Employers Still in Denial About the New Normal of Fed-Up Low Wage Workers

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Perhaps I am reading overmuch into an in-passing observation at a new Wall Street Journal story on the continuing high quit rate in jobs deemed to be low level by virtue of being not terribly well paid, irrespective of the actual skill level involved. But it ring so true that I think not. It effectively says that employers have not adjusted to the fact that in an era when going to work means risking life and limb, aka Covid hazards, they need to be treated better, as in more pay, more respect, more perks like sick days.

The Wall Street Journal article, As American Workers Leave Jobs in Record Numbers, a Closer Look at Who Is Quitting, not only presents some new data on these departures, but also makes clear that there’s no end in sight for higher turnover. This tidbit is important because it flies in the face of what managers and investors want to believe: that adults need paychecks, that even if they refuse work (or even merely try to refuse work that they deem to be beneath them) that sooner rather than later, strained finances will force them to relent. Apparently they haven’t met many guerrilla grazers.

Recall that conservatives were upset about the Covid-tightened job markets and called for an end to enhanced unemployment insurance, convinced that it was turning once-diligent workers into new welfare mom equivalents. But when the benefits were cut back, the uptick in employment fell far short of what they’d expected based on the number losing support.

Key points from the new Journal sighting:

American workers’ stampede toward the exits hasn’t let up…low-wage workers, employees of color and women outside the management ranks are those most likely to change roles. The findings signal that turnover isn’t evenly spread across the U.S. workforce…

While front-line and low-wage positions typically see high rates of turnover, for example, employees in those roles are especially likely to leave now, Mercer found in a survey of 2,000 U.S. workers conducted in August.

And a survey of 3,600 U.S. workers released recently by software maker Qualtrics found a growing share of women open to changing roles. Some 63% of female middle managers said they intended to stay in their jobs next year, a drop from 75% in 2021, while 58% of women in nonmanagerial roles said the same…

Among front-line and low-wage workers in Mercer’s survey, 37% of food, retail and hospitality staffers are thinking of quitting, up from a historic norm of 27% among eight million employee responses collected by the company over the past five years….

Nearly half of low-wage and front-line workers surveyed said their pay and benefits were insufficient while 41% said they felt burned out from demanding workloads. Some 35% of Black employees and 40% of Asian employees said they were considering leaving, compared with 26% of white employees. Historically, Black and Asian employees have reported considering quitting at rates just under 30%, consistent with the general workforce….

The Qualtrics survey found even higher rates of people considering leaving their jobs than Mercer’s research did. Some 62% of workers planned to stay in their current jobs next year, the survey found, down from 65% in 2021.

Notice this is occurring even as Mercer’s survey found that the overall level of planned job departures hadn’t changed. That suggests that the higher ups are more likely to stay put than usual, perhaps the result of some being able to continue working part or full time at home.

So what caught my eye? Despite these surveys finding what should be obvious to anyone with an operating brain cell, that many hourly workers want more pay and/or better conditions (as in more realistic job loads and pacing), employers think the answer lies in finding more desperate prospects:

In a labor market where job openings outnumber applicants, companies have been brainstorming how to get more candidates in the door. The hiring overhaul signals a potentially broad rethink of job qualifications. The change could help millions of people get jobs previously out of reach, according to economists and workforce experts.

And where is this mythical pool of candidates-we-would-have-rejected-before-but-we-now-will-deign-to-hire to be found? Ex-cons? High school leavers? The handicapped (don’t pretend that many employers avoid hiring them)? The elderly? Oh, but the latter two groups would be desirable only for less than 30 hours a week, they are undesirable for their potential to raise health care premiums.

The Journal a couple of years ago published a feature on adults who’d permanently left the workforce. A significant group was middle aged men who’d once had good union or low level management jobs. They were unable to find anything approaching their former type of role, and they weren’t willing to become WalMart greeters or equivalent, so they dropped out. The article didn’t explore how they got by, but they’d been out of the workforce long enough that they had clearly cobbled together a way to survive.

The profound reluctance of companies and managers to accommodate reasonable demands of employees they’ve been able to squeeze harder and harder over decades isn’t about commercial logic or inability to pay more. Corporate profit share as a percentage of GDP has been at insanely high levels for over a decade. Most can pay more, which is the change that would demand least of managers. It’s that it offends their sensibilities. Remember that the last decade in particular has featured the worst sort of Taylorism: employees being monitored intensively and held to explicit output standards. After being able to impose sadistic work pacing (see Amazon warehouses), facing a worker revolt is like stepping on a rake and having it hit your face. They can’t believe it happened and reassure themselves that it won’t happen again.

This revolt against the boss class is a repudiation of what are taken as the normal power relations. We hope you’ll find this big hoist from a 2013 post, The Coercive Power of Capitalism, to be germane:

One issue I’ve long been bothered by is the libertarian fixation on the state as the source of coercive power. The strong form version is that the state is the only party with coercive power (and please don’t try denying that a lot of libertarians say that; there are plenty of examples in comments in past posts). Libertarians widely, if not universally, depict markets and commerce as less or even non-coercive.

What is remarkable is how we’ve blinded ourselves to the coercive element of our own system. From Robert Heilbroner in Behind the Veil of Economics:

This negative form of power contrasts sharply with with that of the privileged elites in precapitalist social formations. In these imperial kingdoms or feudal holdings, disciplinary power is exercised by the direct use or display of coercive power. The social power of capital is of a different kind….The capitalist may deny others access to his resources, but he may not force them to work with him. Clearly, such power requires circumstances that make the withholding of access of critical consequence. These circumstances can only arise if the general populace is unable to secure a living unless it can gain access to privately owned resources or wealth…

The organization of production is generally regarded as a wholly “economic” activity, ignoring the political function served by the wage-labor relationships in lieu of baliffs and senechals. In a like fashion, the discharge of political authority is regarded as essentially separable from the operation of the economic realm, ignoring the provision of the legal, military, and material contributions without which the private sphere could not function properly or even exist. In this way, the presence of the two realms, each responsible for part of the activities necessary for the maintenance of the social formation, not only gives capitalism a structure entirely different from that of any precapitalist society, but also establishes the basis for a problem that uniquely preoccupies capitalism, namely, the appropriate role of the state vis-a-vis the sphere of production and distribution.

What struck me about Heilbroner’s discussion, as if he was tip-toeing around the issue, and it was not clear whether because he could not formulate a crisp description of the power relationships, or that it was clear to him but he really didn’t want to come out and say what he saw.

Ian Welsh ventures where Heilbroner hesitated to go:

The fundamental idea of our current regime is one that most people have forgotten, because it is associated with Marx, and one must not talk about even the things Marx got right, because the USSR went bad. It is that we are wage laborers. We work for other people, we don’t control the means of production. Absent a job, we live in poverty. Sure, there are some exceptions, but they are exceptions. We are impelled, as it were, by Marx’s whip of hunger. It took a lot of work to set up this system, as Polyani notes in his book “the Great Transformation”, but now that it has happened, it is invisible to us.

We have to sell our labor (or be supported by someone who does that) as a condition of survival. Now that may not seem peculiar since that has been the state of affairs in most advanced economies for generations. The seeming exceptions, like farmers and even fishermen, are now little capitalists; they own equipment and sell their goods to wholesalers of various sorts. This order was imposed after the feudal era. As Yasha Levine explained, citing Michael Perelmen’s The Invention of Capitalism:

Faced with a peasantry that didn’t feel like playing the role of slave, philosophers, economists, politicians, moralists and leading business figures began advocating for government action. Over time, they enacted a series of laws and measures designed to push peasants out of the old and into the new by destroying their traditional means of self-support.

“The brutal acts associated with the process of stripping the majority of the people of the means of producing for themselves might seem far removed from the laissez-faire reputation of classical political economy,” writes Perelman. “In reality, the dispossession of the majority of small-scale producers and the construction of laissez-faire are closely connected, so much so that Marx, or at least his translators, labeled this expropriation of the masses as ‘‘primitive accumulation.’’

Perelman outlines the many different policies through which peasants were forced off the land—from the enactment of so-called Game Laws that prohibited peasants from hunting, to the destruction of the peasant productivity by fencing the commons into smaller lots—but by far the most interesting parts of the book are where you get to read Adam Smith’s proto-capitalist colleagues complaining and whining about how peasants are too independent and comfortable to be properly exploited, and trying to figure out how to force them to accept a life of wage slavery.

Back to the present post. The usual way employers kept the upper hand was via creating Marx’s reserve army of the unemployed: enough hungry people out of work so as to make jobs scarce enough to make workers a little or even a lot desperate. The Fed starting with Volcker helped by triggering recessions when worker bargaining power, um, inflation, was getting too high for comfort.

