More Signs We Are Not Ready

Standard

I was stumbling around looking for an article on the Web and found this courageous piece in Chronicles Magazine entitled America's Descent Into the Third World. Paul Craig Roberts dismantles recently created jobs and finds that the upbeat economic news we hear of late resembles the Emperor's latest threads. This article is must-read for those of you who read through my series on the business world.

I wonder from time to time if our economic leaders are flat-out lying to us to keep us from panicking. Honestly. Alan Greenspan recently let it be known that he has no idea why the economy is acting the way it is. If he doesn't understand what is going on, then no one does. That's never a positive sign.

The spin our economy is getting is bizarre, too. The Wall Street Journal yesterday was trumpeting the roaring economy noting that Americans are spending more again and that GM and Ford's sales are up more than 40% over last year. But in the same edition in different articles, they also note that Americans are now saving nothing. Nada. Everything we make goes out. And the numbers behind GM and Ford? Well, they are effectively selling almost all of their cars at a loss, unable to cover their expenses. That's not a great business plan.

When you start unpacking all the "good" economic and business news, you find the kinds of statistics that Paul Craig Roberts did:

[In the June 2005 jobs report, only] 144,000 private sector jobs were created, each one of which was in domestic services.

Fifty-six thousand jobs were created in professional and business services, about half of which are in administrative and waste services.

Thirty-eight thousand jobs were created in education and health services, almost all of which are in health care and social assistance.

Nineteen thousand jobs were created in leisure and hospitality, almost all of which are waitresses and bartenders.

Membership associations and organizations created 10,000 jobs, and repair and maintenance created 4,000 jobs.

Financial activities created 16,000 jobs.

This most certainly is not the labor market profile of a First World country, much less a superpower.

We are fast becoming a country of waiters, secretaries, and janitors. This is not to say that these jobs are not needed, Your mop & bucket are ready...but only that they cannot sustain America. Roberts's later comments on white collar work are especially telling. Again, read the whole article (even if you've heard the same warnings from me already.)

The American Church's silence on this is becoming pathological. If we cannot speak to the business world, if we cannot prepare for bad times, if we cannot shout truth in the face of lies, if we cannot bring hope to those who continue to slide downward, if we cannot bring peace to the frantic, then are we really bringing anything redemptive to anyone's work life?

Just this week the guys from my small group were discussing the fact that we are all harried, stressed out, torn in a million directions, estranged time-wise from our families, and working harder than ever for less. Each man had a complaint that was different from the rest, but we were all united in the fact that our problems here went back to the same single issue that the Church in America refuses to discuss. Something has to give.

I'll leave it to readers to imagine what's next. Are we ready for it?

16 thoughts on “More Signs We Are Not Ready

  1. Sam Graf

    Interesting, but I am wondering what it means to a Christian to say something like, “We are fast becoming a country of waiters, secretaries, and janitors. This is not to say that these jobs are not needed, but only that they cannot sustain America.”

    Certainly service sector jobs can’t sustain the current American economy; that much I understand. My confusion lies in the idea that we should be concerned about an American descent into the Third World, and how the Church’s “pathological” silence about such things interferes with “bringing anything redemptive to anyone’s work life” — is there anything distinctly economic about bringing anything redemptive to anyone’s work life in the first place?

    Just thinking …

  2. Sam,

    People have to live. American people have to live. Our country is only as strong as the jobs it offers. I’m not going to get into an America rah-rah thing here, but the fact remains that if this is the trend it bodes badly for Americans.

    The problem is the inability to put genies back in bottles. Our entire infrastructure in this country is built around certain assumptions. If those assumptions do not hold, and no one is preparing for them to fail, then a world o’ hurt is coming that the Church is not prepared for—either for its own or for the lost who look to us for help. That kind of short-sightedness is ludicrous, but that’s where we’re headed.

    The Church in this country is not prepared to handle the fallout and is taking no steps to be prepared. I do not believe things will be progressive because at some point the infrastructure will collapse under the constant strain. If half the people in your church are unemployed or underemployed, how will your church handle that?

    We need to be asking those questions now and not later.

