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Disposable Americans

 
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Louis Uchitelle has written an new book presenting the results of his research on layoffs in the US. The title of his work is The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences.

If you hurry you can hear an interview with the author on Fresh Air

The book has also been reviewed by the San Diego Union.

Uchitelle presents evidence to debunk what he identifies as three myths.

The first myth he debunks is the notion that there will be an eventual payoff for the 30 million full-time workers who have lost their jobs since the beginning of the Reagan presidency.

The second myth that Uchitelle takes on is the idea that �the laid-off must save themselves.�

Finally, Uchitelle adeptly challenges the myth that the costs of layoffs �are entirely measurable in dollars and cents, the relevant standard for a market system.�

The battle to destroy the middle class continues.
 
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Originally posted by Homer Phillips:
The first myth he debunks is the notion that there will be an eventual payoff for the 30 million full-time workers who have lost their jobs since the beginning of the Reagan presidency.



If they've remained unemployed for 26 years, I think there's very little hope for them now. Since then, we have had a quarter century of dramatic growth rates, far lower unemployment and an expansion of the middle class.

Those that adapt, succeed. Those that do not, complain about immigrants and age discrimination and other external factors.

Luke
 
Homer Phillips
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See the write-up on the shrinking middle class @ www.factcheck.org

I'm sorry Herb, does anti free market mean the same thing as business friendly?
 
Homer Phillips
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This review really rocks. I love how he rips Bill Clinton. Of course it was Slick Willy that signed the bill opening the H1-B flood gates.

URL courtesy NYT.

Many readers know Mr. Uchitelle as a business journalist with an acute analytic bent. That is in this book, but there is a surprising passion as well. He urges � demands � that Americans speak up: not to give empty speeches about how more of us should go to college, or "skill up," but to stop the layoffs from ravaging us all. Thomas Geoghegan is a labor lawyer and author.



I really can't fault a foreign national working in the US for trying negative attacks, Luke.
[ April 15, 2006: Message edited by: Homer Phillips ]
 
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This review really rocks. I love how he rips Bill Clinton. Of course it was Slick Willy that signed the bill opening the H1-B flood gates.



... after a Congress full of Representatives and Senators from a different party agreed to it.
 
Luke Kolin
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Originally posted by Homer Phillips:
I really can't fault a foreign national working in the US for trying negative attacks, Luke.



But it's true, Homer. All of your ranting is based on a fundamental desire to stop the clock and return back to the nice paternalistic world of the 1950s where your employer would keep you for life and worry about everything for you. Promotions and compensation would be based on seniority, not ability, so the more oxygen you consumed and the more methane you produced, the more money you would get paid.

The problem is, that America isn't an island anymore. While you embark on your Quixotic quest to stop H-1Bs, the fact remains that one of our many Indian posters in India is just as much of a threat to your employment as an H-1B worker, or a foreign national living in the US like myself. Offshoring is the result of the basic truth that just because you are an American citizen of a certain age, doesn't guarantee you anything more than your ability alone.

It wasn't so long ago that people were denied jobs because they were Jews or Catholics or Polish or Irish. (Don't even get me started on the black or Asian or woman business.) Then people came up with the bright idea that making artificial distinctions was a good way to get second-rate people. In 2020, citizenship and residency is going to mean exactly squat when it comes to employement; top people at companies are internaional because they want the best people, not just the best Americans.

In all those industries, older workers take advantage of their maturity, wisdom and experience to compete effectively against younger pups that have energy and youth on their side. It's the way the world works, and if you want to wail "discrimination" that's just showing that you don't have what it takes. I work with plenty of over-40s. At my last company I had a bunch of over-50s, that told me that RPG was inherently superior to Java since Java couldn't do database transactions. They NEEDED to be outsourced/offshored/whatever.

If you want to stop the "flood" of foreign workers into America, you should focus on the ~ 875,000 immigrants who are not subject to a labor market test at all, instead of complaining about productive foreigners like me who will end up paying for your Social Security and the 30% of your children who can't even finish high school.

Cheers!

Luke
 
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Mmmm...boy! It sure is fun seeing the daggers come out.

I'm am going to get this book and read it with a huge heaping grain of salt. I do find these "myths" to be interesting, as I see them more as justifications of upper management than anything.

Still, some interesting assertions are being made as well, but I hate to pass judgement without actually reading the book. To say the least, I remain dubious.

I do take exception with the #2 myth though, if I can't save myself, who do I turn to? The Federal Government? I think they are the last people we want to get involved. Besides which, they are so mired in big business on both sides of the aisle that I don't expect them to go against their own financial interests to actually do anything constructive. They'll pass some other ineffectual law like Sarbanes-Oxley that won't actually punish the people that caused the problem in the first place but will put an additional strain on regular line-workers who were victimized by the events that led to the passing of said law.

No, when I lost my job I had only myself to rely on. My former company wasn't going to help, the government doesn't care and was ineffectual with any assistance they could provide. One thing I have learned in my career is that you can either sit there and gripe or you can take action. I am not going to wait for someone else to rescue me.