I don’t have a good enough crystal ball to foresee if there will be a small or perhaps even a big reset in workplace relations. It isn’t surprising to see that employers are very dug in, as confirmed by the Deere strike, where union demands for more say over factory conditions are being met with a deaf ear.

However, our forecast is that absent the development of a near or actually sterilizing vaccine, like the promising but still not ready for prime time Novovax nasal vaccine, Covid is not going away any time soon, as the big surge in Europe confirms. So the pandemic may eventually wear down stingy, abusive managements.

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  1. Egidijus

    Same here in Lithuania but a ruling party of so-called conservatives went on faking the statistics while making an unemployed status to a job-seeker and presenting only the former to unemployment numbers, not counting job-seekers anymore. So formally an unemployment is falling down in numbers. LOL

  2. Any Cause Will Do

    What might not seem attractive to ensconced Americans, may seem OK to immigrants. Which may explain the US Chamber of Commerce’s position on immigration. Desperate immigrants, especially the undocumented, are exploitable.

    1. ambrit

      The real tragedy of the “undocumented illegals” is that they are easily exploited when in this country. No one has yet formally presented the extreme case of this. Expect Ultra Nativitists to, sooner or later, agitate for the ‘expulsion’ or ‘liquidation’ of the undocumented illegals.
      Lynch Law is a long standing and ‘honoured’ aspect of American society. Such being formally illegal, expect it to be enacted ‘outside the law,’ as it were.
      Our oft expressed support for “pitchforks and guillotines” is a very malleable concept. It can be applied against any demographic.
      If you doubt the applicability of my concept, just have a look at the plethora of “Superhero” movies we have today. They are very popular, just like the Westerns of yesteryear. The basic plot is that an individual or small collective uses violence to overcome some adversary. This looks like “Mob Action” to me, no?
      Stay safe! Hull down.

      1. Jeff

        As long as power and trash pickup continue, things would have to get extraordinarily bad for the majority in the US to have an Arab Spring moment. It’s possible just highly unlikely.

        TPTB know this.

        1. ambrit

          I was thinking more of a “Showdown At Galt’s Gulch” sort of scenario.
          With the “undocumented illegals” situation, all a sufficiently wily political opportunist need do is to motivate a sub-set of the American working classes to demonize the “undocumented illegals.” From there to “strange fruit” adorning our lamp posts is but a small step.
          Short version; it doesn’t have to be a mass uprising. Most successful revolutions are carried out by small but cohesive groups. why else did Lenin hit upon naming his small political party, the Bolsheviks (the Majority ones.) He also pulled of the considerable propaganda feat of sticking the majority party in the Duma with the name of the Mensheviks (the Minority ones.)
          Now, I wouldn’t put the idea of America having it’s own “Arab Spring” movement; if Vlad Vladimirovitch were so inclined. Never forget that the West took control of a good bit of the originally organic “Arab Spring” protests. That process is still carrying on in Syria.

          1. Geraldine

            Try $10 gasoline and empty grocery shelves.

            That’s when the deer rifles get loaded and the those judged to blame will wish they hadn’t defunded the police and been so vocal.

            1. wilroncanada

              Unfortunately no. Americans–add Canucks, Europeans, Aussies, Kiwis. We have been taught well to punch down. The war on poverty will mean ‘kill a homeless person,’ then shut down the food banks and let the useless eaters starve. The Euro/Anglo world has always been a class system hidden by propaganda. And force has always been the ‘right of the powerful,’ at every step up from the very lowest ‘untouchables.’

          2. Christopher Horne

            Yep. Remember the Boshevik revolution started with the
            Aurora. The French Revolution started in a marketplace
            with a single woman beating a drum. Chaos theory teaches
            that organized systems remain stable until a definite point,
            then instantly collapse. The result is usually that the power
            structure finally appears to give in, but only after it is too late. Welcome, Friends, to the Interegnum!

            1. Alena Shahadat

              I was surprized to learn that Bolshevik revolution was inspired by the French Revolution. With the “homme nouveau” and all. Sometimes I wonder if the lack of real democratic structures in the Republic of France has something to do with this common origin?

    2. saywhat?

      I have to mention that foreigners were, per the Old Testament, to be welcomed and well-treated in ancient Israel because the Hebrews themselves had been ill-treated in Egypt and perhaps more practically because the assets in ancient Israel, at least the agricultural assets, were roughy equally owned by all Hebrews, and thus no Hebrew was normally threatened by competition from cheaper, more compliant, foreign labor but rather blessed by it as an asset owner.

  3. Eustachedesaintpierre

    Excellent – Here in Northern Ireland within a fairly small circle of people that I know, some of them get by through working cash in hand – mainly working in painting & decorating, building & gardening . If this small group is anything to go by then it is likely pretty widespread throughout the province. I guess that if certain forces were to effectively ban cash then that would put the mockers on it, unless some form of barter could be used, which I wonder about in relation to India.

    Universal Credit which appears to be designed to force people into poverty is I suppose a form of worker discipline & I bet that much of the above throughout the UK is also something that people are taking part in if only in an effort to simply survive.

    1. Stephen

      Cash has already been effectively banned in the US, through the widespread deployment and enforcement of Asset Forfeiture regulations.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The civicly virtuous cash in hander can alway’s truthfully report herm’s cash income and pay the owed tax. Nothing prevents that.

    2. John Zelnicker

      November 15, 2021 at 7:55 am

      I think you nailed it. And, it certainly applies here in the US.

      People who are refusing to work for shite wages are finding cash work to support themselves. A bunch are starting their own businesses which can actually be done pretty cheaply.

      It’s a tough row to hoe, but they are in charge and that’s priceless.

      As someone who has been self-employed off and on for many years including the last dozen, I find the sense of accomplishment from successfully completing a project is much greater than it was as a wage earner.

  4. Tom Stone

    Quite a few are doing the math,
    After childcare, commute costs and time traveling, taxes…your actual pay may be $2 an hour.
    To work under supervisors who are highly stressed and who take their cue from their sociopathic bosses.
    Risking your life and the life of your loved ones all the while.
    The dogs have lost their taste for the dog food.

    1. Cocomaan

      This is what I think too. Childcare is thousands a month. Commuting is hundreds a month in gas and repairs, if not thousands when you count depreciation. Public transit isn’t necessarily cheap.

      If your kids are school age, you have a moving target of them being in school or not being in school these days. Plus the purchase of masks and other PPE.

      Was listening to marketplace on NPR and they seem flabbergasted by the inflation figures and quit figures. Seem to be avoiding the obvious conclusion that working conditions are horrible. Instead they keep harping the line about how inflation isn’t bad because wages are up.

      1. petal

        Thank you for writing it out so well, better than I could. Explained this very thing to my (very well off) boss a few weeks ago when exasperated by the supply chain issues he asked “Doesn’t anybody work anymore?!?” and what you wrote was what I said to him and anyone else that asks that. Not sure it sunk in totally, but I think it made an impact. It kind of shook him out of that mindset. If you can get by as a couple on one salary, why not, especially if you have kids? And with the way daycare and school can be hit or miss whether from covid shutdowns or lack of places, etc. For a lot of my friends, their second salary all goes to cover things like daycare. Why have the added stress of a crappy job and other complications(like daycare germ factories) if you figure out a way you don’t have to and your family is happier and potentially healthier?

        1. cocomaan

          Right on, especially those daycare/school germ factories.

          Another aspect is how badly the career trajectory looks for anyone still working age.

          I’ve given up on climbing in career and instead started funneling time into a side business in consulting. It seems like a far better hedge to have two streams of income (even if one is small) than to climb the ladder. It’s actually working. I’ve contacted old jobs and they 1099 me in for odd jobs.

          Whereas all my experiences in getting into upper management have been horrific, usually forcing me to compromise on my morals, do shady shit, or participate in unstable organizational structures that could have me fired at any moment.

          So instead of working the extra hours at the day job to advance, I am working the extra hours to build the side company. If they let me go, I have something to fall back on.

          My job area is compliance, so it’s something nobody really wants to do. That helps.

          1. EGrise

            Whereas all my experiences in getting into upper management have been horrific, usually forcing me to compromise on my morals, do shady shit, or participate in unstable organizational structures that could have me fired at any moment.

            THIS. This so much is the reason I’ve given up taking any steps to management anywhere I’ve worked since the Great Financial Crisis of ’08. As far as I can tell, “management” (or “leadership” as it’s often painted) in America is solely about coercing people into doing things they don’t want to do, and I’ll have no part in it.

            Like cocomaan, I’m spending the time and effort I’d have “invested” in climbing the career ladder into working to establish other streams of income, anticipating the day I’m too old to hire any more.

