By Anya Tikka
ELDRED Eldred-based author James B. Huntington, PhD, has some bad news about the labor market.
“In the United States there will never be enough jobs any more for the people who want to work at them,” is the major point he makes in his recently published book “Work’s New Age.”
Here’s another major claim in the book: “We live in a time of Shift for the Ages.” By this, Huntington means the age of free markets and capitalism that worked well in the wake of industrialization from around the late 18th century to the end of the 20th is now over. In fact, he takes it one step further, stating “Work-based society no longer exists.”
Huntington, who recently relocated to Eldred after two years in South Korea, points a finger at globalization, technology, and the fact in US health insurance is linked to work, putting an intolerable burden on the employers.
“In India, they have $500 per month jobs with the same education and skills as we have in the US,” he pointed out, adding that new web-based firms will not require many workers: “Twitter only employs 300 people.”
Huntington backs his claims with the US Department of Labor Statistics that say between14-15 million people are unemployed, and nine million who are working work part time.
“And the statistics don’t take into account at all people who are working under their skill level, like managers who work as clerks, or people who have stopped looking for work altogether,” added Huntington.
bad economy leads to sociological changes
A sociology major in college, Huntington is concerned over the changing social patterns that are happening as a result of the economic pressure.
“Many young people stay home with their parents much longer than before, there were more women than men in higher education for the first time in US last year, and many of those women stay unmarried as a result of not finding suitable mates,” he said.
“Traditionally, women have married ‘up.’ Men derive their main value from work.… This is no longer available,” says Huntington.
He goes on to say, “College graduates under age 25 have 15 percent unemployment. They not only do not expect to do better than their parents, they don’t expect to do as well as their parents.… We’re getting a permanent underclass, people who have lost all hope of ever working. [They’re also] developing bad habits, they eat too much, watch too much TV, smoke, drink.”
But unlike many, Huntington does not think China is the emerging colossus or that it’s going to end up taking over the world.
He says, “Accept China for what it is. Cheap things that are made there are helping the American consumers. China’s currency manipulation is not significantly affecting US; it will not change US economy. Protectionism is bad, it’s stupid, it will hurt our prosperity.”
Instead, Huntington believes China is getting pulled in half. If its standard of living keeps going up, the jobs are going to other countries where labor is cheaper. “China can’t be both a prosperous country and a source of cheap labor,” concluded Huntington.
But Huntington also has solutions that address what to him are inevitable changes. He proposes WPA style programs that improve the infrastructure, government jobs, separating health care from jobs, more unemployment benefits, reduced working hours, ending farm subsidies, and cutting taxes for businesses that have more employees.
A very radical, big idea Huntington is also suggesting is for the government to provide every American with enough money to survive without working. It would not be a middle class income, but enough to get by, he says, adding, those who want to work, can work. “It would be minimum income, and let market economy rule,” said Huntington.
As radical as it seems, in modern times the idea has been suggested by the economist Milton Freedman and politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan, although it can be dated to Thomas Paine and the American Revolution.
“This could be paid for through the programs we then wouldn’t need any more, such as welfare and unemployment,” commented Huntington.
“Right now, by every one percent unemployment goes up, it costs the feds $400 billion a year,” said Huntington, adding, “We’ll have no choice within 15-20 years.”