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Monday, January 26, 2015

A 2015 Man's Life: The New Working Economy of Males (Personally Experienced)


Nowadays, whole families abroad in "emerging markets" do a man's job, a substantial part of his life, but there, the ages are 15-39. But here's a money stat

"The poll found that 85 percent of prime-age men without jobs do not have bachelor’s degrees. And 34 percent said they had criminal records, making it hard to find any work." 

So these men are either undereducated or integrity-challenged. But we don't want to change that stat too quickly. The first, would take 4-6 years, if you can afford that amount of time; the later, well, a lifetime, if ever.

As Wall Street cowboys rode a bull market for 5 years (see above), and Fortune 500 companies sit on substantial coffers of cash, the rodeo riders from Rodeo Drive to Silicon Valley to FDR Drive in NYC just can't bear to offer jobs with a decent wages to anyone they feel doesn't "deserve" the next chance.

"They’re not working, because it’s not paying them enough to work,” said Alan B. Krueger, a leading labor economist and a professor at Princeton. “And that means the economy is going to be smaller than it otherwise would be.”

I understand this predicament. I worked a delivery route for 7 years; it paid enough, in theory, to pay my immediate families basics. However, I didn't have all the control on how this passable wage was spent. After that, I took a job hiatus, and risked a lot to improve education, in the hopes of landing better work. I did, and I have...but it was years in the coming for both the reasons above.

As the NY Times article linked states: 

"Like turtles flipped onto their backs, many people who stop working struggle to get back on their feet. Some people take years to return to the work force, and others never do. And a growing body of research finds that their children, in turn, are less likely to prosper.

'The long-run effects of this are very high,' said Lawrence F. Katz, a professor of economics at Harvard. 'We could be losing the next generation of kids.'
 Let us not forget, even if you despise the sinner, the unemployable man, you should forgive the sin, else, you will foist more problems on his offspring.

I did as the man below did in the article, nearly a copy:
"José Flores, 45, who lives in St. Paul, said that after losing a job as a translator for the University of Minnesota’s public health department in 2011, he struck a deal with his landlord to pay $200 a month instead of $580, in exchange for doing odd jobs. He has a cellphone that costs $34 a month and an old car he tries not to drive, and 'if I really need clothes or shoes, I go to the thrift store.' He picks up occasional work translating at hospitals, but he has not looked for a regular job since August.

'If for some reason I cannot live in the apartment where I live anymore, then that will be basically a wake-up call for me to wake up and say for sure I need a full-time job,' Mr. Flores said. He added, 'If I start working full time the rent will increase' — because he would no longer be available for odd jobs.

This is a real problem, folks with more ideal lives. Ones that didn't make life-altering mistakes (prison), and then, had life-shaking circumstances (mother's dementia and cancer) along with family-less help. While we say, "Take action," appropriately, some do so out of short-term getting by against the hopes of a long-term improvement path. Flores did so; and so did I from 2010-2014.




I took odd jobs - painted, cleaned out and repaired dorm rooms at Purdue Village in 2012; taught at Purdue - TAed - for a Microsoft Office class. Landed, luckily, a high-paying contract job for 4 months. Mostly, though, I skimped like Jose did - $325 per month on rental room (with electric, heat, water, and wi-fi included) and lived off student loans, now at $70,000, but have only 1 course left for an MBA.



Other reasons embedded in the New York Times article show it's a tough world: 

“When the legal, entry-level economy isn’t providing a wage that allows someone a convincing and realistic option to become an adult — to go out and get married and form a household — it demoralizes them and shunts them into illegal economies,” said Philippe Bourgois, an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied the lives of young men in urban areas. “It’s not a choice that has made them happy. They would much rather be adults in a respectful job that pays them and promises them benefits.”

Illegal - does not mean just drugs and weapons and bad dealings. It means "black" as in cash-only and off-the-books of otherwise respectable enough businesses. People are bartering for services - I also did some work for my landlord for cash. And worked in 2014 for a guy putting together a beat-up old home. So, I scrapped and painted and moved his belongings. $1,600 came in handy.

Again, the facts are saddening for the ones actually looking for a job (the map above show the non-working rate): 
Mr. Katz, the Harvard economist, said, however, that some men might choose to describe themselves as unwilling to take low-wage jobs when in fact they cannot find any jobs. There are about 10 million prime-age men who are not working, but there are only 4.8 million job openings for men and women of all ages, according to the most recent federal data.
Millions of men are trying to find work. And among the 45 percent of men who said they had looked in the last year, large majorities said that to get a job they would be willing to work nights and weekends, start over in a new field, return to school or move to a new city.