          2. Duke of Prunes

            Totally agree about your horrific experiences getting into upper management. I’ve had similar experiences so I found meaningful “individual contributor” roles where I could mostly ignore the “game of thrones” antics going on in the executive suite.

            I also watched some friends and co-workers take the executive track and saw the toll it took on them both mentally and physically. Some might say I’m a slacker and not living up to my “potential”, but I have a comfortable life and can sleep at night. Yes, some of the hard chargers have retired and are now living the “good life”, but I enjoy my laid back working life so what’s the hurry to retire?

        2. Amfortas the hippie

          i hear “doesn’t anyone work?” a lot when i’m out and about.
          and someone neaby usually tosses out the standard:”…all that gubmit money…” nonsense.
          but we are, it turns out, thinking beings, us peons…
          more than 16 years ago, wife and i made the same calculation: my body was breaking, so i couldn’t cook for a living anymore…and most of my paltry check was going to daycare any way, which kept our then only kid sick all the time, and necessitated time off to run him to the doctor.
          meanwhile, she was on the career track…spanish teacher…which had better prospects, even though we’re in texas, where teachers are evil and communists.
          so i “retired”…and raised our boys.
          and, once i got the dern hip(6 1/2 years), started back in on the autarky/secession project with a will.
          of course, we didn’t count on her getting cancer and having to decide on early retirement…still, we’d make the same decision again.
          at the time, quitting for my health, i was seen as a radical hereabouts.
          now, it seems that a whole bunch of others are coming to the same fork in the road.
          want workers? make it worth their while, and treat them right.
          bosses of my grandparents’ generation knew this.
          time for todays’ bosses to stop whining and pay up.

          1. Mikel

            I still can’t get over the line item in the proposal about how “to pay for” the trillions worth infrastructure bill: over 50 billion dollars of unemployment benefits returned to the federal govt. that never reached people.

          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            @Amfortas the hippie,

            Several threads ago you suggested that peoples’ experiences with various kinds of Separate Survival might be a good thing for people to bring here and add. Once this thread has played out and slowed down, people might want to bring such knowledge and experience here (after other discussions have ended and would no longer be interrupted by a bunch of informed testimonials and descriptions of successful subsistence, with or without cash involved).

        3. James

          I’ve been commenting for years on how it makes little sense to go to work in order to pay another person to raise your own children.

        4. wilroncanada

          We chose in 1972 when we were married to be a one-income family. My salary was actually smaller, but we knew when we had children that my wife, a gifted teacher, would be the better nurturer while I had opportunity for advancement.
          The advancement turned into crappy middle management, implementing demands of greedy owner/managers in three small businesses in the same field. We eventually opened our own business, which we operated together as my daughters reached their teens. Alas, the category killers finally caught up with us, making a further mockery of ‘customer loyalty’ in the face of quasi-big boxes with their advertising muscle.
          I believe we succeeded in passing values of persistence and basic decency to our girls. We supported them through undergraduate degrees while giving them experience at home in caring for goats, chickens and gardens.

    2. TMoney

      Covid forced people to do the maths for over 12 months.

      I suspect a lot of people found that $2/hr (net) was easily offset by a higher quality of life. Such people may be lured into job situations that don’t stress or incur child care costs but they are unlikely to rush back to 40+ hour jobs.

      If this idea has any truth to it, such people will (if they got unemployment)have found themselves better off during the pandemic, while worrying they were going to starve. Then they would have realized that they could make it without unemployment or going back to work while using the extra time in their lives to replace the extra money.*

      * Cooking at home instead of eating fast food is my go to example.

        1. BeliTsari

          Look through Zymurgy archives for Belgian Ale yeasts and protocols to facilitate cider and perry, without throwing out batches or using metabisulfates. Before grafting hops scions to cannabis rootstocks, mead was the very first thing lots of us urban hillbillies brewed.




      1. Michael

        I said back in early pandemic days, learn to cook and negotiate!

        I make sourdough bread and trade for fresh caught tuna. When you both value your labor at a wash, we both eat like kings.

        I’m sure skilled workers have no trouble day trading their labor.

    3. fresno dan

      Tom Stone
      November 15, 2021 at 7:59 am

      The Journal a couple of years ago published a feature on adults who’d permanently left the workforce. A significant group was middle aged men who’d once had good union or low level management jobs. They were unable to find anything approaching their former type of role, and they weren’t willing to become WalMart greeters or equivalent, so they dropped out. The article didn’t explore how they got by, but they’d been out of the workforce long enough that they had clearly cobbled together a way to survive.

      Labor participation rate

      I can remember in the late 1970’s the complaint that it took both husband AND wife both HAD to work to make ends meet, and that it took 2 to provide the income that one used to be able to provide. The idea that everybody should be working all the time…to what ends??? It seems to me there were years of propaganda about how women wanted to work, as if every job women would hold would be as editors at Cosmopolitan. Most jobs suck, and the overwhelming reason to do them is for the renumeration (money and benefits).

      The thing about the jobs today is that they do not provide for most people enough benefits (health care) or money for college for their children. So what are people doing with their paltry wages? I think many have looked at their net pay, and determined that the work isn’t worth the pay – the crappy stuff they can buy with their crappy wages just isn’t worth the aggravation.
      I could post an encyclopeidia’s worth of pages of how the country is richer, how productivity has gone up, how the rich have gotten much, much, MUCH richer – but that wage earners have been running in place.
      I think it has taken a long time, but the deal that opening markets, deregulating, lower taxes, etcetera has been exposed as designed to make the rich richer at the expense of the non-rich. Wage earners are saying to hell with that…

      1. w d w

        in the old days, the CEO’s income was closer to 40-50 times the serfs if the day. today, its more like several time what their serfs make,

        is today better? no

          1. fresno dan

            drumlin woodchuckles
            November 15, 2021 at 2:39 pm

            CEO compensation is very high relative to typical worker compensation (by a ratio of 278-to-1 or 221-to-1). In contrast, the CEO-to-typical-worker compensation ratio (options realized) was 20-to-1 in 1965 and 58-to-1 in 1989. CEOs are even making a lot more—about five times as much—as other earners in the top 0.1%. From 1978 to 2018, CEO compensation grew by 1,007.5% (940.3% under the options-realized measure), far outstripping S&P stock market growth (706.7%) and the wage growth of very high earners (339.2%). In contrast, wages for the typical worker grew by just 11.9%.
            So we don’t have flying cars or self driving cars….we do have phone trees where it takes 3 hours to contact the cable company to complain that they have mischarged you…again
            I mean, it seems other than increasing their own pay, CEO’s don’t do much.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              Restoring the New Deal- Eisenhower Era taxation system and rates in their entirety could begin to pressure that spread back down.

              That’s something a political party-movement could run on. Maybe a Social Democrat or a ReNew the Deal Party. Something with a truth-in-labelling name.

              1. lance ringquist

                you would have to overcome this if we are to restore democratic control and a civil society.

                Globalism is the creation of a set of property rights that, precisely because they span multiple sovereignties, cannot be touched by one government without inviting conflict with another.

                Organizing property and production across borders—whether through free trade, protections for foreign investment, currency unions or other devices—does more than limit the power of governments. It also serves, “to dissolve the small, discrete collective of mutual identification—which means a country.”


      2. sharonsj

        I haven’t been gainfully employed for maybe 25 years. The solution is to buy land/house in the boonies and pay it off. If you’re not interested in keeping up with the Joneses, then everything you need can be gotten cheaply at thrift shops, yard sales and flea markets. You can grow your own food or buy at farmers markets. I also buy and sell at flea markets where cash is king. There are ways to game the system or just not play at all.

  5. Steve H.

    Praise the Brev:

    Lambert: Rule #1: Because markets. Rule #2: Go die!

    Ian: Fact: According the Princeton oligarchy study, almost the only thing that matters in what policies government pursues in the US is what elite factions want. Fact: Covid-19 has made the rich in the US much, much richer.


    * * *

    John Robb: Another interesting limitation, and perhaps the most restrictive limitation, is recursive mind-state mapping. In short, mind-state mapping involves modeling the mind-state of other people in order to anticipate their actions/reactions. For example (when you compress the states to be mapped into a single sentence, the result is a bit clunky): I think that you believe that I am wondering why you suppose that I intend to do the opposite of whatever you want me to do.

    Here, Yves quotes Ian quoting the Karl’s. I appreciate the layering.

    * * *

    A missing bridge is what Janet and I call Disemployment. We are anchored by knowing that in Spring 2019, with the pandemic in bloom, the state told Medicare/Medicaid businesses “We know you have a staffing shortage. If you say that publicly, we’ll fine you $10K per instance.” I’ve writ more on this in other comments, and it could be anchoring bias, but it’s a parsimonious explanation.

