Ok – I am not a complete Economics dummy. I did take Macro and Micro Economics in college and did quite well in both classes. But I don’t think anyone will be calling me to do an interview about the Economy anytime soon. Well maybe Fox News, because they do not really care about qualifications, but I mean anyone reputable.
I have done absolutely zero research on the economic situation of today. I have read a lot of articles that come through my Facebook newsfeed, and I have looked and observed people around me, and I have observed my own finances, and from those observations, I have some ideas…or musings.
Here is what I have seen over the years.
1. Technology, in particular, is in desperate need of skilled and innovative employees. Our school system to date has not caught on to that idea. This is why so many jobs are outsourced to countries that teach real programming skills early in high school and why Americans with such skills are doing well.
2. Technology has replaced a lot of jobs. Meanwhile, it has also shifted the savings of the money that would have gone to employees up to founders, shareholders, and executives, making the people at the top much more wealthy than the average employee. This is the imbalance we are seeing. It is because more money is being generated with fewer employees and the people at the top feel it should go to them because they are the ones who invested in, leveraged, and innovated with technology. For me, this is a pretty strong argument.
3. There is still a middle class – and it is much wealthier than the middle class of 40 or 50 years ago, you may not recognize it. These are people in 4 and 5 bedroom houses that would have been considered a mini-mansion 50 years ago. Today it is a normal suburban house. Today they have 2 or 3 cars, whereas 50 years ago 1 car was enough. Today they have a TV in every room, where 50 years ago 1 TV put you in the middle class. Today they go on vacation, eat out, and have many, many technological devices. They send their kids to camps, after-school programs, and private schools. These are people in sales jobs, IT jobs, finance jobs…They are middle class – not even the upper middle class of doctors, lawyers, and executives.
4. We have a working class. They live in smaller, older houses (or rent – which some of the middle class chooses to rent too). They budget more carefully. They still send their kids to camps and after-school programs but sometimes they get to qualify for discounted pricing. They eat out less, travel cheaper, but today’s working class looks more like the middle class of the 1960s.
5. We have poor people. We have always had poor people. They struggle to make rent and feed themselves even when they are working 2 or more jobs. They have little and what they do have is a hand me down, old, or bought on bad credit. These poor people look similar to the poor people of 50 years ago.
Here is what else we have.
We have more money in our economy. This means we could use that money to invest in helping people up – through an increase in the minimum wage. Will that take money from the upper or middle class, the two classes that are wealthier than they have been in decades? Yes, it would. Is this a handout? Not really since minimum wage means you are working for your money. It also would allow the poor to become better contributors to our society, economically and socially.
We could take some of that extra money that is in the economy and invest in education. Maybe then we could get more people trained to take the jobs that have so many openings we have to search offshores to find the skill set.
We have more cheap technology. Maybe we can give the disadvantage more access to that technology in a way that they can self-educate and connect and lift themselves up.
But the big unfortunate thing we have is people with so much stuff that still want more and anything that might have a chance to “trickle down” is seen as an unwarranted hand out.
So in the end – only a few people who can be happy with what they have will be happy and the rest will either continue to struggle or continue to envy.
And so it goes…