  3. Sam Graf

    I follow. Let me clarify, and then bail, since this isn’t my blog.

    I confess to being hopelessly warped by the ante-Nicene Fathers’ studied (read “pathological”?) disinterest in Roman civic and political affairs. As I see it, coming from that angle, a blog that looks for the 1st century Church in 21st century America “ought” to be so warped as well. 😀

    I’m also aware that Third World people have to live, and many of them do, quite apart from from anything remotely like the American economy. Maybe it would not be all bad for us to join them?

  4. Dan the Man: “�we are all harried, stressed out, torn in a million directions, estranged time-wise from our families, and working harder than ever for less. �Something has to give.”

    Yes. To reduce the stress in my life, I’ve cut back on the number of blogs I read.

    Again, you’ve written another interesting post, Dan. Coincidently, the other day, I was listening to Larry Kudlow (of NRO) on the radio yakking about how simply marvelous the economy is. The man was positively giddy with delight. As I was listening, I was thinking, dismally, “Yeah, right. All it takes is one Islamist nuke to ruin his entire day. It’d bring the whole merry house of cards crashing into the ground, hard.”

    The other thing that blows me away is the alacrity of some big corporations (e.g., Cisco, Microsoft, etc.) to do business with those murderous, Communist thugocrats who run the People’s Republic of China, who even now are locking up our brethren in jail, and who are stealing our technology to better prepare themselves to wage war against the United States in the not so distant future. I guess it was V.I. Lenin who said something to the effect that “Capitalists will eagerly sell you the rope you hang them with.” Lenin was a murderous thug also, but he was also quite an astute observer.

  5. Gaddabout

    I don’t know how things are going in the eastern part of the U.S., but home prices continue to accelerate at breakneck pace. We’re talking about 150% evaluation in four years in some places. It’s crazy.

    Salaries? They’re not keeping up. California is about to become a two-caste society at this pace. Give it three years. Either the market will correct (massively, like an earthquake), or all the hired help will be living in Nevada, Arizona, or someplace else where an average person can afford to live on $12.50 an hour.

  6. Gaddabout,

    When my wife and I lived in Silicon Valley in the Dot Com Daze, the 1600-1800 sq ft homes (with five feet of yard like a belt around them) were going for $320K when we got there. Three and a half years later when we left those same homes were worth $550,000.

    We came back to OH and bought in a rural area outside Cincinnati and paid a fraction of that for a larger home with 13.2 acres of land. We told all our CA friends that we’d bought a $4.5 million home! That’s what it would have cost with that much land out in CA. What a joke.

    Let’s just say we’re glad we’re not there anymore!

  7. We can:
    tithe
    relieve debt
    live within our means
    save
    invest
    educate and train
    help our brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same.
    and pray, pray, pray.

    I don’t think we can prevent the evolution to a global economy. We’ll have to adapt. What concerns me more is how much of our economic growth over the past twenty years was financed with debt. That dam will have to crack at some point.

  8. Josh Bonner

    I can definitly sympathize with what your writing hear Dan. I’m a 25 year old with a Bachelor’s degree who is delivering pizzas, while I continue my career search. (A degree doesn’t mean as much as it used to, that’s for sure.) My biggest beef isn’t with the economy’s growth concerns or American’s spending habits. Start rant in 3, 2, 1……

    My biggest worry is what Jacques Ellul called, “The humiliation of the word.” It’s not only that so many American’s don’t read Scripture, it’s that they don’t read much of anything outside a few unrelated newspaper clips and some mindless articles from another “buns and abs” magazine. How many busy parents read to there kids or take time to discuss important issues? In terms of nourishment, Xbox, MTV, and reality TV are the mental equivalent of Twinkies, Ben and Jerry’s, and cheese fries. Heck, TLC and the Discovery channel are all “home makeover” and motorcycle building infomercials anymore. Disovery’s newest invention,”Dirty jobs” shows a guy wallowing around in pig poop or working in the sewer. I can feel my brain atrophy.

