When the Music Stops: Losers and Whiners and Jobs

I understand that the US’s public education system has failed millions of people, especially on the score of mathematics and the sciences. Tempers are high, exhaustion is rife, and people don’t think clearly under those circumstances — especially when they’re being told by some snot-nosed punk that everything they know, everything they’ve been brought up to believe, is wrong.

Apparently truth is passed down from generation to generation, and it stings when some kid tries to tell you that everything your father — and his father before him — said about sweat and hard work is wrong. It’s easier to believe kids are lazy. Weak. No ethics or backbone. Stupid. Irresponsible. It is easier to believe that, apparently, than it is to do a little math.

Math skills used to be passed along from generation to generation too, but apparently not anymore.

So I’ll tell you what. I’ll put this in terms any second-grader can understand, and if it looks like you’re falling behind, I’ll wait for you to catch up.

The whiny kids out there are saying there’s no jobs. You know it’s tough, but you have a job. You’ve taken pay cuts. Picked up something extra on the side, maybe, to help make ends meet until things are better. Maybe the wife has picked up more hours too, with her thing, and although it’s tough you’re hanging in there. Well bully for you. Keep sweating, keep your toes dug in. It’ll get worse before it gets better.

But here’s what the kids mean when they say there’s no jobs: For every single damn opening, and there are a few, there are six or seven applicants. Your advice: “Lower your sights, keep plugging away, and eventually you’ll get in somewhere. You’re white kids, young and energetic. Hide your tattoos, take out the weirder piercings, and eventually someone will let you in. Someone will give you a broom somewhere and you can work your way up. Like I did. Like my dad and grandfather did. Show some spine and some humility and be prepared to sweat your ass off and someone will pick you instead of those other six guys.”

Since math isn’t going to work, lets play musical chairs. You know the rules. Ten chairs, eleven people, when the music stops, everyone elbows their way to a seat and one chump gets left standing. He or she’s out. Remove a chair and play again.

We have to make the rules a little different for this round. To reflect the reality of the job market.

Let’s set up ten chairs and put 67 people in the room. That’s the current ratio of jobs to applicants, considering every job opening from CEO to grocery bagger. The music stops, and everybody makes a mad rush for — wait.

Wait. I left out a bit. An important bit.

Each chair is guarded by someone. Call the guard “employer”. In order to get a seat in the chaos, you have to convince the chair-guard you’ll be the cheapest and at least bare-minimum experienced ass to put in the chair of the dogpile you’re trying to get past.

Training takes a lot out of an employer. They’re all running lean anyway, or else there’d be more jobs. So if they’re hiring, they’re for damn sure shorthanded. They don’t want to waste training-time on someone they’ll just have to replace in a week because they can’t hit the floor running fast enough. But they also don’t want to give up the seat to someone who will be asking them for raises too soon or has too much brain for the work and will burn out under the drudgery. They don’t do charity work.

Chairity work? Anyway.

Replacing a bad fit is another couple weeks of someone else’s time (already shorthanded, remember?) to do the training, a metric fuckton of paperwork, and preparing for the onslaught of another dogpile of applicants if they have to fire and start over.

So ten of the most desperate, hardworking, connected, and craftiest with their resumes get a seat and 57 are left out in the cold.

And what do you say to the 57? “Keep trying, you slack bastards. Shoot lower. Grab a mop and a bucket and wait for someone who’ll pay you to mop!”

And sure enough, because sometimes people die, or retire, or sign up for the military and get shipped off to war, or get caught and go to jail, or take leave to have a baby, or quit to take care of sick and elderly family members, positions open up. But a couple of those people will join the 57, looking for another job. But also, a few more babies will graduate school and need a fucking job to stop freeloading on struggling parents. Some will quit high school because they’ve seen how useless degrees are — it will keep them good and cheap and better to compete for your job, should you have to get out of your chair for any reason.

