Talked to an old childhood friend earlier tonight. She was telling me stories about the horrors she deals with everyday at her job in a pharmacy in a college town in the midwest. Caught one of her coworkers smoking pot while on the clock recently. Her boss did nothing. No write up, no drug test, no firing, no verbal reprimand. I’ve been listening to horror stories about working in customer service from my friends, people on reddit forms, youtube videos, etc. for the last ten years. I have a few stories of my own, like getting told off by the owner of the McDonalds I worked at my very first day on the job when I was 16. I told him it was my first day and he said, “I don’t care.” None of my managers and coworkers stood up for me. I was fired a month later supposedly because I wasn’t quick enough on the grill. And yet, I saw coworkers eating on the job, literally taking burgers and chicken out of the storage and eating them while they were working.
That’s mild compared to what I saw at other jobs. I would go into detail but no one believes me. Even at the factory job I had I was threatened with death when my work was suffering because of sleep deprivation. I worked the 11pm to 7am shift, five nights a week for less than 10 bucks an hour in 2006. My work was suffering and one of my line mates yelled at me, “Quit f***ing around or I will kill you godd*****it.” Everyone on my line saw it. No one reported it. I had talked to my foreman about previous problems with this same coworker. Nothing was done. So I knew nothing was going to be done in this case either. So I went to the bathroom, told my foreman I had gotten sick and needed to take the rest of the night off. The next day I put in my request for a transfer to day shift. It was immediately denied. So I quit. Turned in my ID badge and safety equipment right there. The sad thing was, the job itself wasn’t stressful at all, certainly not as stressful as working with the public every day. While it was physically demanding, I could still do it because I wasn’t dealing with unpredictable public every day. But I couldn’t sleep during the days very well. After two months of sleep deprivation, my work was suffering and I was becoming a danger to myself and others.
I could do that job easily even if it was physically demanding. The setup sucked as did the people I was working for. If they would have just worked with me a little, I would have been at the job probably for years. That is, until I developed heart failure. Had I been able to stay at the job, I would have never had to apply for disability even with schizophrenia as I would have been covered by my employer’s health care insurance. Would have also been eligible for a 401(k). I found out in college I had a talent for stock picking and investing. I would be a hell of a lot better off personally and a financially viable member of the American workforce for years if not for the short sightedness of my employers. Needless to say I wasn’t surprised at all when I found out that same factory shut down like ten years later and moved it’s manufacturing. I could work in the right circumstances. I was never given a chance. And because I lived in a rural area, I had a lack of options. I didn’t quit work because I was lazy and didn’t want to work. I quit because the setup sucked, management treated workers worse than animals, and the customers were even worse. And that was in the 2000s.
I left my last permanent job in 2012. It was a great job for me even with my disability. I didn’t go full time because I was afraid of losing my disability insurance and full time was never available. I left because I actually did the math one night and found out for every dollar I made through that job, I lost seventy one cents via lost benefits and increased rent (I was on a sliding scale in low income housing). That was before taxes. And to think people complain about even sales tax of 6 percent.
I stay on disability even though I have a talent for stock picking and investing because Universal Healthcare isn’t a thing in my country. Even though Universal Healthcare works in most European Union countries, Japan, and Canada, I fear it would never work in America even if it was instituted. Seeing my dad’s experience with the VA makes me think that Universal Healthcare would be worse than even the mess we have now. We don’t even have decent mass transit here. People were all up in arms over Obamacare. And that was just health insurance, not universal health care. I still remember people like Sarah Palin talking about “death panels” on live tv. Universal Healthcare will probably never be instituted in America (at least not in my lifetime), but people will actively fight against it even if mass unemployment comes via automation (like I fear it will). We still have the Puritan work ethic and the idea that people that don’t work for money are worthless. As if God put a dollar sign on everything in the Cosmos. Heck, people are still fighting against renewable energy and electric cars in my country even though it’s already cheaper than fossil fuels in most cases (even without subsidies) AND already makes up 20 percent of our power grid. I chuckle when I think on the fact that more renewable was installed in my country under the Trump administration than in any other previous administration. He howled about bringing back coal jobs (even though mining jobs were largely automated even back then) and wind turbines causing cancer. We still pulled off this feat with the US being the only nation to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. It’s the economics. Even if Climate Change isn’t a thing, the energy revolution is underway because it’s now cost effective. Granted, not as fast as the Al Gores and Greenpeace people of the world would like. “It’s the economy stupid” to quote James Carville.
People like to complain about how “no one wants to work anymore.” My dad does this occasionally. Makes me kind of annoyed every time I hear him say this. Yet, most of the jobs that are readily available are part time (that’s how most fast food and retail gets around paying benefits), and the hours are unpredictable. I explain this to people, but I just as well be speaking to myself. About the only people who get it are the people who have worked such jobs in the last twenty years.