    1. Noone from Nowheresville

      What resonated with me from the Ian Welsh’s Understanding Predators link:

      If it was just incompetence, like for example, the favorite excuse of liberals, “Never assume malice when incompetence will explain something,” then they wouldn’t keep getting more and more money.

      Somehow their “incompetence” just makes them richer. Even the financial crisis made the elites richer overall–the drop was a blip which allowed them to control more of the economy than before.**

      I’ll grant incompetence to certain aspects and even happy accidents along the way for long-term visioning. But only the pillars of the New Dealers (which were built on the prior decades long work of ordinary people around the world) still remain, it’s time we bury the incompetence meme as well as the hero v. villain fairytale cathartic “if only the Tzar knew” storytelling narrative of the predator class for wage workers everywhere.

      I don’t know much but I do know mob war with pitchforks is very very dangerous for ordinary peoples. I hope there is a better regional / local way and that these wage-workers walking away are the start of something which allow us room to explore other means of living.

      **Welsh said this in mid-summer 2020. Look how 2021 has increased that wealth even further. But we knew that would happen after the CARES Act passed in March 2020. NC talked about the possibilities. As I recall Stoller screamed the week before CARES passed, practically begging someone like Sanders or Warren to rally the troops, but no US politician picked up that particular banner.

      1. fresno dan

        Noone from Nowheresville
        November 15, 2021 at 9:56 am

        Along your same lines, the excuse of goverment representatives and others in high positions is predominantly, it was an error in judgement. with the implicit insinuation that no action should be taken against that individual, because actual malice wasn’t involved.
        The JOB is judgement – if you have poor judgement, you should be fired.

        1. w d w

          well their job is to make decisions, make bad one, loose job seems to fit in with the serves and lords scheme we have to day

  6. The Rev Kev

    ‘Over time, they enacted a series of laws and measures designed to push peasants out of the old and into the new by destroying their traditional means of self-support.’ That would be things like the destruction of the Commons which forced people to leave their villages and seek work in the new industrial cities in the 19th century. And this sort of thing still goes on today when they forbid people to raise chickens, etc. in their backyards or enact ordinances to stop people turning their lawns into food gardens. But with this post, I do wonder if there is a revolving door effect going on. What I mean is that people may be more willing to leave their jobs as they figure that there are jobs available in the workplace that other people have left. Of course if that new job is unwilling to offer decent wages & conditions or is unwilling to give up on their gratuitous cruelty policy, then they will move on until maybe it sinks through to the managers that if they want to keep workers, then they are going to have to up wages & conditions. And maybe settle for having the gratuitous cruelty only every other day instead.

    1. ambrit

      The problem I see here is that, so far, the “psychotically parsimonious” managers have been able to replace the high turnover workers. Only when a full stop situation is encountered can the managerial class be forced to confront their basic problems. I can assure everyone that the upper layer middle managers who give the orders to the front line managers are sufficiently insulated from the day to day stresses of ‘managing’ the high turnover rate among the floor workers that they will double down on threats and metrics to their subordinates. Thus, by individual comapny, the slow collapse of the business can be siloed and dealt with as an aberration by the managerial class as a whole. It is going to take a total breakdown of the retail business sector to force any meaningful change in the wages and working conditions of the working class in America.
      One anecdote from personal observation should underscore the essentially reactionary nature of today’s manager class. During the “depths” of the Pandemic, in Spring of 2020, wages in the Bigg Boxx stores and then smaller retail emporia rose, generally to the $15 USD per hour range. This was observed at various outlets during the course of 2020. Beginning in the Spring of 2021, those newly elevated ‘introductory’ wages began to fall. One Bigg Boxx outlet now advertises an entry wage for cashiers of $11 USD per hour, for the same jobs they offered $15 USD per hour a year ago. Predictably, this store is chronically short staffed now. The shelves are a mess. At the end of the stocking cycle, shelves of basic items are often half or fully empty. Yet, we see pallets of merchandise sitting around the sales floor, waiting to be shelved.
      One item that I did not see mentioned is the frazzled state of the “front line” proto managerial class. The turnover in the floor managers I see at, at least, the Bigg Boxx stores as high also. The class divisions are shifting. No longer can a “trainee” manager consider him or herself as solidly “Middle Class.” The punching down is spreading.
      Stay safe!

      1. Phil in KC

        Ambrit’s Big Boxx anecdote rings true for me. Supervisors and low-level management types are now finding out that they have no one to punch down on anymore, which means they themselves are now being squeezed by their betters to increase productivity. The velvet gloves are off. One can imagine that at a certain point many of them will also join the refuseniks. Something is brewing . . .

        1. ambrit

          Yes, something is indeed brewing. I forgot to mention that I have seen floor managers running check out registers during the last six months at several emporia. This was almost verboten two years ago.
          The main characteristic I see in the retail outlet workers today is weariness. Everyone is slowly shutting down, emotionally.
          Stay safe!

          1. Jacques Fromage

            I retired a bit more than 2 years ago (boy, am I thankful that I did, too), and so get to spend more time observing when we go out in public, we too have noticed a big change in the workers we deal with. I hope that someday we can make every day Labor Day in this country, we try to always let people know that we appreciate their efforts and skills.
            I’ll be sending my small check in today to support NC.

        2. wilroncanada

          They thought they could beat the lower orders into obeisance and morale would improve. They have discovered that, in a dictatorship, they would be next. Wasn’t there anyone left below them to punch down upon?

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        If it gets so bad that all the middle managers start quitting and walking away, then the upper managers will be forced to face the pain.

        Our mission, should we decide to accept it , is to facilitate and extend the Great Walkout and make the pain on the middle managers so bad that they can’t take it anymore, and join the Great Walkout.
        Those who Walk Out should be assisted in learning whatever we have discovered about NeoPeasant subsistence, “System D”, or whatever we want to call it, so that some of them discover enough happiness that they decide to never ever ” walk back in”.

      3. Valerie

        They might offer $15 per hour, but you will be lucky to be scheduled 20 hours a week. AND those 20 hours will be broken up so that you work four hours here and three hours there. Sometimes you will open and sometimes you will close and you will ALWAYS have a few hours scheduled EVERY weekend (unless you give three months notice, in writing and then they will schedule you anyway and say they forgot.) You will never know when you will be working from week to week as it will change and the new schedule will not be posted until the last possible second. This will mean that you must pay for child care you end up not using or risk finding some at the last minute. We haven’t even discussed ridiculous training sessions you may have to attend. (A mandatory one hour sexual harassment unit taught only at 8am on a Wednesday, for example.) Or having corporate decide that everyone needs to buy all new uniforms after a consultant recommendation (at employee expense of course.) I quit one chain restaurant I’d worked at for a year and a half because in mid-December we were told that January 1st the chain was changing from a work uniform of blue jeans, white-collared shirts and chain-supplied full aprons to khakis, navy polos and small bartenders aprons all to be paid for by staff. Corporate didn’t offer so much as a dollar towards the new look. I didn’t have a washer and dryer at home and securing three full changes of uniform at the height of the holidays was a deal-breaker for a part-time waitress making a tipped wage of $2.13 an hour. These big box stores and franchise restaurants are largely reaping what they have sown. People have been abused for years and now with the very real risk that your job with the public could cause you long-term disability and death is causing a great many worker look at their workplaces differently.

        As for unstocked shelves…In my youth in retail there were young men (usually men) who worked as stock clerks. They worked forty hours a week. They ONLY opened boxes, priced goods, stocked shelves ,cut up. boxes and kept the stock room tidy They did not wait on customers. SALES clerks waited on customers. Stock clerks did not need to have a PASSION for their work, good people skills etc. They just had to show up dependably and do their job. A lot of people who would not be hired today for various reasons made excellent stock clerks. Several years ago retailers decided they would cut out stockrooms and stock clerks. Sales clerks could could do the stocking in between helping customers as trucks jettisoned cargo onto the loading docks “just-in-time”. Soon it was almost impossible for the average customer to find anyone to wait on them. Now there is no one to stock the shelves. Yet these firms keep trading higher and higher on Wall Street and the CEO compensation packages get fatter. The temptation to order everything online or do without grows daily.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          If enough Great Walkouters declined to accept jobs of 20hr/week in randomly scattered few-hour chunks, would the employer class be strangled into making jobs 40hr per week and/or regular timeblock schedules of full days?

    2. lordkoos

      Isn’t one of the perks of being a boss being able to use your power over workers to inflict cruelty? Bosses have bosses above them, so they can pass along whatever frustration, pressure and abuse they receive to the people working under them. It’s a pretty sick setup all around…

      I consider myself very fortunate to have made my living outside the normal workplace for most of my life.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        That just means we will have to make the pain of middle management in the Great Walkout so much greater than the pleasure middle management normally gets from petty sadism that the greater pain pushes them to join the Great Walkout.

