When people have jobs they buy things and pay taxes. As a result, business are happy and governments are happy. The clever business executive soon discovers that people like being able to buy things and, as a result, they much prefer having a job than otherwise. The trouble has always been that paying these people is a drag on the bottom line.
One of the axioms of current business philosophy is to do more with less. If, when Irma goes on vacation, you find that her department runs just as well on four people as it does with the full complement of five (when Irma’s there), then why not run it on four? If a few thousand dollars will get me a couple of computers, a good printer, and software that (the sales guy says) anyone can use; then why do I need a fully-manned art department? And so forth…. Fewer people and fewer expenses means higher profit margins and large executive bonuses. Every one wins!
Well, everyone except for poor Irma and the unsuspecting people in the art department. And the people in the Irma-less department who are all now being asked to do 20% more work for no more pay. And the people left in the art department who have to still process all of the product of the company with not good-enough technology for the job. What is especially sad is that most of the people reading this know what I’m talking about first-hand.
So, we now have business situations that look good on the books, but are actually bad business. Bean-counters too often rely on what the books say instead of understanding the big economic picture.
Henry Ford understood how important people were. He not only employed a lot of people, but he paid them well. Why? Was it because he was a magnanimous benefactor to the people? Ha! No. He knew that if he paid his people well, then they could afford to buy those Model-T automobiles that they were building in his factories. So, he paid them, and then they paid him right back.
Savvy business leaders have always understood this balance. Even though you have to pay people to work for you, those very same people also buy things. Those bought things either directly or indirectly profit your company.
But, as I said, the mindset has changed. It isn’t the first time. The Industrial Revolution put displaced thousands of workers as machines took over the drugery and danger of manufacturing. In our computer age, many thousands (if not millions) more workers have been displaced as well.
Now, don’t get me wrong, some jobs should be replaced. Many manufacturing jobs are sufficiently dangerous that humans shouldn’t be in the mix if they don’t have to be. And I think we’re all just as happy that a few computers handle a lot of the accounting tasks instead of a giant room filled with a hundred workers all crunching numbers by hand. Still, just because some jobs can be automated, should they be?
As is always foretold when a new technological shift happens with a society, people will be put out of work in favor of the machines. Sure, there is talk of retraining and new jobs being created to support the new technology and the like, but the end result is that many buyers and taxpayers become lesser- or non-buyers and lesser- and non-taxpayers. That doesn’t do anyone any good.
There needs to be an economic change of perspective in regards to workers. They shouldn’t be overly-burdened soon-to-burn-out drones who only endure because they have no other alternative. No, it’s time to return to the relaxed workplace (compared to now). Can you believe that once-upon-a-time a lunch hour actually lasted an hour? It’s true. There once was a time when parents would put in their nine hours (the eight plus lunch), come home, and actually have time to spend with their children. Really. Oh…and paid vacations? People used to take those, too.
Not that all was idyllic. Power-mad pissant bosses still roamed the corridors of their little fiefdoms. Commuting has never been fun. And men often had to wear suits and ties…even when it didn’t make a lot of sense.
Back then, people management was a priority simply because business had no choice. Without the automation we know today, it fell on people-power to keep the wheels of enterprise moving. Now, there is a choice. Sadly, most businesses (and the government) have chosen to favor the corporate bottom line instead of national needs. Too many jobs were moved out of country. Too many people forced to do double the work for no increase in compensation. That’s just morally wrong.
The solution is easy (and sounds stupid) but must be part of a larger effort: hire more people. When done on a small scale, this does nothing but burn company assets. That’s true. But when done regionally or nationally, real results can be felt in short order. People start spending money. It’s amazing how that happens.
True, there will likely need to be some changes in how we think of work and workers. Everyone concedes that the days of working for one company your adult life and retiring with a sweet pension is something most will never see. Still, the job-swapping (and productivity loss because of losing an asset or training a new one) can be managed by fair wage practices.
Employees should be participants in profit sharing. They are doing the work, so they should get some of the reward when a company does well. Cost of living increases on base wages should be a given (most people switch jobs because they see their one raise after about six months, and after that their pay stagnates). All promotions must come with commensurate pay increase (a title, more responsibility, and the same pay isn’t a promotion it’s exploitation). Work hours need to be flexible because so many of the chores of life need to be done, you guessed it, during work hours. If you only have enough budget for 120 hours, better to have four 30-hour employees (if it makes sense) than three 40-hour employees.
To that last part, the government can help the environment. Each employee engenders a certain amount of overhead costs, and the government is the source of some of that. If there is a change that doesn’t penalized companies for getting more people a paycheck, then business will have more flexibility in their hiring practices.
Lastly…since we don’t want to kill homeland companies when slave labor overseas can build cheaper products (i.e. we’d like to lower our trade deficit), perhaps a personal tax credit for purchases of goods made in our own country? This doesn’t impose tariffs on others (and thus avoids a trade war), but mitigates the cost of labor that gets added onto our own goods and makes them more expensive to buy.
Hey, I’m tossing around ideas here, people. Clearly the way we’ve been doing things doesn’t work. Public spending and tax breaks (the donkey and elephant mantras) don’t seem to work at all well. The fact is that our foundation needs not only shoring up, but some redesign and re-pouring. It’s to be expected. We’ve added onto our national economic structure in unanticipated ways. There should have been no surprise that a time would come when we’d have to figure out to support it all properly. The time for patches and jury-rigs is past. It’s time for new-think. My contribution: hire people: there will be fewer unemployed and more people able to spend money…so you can hire more people (see how that works?).