Tag Archives: PBS’ The Two Faces of Greece: Athens and Sparta

Generation lost: A future of low expectations

3 Dec

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: Emmeline Zhao posted the article, Kids Count Youth And Work Report: Number Of Young Adults Out Of School, Work Hits Half-Century High at Huffington Post:

Nearly 6.5 million U.S. teens and young adults are neither in school nor working, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report warns of a future of chronic unemployment due to a continuing failure to educate and train America’s youth in needed skills.

The most recent “Kids Count” report, one of the most widely cited surveys of how youth fare in the United States, found that young people aged 16 to 24 are facing serious barriers to successful careers as youth unemployment has reached its highest level since World War II. Only about half of young people in that age group held jobs in 2011, according to the report, titled “Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity.”

The employment rate for teens between the ages of 16 and 19 has fallen 42 percent over the last decade: 2.2 million teens and 4.3 million young adults aged 20 to 24 are neither working nor in school. Of those without school or work, 21 percent — or 1.4 million — are young parents.

North Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota had the highest rates of employment among 20- to 24-year-olds. Laura Speer, one report’s authors, told Minnesota Public Radio that early employment is key to future success.

“The thing that you got and I got from our very first job is mostly about how to work,” Speer said. “How to be on a team, how to have a boss, how to show up on time. And those — what are termed as ‘soft skills’ — are things that are really critically important going forward.”

Young adults are facing more competition from older workers for increasingly scarce entry-level jobs. Many lack the skill set required for available jobs. Still others face obstacles beyond their control, such as low-performing schools, a lack of working-adult role models and impoverished upbringings.

The report shows that lack of education, opportunity and connection to school or work has long-term implications for both the affected youth and society as a whole.The 1.4 million young adults who are not in school, are unemployed and have children can “perpetuate an intergenerational cycle of poverty” as they continue to fail to find work, the report states. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/03/kids-count-youth-and-work-report_n_2233450.html?utm_hp_ref=education

See, Young, Educated and Jobless in France http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/03/world/europe/young-and-educated-in-france-find-employment-elusive.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0and   and Unemployment in Euro Zone Rises to a New High http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/business/global/daily-euro-zone-watch.html

Moi discussed what many Americans feel is diminished prospects for their future in Americans, no longer dreaming:

The Victorian Contexts gives a good overview of the world of Charles Dickens.

Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door.

Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

Charles Dickens

Mr Jarndyce, and prevented his going any farther, when he had remarked that there were two classes of charitable people: one, the people who did a little and made a great deal of noise; the other, the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all.”

Charles Dickens (Bleak House)

Throughout history there have been great empires who eventually challenged each other for dominance in a variety of areas. One of the most interesting historical rivalries was between Athens and Sparta. See, PBS’ The Two Faces of Greece: Athens and Sparta which has atable comparing the two cultures.

Dreams are the touchstones of our character.
Henry David Thoreau

Child Fund and the Alliance have conducted a survey of children around the globe about their hopes. Huffington Post is reporting in the story, Child Fund Alliance Survey: Kids In Developing Countries Dream Of Better Education (SLIDESHOW):

To find out what kids around the world dream of when it comes to pursuing the best life they can imagine, the ChildFund Alliance surveyed 5,100 children throughout Africa, Asia, the Americas and the United States. The nonprofit, which works with vulnerable kids in 56 countries, asked privileged kids and children in need questions about their ideal jobs and how they would improve their countries as president.

The survey concluded that those in developing countries are focused on education, while kids in the United States have the chance to set their sights on the arts and sports. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/29/childfund-alliance-survey_n_1118397.html?ref=email_share

See, American Dream Deferred: We Now Embrace More Modest, Personal Goals By Martha C. White http://moneyland.time.com/2011/12/01/american-dream-deferred-we-now-embrace-more-modest-personal-goals/#ixzz1fdM4RqcI

Perhaps, the diminished ability to dream at this juncture in time has to do with how Americans perceive the challenges at this point in time to themselves and their country. http://drwilda.com/2011/12/05/americans-no-longer-dreaming/

J. Maureen Henderson has an interesting piece at Forbes, Careers Are Dead. Welcome To Your Low-Wage, Temp Work Future:

According to the Economic Policy Institute, almost 30% of American workers are expected to hold low-wage jobs – defined as earnings at or below the poverty line to support a family of four – in 2020. This number will remain virtually unchanged from 2010. Given that roughly 50% of recent college grads are unemployed or underemployed and those who do work are much more likely to hold these types of jobs, this is a particular grim prospect for young workers hoping to leave these positions behind for greener career pastures.