        One way of doing that might be to de-staff some operations so much that the middle manager has to do the physical work that the missing workers are no longer there to do.

        When upper management discovers it is paying middle management a middle management salary to wash dishes and flip burgers, then upper management will begin feeling pain at the discovery.

        If we imagine our system to be a pyramid of dominos, one can imagine that by knocking over enough of the bottom support layer of dominos, that the higher layers will begin self-knocking and self-falling over. Push that far enough and the ultimate system lords may find themselves choosing between surrendering to the need for a better-for-most-of-us system or choosing to find out if they can do a Wiley E. Coyote float in the air trick without falling down.

    3. Christopher Horne

      In those days, owning a cow was the key, since a cow’s products earned
      about three times what a typical peasant’s were.

  7. MCB

    I’ve discussed my contention re: inheritance from the covid diseased keeping an under-appreciated number people in retail/low level paper pushing out of the labor market for a while to skill up, chill out, or provide care. One thing many people do not appreciate either is the informal economy or ‘off the books’ work people do to scrape by. Providing child care at home for a relatively low cost for friends or family, mowing lawns or doing handy work around the neighborhood, making food and advertising it on social media to a wider circle of acquaintances but keeps it low key enough so the health department doesn’t catch on, freelancing grooming services in people’s homes, etc. You can skate by on that kind of work for a while and fly under the radar. People who ask how these people survive have never had to actually survive for a period of time without it gainful employment.

    1. Christopher Horne

      Just hired a neighbor to clean my gutters for me. As a musician, he
      makes about 11$/hr after taxes. I told him $100 for the job. Do the math!

  8. Joe Well

    I am very surprised that more people aren’t drawing a line between the collapse of the Bernie Sanders movement (not just his presidential campaign), which occurred coincidentally around the outset of the pandemic in the US, and the transfer of wealth that immediately followed.

    If that is the best the working class has got, the rich must have thought, we’ve been going too easy on them.

    1. JohnnyGL

      Bernie and the CPC, squad, etc. all signed on to the CARES act which was passed in a hurry, written by Pelosi and McConnell on the back of a napkin.

      They barely contested anything. I think Bernie did some play fighting for a little extra unemployment money.

      Then, that same caucus in the House voted for Pelosi to return as speaker.

      Now, they’ve folded on the BBB and BIF bills.

      Bernie’s movement didn’t collapse. The leadership surrendered without a fight, again and again.

      1. Joe Well

        Yes, CARES Act was a historic betrayal and the moment I mostly stopped paying attention to Bernie & Co.

        But a movement implies that a mass of people is pushing its leaders, which did not happen.

        Or, maybe there just wasn’t a movement after all, just a few very popular individuals.

        Or, maybe, as Matt Stoller often writes, what passes for the left in the US is just not interested in the details of legislation and policy or wielding power at all.

        1. Cat Burglar

          People on the left are not well served by their media. While it covers issues of the moment (Common Dreams is an example), most of it does not perform a longer-term educative function (which this site does). Most left commentary relies, like MSM journalism, on paraphrase and summary, but not on analysis of specifics in context for a thinking, educable public.

          Forming that public — a movement, if you like — is part of the project of building power. When readers or viewers are written for as manipulable recipients, then what is being produced is passivity. During coverage of the 2008 crisis and bailouts, I heard the continual paraphrase of the problem as “toxic” securities, and rarely was there any description of the exact mechanism that created them — and that forebearance, for me, was a political decision. (That’s why I say the moral of every NPR story is, “Go back to sleep.”)

        2. lance ringquist

          i stopped in 2016 when the clintonites stole the primaries. laughed at bernie, threw it in his face, then demanded that he keep his promise and support the ghoul hillary.

          bernie could have kept his promise as he ran as a green by saying i will vote for hillary- like i promised. but if you want change vote for the green party.

          i ignored bernie in the 2020 primaries, like i ignore him today.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        People are often marked by the world they were young in and grow old imagining that same world still exists with only some details changed.

        Sanders grew up in a civilized world where improvement was thinkable and even possible. He has grown old still thinking today’s world offers improvement as thinkable or even possible. And so he tries doing things in the belief that “this or that” can be built on into a better future.

        I am just guessing now, but he is not psychologically or mentally wired to understand today’s and tomorrow’s society as being a civil economic cold war to the death, where one class gains something by exterminating another class from existence.

        Today’s young people growing up accepting that as the baseline social reality may become effective leaders of effective civil-war-fighting class-enemy-exterminating movements.

        The future is zero sum. ( Actually the future is negative sum. Winners win by making losers lose more than the winners win. So . . . who shall march to victory on a road of whose bones?)

  9. Matthew G. Saroff

    I think that a lot of these reports miss the obvious: The sadistic model of employee management in the United States, much loved by senior managers and MBA programs, is dependent on the (completely unjustified) faith in and loyalty to one’s employer.

    This worked for a time, because it was a cultural norm and a habit, but as the people who found careers in the pre-Jimmy Carter times have left the labor market, and those after that have come to their senses, that resource has been exhausted.

    To quote Abraham Lincoln, “You cannot fool all the people all the time.”

    1. w d w

      and some ties the serfs figure it out

      see French revolution

      course that was just a government based revolt

      long before that, you can see what happened after the bubonic plague, so many workers died, that the land holders had to change what they did

  10. Carolinian

    So, economics is really all about power and power relations with money merely the abstraction or, if you prefer, the euphemism? Sounds like workers who didn’t already know that are figuring it out.

    Freud would have said it’s all about sex and maybe that’s right but rather than his “talking cure” a good dose of behavioral psychology may be needed. Put those elites in a Skinner box for some negative reinforcement.

    1. Skip Intro

      I think the ‘science’ of economics was created from the field of Political Economy specifically to obscure the relation between political and economic power, and thus move economics beyond the reach of democratic politics. This essentially neutered democracy (cf Princeton study), by enclosing its commoners in fences of economic necessity, and capturing nominal leaders.

      1. w d w

        not sure that there is a science of economics. after all they cant predict any thing better than was done for meteorology….from the early 20th century. and while they run ‘experiments’ on the ‘economy’ from time, they dont seem to learn much. and loose a lot of what they do

        like supply and demand…which was big long ago. but is lost today

        1. Skip Intro

          Yeah, not actual science, as it is anti-empirical by design, but a ‘science’ in the sense of some intimidating looking basic calculus used to tart up ideology so it looks like objective knowledge.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          Well . . . . the Nobel Prize winning nuclear chemist Frederick Soddy tried imagining what a physical-science-guided “economics” might look like. He wrote it up in Weal, Virtual Wealth, and Debt: The Solution of the Economic Paradox.

          Reading that, and reading stuff by Herman Daly and Howard Odum and Charles Walters Jr. and the Raw Materials Economists whose names can be found a the National Organization For Raw Materials might be a start towards a semi-science of Political Economics.

          All life starts with a free lunch, the free and un-paid-for energy coming from the sun, the moon, the earth core and deep space. All we have to pay is attention, and the effort to capture and use some of that free incoming energy.

      2. wilroncanada

        When I worked at University of Toronto–not student, just gopher–one of the journals I stocked for distribution was the Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science. The year after I decide to split, to Vancouver, it split, into 2 journals.
        Years later we lived in Wolfville, NS. Our neighbour was a retired economics professor named Galbraith (not that one). He said to me once in conversation at a gathering that the split between economics and political science was a huge mistake, because the first was just a sub-group of the second.

  11. Dr. John Carpenter

    I’m waiting to see who will will be first to suggest turning to prison labor to fill the gaps. They already pick up our trash and fight our fires. Why not have them flip our burgers and stock our shelves? Most of these wage slave jobs already monitor every move of their employees anyway, so there wouldn’t be much change in security.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Nothing more than fringe types. There has been too much investment in “CRIME” and “SHOP LIFTING” to put prisoners in stores by pretty much everyone. It’s too much to swing on.

      It’s like the GOP attempts to bring in low wage slave labor in 2006 called “immigration reform.” They tried to make the swing and failed despite Team Blue support, including the always progressive (snark) Ted Kennedy. Since then, they’ve stayed pretty true to their usual list of grievances.

    2. Skip Intro

      Kamala won the hearts and minds of her owners when she argued against releasing prisoners, since they were needed to fight wildfires in CA. Not slaves, but not free: the model for the new American worker.

      1. Ghost in the Machine

        Thirteenth Amendment

        Section 1

        Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

        Section 2

        Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

        Actually, they are slaves. Legally so.

        1. JBird4049

          With the possible exceptions of the First Amendment and in some of the redder states, the Second Amendment, the Bill of Rights is more suggestive than real. Even for the First, their are people in law enforcement and business trying to gut it, I guess because it makes them look bad, and in some blue areas, gunz are the worst thing evah, so they are trying to make the Second fiction as well.

