pro-abortionists are better called exterminationists, since they would exterminate black babies until there were no more blacks here. Incidentally, this shows why it is a LIE that right-wing groups are racist, but left-wing groups are not. Both sides branched from the same rootstock in the early 1900s. Fascists got their name from the Italian name for "bundle"; a bundle of sticks being the symbol of the socialist labor movement at the time. Nazis got their name from a shortening of "national socialists" in the German language. There is little difference in their tactics and little difference in the end result of their rule.
If you want to stop lying to yourself and your offspring, where should you start?
- Recognize that government is not going to take care of you. Social Security is a good example. It's original purpose wasn't to provide retirement, but solely to get older workers to leave the workforce, so that younger workers could be hired to replace them. Thus, the government never planned for things like the end of the baby boom, because it was never designed to last this long. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have the guts to tell us the truth, which is that the federal government has been spending that money since the 1930s, that there is no "social security fund" where the SS taxes that have been collected all these years accumulate. Instead, the government takes the money, spends it, and replaces it with a bond (an IOU) that is supposed to be repaid with tax revenues from future generations. Once the baby boomers all retire, it is expected that there will be three workers paying taxes for every two retirees. On top of paying into the SS fund for their own retirement, those workers are each going to be taxed an additional amount to cover 2/3 of a retiree's benefits. Face it: it is all a LIE.
- Recognize that no LOOAC, no large corporation, no large bank, no large organization of any kind is going to take care of you and your family the way you want. You need to stop expecting it and to stop living like it. That means you have to start doing the things I mentioned above as entrepreneurial tasks. It might even mean that you will have to start a business. If you are a member of an ethnic minority group, starting a business, even if it is only part-time, on the side while you keep your existing job, is definitely something you should look into.
- Recognize that the "American dream" stories where someone starts out on the bottom and works his / her way to the top are rare. If you are working for a large organization, your ability to receive a reward for your effort is constrained by the organization's pay policies, which generally attempt to cap pay levels within different job titles and ranks. If you desire to get paid more, to get more benefits, or to be sure you will have a job when hard times come, you will very likely have to change organizations at least once, and more likely, you will have to start your own (or help someone else start their own) organization. You will have to work hard, and you are accepting all the risks of failure. But it is mostly your own decisions that will make or break your own organization, while it is "those bozos in headquarters" who will decide your fate in an existing organization.
- If you are a young adult who is just beginning the trek through college, get a job while you are in school. Be aware that there will probably not be jobs available that meet the expectations you've been fed. Do not be afraid to start working somewhere that has nothing to do with your major. Neither should you become loyal to any employer, since you can be fired or laid off at any time. Instead, you should always be looking for your next gig.
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