Friday, August 20, 2010
The New American Dream
"Nine percent of white-collar workers have added a second job in the past year, and another 19% said they intended to take a second job sometime in 2010, according to a recent survey for CareerBuilder.com, a career website"
Let me restate that. One fifth of Americans expect to have to take a second job in the next quarter.
This is the bleak, indifferent face of austerity. The polar, painful opposite of an authentic, meaningful prosperity.
Let me offer you an analogy. America, for the last several decades, has been kind of like a giant mall, owned by a leveraged, structured hedge fund. In this mall, as in most malls, the shelves are lined with toxic, lowest common denominator junk, that's self destructive to people, communities, and happiness itself. In this mall, as in most malls, there is the illusion of abundance - purchased only at the cost of tomorrow.
The mall only offers McJobs. The bulk of returns flow to the hedge fund that owns it. But they are, of course, illusory. No real value has been created - rather, value has simply been transferred from the mall workers, to the mall shoppers, to the mall managers, to the fund managers. On each leg of its journey, it's concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Conversely, on each leg of the journey, investment becomes less productive, moral hazard more damaging, adverse selection more intense, externalities more severe, and real wealth outflows more destructive. Here's the kicker. The workers have nowhere else to shop but the mall - but the more they do so, the poorer they get, because every round of transactions shaves another few pennies off their real wealth today, and the returns on it tomorrow.
The mall isn't an engine of prosperity. It's a masquerade, a charade, a game of musical chairs - it is, ultimately, a tool whose very purpose is only to extract value, and whose necessary side effect, then, is austerity.
If you worked at the mall long enough - well, you'd go exactly nowhere. In fact, in real terms, you'd get poorer. And so you'd probably end up having to take a second job, down the corridor.
Welcome, then, to America 2010. Call it the new American Dream: I just want enough not to have to face decades of penury and toil. Is there more work at this mall?
Want fries with that zombieconomy?