          Actually, since much of the current and past prison population was arrested, charged, and convicted with the due process of law being fictive, you could say that much of the convicted population are either illegally enslaved or made part of Marx’s reserve army of labor, to be used when the workers get uppity.

    3. w d w

      and the other choice

      the army, put as many of them in trucks to drive the trucks. but the business doesnt pay their wages, the tax payer does? Sound familiar? check the UK

      course they trucker shortage is closer to 100000, here we only have an 80000 shortage. and business wonders why they have this shortage?

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      But just in case, there should be a movement to delete those words about slavery for duly convicted convicts still being constitutional from the anti-slavery ammendment.

    5. wilroncanada

      Dr John
      They also make phone calls and answer phones for corporations to help them sell more stuff, and to learn a few hacking skills on the side.

  12. JohnnyGL

    One underrated factor involved here is a kind of unwinding of the uptick in the EPOP (Employment to Population ratio) among those close to retirement and already retired that took place after the Great Recession crushed retirement accounts and house prices.

    After 2009, lots of older people entered the workforce to get some extra income, and now, it seems that demographic is exiting the workforce.

    Another important factor to consider is the jaw-dropping lay-offs that took place in the spring of 2020. It was like 25 million jobs in the space of a month or two. It’s one thing to fear you could be laid-off or fired at any point. It’s another thing to actually go through it and come out the other side. Now, you know what the ‘worst-case’ scenario looks like, and, more importantly, you may have learned how to cope with it.

  13. caloba

    Recent work on early state formation has suggested that the purpose of city walls was not only to keep the barbarians out, but to keep the citizens in. And that warfare usually took the form of slaving raids to compensate for manpower leakage. Relevantly, this leakage reflected not only the relative attractiveness of the barbarian way of life but was periodically exacerbated by the fear of plague in the densely-packed cities.

  14. Samuel Conner

    Grazing is beyond me, but I’m hoping to take a modest (perhaps 10% of the way) step in 2022 toward ‘self-provision of calories’, and potatoes are how I hope to get there. I suspect I will fail, but hope to learn a lot along the way.

    Any suggestions for varieties which are highly productive and disease resistant would be welcome.

    The grow method I expect to use is ‘in soil (not sure yet whether ‘at grade’ or in a raised bed) with mounding of soil/mulch’. The mulch will probably be shredded oak leaves.

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      Way to go Samuel. If you’re worried about disease here’s a few resources to contact, if you haven’t already:

      a. Call Johnny’s seeds, or Territorial Seeds or the like if you’re here in the U.S. Tell them where you are, and ask them to recommend the seed and the growing regimen. They can help a lot.

      b. If you have an Ag extension office in your area, they can provide a lot of guidance if your area has any potato production. Their expertise is centered on what grows commercially in the area their office serves. There’s an extension office in every county in U.S., I believe, or certainly in those states that have state-funded Ag schools (most states have them).

      c. Master gardeners. There may be a master gardener group in your area, and those folk know what they’re doing, and can actually show you and provide ongoing tech support. Awesome people.

    2. doug

      Check locally. Most gardeners love to share. Maybe a local garden center? Local knowledge is best. Our Community college is a good source. Sometimes the Ag agent is good, but they have been destroying that for a good while now, but occasionally there are good ones still.
      You can and should be doing a soil sample now no matter where you garden.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      Oak leaves contain tannic acid, and “too much” of them may acidify the soil somewhat. Perhaps some non-oak leaves mixed in to balance them out?

      1. Samuel Conner

        It’s a good question and I’ll have to look into it more carefully than the below, but at the moment I’m not too anxious.

        Preliminary search suggests that potatoes prefer acidic soil, so I’ll have to test (as has been advised above) and then try to figure out what pH decrement a thick layer of oak leaves might induce. I suspect that it wouldn’t be excessive over the course of a single year. Search indicates that oak prefers acidic soils, and the leaves acidifying the soil would promote that, but I imagine a large pH shift from moldering leaves would be unlikely. I think that the organic acids produced in decomposition are soluble and would leach out over time. But that’s only a tentative guess.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          where i’m at, in the texas hill country, we’ve got limestone/caliche soils, with lots of granite sand scattered about and “sandy loam” in the valleys.
          ergo, very alkaline soils…so even pine straw is welcome in the garden, because most garden veggies prefer a little acidity.
          groundwater tells the tale…we’re on well water, and the film of calcium carbonate on everything touched by well water(like windows the sprinklers rain on) is just as good as a poor man’s soil test.
          however, there’s also lots of boron around here, which interferes with iron uptake in plants…but an ordinary soil test won’t catch that.
          get at least one comprehensive soil test…and test whatever water you’ll be irrigating with, as well.
          and my vote is almost always for raised beds.
          i’ve got almost an acre of raised beds in the works(takes time to build up the soil that much)
          oak leaves are fine….it’s the conifers where you might run into acidity problems…as well as various alelopathic leaves(walnut, sunflower, wheat…which act as natural pre-emergent herbicides)

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        If you live in an actual house with an actual yard around it, and can be said to “own” it, perhaps it is worth investing in the tools and time to create over the next few years some beds of very deep soil, nutrified and ammended at least 3 feet or so deep.

        Just a thought . . .

  15. Sutter Cane

    In reply to Matthew G. Saroff’s comment-

    Indeed, cultural norms like giving two weeks notice fall to employees, meanwhile most employment is “at will” and employers can fire you at any time, for any reason, with no severance or notice.

    Previously, people might not have loyalty to their employer but they frequently felt some residual loyalty to the other folks on their team. Walking off the job with no notice would leave your fellow workers in the lurch and people might have felt bad about that, even if they held no affection for the job or company. After not working for a while, and maybe not knowing your fellow workers so well, I suspect people are less willing to let that impede them.

    When loyalty to both the employer and the co-workers is removed, what’s left as a reason to stay in any crappy job when there are alternatives available?

    1. w d w

      yea…they only restriction to at will, is if the business layoffs those with a protected status. not sure if a toxic work environment would also be protected, but doubt it
      and consider….that if long truckers got laid off last year they had the option of working for parcel delivers….for usually better working conditions and their former co-workers saw how that worked out

  16. diptherio

    Was talking to the ex the last night. She’s the senior research director in a chemistry lab doing cutting-edge battery r&d. She told me they’ve been having a hard time finding people to work in the lab. The reason? She figured probably because they were offering lower pay than the local grocery stores(!). She managed to convince her boss to up the wages a bit, at least so that they were higher than those on offer for stocking shelves, but they’re still hard up for workers.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      Lab techs get paid garbage wages for their knowledge and skill base. You will make more as an Amazon delivery driver.

    2. w d w

      well,those in that R&D lab are probably going to be college grads (with loans too). they cant afford to work for peanuts, and bad benefits.

      if a slight increase made some headway, maybe a bigger one would accomplish more

  17. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    I don’t imagine the readership here thinks about this question all that much other than to mock, but Reading this, the comment thread and referring to Ian Welsh’s linked piece, what does the ‘Great Reset’ mean in this context? The late 18th to early 19th century Great Reset is mentioned (enclosures, poor laws, formation of metropolitan police forces, industrialization globalization of communications) but the WEF has announced breezily that “You’ll own nothing and be happy.” I originally took that to mean what seems at first glance apparant- the creation by design of a rentier economy in which all but a tiny slice of inhabitants are completely taken care of by a loving technotronic paradise. Logan’s Run meets the Jetsons.
    But what’s really going on there? People who think of themselves as ‘left’ are so reflexively horrified by the idea of ‘conspiracy theory’ they can’t interrogate seemingly bonkers assertions like Klaus Schwab announcing that ‘You’ll own nothing and be happy”. Happy how? Juiced out of your mind on Meth? I suppose by this metric my fellow citizens of Portland living in burnt out campers and cheap plastic pup tents are happy indeed. Think it over (I suppose Doug Henwood has sniffily debunked these questions already as ‘right wing pablum’.

  18. Tom Pfotzer

    There seems to be a need to identify or formulate a big fat catalog of new products that can be economically viable at the household or village level.

    Where do we go to get a list of the possibilities, so we can choose a few that might work in our situation?

    If we’re going to “walk away”, we need a place to walk to.

    Does anyone know of a place, web site, book, etc. that sets out a cafeteria of possible paths out? I’m talking products, and the methods one would use to produce and sell that product or service.

    1. Samuel Conner

      The overlap with your request is probably not large, but there might be some ideas of interest at “open source ecology”


      A single example that might be of interest for lower-tech building construction is the “Cinva ram” for making stabilized earth blocks.

      There may be a few good-hearted and clear-thinking NGOs out there promoting sustainable developing world solutions to specific local problems. Some of those might be useful in US in various conceivable futures.