On the other hand, the unbridled optimism of globalization makes me chuckle -

In 2020, citizenship and residency is going to mean exactly squat when it comes to employement; top people at companies are internaional because they want the best people, not just the best Americans.



A lot of things can happen in 14 years. We work in technology, where things can shift dramatically in the span of 6 months. I laughed when I read two years ago how Microsoft said they would be doing almost entirely offshore operations by 2015. Plus, let's face it, if your focus is actual talent, there are plenty of talented people in your own country, whether we're talking about the US, UK, France, or India. If you believe in developers as a commodity, there are plenty of people available for that to. I am not against bringing in foreign nationals, in fact I am very much for it. However, we are not simply going to open the floodgates and we really can't.

Offshoring is not going to replace local developers either. People still don't appreciate the very real hurdle of physical distance. I have seen two offices that were fifteen minutes apart struggle to coordinate. Companies with offices in different parts of the country struggle. Are we to assume that someplace on the other side of the world with an entirely different culture is going to magically work better when we can't get someone fifteen minutes away to send an e-mail with their status?

Not that I want to throw out offshoring either, as it has its uses, but it will never be a magic bullet. One of these days I am going to research and write a book about how physical distance is not easily surmounted by communication advances. There is real value in being able to simply walk over to someone's desk and ask a question.

At the same time, the technology sector in the US is growing, tech jobs are becoming hot again. They can't find enough people in Dallas, despite the fact that we where hit longer and harder by the dotcom bust than many other areas. Some people wondered, myself included, if it would ever recover. If they can't find the workers in the US, is it not fair to give immigrants a chance as well? Not to mention I believe that a workplace benefits from different perspectives anyway. I think closing our borders is as big a mistake as simply opening them.

To be honest, I lay the blame at the feet of the American worker in many ways. I will not go work for a company that treats me like a commodity. There will always be someone higher up who does not know who I am or what I do, but I do expect my most immediate superiors to understand my value. In return, I will bust my ass to get the job done. I believe I have an unspoken contract with my employer, and just as they set goals for me, I set goals for them. They may not care about those goals, but if they don't meet them I will find an employer that will. Last year they exceeded every expectation I had of them, and I did the same for them.

The problem is that the big companies doing the constant layoffs for no good reason (and I add that because sometimes there is good reason, believe it or not) don't care about their workers and know that even after the layoffs they will still have plenty of applicants lining up for a job. I won't go work for a company like that. I just received an excellent annual appraisal at work after a very tough year that I personally thought didn't go so well. I have a lot to offer a company, but I balance it out by not going to work for companies where even my direct supervisor will only treat me like an entry on their excel spreadsheet. There are many people like me, and those companies are missing out on good talent by their actions, yet they wonder why they keep struggling. Ironically, the same people doing the layoffs are also likely the root problem. It's a shame that they will always be able to attract just enough talent to stay in business. Such is the way of American business right now. Don't like it, be part of the solution by demanding accountability from your employer, and reward them with some loyalty when they stand by you. That's the worst of it, we want employers to be loyal when so few of us are.

I cannot fault US companies alone in this problem.

One last point in this diatribe and I'll leave to let people digest this. Age discrimination is very real and it's going to be an ongoing problem. There is real value to having people that don't want to go into management or become an architect and become hands off. We don't value those people enough. It's a double-edged sword though, because those same people expect their salary to increase based on seniority, despite the fact that the value-add they bring might only justify so many dollars. How do we rectify this situation? How do we convince employers that just because someone is older and more expensive that they are worth it? If you believe in the myth of the commodified developer, you can't rectify this situation. Older programmers are going to have the narrower selection of employers whether they like it or not. They will probably have a better selection of employers, but if a bad one is the first to offer a position, will an older employee be in a position to refuse?

It's easy to overlook that problem now, but will you be willing to overlook it in ten years? Fifteen? Twenty?
 
Homer Phillips
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To be honest, I lay the blame at the feet of the American worker in many ways.


Is it American worker is is that human being? I.E> is it something distinctly American?

When GWB and his buddy John McCain want to let 400K guest workers into the US, I am concerned. That's two strong months of job growth in the US.

There's jobs Americans workers won't do. There's jobs Americans don't want Americans to pay Americans the going rate to do. There's jobs Americans don't want to pay college educated people heath insurance on.
 
Jason Cox
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Just to clarify, I don't place blame solely on American workers, but they are not without blame either. I listen and read constantly about people complaining about how bad their boss is or company is, but do they do anything about it? I often wonder, if they are good enough to get another job, why don't they? If they're not good enough, then who is really the problem?

The other issue bring up is entirely different, and it's really dumb. We've ignored an obvious problem for decades and now people want to open Pandora's Box. Fine, go ahead. It's a big mess with no easy clean-up. Though I generally agree with the sentiment that we need to start enforcing the existing laws before we start making new ones. I have to wonder about the "doing jobs Americans won't do". Is that the case, or is it simply that companies don't want to pay the wages that an American worker would expect. There is a good deal of exploitionism going on there.

Besides, I already said I was not for opening the floodgates, but I don't think having some sort of guest worker program is bad, it's just dumb to propose amnesty for people who have been flagrantly breaking the law while there are many people trying to legally enter our country.
 
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