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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Land of Diminishing Returns

Working harder and having and having less to show for it? Welcome to the land of diminishing returns. Remember when working harder allowed a person to get ahead? Now people are working harder and harder, yet still slipping backwards.

It’s not their fault. That’s important to realize. There’s no guilt of failure involved here. When the cards have been stacked against you, it’s no wonder you can’t win the game. The rich are getting richer, the middle class are becoming poor and the poor???? God help the poor.

My dad, back in the 60s, 70s and early 80s, worked blue collar jobs. My mother did not work outside the home. They owned their own home. Mom had a car and dad usually had some kind of Jeep or truck. Dad always took us for two weeks of camping in the summer. He took a couple weeks off during deer season to go hunting. He did a lot of recreational activities, canoe racing, fishing, and many other outdoor sports. Mom and dad would go out to dinner and dancing. Occasionally they’d do something like fly out to Vegas for a few days.

Dad would do some work on the side: house painting, carpentry, that sort of thing. His occasional work allowed him to buy a cottage on a lake, and a share in a hunting camp.

My folks weren’t particularly unusual. Most of the people who worked in the local mills made more money than they did.

Dad didn’t make a lot of money, but it cost a lot less to live. For one thing, his work completely paid for his medical insurance. Mine costs me $740/month. Energy was pretty cheap. It didn’t cost a lot to live a middle class lifestyle. One wage earner could easily handle it. Heck, the guy who worked the produce section at the corner grocery store had a middle class life.

Now a lot of things have changed, but the main villain is the loss of decent paying jobs. There are many reasons those jobs are gone, but a big reason is greed. I remember when there was a clothing factory in town. For a $75 item of clothing, there was $3.50 of materials and labor. The operation was shut down because it could be done in China for $0.50. All US manufacturing was shut down for that extra $3. Of course, the guy who made the decision got most of that extra $3, so he personally did great. I imagine that process was repeated many many times in this country.

The jobs that are left don’t pay what the old jobs did. My generation covered up the difference with credit cards and both spouses working. Later, we got a little spending money by refinancing our houses. Now the credit’s maxed, often one spouse or both are out of work, and the house is worth less than what’s owned on it. You can’t work enough hours to make up for wages not keeping up with inflation, the rise in medical costs, and the holes in the social safety net.

What will people do? Some will keep working, never taking vacations, ignoring their personal life, hoping it will end. They will have to be very lucky indeed for it not to end with them having a break down. Others will ignore the fact they are continuously losing ground until eventually things catch up with them. They live in a make pretend world.

A few will realize the game is rigged and stop playing. When enough people withdraw from the system, it crashes. It can get ugly -bankers and politicians hanging from the lampposts ugly. Those people who’ve been making the decisions that have screwed us peons fear too many will wake up and pull out of the game. You can’t be a chief without all the little Indians.

Most people didn’t mind that there were people richer and more powerful than them. What the do mind is their lives being turned into a living hell so those people can get even wealthier and more powerful.

You don’t even have to pull completely out of the system. That’s very hard to do. Don’t worry about being perfect. Just the fact that you are pulling back any support at all drives a stake in their hearts. To keep the system going needs ever increasing growth. Voluntary downsizing, even a little bit, by enough people, breaks the system.

The time to fix the system is quickly running out. However, that’s not my problem. I’m only marginally interested if the system survives or not. For me, it’s already past that point. Every day I look for ways to pull a little further out of the system. I think it’s most likely going to die anyway, so I’d best not get too invested in it. I’ll be darned if I’m going to be a wage slave when I could have a life instead.



  1. ...Wow...

    ...this is one of the best posts i've read...anywhere.
    Painfully familiar on several levels...

  2. As the old saying goes, "You hit the nail on the head with the hammer." Well done. And, very true. Thanks.

  3. Well said!!!! I am always completely amazed when some idiot says that there is nothing wrong with our jobs being outsourced to other countries, and that it is the workers fault for it. As far as politicians and bankers being hung from lamposts....go for it! Fact is, I don't trust ***any*** politician, I don't care what party they are. Same goes for our about an "indoctrination" camp!!!

  4. well said and its not just your country.

  5. Sounds a lot like my childhood. And my life today, drowning in a sea of taxes, fees, and inflation. Honest work no longer pays. Keyboard pounders and snake oil salesmen have replaced tradesmen and entrepreneurs. Politicians have seen to it that the little guy doesn't have a chance...

  6. I was just saying almost the same thing to a friend yesterday about my parents. Personally the company I was with almost 14 years folded putting e out of work, I immediately downsized filing chap 7 and getting rid of 60k in cc debt, I now can get along on 8-9 an hour if I have to plus social security. I have one cc for emergencies and just bought a 5 year old car, both (here's the humor) financed by one of the banks I filed bk on.. Great post....