      (and thanks for the potato guidance! that may be a sustainable solution for me)

  19. Kurtismayfield

    The problem is that all the propaganda that the managerial class has been pushing about cultural norms are now seen as utter bull s$#@ by the lower class. Workers are now acting as rational economic actors, and the people that don’t want them to are pissed.

    The drums of more immigration is the only weapon they have left for wage suppression.

    1. JBird4049

      More immigration for cheaper labor, union suppression, and a good way to strengthen the alt-right, fascistic, white-nationalists. Win-Win, I suppose for the Republicans’ ruling elites?

      1. Noone from Nowheresville

        November 15, 2021 at 12:42 pm
        Win-Win, I suppose for the Republicans’ ruling elites?

        So Darth Vader when hate is in his heart instead of love?

        That’s the hero v. villain modern storytelling narrative. If wage-workers are engaged in battles (or rather a war) it’s against a united wealth hoarding predator class regardless of the Republican or Democrat label they assign themselves. Their techniques and rhetoric may be different but we can see by the historical outcome path they’ve made that their overall objectives end up in a similar place.

        I do agree that the tactics you list and more will be used. The PR is already being deployed.

  20. Cat Burglar

    It may be that as eventual homeownership becomes obviously impossible for a larger and larger part of the population, then people can walk away from any particular job. They can’t build or maintain a credit record any longer, there is no realistic prospect of improved income, they have maxed out the number of jobs they can work in a day, there is no way to save for a down payment, ever. Life is not better, and may not ever be better, so why take on the discipline of debt? In that case, for our handlers, there is one less control on the population.

    1. MK

      What comes up is folks living in high cost areas (most of CA, metro NY, etc.) – can’t/won’t move to areas that are much more affordable. Here in Central/WNY/finger lakes, you can still buy a single-wide with a few acres for about $65,000 – a traditional single family with acreage for about $100,000.

      Heck – look at properties in the city of Buffalo, Rochester or Syracuse. Some can be bought for only a few thousand dollars.

      If one is that serious about owning a home, then get serious about moving. Of course that usually means leaving family and friends, a choice many refuse to make. But don’t complain about the cost of housing where one is currently located.

      And none of that relates to the credit needed to take out a mortgage – but that is another matter.

      1. Cat Burglar

        Give up your friends, family, a place you love to live, maybe everything you love to do — and subordinate that to maximizing value in a real estate deal for that heavenly single-wide out there in the Finger Lakes. (I am guessing they have jobs and well-funded schools out there.) Nobody can be permitted to complain. Tell me how that works out.

      2. CarlH

        The way you hand waive away “leaving friends and family” is astonishing. You make it seem as if the decision holds no more weight than which color bicycle you might buy.

      3. Cynical Engineer

        I spent a year living in Central NY just south of the Finger Lakes…the houses are cheap, and there are simply no worthwhile jobs.

        The grand plan to fix that with the “Empire Zones” has mostly resulted in scattered groupings of vacant industrial buildings. Otherwise you can get a job for minimum wage at the local gas station. And you will never, ever be able to afford that $65k single-wide trailer.

        If you move there from somewhere else with the money to buy a house in your pocket, you will be better off than the locals, but your children will either have to join the subsistence economy, or move somewhere else for a decent job.

        And if you want to go there and run your own business? New York State is the only place I’ve been that makes California look business-friendly. The corporate tax has two completely unrelated tax schemes. You have to calculate your liability under both, and pay the higher amount. It cost me 3x as much to pay an accountant to prepare my corp’s taxes as I have spent in any other state. And my NY corporate taxes & fees were 2x what I paid in California.

  21. Alex Cox

    Excellent video from Talent, Oregon! The man with the goats is fascinating and the video is well worth watching in its entirety. I imagine he has read Goatwalking, by Jim Corbett —


    Corbett was an activist for peace in Central America and the Sanctuary movement. Looking for peace for himself, he acquired some goats and started walking. His book had quite a reputation — when I tried to get a copy paperbacks were very expensive, but hardbacks were available cheaply.

  22. Harrold

    Why the disdain for hiring ex-cons?

    Having once run afoul of the law, they are forever to be banished from employment?

    1. James

      This former prisoner here in the UK has been out of work for five years. Middle class skills etc. No takers. Universal Credit is my income.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I am saying that because most employers in fact won’t hire them.

      I thought most readers would be much more offended at the notion that employers would not be keen about hiring the handicapped.

  23. Susan the other

    I believe we are living in a time that will be examined for centuries to come – should we survive. The transformations we are going through are horrendous. Our politicians are flying blind. The only thing that keeps them in line is the smell of money. Our private corporations are also flying blind, expropriating all the accumulated wealth of a century of progress in America. It was only a generation ago that corporate capitalism thought it could use advanced economies as spring boards to pounce on developing countries and extract profits at rates unseen before. The classic example is China. There it sat on the verge of massive development – a potential Demand Bonanza. There would be an interim, a period of time before China geared up during which American consumers would float the whole effort, losing their factories and jobs relentlessly. But now look. China does have a big consumer population but it is being told to tighten its belt. Xi’s latest edict. The Demand Fairy didn’t show up. So now what does capitalism do? It’s has landed itself in a steaming pile of hubris and it’s not easy mucking your way out. Without the engine of free-market demand capitalism is dead. So condolences are in order. And none too soon. It is simply absurd to pretend otherwise and that is why our politicians have lost all credibility. What’s important right now is that we not forget that we are their employers. And with capitalist profits fizzling out by legalized embezzlement it won’t be long before our dear leaders will be guerrilla grazers themselves. I hope I live to see the day that good employment is sustainable. Nobody has bothered to put that concept up for discussion.

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      The only thing I’d add to this excellent situation summary is the fact that productivity increases are eliminating jobs at an astonishing rate.

      We need a new list of jobs that 1) fixes the planet while it makes a living and 2) captures the benefits of productivity at the household level.

      Can’t have demand if only a few people are making money. This is the paradox of capitalism; the relentless pursuit of productivity erodes the demand for the product.

      So, what are those jobs that fix the planet as you make your living?

      Sorry to bang on about this, but I’m pretty sure that’s a strategic question.

      1. Samuel Conner

        A question that gets repeatedly asked about the MMT-oriented (or -justified) concept of a federal Job Guarantee is that there isn’t enough useful work to go around, so a large proportion of the jobs would be various form of ‘make work.’

        IIRC, Stephanie Kelton’s The Deficit Myth proposed that there is a large need for various kinds of care-giving toward vulnerable populations, especially the elderly. I believe that earlier versions of the BBB agenda included funding for “ageing in home rather than in facilities”; I imagine that would require a great deal of individualized care-giving and would produce more employment than centralized provision of care in long-term facilities funded at the same aggregate level.

        Jobs like that won’t fix the planet, though they might soften some of the harsher edges of our present ways of being human. And the only way to generate that kind of job in quantity is through public provisioning, as the target population is in no position to purchase the services.

        1. Left in Wisconsin

          We should have twice as many teachers as we do, or more. Everyone should have a therapist. And a personal trainer. And a life coach. There is no end to the amount of “useful” care/nurturing work a society can accommodate. This is not “make work.” Everyone who can afford such attention to their care needs has access to these services. But there is no reason that access to this kind of care ought to be limited to those with the market resources to pay for it.

          1. Daniel LaRusso

            why should everyone have a therapist, a personal trainer and a life coach ? Are you being serious ? I call BS

            1. Left in Wisconsin

              Do you call BS on more teachers, too? Perhaps I should have said “Everyone who wants one…” but I truly do think (as I did not when I was younger) that the world would be a much better place if everyone had a therapist. I think the same would likely be true of the other two categories.

              The larger point was the second sentence: “There is no end to the amount of useful care/nurturing work a society can accommodate.” The notion that work is only “useful work” if it is profitable to perform under current circumstances is a pernicious myth. And, as Keynes said, “Anything we are able to do we can afford to do.”

      2. Sue inSoCal

        Great piece. I can’t understand why we don’t hire guerrilla grazers in areas where we need weed clean up. Living on an island in WA state, the community was constantly ripping out invasive weeds by hand or spraying. Why not hire goats?
        As far as as the slave wages issue, the screw has been turned for decades now, beginning with the withholding of benefits. If one worked part time in the 70s and one was in school, one was offered medical benefits at 15 hrs/wk. There were also full medical clinics at colleges. Child care was relatively affordable and so was putting a roof over one’s head. Later, as an employer of a mid size practice (law) we were prohibited from offering medical benefits to employees working under 20 hrs iirc and then 30. It was the only time my parter and I tried to finagle a way to cheat around this with Foundation HMO. Impossible! (And I might add when Dan Crowley left Foundation Health HMO, iirc he left with a package of perhaps 3.2+ million and we were outraged! Imagine that!) Several years later, it became impossible to find plans for small businesses. HIPAA plans were also illusory. Sure, “portability,” sounded great, but cost had no caps as I saw it and very little choice of physicians.

