Obama’s State of the Union and catabolic collapse

No, Obama didn’t say the US was due for catabolic collapse πŸ˜‰ You can just imagine the thunderous sound of jaws dropping if he said.

“Fellow Americans, State of the Union? Yep, the Union is in a right state at the moment, and it isn’t going to get better. We’re hooked on oil, there’s a load more people on earth wanting it and it’s been a darned old while since we last found major discovery.”

No. This is America, and with their can-do attitude you can’t go round telling them they can’t do anything. OTOH, perhaps he should have, Americans would kick up something rotten and then maybe we might get those thorium reactors and electric airliners that mean we can all carry on as normal.

He did, however, do a pretty good job of summing up what’s gone wrong with work of late.

“Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbours. If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck, good benefits, and the occasional promotion. Maybe you’d even have the pride of seeing your kids work at the same company. That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful.”

That’s pretty much a dead ringer for my post Where have all the Jobs gone, Ma? I didn’t realise they read Simple Living in Suffolk in the White House πŸ˜‰ Okay, so the soi-disant leader of the free world tightened my post up somewhat.

Now the problem is this part

You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbours.

Last time I looked, they aren’t making people any smarter than they did a few decades ago. Globalisation has meant that we all have to run harder and harder just to stay in the same place, work-wise. And the trouble with that is we are ending up with a winner-takes-all world, where a few people get blindingly rich, while the rest of us fight over the dwindling scraps. There aren’t many decent manual and semi-skilled jobs nowadays, office jobs are becoming de-skilled with digital Taylorism (a fine example of that sort of management here)

The problem, as Obama pointed out, is that it is getting increasingly difficult for somebody of average ability to earn a decent enough crust to live a typical life that their parents did. For sure, they now have toys and trinkets galore to distract them from this fact – my Dad didn’t have iPhones and Xboxes. But he did get to buy his own house and own it outright at an earlier age than I managed it, and he did it largely on one wage (as I did, so the achievement is comparable).

And that’s the tragedy. Frippery like the iPhones and Manolo Blahniks distracts us from the unfortunate truth that modern capitalism is beginning to deny a lot of our fellow citizens self-determination in the very basics of life, while bamboozling them with cheap distractions. That would be okay if most people seemed to be happy with that, but if they aren’t, then we have to ask ourselves exactly what is our economy for? Is it so people like Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein can earn $13,000,000 while ‘doing God’s work‘ in 2010 while, as Obama told us, yer average citizen’s life becomes financially insecure? Why are we feeding this machine with our lives and our happiness foregone for so little return?

As Blankfein himself said in the WSJ

Is it possible to make too much money? β€œIs it possible to have too much ambition? Is it possible to be too successful?” Blankfein shoots back. β€œI don’t want people in this firm to think that they have accomplished as much for themselves as they can and go on vacation.

Why the hell not, Lloyd? What exactly is it that you’ve got against vacations? It’s people like you, punk, that have screwed up the vision I was offered at school that by the time I was 40 we’d be working a couple of days a week and have lots of leisure time.

What actually happened is too many people like Lloyd and his buddies are chasing the money god, and bidding up the price of the things we all need, like houses and stuff. So we end up having to work even longer to try and keep our heads above water.

We have ended up with a sociopathic economy that can’t employ people of average abilities, and then rubs their noses in it by letting Lloyd and his chums trash the financial system and get bailed out while they ‘do God’s work’. It’s about time that God sent his quality control inspectors in to the banks and educate these guys that just because everybody else is buying NINJA mortgages doesn’t make it all right for them to. Even I learned that chasing momentum was a bad idea after I had lost enough money.

Oh and Lloyd, stop being such a jerk about those vacations. A lot more vacations might let us all step back a moment and think about things for a change. Go easy on the boys okay?