Late-Stage or Last Stage Capitalism

Winter                              Garden Planning Moon

 

Back to late-stage industrial capitalism.  (see a couple of posts down)  In that article from the Atlantic Monthly that I referenced earlier it points out the collapse of middle class wage  manufacturing jobs in the US.  At the same time I heard yesterday that in spite of the fact that wages have increased slightly, consumers seem to be saving the money instead of spending it.

Then, the radio reporter went on to say, 70% of our economy is driven by consumer spending.  Do you see the problem here?  We challenge old-age benefits like social security and medicare, demand people take responsibility for their own retirement (which, if successful, will increase savings–which makes sense).  We also have an economy, a pillar of which, manufacturing, that used to provided millions of middle-class wage level jobs–think auto workers, steel workers, rubber (tire) workers and their like–is now dominated by robotic machinery.  This is done to reduced the work force and hold down wages, both to compete with international manufacturers, such as the ones in China and other parts of Asia.

So, if the economy is driven by consumers (70% is a big chunk!), and the trend in hiring is to use more machines and less workers, and a further trend is to bust unions (see all the right to work laws under consideration in state legislatures) and chip away at employee benefits, then who will be left with money to prop up the economy.

Unemployed people or people employed at below living standard wages don’t line up at Target or Best Buy or head out to restaurants.  Not because they don’t want to.  Because they can’t.

The big contradiction then is this:  our economic engine requires more and more economies on the part of industry and business to stay competitive in global and local trade.  Many of these economies come at the expense of income and benefits for American citizens (read:  consumers), the very ones who drive our economy.  So?

 

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