In 2015, a man's life is more fixed or tied to this new, transient economy, and is less a matter of friction with work or workplaces: as in job swapping, and seeking out more pay. Instead, it seems a man's value has to come from an internal source of pride, and no longer, the external joys of hugs by family around the hearth after a long day at work - a work that will be availed him daily.
A man's life isn't like it once was for his grandpop in America. The Salad Days of post-WWII work are indeed gone.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Gotta Get Back In Time: The United States, World History, and Your 2015, er, 1945 Chicago Cubs

Who knew, 30 years ago, when NL MVP Ryne Sandberg and 1984 Cubs were coming off a glorious ride, that the Cubs would still be in search of that elusive WS title. Here's just a few historic milestones since the Cubs last saw a World Series without buying a ticket:

1) Space exploration. Result: lots there, but far away for any human to get at in a normal lifetime. Oh well, Matthew Mcconaughey will make that happen.
2) TV "matures." Well...it has evolved into reality shows and really bad NBC, the originators of your broadcasts.
3) Desegregation. When the Cubs were in the 1945 World Series, Jackie Robinson was still unknown to "white America." Now: everybody knows who is our POTUS. Who would have called the odds on that taking place...back in 1945. Red Barber surely wouldn't have.
1945: The view is uncluttered. There are no billboards visible. No Under Armour logos, Budweiser signs, et. al. Simple times if cheap times...
President in 1984. SAG Prez after WWII.

4) Rise of China. In 1945, China still ostensibly had Chiang Kai-shek in charge and the US as an ally. By 1949, Chairman Mao took control. Economically, the Chinese struggled until Mao's death. Great Leap Forward was a great leap backward - around the same time, the Cubs spiraled into oblivion from 1946-1966. China's "doesn't matter if the cat's black or white, as long as it catches mice" new economic reforms take shape after Deng Xiaoping came to power. Now: China will surpass U.S. economic (GDP) output, depending on who's projecting, sometime in the next 5-7 years.
5) The Fall of USSR. So, "we" beat the communists. Through proxy wars, arms races, covert OPs, and extolling the virtues of economic freedom, the war was fought and won over 45 years until the Berlin Wall came down. Unlike the Cubs, who never saw a nickel they couldn't ration out during that time, the U.S. quickly spent like rapper on holiday in Vegas for 45 years. The man credited by many with the Fall of the Wall, Ronald Reagan, was just a mediocre, but powerful, actor in 1945. Who just so happened to start out as a broadcaster of baseball games in Iowa for the Cubs in the 1930s.
6) Internet and Social Media. At some point, back in 1945, you had to talk face to face to your sweetheart. Sure, phones were a commodity. But long-distance wasn't "free" by any stretch. Heck, you had to dial on a rotary, and the operators were the NSA of their time. Cubs probably had a strict limit on phone calls made from the train stops, or if PK Wrigley allowed, after plane flights. Now: you get to see one-time, "stud" CF Grady Sizemore's junk. Or can follow any Cubs player's tweets to the adoring public. Yeah.
7) The Decline of the U.S. Ok, this has gotten long. In 1945, the United States was by far the most powerful entity on this Earth. The Pacific Fleet at the conclusion of WWII numbered: 23 battleships, 26 full-size carriers, 64 escort carriers, 52 cruisers, 323 destroyers, 181 subs, 14,847 combat planes The U.S Army: 8.3 million strong. (Think Magazine, 1950). U.S. GDP was around 50% of the World output. Now: because of the U.S.'s propensity to build up other economies, the numbers were always in decline. But I doubt anyone would say the U.S. has better infrastructure, education, or addresses problems of incarceration or health care, well at all. Meanwhile, the lovable losers haven't muster much either...maybe they do have to win, in order for the United States to finally reverse its curse...

8) Technology-driven world. The mid-20th century was still the Industrial Age. Factories driven more by basic common sense and gut instincts, than business sense and stats and programs that do all the "thinking" for you. People liked technology for its long-term practicality for their lives. Now: People get tech for a 6 month high of having the latest gadget that the Joneses don't have. The Cubs never invested much in their team's foundation from the 1930s forward. Poor facilities to play in, train in, hamstrung their hopes to get good players developed or free agents coming to town. No always, but certainly a factor.

9) The Song Remains the Same. It is said the more things change the more they stay the same. Or also, the problems of the past are not all that much different from the present ones. Odd to think that a firm linkage of 70 years - 40 years between the Cubs final World Series appearance, and the aftermath of their best played season, and 30 years after Back to the Future - exists. In Back to the Future II, the 2015 Cubs win the World Series. 

Now: The Power of Now. As a 40-something, I remember those 1984-85 Cubs teams. How I rooted for their victories, and struggled with them in defeat. I hoped a lot. The music, like the Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News, played on the radio. That told of hope to a budding teenager in love with sport, girls, and music.


Today, the echoes of those long ago memories rang true. The brilliance of that moment meant I should create a present tense as good as I remembered that time and place. The responsibilities are different of the now. The headaches of mid-life: career improvement, relationship management, the planning for one's after-work life, to name a short few. The world has changed, innovated, grown in turmoil, and left scars on many souls. It is the path we trek as we grow in age, and think back, while thinking ahead, as we live in the now

The Cubs are no longer in 1945; or 1985; but in the now of 2015. Will they do it? Will they be like these fellars:
The Power of Then: http://espn.go.com/blog/playbook/visuals/post/_/id/9483/yearbook-oct-10-cubs-in-the-world-series