Comments on: The siren call of austerity Sat, 23 Mar 2013 13:49:31 +0000 hourly 1 By: paintcan Sat, 04 Feb 2012 15:23:10 +0000 “If one has to take a job delivering pizzas until something better comes along, it won’t be the first time.”

The local printer will do any jobs he can and most of them are small. I’m no help – I’m still using the brochures I had printed up over 20 years ago.

OOTS – you’re dreaming – pizza delivery jobs are some of the first to be taken by young kids. It seems all the service jobs in the little town where I live, or even in the nearest city, are staffed by young kids.

You always sound like a Pangloss. All I ever find is that my resume and application goes into the pile with all the others. I also missed the computer revolution and am more or less self-taught on this one. And all the online jobs listings I’ve seen require more extensive computer experience. I was quoted one year at home online tuition fees from two sources – Concordia and a design school out of Pittsburgh – of between $26,000 and $40,000 per year. And there is something very suspicious about them. They don’t like to talk course costs. I find that if I ask right up front, they loose interest in me. The most recent call said he would have to talk to his supervisor and I still haven’t heard from him. I have a hunch that a lot of people are being scammed by the online education business. But I know you don’t know the meaning of the word unscrupulous. I got one unintended compliment in a very sarcastic way from one caller. He said: “alright – so you did everything right”. I actually never thought I was doing anything “right”.

I have also experienced situations where my advanced degrees actually work to my disadvantage especially where the employer hasn’t had an education. They don’t really want to see someone with more education doing their job and succeeding. It is a direct challenge to their ego and sense of accomplishment. They want to believe that they didn’t need an education and “look what they accomplished”. To prove otherwise is the challenge their sense of self-worth.

It is also amazing to me that you can say that all job layoffs can be anticipated and that everyone has the ability to plan ahead for downtimes. You may have had significant money and/or benefits that cushion the shock all your life, but that hasn’t been the case for most people I know. It certainly wasn’t my situation.

And I could truly spit at an economy that has proved to me many times that the jobs that require the greatest efforts, both physical and mental, have been the minimum wage jobs. And those that required the least effort were the best paid. The best-paid employment I had was with a defense contractor and the problem I had most of the time was staying awake or finding something to occupy my days. And the insane joke of the situation is that the supervisor assigned all tasks and he had to make certain his older staff was fed first or they become unhappy. But they were also the highest paid. Go figure? The best thing I did on that job was study for my GRE and actually raised my math score (hardly ever use it) by 100 points over the SAT scores.

The world may be divided into the predators and the prey.
But I truly despise the predators and their inevitable sense of entitlement. Networking has always been elusive to me. You have to know people who know people who can do something for you and I never seem to meet them. It is why most of the world relies on extended family ties to obtain employment.

BTW – Kids should never listen to HS teachers that say – don’t study for the SATs. And they should also know that most advice is garbage.

By: OneOfTheSheep Tue, 31 Jan 2012 18:19:41 +0000 @Adam_S,

There is a difference between “oversimplifying” and having focus on the subject of discussion. I was explaining that “The choice is NOT “business as usual” or a Depression…”.

You jump in and start speculating whether ALL of the returning troops will be able to get jobs and whether these will be permanent or decent paying ones convenient to VA centers, etc. While your questions are valid, they are moot and off point.

You don’t retain unnecessary soldiers in the service when wars end for the same reason that you don’t keep employees no longer needed. Those are practices that are inevitable and the chips fall where they must. I agree associated taxpayer expenses are EVERYONE’s problem, and they will be what they will be. I don’t know and neither do you.

You also infer that everything unfolds instantly. It doesn’t. Those who don’t find a job the first day keep looking and networking. If one is still looking six months after discharge, it’s not like discharge came unexpectedly and there was no time to prepare one’s living expenses for such a period without “normal” income.

If one has to take a job delivering pizzas until something better comes along, it won’t be the first time. Yes, “living” is a complicated process and different for each of us even from one year to the next. We have to “suck it up”.

What is America’s alternative? Keep printing dollars?

By: Adam_S Tue, 31 Jan 2012 17:15:14 +0000 Excellent article, David.

OOTS is oversimplifying things, as he seems to do often. In even the last example…where are all these recent veterans going to find jobs? If they “look hard enough,” will jobs that are well paid, provide benefits, etc…just pop out of the ground? You say “for every one…” Do you have any idea how many will, and how many won’t? You’re talking about a population that by and large have no real job skills, and are often victims of PTSD or other post-war issues. Which require medical attention, often times for years. Data from 2011 indicate the unemployment rate for recent US vets is much higher than that of non-vets. And, it’s actually increasing, not decreasing. So it seems like although most (all?) of them want to find jobs, there aren’t that many jobs out there. If there were, I’d think I’d see the unemployment rate of vets going down, when it’s actually going up.

