Friday, September 22, 2006

Common Article 3

The Deal...

I frankly do not trust this "deal" you've struck with those three supposedly renegade senators, Bush. It has the distinct, indelicate odor of politics as we near the November elections, and those senators are left looking more like pussycats than the lions I had hoped for. The spectacle of United States laid bare for a public whipping at the UN General Assembly this past week is deeply saddening. It is only compounded, at the end of the week, by a moral capitulation that seems to give validation to the ridicule and castigation. We came off looking at best defensive, at worst guilty of that with which we stand accused.

...and a Job Offering

Enough said. I started out planning to talk about the ecomony today, before I heard about your deal. You might find this interesting, if you'll remove your rose-tinted glasses for a minute or two.

Here's the thing: Ellie and I have begun to think that we could use some help with office and other tasks that are draining too much of our time and energy, so I decided a couple of days ago to place an ad on Craig's List. I made it clear that we wanted ten hours a week, maximum, and that the wage was pretty basic for a person with education and computer skills. Within an hour, Bush, I swear it, I had twenty applications in my email box. Within a day, more than forty--most of them from men and women who were highly qualified--perhaps even overqualified--for the job.

I was stunned. I mean, Bush, this is a really little job. I was also delighted, of course, to have such a great pool to work with. But it got to a point where I simply had to turn applicants away with their resumes unread because there were too many of them. The experience made me wonder about the job market. I hear you and others in your administration make frequent claims about the health of the economy and the strength of the employment market for those who wish to work. I ask myself, then, why so many enthusiastic applicants for a job that pays so little and offers no potential for advancement?

This, too, in the context of the many young people I know who are trying to make their way in the financial world, with so many careers and professions seeming virtually closed to them. I'm talking about twenty- and thirty-year olds who are forced to take jobs like the one I'm offering--some with much lower remuneration--and think themselves lucky if they find one. Young people with college educations earning ten or fifteen dollars an hour, with no medical insurance, no other benefits, just the hourly wage. There's an army of them out there, Bush, in case you hadn't noticed.

I'm surmising that there's a broad cultural shift that has been taking place since I was their age. Back then, it was unquestioned that those privileged with this kind of educational advantage would go out after college and choose a profession or follow a career path that would determine pretty much the direction of their lives. Now many of them are floundering, and I'm not sure whether it has to do with their expectations or with the saturation of the traditional professions.

Many of those I know about, I grant you, are young people whose creative talents have been encouraged and nurtured to the point where they are alienated from the more boring responsibilities of making a living, working out a stable relationship, making a home and having children, and so on. Some, I think, are spoiled by their privilege and live with a sense of entitlement that society cannot fulfill in the same way that their parents did.

But I believe, too, that there's a broader social problem here that we will need eventually to address: the real shrinkage of employment paths and possibilities brought about by the mass availablility of technological means to achieve what it took people to do back then--or even, say twenty years ago; and of course by the accompanying outsourcing of jobs to countries where they can be filled by people willing and eager to work for lesser salaries and benefits than those a family needs for survival here in the US. It's in part one of the side-effects of globalization.

It's all well and good to complain about our young folk and their lack of motivation--in the suburbs as well as in the city streets--but there are problems here that seriously need to be addressed, and I see no sign of any serious effort to address them. No amount of hype about the health of the economy at large can begin to address these real challenges for real people "on the ground." My own anecdotal experience is surely just one minor manifestation of a much greater task that lies ahead. I'd like to hear some politicians talk about it with some small degree of understanding of its urgency. Including, Bush, from your bully pulpit, your good self. Enough with the happy talk. Let's get real.


David said...

Peter, it's all part of the No Child Left Behind program. It's considered a success if they have improved test scores, and don't get left behind until they try to find jobs.

GringoWithoutBorders said...

I also do not trust the agreement reached regarding torture. However, maybe the senators have allowed Bush to be out in front if they held firm and refused to really budge. Maybe this was a way Bush could save face. One can hope this is the case.

Just think of what retirement/old age will be like when the young people of today do not have the pensions relied on by many/most? seniors today. Especially combining the horrible savings rate most Americans have.

I dont know Peter, is it the concentration on money and materialism instead of family/honest relationships that afflicts young people? Not that I am a prude, well maybe, but today young women/men have 20-40+ sexual partners by age 25 and marriages last but a few years. Everything seems to be faster and faster, more crowded, two incomes to survive ect... Reminds me of the experiments when rats are placed in an overcrowded cage. I know many successful, monetarily rich, young people but also many more who are floundering as you say.

Fred said...

Like you and the gringo, I smell a rat with the "deal" made between Bush and the senators. Reading the fine print, it appears that he got everything he wanted. Even though there was no official change of article 3, the prez is given the "right" to determine the meaning of the convention as he sees fit. McCain says there were no losers in the deal. He's wrong.

Dave said...


With outsourcing the global work force creates big problems here, but I am concerned also with the narrowed alternatives of gong to college or flipping burgers for minimum wage. I have read several reports about the shortages of skilled workers, the kind that my father was through apprenticing. Our concept of education has become so conventionally narrow that we assume that all kids should get an "academic" education, getting useless degrees to unemployment. Anything else is considered bigoted by middle-class folk who have never had to live with the employument problem, until now.

PK said...

I have many East Indian friends who are going to college so they can get into high paying jobs in India. These are the jobs that are being outsourced here to there. These women are being pushed by parents to get an education! It used to be the women were pushed into arranged marriages, well, they still are, but now it's less than before. These young ladies are going into apprentice jobs and still in school. They are very excited that they are earning thier own way and being able to also help the family. Now, what are we doing about our young people? No child left behind is great, until they reach a certain age, then they are more than left behind like david said. We need to set up situations like they have in India, go to school and apprentice at a company that matches what you are taking courses in. Is anyone willing to do that anymore? They will have a job, permanently at the company they are doing their apprenticeship at when they leave college. Now that's a win win situation!