        WRT unemployment figures, we also did not count people who dropped out of the market or took early retirement, as I understand it. If I hear one more whiner say “no one wants to work anymore,” I’ll scream. People now are not stupid.

        Crowley is still in the biz. Looks like corporate dentistry….


      3. lance ringquist

        i say bring on the robots, but lets make sure americans design, build, install and maintain the robots.
        if it was the robots, it would show up in productivity stats, its not.
        what the free traders are attempting to do, is to use the industrial revolution as a excuse why we have so little meaningful, gainful employment.
        when in fact, the industrial revolution, that is automation, just keeps churning out more and more jobs.
        this time its not different. whats different is that we free trade.

      4. drumlin woodchuckles

        Any job that makes/does something with minimal greenhouse gas emissions overheats the planet slower. If enough people will buy the output of that job, those people make or keep that job possible.

        Here is a video of bamboo craftspeople in Japan. I think the footage is speeded up some to give the impression of super-fast working. Still, these people are very productive with tools and/or micromachines which raise their productivity without destroying some of their jobs. If this approach were spread to other home or neighborhood-scale enterprises, would people buy enough of the product to make it possible to make a living this way?

        Here is the video.


  24. William Hunter Duncan

    I made $7/hr in 1991 as a cart pusher for Sam’s Club. I know the Fed says that is with $14 now, but I also know the Fed thinks I am illiterate nobody. I don’t know what John over at Shadowstats says about inflation, as I am not a subscriber, but I’m guessing he is closer to $25-30. The internet seems to have scrubbed any calculators of the pre-1980 way.

    I make $18.41/hr keeping my local parks clean and functional. Maintenance over on the city side just agreed to a 7% pay increase over 3 years, so basically agreeing to a pay decrease, and a significant one. Our union starts negotiating soon, and I guarantee they won’t ask for more. Everybody here knows inflation is a lot higher than even the official numbers, but there seems no energy in forcing that issue.

    Meanwhile the office fauna are still at home. But they recently made 50 us field laborers sit in a room together for a pesticide applicators review, which is doubly insulting as we don’t use pesticides in the parks other than occassional over the counter wasp spray.

  25. Mikel

    Amazon telling the press about how much they are hiring and raising wages, but not much about this:


    “Amazon.com Inc. must pay $500,000 and change its practices related to notifying its workers and local health officials about COVID-19 cases at its warehouses, under a stipulated judgment called the first in the nation by California’s attorney general on Monday.

    The giant tech and retail company “left workers in the dark” by failing to adequately notify them about coronavirus cases at its warehouses, Attorney General Ron Bonta said during a news conference Monday. Amazon’s COVID-19 notifications now will be monitored by the state AG’s office….”

  26. James

    If there is a labour shortage and a demand for workers, why are US trade unions still caving in to bullying employers, such as with Kaiser Permanente?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Please tell me how the unions caved. It sounds like they got what they wanted:

      The Alliance of Health Care Unions and Kaiser Permanente were able to hammer out a four-year contract that includes annual wage increases, no reduction in health and retirement benefits and opportunities for bonuses and career development, according to a joint statement issued late Saturday morning….

      Workers — led by the United Nurses Associations of California, one of 22 local unions in the Alliance — were primarily protesting a proposed “two-tier” wage system that, starting in 2023, would pay new hires 15 percent less than current employees.

      Kaiser has argued that its current wage structure is unsustainable, and that union-represented workers already earn above average. The union countered that a two-tier structure would impact the ability to recruit, hire and retain high-quality professionals during a period already marked by a severe staffing shortages in the health care industry.

      The tentative agreement scraps the two-tier proposal and guarantees across-the-board wage increases each year through 2025 for some 50,000 union-represented employees in the Alliance, according to the joint statement. Members also will not see reduced benefits and the same co-pays for prescriptions and office visits.

      The deal includes new safe staffing and workload language “to ensure every Kaiser Permanente patient receives extraordinary care every time and in every place,” the statement says. Staffing levels have been a key stressor at hospitals across the nation under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. Details about the new language were not available.


      And the deal is subject to ratification by the members, so they still may turn it down if they regard the increases as inadequate, as did John Deere workers of its tentative pact.

  27. David in Santa Cruz

    Terrific post and discussion.

    One change at work here may be that since 2008 people have given-up on home ownership as a means of saving. Demand has out-stripped supply; low interest rates have driven-up prices; unstable “gig” employment makes borrowers a poor risk for lenders and the prospect of decades of mortgage payments a poor risk for borrowers; institutional investors desperate for return with nothing better to buy have distorted many housing markets.

    Once families are no longer tied-down by the struggle to achieve home ownership and by the resultant yoke of lifetime mortgage payments, their lives can change dramatically — especially in terms of their employment relations.

    You can’t have a consumer-driven economy without consumers.

  28. Valerie

    True. After day care, commuting, work clothes etc, there are a lot of years where I exhausted myself working crappy jobs when we all might have been better off with my staying home keeping house etc EXCEPT that with 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, who dares to be the woman with a decade or more sized hole in her resume if hubby falls ill, gets injured or finds someone he deems more interesting than his stay-at-home wife? Child support orders can be very difficult to enforce and few states permit alimony anymore. Social Security is based on the years you worked not the years you nurtured others for free. And then there’s the matter of insurance in this exceptional nation with no national health service. A secretary at one school I worked at had a diabetic husband who worked installing tile.He made plenty of money for the household, but… No one would insure him because of his extensive pre-existing conditions. She made $1500 a month and paid $1200 of her wages in health insurance for her family of five but at least the school district insurance would cover him. I worked with a man in his sixties whose wife was a freelance bookkeeper. He didn’t need the job so much as the substantially cheaper insurance he could access from them. He said he saved $600 a month in premiums working a warehouse job and the extra income he banked.

    Calculating whether it makes financial sense to work a low wage job is not as cut and dried as it might appear.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      That is so. And if low-wage employers who offer health coverage get workers where low-wage employers who do not offer health coverage do not get workers, perhaps those low wage employers will look at the other low-wage employers and learn something.

      In the longer run, a party-movement backing CanadaCare for all legal residents would be something to support if someone can get it invented. Perhaps a Social Democrat Party or a Renew the Deal Party.

    2. Daniel LaRusso

      child support is enforced by government it’s not you who whould have to enforce it. Every feminist, woman and court in the land would be on your side.

      Ask Dr Dre who has to pay his ex $300 per month, or the ex wives of Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates how alimony doesn’t pay.

      And who is to say you would get the children in a custody battle.

      Although I agreee it’s very short sighted to leave paid employment becasue right now the figures don’t add up. Things have a habit of changing.

  29. Tom Stone

    I was in Ukiah Mendocino County) today looking at a 250 acre property with a friend and saw a “Now Hiring” Billboard offering $29 per hour.
    For trimming pot.
    Mendo is a lot cheaper (NOT cheap,cheaper) when it comes to renting or buying a home than Sonoma County because it is too distant from SF or the East Bay to be an easy drive.

    The property?
    Maybe 20-25 usable acres but half a mile from HWY 101 and in a “Sound Funnel” so it sounded like it was right next to the Highway,

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Could a line, or a multi-line windbreak of dry-tolerant trees close together at the base of the sound funnel trap some of the sound trying to get through them and make the remaining sound getting through less loud at the “receiving end” of the sound funnel?

      Or is this funnel so huge that the 250 acres you are looking at is a tiny postage stamp within it?

  30. drumlin woodchuckles

    Something more from antiwork for Goldman Sachs to get upset about.

    Antiwork has an entry featuring a new movement called ” 25 Or Walk”. It lays out the goal of McDonalds
    having to pay everyone who works there at least $25 per hour as a “thriving wage”, and discusses ways to torture McDonald’s into giving in to this demand. Introducing the word ” thriving wage” into the language is itself important.


  31. rjs

    every store & food joint in the town i shop in had help wanted signs out; there were billboards looking for help lining the roadside along the state highway leading into town…& i was surprised to see the local cabinet maker, where half the employees are Amish, advertising for help on the internet…

    the real world impacts of this for me included waiting in line over 20 minutes for a prescription that was already filled & bagged, as the CVS druggist handled both counter trade and the drive up window, being unable to buy custom cut meat because the supermarket meat department was closed to a “personnel shortage”, and having to wait for the checkout clerk at Harbor Freight, a big box tool store, to have time to get an item for me from storage at the back of the store; there were no other employees in the entire store at the time!

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