So I’m confused. I feel like OOTS rests far, far too much weight on “for each one of them that is successful in finding a civilian position.” It’s not the job of the govt to find these people work (although a high proportion of recent vets DO go into public service fields), but at the same time, if they don’t find jobs, they will come needing govt services, which are much more expensive to have the gluttonous, wasteful spending govt provide than it is to provide in the actual marketplace. Unless each of these guys finds a successful job, they’re not only not going to be a boon on the US economy, they might actually be a drain. So I fail to see how it’s so easy to simply explain away like OOTS seems to think it is. If they can’t find jobs, they end up being EVERYONE’S problem.

I just don’t see how it’s so easy to explain away. I study the labor market for a living, and while it isn’t that *hard* to find a *job* in America, getting by is MUCH more complex than simply finding a job. OOTS seems to vastly oversimplify the process. You can’t just assume everyone can find not only a job, but a job that pays enough to support yourself and perhaps others, is close to home, and provides you the medical care (in this case perhaps moreso than others, w PTSD etc) that you need. I realize that OOTS does not assume “everyone” can find a job, but there is precious little script paid to those who might not be able to.

By: OneOfTheSheep Tue, 31 Jan 2012 09:09:24 +0000 @matthewslyman,

Good grief. I am reminded of the tale that copper wire was invented when two lawyers argued over a penny!

I am saying that we need to immediately stop the relentless EXPANSION of the size and scope of the federal government. We need to carefully throttle down DISCRETIONARY spending (that NOT required by contract).

As our troops return from Iraq and wind down in Afghanistan associated expenses in terms of equipment, armaments and salaries should decrease with associated troop reductions. The proposed military budget for next year is actually smaller, with more cuts scheduled unless Congress rescinds them.

The people leaving the armed services “network” well and have friends already “on the outside”. For every one that is successful in finding a civilian position, their income magically transitions from a drag on the U.S. economy as a government employee to a positive economic force as a productive civilian adding to Gross national Product.

While much of the federal bureaucracy SHOULD be found “criminally wasteful”, these people largely police themselves and seldom honestly. Their very culture is “them versus the taxpayer or the businessman”. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for charges or convictions.

If the process halts or slows the recovery temporarily, the effect is little different than any normal ebb and flow of the business cycle. A steady but firm hand on the throttle allows appropriate response to any unexpected or unreasonably adverse effect. The choice is NOT “business as usual” or a Depression as you and others infer.

By: matthewslyman Tue, 31 Jan 2012 07:28:28 +0000 @OneOfTheSheep: Spending cannot be decreased immediately without serious negative economic consequences, as well as large contractual penalties (except where that spending can be shown to be criminally wasteful, and where government can be released from contractual obligations). David Cay Johnston is right about this. Shut down spending all at once, and you’ll deliver the death blow to the economy.

By: paintcan Tue, 31 Jan 2012 04:09:27 +0000 You aren’t really telling me what I don’t already know but you are more a wind bag than a source of real information.

I know you don’t know what I mean about being unscrupulous. I hear it in your comments all the time. You don’t interpret your own comments very well either – I hope you realize?

BTW – there are computer printer programs that will do business cards at home now. That is one of my problems. My skill became obsolete and the downturn has meant the clients I had went to even cheaper options than even I could provide. That is, if they have much of anything to do themselves now.

The computer has been one hell of a two ended sword. In fact it is making it possible to live on peanuts and not buy a GD thing anymore. The economy is going to shrivel. Why waste gas, fuel rent and the other expenses for a second business premises, clothing, on traipsing around doing very marginal valued services when one can do so much at home now or not use those services at all? I don’t miss most of them except when the cabin fever effect sets in. Austerity isn’t a siren call, it is a way of life and I can’t say that it is really austere. Only more efficient. But it will never re-inflate home prices because most of the very crowded world you complain about is managing to live on even less than I am. The global economy is having a very severe leveling effect on everything. Even the most aggressive sharks are going to starve (sooner or later).

Perhaps it will be fatal. Perhaps the government is into it senior care and burial expense phase now?

BTW – I never feel the world is an overcrowded threat whenever I visit NYC. The numbers alone make for increased and very accessible business opportunities, but at naggingly high overhead costs. But up here in the sticks, a few cars at a traffic light feels like grid lock.

I like to think we are entering a very peaceful world. simply because war is a the playground for double talk and unscrupulous conduct with state sanction. But I am also a little afraid it will feel like a coffin as well.

By: OneOfTheSheep Tue, 31 Jan 2012 01:08:10 +0000 @paintcan,

“You are advocating being unscrupulous, that’s all.” I have NO idea what you’re talking about.

“The biggest mystery in my life has been what to charge for my services – however dubious.”

Talk to a few of your best prospects to get their input as to what services you could provide that they “need”. To everyone, time is money. When you specialize in a product or service you are setting out to do something they don’t like to do, or that takes an inordinate amount of THEIR time to do.

Presumably you can become more expert and efficient in doing this than they can possibly be. The “business model” is a productive “win-win” association for the long term. Of those things you think might prove profitable, ask them what it would be worth to them to not have to do that any more, how much of that work there is, and what is the necessary “turn-around schedule” for each service.