And even if Millennial workers do manage to move from retail to the corporate world, there’s no guarantee that their office job will be on the career track. The number of temporary or contract positions was up 6% over last year’s numbers in the first quarter of 2012 according to the American Staffing Association. In fact, the number of temporary or contract jobs added to the economy has been increasing for nine consecutive quarters since the recession officially ended. Over 40% more people hold temp jobs now than in 2009. This growth starts to become something to worry about when temp jobs aren’t being converted to permanent ones and when contract work replaces full-time positions. As ASA CEO Richard Wahlquist put it when discussing the numbers:

Employers remain hesitant to add permanent employees due to uncertainty about the current strength of the economy and future economic conditions, including impending tax increases and spending cuts expected to take effect in January 2013. In times like these, businesses are being much more strategic in sourcing additional talent and maintaining work force flexibility.”

And this cautious approach to staffing and reliance on a disposable workforce may continue for years. While there are certainly highly-skilled and in-demand professionals who are able to parlay their hired-gun status into big paydays or renaissance workers who are mashing up day jobs and dream jobs, those who benefit financially from the gig economy are in the minority. With low-wage occupations set to keep growing – even in economic hotspots such as Silicon Valley – most young workers may be destined to either cycle through a number of temporary positions in search of better wages and working conditions or resign themselves to juggling multiple low-wage jobs in order to support themselves if they aren’t able to find an entry point to the career track before they age out of their recent grad status. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jmaureenhenderson/2012/08/30/careers-are-dead-welcome-to-your-low-wage-temp-work-future/

The economy affects whether individuals feel they have the resources to build a family.

In 3rd world America: The economy affects the society of the future, moi said:

So what future have the Goldman Sucks, cash sluts, and credit crunch weasels along with we don’t care, we don’t have to Washington Georgetown and Chevy Chase set – you know, the the “masters of the universe” left those on a race to get through college? Lila Shapiro has the excellent post, Trading Down: Laid-Off Americans Taking Pay Cuts and Increasingly Kissing Their Old Lives Goodbye at Huffington Post:

This government, both parties, has failed to promote the kind of economic development AND policy which creates liveable wage jobs. That is why Mc Donalds is popular for more than its dollar menu. They are hiring people.

This economy must focus on job creation and job retention and yes, hope. Both for those racing through college and those who have paid their education and training dues. “You deserve a break today at Mc Donalds,” the only employer who seems to be hiring. http://drwilda.com/2011/11/22/3rd-world-america-the-economy-affects-the-society-of-the-future/

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What do Henry Ford, NFL referees, and human workers at J.C. Penney have in common?

27 Sep

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: Moi wrote in 3rd world America: Not working for a dollar, working for a dime:

Moi discussed what many Americans feel is diminished prospects for their future in Americans, no longer dreaming:

The Victorian Contexts gives a good overview of the world of Charles Dickens.

Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door.

Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

Charles Dickens

Mr Jarndyce, and prevented his going any farther, when he had remarked that there were two classes of charitable people: one, the people who did a little and made a great deal of noise; the other, the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all.”

Charles Dickens (Bleak House)

Throughout history there have been great empires who eventually challenged each other for dominance in a variety of areas. One of the most interesting historical rivalries was between Athens and Sparta. See, PBS’ The Two Faces of Greece: Athens and Sparta which has atable comparing the two cultures. http://drwilda.com/2012/09/03/3rd-world-america-not-working-for-a-dollar-working-for-a-dime/ Some commentators have said that the is the “Pacific Century” and economic power and influence will shift from the Americas to the Pacific. Whether it is incompetence or fear, which has given rise to a strange shift in the view held by many managers toward their employees and the role of business toward contributing to the strength of a society. Henry Ford, the NFL referee strike, and J.C. Penney share a theme.

AP is reporting in the story, NFL Reaches Tentative Agreement with Refs which was posted at Time:

The union was seeking improved salaries, retirement benefits and other logistical issues for the part-time officials. The NFL has proposed a pension freeze and a higher 401(k) match, and it wants to hire 21 more officials to improve the quality of officiating. The union has fought that, fearing it could lead to a loss of jobs for some of the current officials, as well as a reduction in overall compensation.

The NFL claimed its offers have included annual pay increases that could earn an experienced official more than $200,000 annually by 2018. The NFLRA has disputed the value of the proposal, insisting it means an overall reduction in compensation.

Replacement refs aren’t new to the NFL. They worked the first week of games in 2001 before a deal was reached. But those officials came from the highest level of college football; the current replacements do not. Their ability to call fast-moving NFL games drew mounting criticism through Week 3, climaxing last weekend, when ESPN analyst Jon Gruden called their work “tragic and comical.”