In 2023 America and European Union, with our level of technology and know how, you shouldn’t have to be in the medical field, an engineer, in finance, or in the trades just to afford a small house. Don’t tell me, “be an Entrepeneur” either. Most people aren’t cut out to be self employed. Most new businesses fail within the first five years. Serfs in medieval times were hardly self employed even though they grew most of their own food, built most of their own shanties, and protected by the lords of their lands. Most people can no longer grow their own food or build their own houses. With our technology, we can get away with only a small percentage of the work force being farmers and carpenters. My dad’s dental office would have failed in the first five years back in the 1980s had my mom not been working as a nurse. In fact, my dad tried to get back into the Air Force as a dentist in the early 1980s when we were struggling. But they refused to take him because he was on blood pressure meds. I think some of the standards have changed since then.
Most places are now doing away with work from home, so a worker can’t even count on a move to a cheaper rural area and work via internet even though we have the tech to make it work for the most part. Covid proved that. And it would revitalize dying rural communities like the one I left a few months ago. I’ve been reading about people leaving California and the East Coast since the start of covid. But people have been leaving rural areas since at least the 1930s.
Large tech firms like IBM, Meta, Google, and Amazon are laying off highly paid technicians and replacing them with AI. I’ve been saying this would happen since 2013. Other than my futurist groups on facebook, the only people who believed me were my best friend and my mom. Looks like the STEM degrees people were hyping when I was in college are no longer safe. Even now, over 40 percent of scientists and engineers in Silicon Valley are immigrants. Many of them aren’t safe anymore either. I never want to hear “no one wants to work” ever again. The fact that over 30 percent of workers between the ages of 20 and 39 are working more than one job proves that. That’s the “triggered snowflake” millennial generation.
Now, everyone is telling these kids, “college is worthless”, “join the military” and “go into the trades” and that “some plumbers make more than most lawyers and doctors.” Fools don’t realize they are going to create the same bubble and wage crash in the trades in less than fifteen years. Those jobs will get oversaturated if college stays expensive and automation keeps taking jobs even though trades won’t be able to be automated probably not for decades, if ever. Even some medical and some STEM jobs are no longer safe.
Speaking of the army, a lot of traditional soldier work is now being done by drones, cyber hackers, and robots. The US Army was using robotic pack mules as early as Afghanistan. I think it was Boston Dynamics that demonstrated a drone on treads that could shoot faster and straighter than any human. And that was circa 2010. Besides, modern warfare doesn’t utilize thousands of soldiers on a battlefield, like World War 2. Much of the fighting is done by highly trained special forces, air strikes, drones, etc. Ukraine is proving with advanced drone tech and guided missles they can hold their own against a vastly larger nation like Russia. Just a few days ago, Ukraine shot down a Russian hypersonic missle with American Patriot missles. Patriot missles have been around since at least the early 1990s. Last I heard, over 190,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion (according to some estimates). So not even the military needs as many young recruits as they did in previous eras. That’s why a draft wasn’t issued in the years after 9/11. Not only is this not your grandfather’s Vietnam, it’s not even my generation’s Iraq.
College got too expensive for most people without going into debt. Most jobs could be learned in a year or two with on the job training and don’t even need a college degree except that most employers require it. Artificial barrier to entry if you ask me. My two best friends from college are in their forties and they are still paying off student loans. One is a high school teacher and the other trained as an IT guy but got laid off from his firm even though he had been there for almost ten years and was classified as an essential worker during covid. And people still have the gall to complain about no one wanting to work or a lack of loyalty.
Workers have been losing protections that were taken for granted by previous eras for decades. People know they are poor. Even people in third world countries know they are poor because they have smart phones with youtube and TikTok. Speaking of third world countries, those countries that some of my countrymen and politicians dismiss as “s*** holes” are regarded as “potential clients” by our Chinese rivals. Matter of perspective I suppose. People know they are being screwed by greedy sociopath bosses and politicians who no longer care about the voters. That’s why I said greed will kill capitalism and democracy faster than kids reading Karl Marx and Mao Zedong. I have zero patience for people who say “we were poor but didn’t know it and were happy.” You were happy because you didn’t know you how bad you were getting screwed over. Even kids in Africa know they are getting screwed. Knowledge is power. Peasants with knowledge are dangerous to abusive tyrants. Tyrants fear the masses getting enlightened as much as they fear an armed populace. And you know what, they should be scared if history teaches us anything. Knowledge can’t be unlearned. There is no going back now.
The fact is I make less than $1000 a month from all sources, get my meds paid for by social security (which would cost over $3000 a month without insurance), eat three meals a day, have a roof over my head, and am suffering from schizophrenia, heart failure and am wheelchair bound. People tell me I am lucky that I can’t work. Sadly, they are right. I am luckier than anyone working the vast majority of service and manufacturing and farming jobs even though I am making poverty level wages, lost my career, lost any shot at a family, and will probably die earlier than most of them due to my heart failure. Welcome to the desert of current day reality. We are underachieving as a society and a species.