If it looks like there may be a “niche business” profitable once going, try it (even though you lose time make little more than expenses until you get better and more efficient). If not, ask them for ideas. It is human nature when someone is trying hard to help them help themselves.

An example is that most printers don’t print business cards “in house”. They order them from a specialty “trade source”. The order taking printer gets rid of a fiddly low-margin time sucking task so as to concentrate on other, easier and more profitable work, yet he still “provides” business cards for his customers from a source that will not contact them directly. The same is true for wedding invitations, banners, folders, even envelopes and business forms.

By: OneOfTheSheep Tue, 31 Jan 2012 00:23:49 +0000 @matthewslyman,

I do NOT question your recommendation for increased taxation. I agree completely with you that this will be absolutely necessary if we are to “fix” the American economy.

I only question increasing taxation BEFORE my government publicly and conspicuously acknowledges the current reality; that it is:

spending more than it has to spend or can spend over time
No “plan” as to what our society should do and be, and what that costs (as to properly budget them)
No significant experience in recognizing the difference between those government functions that are absolutely necessary and those that are optional or even questionable, and mandating periodic and meaningful review of each.
No significant experience in prioritizing the expenditure of available revenue such that, for instance, infrastructure is expanded in reasonable proportion to concurrent expansion of economic activity before new government agencies, departments or functions or more federal workers are added to existing expenses.

In my opinion “we, the people” MUST force our government to mend it’s wasteful ways BEFORE giving it more money. Only on the “front side” do we have the necessary leverage to demand absolutely essential and fundamental changes to the manner in which it routinely “does OUR business”.

We have the necessary time if we have the courage and determination. I see no danger whatsoever of America sinking “…under the feet of their less well-heeled neighbors” because, as unsustainable as our current path may be, it is MORE sustainable than the great makority of other large economies. It remains true, in economic terms, that when America sneezes, Europe (and the rest of the world) catches a cold (or pneumonia).

By: paintcan Mon, 30 Jan 2012 23:24:54 +0000 BTW Sharks are one of the most primitive and least intelligent varieties of seafood. They swim and eat and that’s all they do. If they stop, they die because they can’t breath.

@tmc. what part of OOTS many posts are you agreeing with? Was my comment posted when you said it?

By: matthewslyman Mon, 30 Jan 2012 23:16:59 +0000 @OneOfTheSheep:
> “These “masses” are not only HERE, but the fastest growing part of our population. ”
– I’m glad you noticed!

> “efficient, accountable government” is a laudable aspiration. Unfortunately, like the God particle in Physics, the existence of such an otherwise theoretical entity has not been proven or “found” in the real world.”
– Acknowledged, and undisputed. However, some governments are more accountable, efficient and coherently directed than the U.S. Federal Government. Why? Their accountability structures are stronger, they are in more of a long-term left-right political equilibrium, making sensible compromises in a culture of debate and negotiation. Their governmental structures and procedures, auditors and regulators are more efficient at preventing and then at weeding out “pork-barrel spending”. There’s a reason why that terminology originated in the United States…

You question my recommendation for increased taxation. I’ve cited a link several times to an article I’ve written on that general subject. The key issue here though is that the only way to narrow the gap between 15% and 25% quickly is to move the 15% up and the 25% down: they have to meet in the middle, with a gap defined by the GDP growth minus the desired budget surplus. My studies of recent historical American economic performance show that raising taxes from 15% to 18% or 19% will not have ANY negative impact on American GDP. On the contrary, it will almost certainly INCREASE productivity, for example by forcing some people with valuable skills out of early retirement, and by forcing other overpaid/ high-skilled folk to get their finger out and start WORKING for America and contributing to spending that has a real positive impact, rather than buying mansions in the Bahamas while USS America sinks under the feet of their less well-heeled neighbours.

> “…what do you mean “The US federal government/ Federal “Reserve”/ American people have magnanimously chosen “none of the above”… I thought they were doing all of them – they just don’t work?”

– Irony of course! I’m moderately certain the USA is doing some of these four things I mentioned. My veiled accusations cannot easily be proven, and it’s not necessarily accurate to say the USA is doing “all of them”: we cannot prove, for example, that the USA is fomenting unrest in rising powers (something Mr. Putin has recently accused the USA of doing in Russia), and on the other hand there is plenty of evidence that most grass-roots revolts around the world are simply responding to increasingly oppressive & unequal administration of justice and economics, now that technology gives them new opportunities for organised dissent. I’m just not sure whether this spontaneous protest is the whole story.

What’s for certain is that no people or country can defy a fundamental mathematical law. Ultimately, unless policies are changed now so as to harness the power of the legendary American work-ethic, you’re going to be re-opening Ellis Island to sort out this mess; to leverage once again, the asset that North America has in relative abundance: LAND. [Nods to Pete_Murphy for once, instead of heckling him!] If you American voters don’t like this suggestion, you’ll know what to do…