But in the end, there will still be ten chairs open, and 67 — or maybe now 68 — asses looking to sit down when the music stops. And, if you haven’t noticed, that ring of chairs continues to filter out those with too much experience and too much education because the chair-guards can’t afford to pay an employee too much money when they can get the work done for cheaper. The brainier and more experienced are left standing and salaries go down.

When there aren’t enough jobs to go around, the slack is taken up in the amount of time it takes to find a job. When there’s enough work for everybody, applicants take as much time as they need to make a good choice. When it’s two people for every open chair it can take a month to get in somewhere, and that’s an average. Depending on luck, or connection, or how much or how little you’ll allow yourself to lie on your resume, it could be half or double. Right now we’re on the wrong side of nine or ten months average, so for some it can take a year or more. And God forbid you’re a bit slow, or have frequent absences to take care of kids or aging parents, or in some kind of minority people just don’t seem to trust much, or have a noticeable physical weakness, or have anything that looks like it could eventually turn into an expensive health problem. But way more important than that, never look like you might be smarter or better qualified than the person hiring you, or they’ll fear they’ll eventually lose their own seat to you some day. And anyone doing the hiring right now knows exactly how bad it is out there now.

Those 57 people who couldn’t get a seat? Those are the ones downtown with pickets. They brought their laptops and iPhones, so I guarantee you while they’re down there costing your city a few bucks in overtime for your underpaid cops, they’re still applying for jobs. Interviewing, even, since three quarters of that goes over the phone and email these days.

But quite literally, while they wait their nine or ten months for a shot at a chair to open up, they have absolutely nothing better to do with their time.

The very instant the first of the muzzles came off the banks, things went to hell and it suddenly became impossible to raise children without a two-earner household. That was the very minute things stopped working the way your grandfather knew they ought to. Women joined the workforce, mostly out of desperation, demanding lower salaries than men, and productivity went way up, especially in terms of what employers had to pay their workers. There was a ghost of a boom, but prices went up too to soak up their extra earning power, until any appearance of extra wealth — for twice as much sweat — went away.

The latest series of crises, starting with 2001 and going through the most recent nastiness of 2008 and after, is what turned your father into a liar. The unmuzzled banks make money in good weather, but they make it even twice as fast in bad weather. Now, even while those desperate people, like you, bust ass to keep productivity up for the last companies standing in the multinational corporate monopoly slugfest, the economy is actually growing, and the hugest are making money hand-over-fist, and so are the last remaining megabanks and superfunds. Sweat doesn’t earn you any more money — it earns it for your company, or your company’s investors. If you are lucky and well-liked, they’ll give you a cut of that that isn’t anywhere near the share you’ve earned, but it’s better than nothing, isn’t it?

The truth is it’s not better than nothing. It gives them more power to bully Washington into making your share even smaller, lobbying for higher taxes for you but not them, for less of a share of your healthcare or education for your children, for more ability to gamble with your retirement funds and less money to cover your future bouts of unemployment. For lower minimum wages. For abolishment of collective bargaining. But you have to eat, so you take it anyway. For now.

While the economy is currently growing, we’re in an artificial Great Depression established by the unbridled greed of those who are the only ones who could possibly profit by it. And they won’t care when the USA becomes a wasteland because their corporations are multinational. Towering stacks of cash are welcome on any nation on earth. The lights are already out in Cincinatti, in Detroit, in Pittsburgh. What will they care when Los Angeles and Chicago and New York go dark? Bermuda is awesome this time of year. Skiing in Switzerland is excellent! Who cares if the federal government that ties the states together collapses entirely? Euros and yuan work just as well as dollars to pay rent on the villa.

Their first twinge when all governing rights revert to the states will be when they remember Alabama is a nuclear power.


October 17, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  


2 Responses to “When the Music Stops: Losers and Whiners and Jobs”

  1. Glas on October 17th, 2011 9:19 am

    We make good rockets here, too. ;P

  2. xalieri on October 17th, 2011 9:59 am


    Been a while since I visited Hunstville or Redstone Arsenal. Entirely my favorite parts of Alabama.


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