Those comments came during “Monday Night Football,” with Seattle beating Green Bay 14-12 on a desperation pass into the end zone on the final play. Packers safety M.D. Jennings had both hands on the ball in the end zone, and when he fell to the ground in a scrum, both Jennings and Seahawks receiver Golden Tate had their arms on the ball.
http://keepingscore.blogs.time.com/2012/09/27/nfl-reaches-tentative-agreement-with-refs/#ixzz27e2QKJsP

According to Marc Bastow, Investor Place Assistant Editor, who writes in the article,  NFL’s Referee Spat: Everyone’s Screwed, League gets a massive PR problem over a relative pittance these are the issues involved in the referee strike:

The dispute with the NFLRA revolves around three main issues:

  1. The NFL wants to change how NFLRA members receive retirement benefits, going from a defined-pension plan in which the NFL contributes a set amount each year that provides a fixed, stable retirement revenue source, to a defined-contribution 401k plan. Current full-time NFL employees (the league considers the referees part-time employees) are all on a combined defined/401k plan. This issue appears to be the main sticking point.
  2. The salary pool for all 121 union referees is $18 million, or roughly $149,000 per referee. The NFL has offered to add $1 million per year to the pool. (Because I am not a referee, I have no idea how much any of that means relative to time invested in the profession. But I do know the job is difficult.) The majority of referees have “primary” jobs that announcers love to tout when they talk about officiating crews, however, so it’s likely this point can get worked out since the refs are making money elsewhere.
  3. The 121 referees are broken up into 17 crews that work the games (which means there is one extra crew). The NFL wants to add another three crews to increase the pool to 140 referees. Needless to say, the referees feel that would imperil their job security since they could be — you know, replaced — if they did not perform.

In monetary terms, those issues come out to a difference of around $4 million per year, according to a league memo from the NFL’s chief attorney, Jeff Pash. http://investorplace.com/2012/09/nfls-referee-spat-everyones-screwed/

The NFL referees and their labor issues are just one symptom of an economic landscape that is no longer positioned for success.

A sleeper story is described by Barbara Thau in the Daily Finance article, J.C. Penney’s Latest Leap: Retailer to Ditch Cash Registers, Cashiers:

J.C. Penney (JCP) will say farewell to cash registers, checkout counters and cashiers by 2014, said Ron Johnson, the chain’s CEO, during the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, reports Time.

Penney’s plan evokes Apple’s (AAPL) mostly cash-register free stores — and that comes as little surprise: Johnson was the head of Apple Retail and is considered the mastermind behind its success. He left Apple in November to take the top spot at J.C. Penney.

Johnson, who has been in the headlines lately for Penney’s radical, controversial — and so far, unsuccessful — strategy to eliminate most of its sales and coupons, is now looking to shake up the checkout experience in the chain’s stores.

His plan is to eliminate cashiers, cash registers and checkout counters, replacing them with a patchwork of technology solutions, such as WiFi networks, mobile checkout, RFID (radio frequency identification) technology tracking systems for merchandise, as well as self-checkout options. http://www.dailyfinance.com/2012/07/23/jcpenneys-no-more-cash-registers-cashiers/

The NFL strike and the future J.C. Penney human layoffs point to two issues which bring this discussion to Henry Ford. The issues are is it more profitable to a business to pay for expertise, as in the case of the NFL strike and is technology really going to replace humans as in the case of J.C. Penney?

Tim Worstall posts the article, The Story of Henry Ford’s $5 a Day Wages: It’s Not What You Think at Forbes:

So, if creating that blue collar middle class that could afford the cars wasn’t why Ford brought in his $5 a day wages, what was the reason?

Actually, it was the turnover of his staff.

At the time, workers could count on about $2.25 per day, for which they worked nine-hour shifts. It was pretty good money in those days, but the toll was too much for many to bear. Ford’s turnover rate was very high. In 1913, Ford hired more than 52,000 men to keep a workforce of only 14,000. New workers required a costly break-in period, making matters worse for the company. Also, some men simply walked away from the line to quit and look for a job elsewhere. Then the line stopped and production of cars halted. The increased cost and delayed production kept Ford from selling his cars at the low price he wanted. Drastic measures were necessary if he was to keep up this production.That level of turnover is hugely expensive: not just the downtime of the production line but obviously also the training costs: even the search costs to find them. It can indeed be cheaper to pay workers more but to reduce the turnover of them and those associated training costs. Which is exactly what Ford did. As Paul Krugman points out, the effects are obvious:

But in any case there is a fundamental flaw in the argument: Surely the benefits of low turnover and high morale in your work force come not from paying a high wage, but from paying a high wage “compared with other companies” — and that is precisely what mandating an increase in the minimum wage for all companies cannot accomplish.While that’s talking about the living wage argument it applies here as well. The point is not so as to be paying a “decent wage” or anything of that sort: it is to be paying a higher wage than other employers. That gets your workforce thinking they’ve got a good deal (for the clear reason that they have got a good deal) and if the workers think they’ve got a good deal then they’re more likely to turn up on time, sober, and work diligently. They’re more likely to turn up at all which was one of the problems Ford was trying to solve. http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2012/03/04/the-story-of-henry-fords-5-a-day-wages-its-not-what-you-think/

This government, both parties, has failed to promote the kind of economic development AND policy which creates liveable wage jobs. That is why Mc Donalds is popular for more than its dollar menu. They are hiring people.

This economy must focus on job creation and job retention and yes, hope. Both for those racing through college and those who have paid their education and training dues. “You deserve a break today at Mc Donalds,” the only employer who seems to be hiring.

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