    My boss and I made an quick IQ questionnare a while back to give our co-workers. We weren’t trying to embarrass anyone, but unfortunately we’ve had some very badly educated people apply for employment recently.(One girl couldn’t read a clock unless it gave a digital reading) Only a couple people in my store knew which country we fought against in the American Revolutionary war!!! Albeit, I wasn’t expecting to find any Rhodes scholars at a pizza place, but come on. I think the economic downfall might be related at least in part, to the dumbing down of many Americans. (Sorry for preaching, but this bugs me to no end.)

  9. Broken Messenger

    Dan,

    This is tough argument to swallow. We are the richest nation on earth and now we should worry about being less rich?

    Personally, I don’t think this an issue for the church to concern itself about, as it is having a hard enough time convincing people that spreading the Gospel is not akin to either the Republican agenda (and I do vote Repub. by the way) or helping zealots fund their own personal pyramid schemes. Jesus asked us to not to worry about our lives, jobs included. So let’s worry individually about our work for the kingdom, and let God bless us as He sees fit. Historically, Israel’s repentance and return to God led in each instance of material blessing, protection and sustenance. I think we should do the same. That is…preach Christ, and by faith believe that the Lord will sustain us.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post as always.

    Brad

  10. Dave C.

    Dan,
    “The American Church’s silence on this is becoming pathological. If we cannot speak to the business world … if we cannot shout truth in the face of lies … then are we really bringing anything redemptive to anyone’s work life?”

    I agree to some extent, but I think you’re overreacting. After all, just what “truth” would you propose we shout about the “lies”?

    As you may know, the economy can be judged by many different economic indicators. What you’ve done is take one indictaor and isolated it instead of looking at a broad range in order to evaluate the overall picture. Looking at that single indictaor is a VERY bad idea because it gives an incomplete description.

    Even looking at that single indicator (jobs in June 2005), I’m struck by the fact that you didn’t try to explain it.

    You wrote: “We are fast becoming a country of waiters, secretaries, and janitors.” My question to you is: Doesn’t this imply that more restaurants and companies are opening? Might this also imply (just possibly) that more people are opening small businesses? Of course, those businesses wouldn’t be reflected in your employment statistics.

    Frankly, I’m more concerned about my church getting it’s theology correct than seeing them get involved in economics. My experience tells me that most people are woefully ignorant about economics so it would be a disaster for the church to involve itself in that arena.

  11. broken messenger: “Personally, I don’t think this an issue for the church to concern itself about,�”

    That may be the case. My own prophetic premonitions about the future indicate big upcoming cataclyms. Islamist nukes going off all the place? Economic collapse and global depression ala the 1930s? The Aztlanian Republica Del Norte seceding from the union? I don’t know; it’s all rather murky still. That the Loony Mullahs in Iran are going full-steam-ahead with their nuclear weapons program (and nobody’s doing anything about it) is a little unnerving. But I don’t worry; I expect it’s the End Times anyhow. So what can I do about it?

    By the way, brother, can you spare a dime? I will also program for food.

  12. Brad,

    The issue is the speed at which it is happening. Our infrastructure is not prepared for that kind of upheaval. If the Church is the means of grace of God for this world, then we better well be prepared.

    Dave C.,
    Read my business series for a better understanding of where I’m coming from and why these issues are important.

  13. Julana

    Did I just hear on the radio that 30% of the home loans in CA are now interest-only? Isn’t home equity what many depend heavily on for their retirement?

  14. Julana,

    “Interest-only loan” = “Renting”

    Let’s just be honest here. Plus, you build no home equity. And with more and more Americans effectively mortgaging their homes through a home equity loan, how is this possible if you are running an interest-only loan? The answer? It’s not.

  15. Julana

    Yes, I couldn’t understand it when developers started offering it as an option around here. Evidently, people hope the current rate of appreciation will continue, and they’ll build equity without paying principle.
    The recent levels of appreciation are just not sustainable.

    I’m not surprised a few naive people will take out an IO loan. I am surprised at 30%. This spells trouble.

    (This issue is a sad one for me. I have a relative in the San Francisco area, who would love to have a house for his family, and doesn’t expect to ever be able to afford it.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.