Monday :: Sep 4, 2006

The Future Ain't What It Used To Be.

by pessimist

That great American philosopher, Yogi Berra, sure had THAT right!

Once upon a time in America, it was possible to enjoy life even though one worked for a living. Now, especially after six years of corporofascist rule, one lives to work:

Labor Day. It isn’t much — except, of course, that it’s everything.

The routine of work becomes the bedrock of our lives, the substance of who we are. For that one day you float suspended while life churns onward, ready to catch you up again. What we really need is Labor Week, a seven-day antidote to the very American habit of overworking.

Labor Day is a perfectly nice holiday, as good as a Monday off ever gets. But a Monday off is really just a wrinkle in time. By the time you sleep late and have a leisurely cup of coffee, the holiday is half over, and Tuesday — and a whole new season — is looming ahead. Perhaps that’s the real logic of a one-day holiday like Labor Day.

If we all shared a national Labor Week, there would be losses, people who decided never to go back to work again.

Except that we aren't making enough to do so:

Many Entry-Level Workers Find a Rough Market
September 4, 2006

Entry-level wages for college and high school graduates fell by more than 4 percent from 2001 to 2005, after factoring in inflation, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by the Economic Policy Institute. In addition, the percentage of college graduates receiving health and pension benefits in their entry-level jobs has dropped sharply.

Maybe it's a good thing that college is getting so expensive. That way, fewer Americans will get their hopes up that they can improve their living standards.

For one thing, college graduates leave school owing amounts equal to a full year's starting wages - or more:

Worsening the financial crunch, far more college graduates are borrowing to pay for their education, and the amount borrowed has jumped by more than 50 percent in recent years, largely because of soaring tuition. In 2004, 50 percent of graduating seniors borrowed some money for college, with their debt load averaging $19,000, Dr. [Cecilia E. Rouse, an economist at Princeton University] said. That was a sharp increase from 1993, when 35 percent of seniors borrowed for college and their debt averaged $12,500, in today’s dollars.

The wages they can expect to earn are dwarfed by the wages those with high school educations were once able to make, assuming constant dollar value. Things are very different now:

Even though the economy has grown strongly in recent years, wages for young workers, especially college graduates, have been depressed by several factors, including the end of the high-tech boom and the trend of sending jobs overseas.
From 2001 to 2005, entry-level wages for male college graduates fell by 7.3 percent, to $19.72 an hour, while wages for female graduates declined 3.5 percent, to $17.08, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group.

For men with high school diplomas, entry-level pay fell by 3.3 percent, to $10.93, from 2001 to 2005, according to the Economic Policy Institute. For female high school graduates, entry-level pay fell by 4.9 percent, to $9.08 an hour.

It isn't just recent college grads who are feeling their own pain:

Census Bureau data released last week underlined the difficulties for young workers, showing that median income for families with at least one parent age 25 to 34 fell $3,009 from 2000 to 2005, sliding to $48,405, a 5.9 percent drop, after having jumped 12 percent in the late 1990’s.

You get the idea. Many of us don't have such a bright future ahead of us.

But not everyone is facing such a dire future. A lucky (and, yes, industrious) selection still has something to look forward to:

For New Lawyers, the Going Rate Has Gone Up
September 1, 2006

The going rate at large firms in New York has reached $145,000 — apart from starting and year-end bonuses — while the base salary in cities other than New York is approximately $10,000 lower, according to an annual study released Aug. 1 by the National Association for Law Placement.

But someone is still responsible for producing the payment:

The inevitable issue for clients as well as the firms
is whether higher salaries are reflected
in increased hourly rates.

The employer of these new barristers is stuck with the increased tab:

Mary Korby, a partner in the Dallas office of Weil, Gotshal, said her firm had not “raised our first-year rates in response to the salary increase. It’s basically coming out of the partners’ pockets.”

One has to wonder how newly-graduated lawyers can command such salaries when there are already so many:

Are There Too Many Lawyers?

[T]here's one thing for certain about the number of lawyers in America and it is this -- there is no shortage of them.

In fact, one could reasonably argue that there are too many lawyers lurking in America. In 1995, the American Bar Foundation pegged the number of lawyers in the United States at 896,000. More recently, estimates from varying sources places the number at around 1,000,000 lawyers in America.

The U.S. has seventy percent of the world’s lawyers
but only five percent of the world’s population.
Interesting, isn’t it, that lawyers amass their fortune through the redistribution of the existing wealth of others, rather than by creating wealth through their own entrepreneurial efforts? Where innovation, creativity and ingenuity were once the magnificent cornerstones of America’s entrepreneurial drive and spirit, these precepts are now merely platitudes hundreds of thousands of trial lawyers manipulate daily while seeking out innovative, creative and ingenious ways to sue the pants off those around us.

In other words, they rob from the rich, the poor and everyone else in between and give the loot to themselves. Now that’s quite a gig they’ve got working for them, isn’t it?

It sounds very Republican, if you ask me!

But I digress.

How can America afford such a situation? We can't. Such a litigious society requires large sums to afford the legal beagles sic'd on each other, and those who can cover those costs are becoming fewer in number. Changes will force a reduction in the kennel.

There is another national profession whose members grew so numerous that technology came to the rescue of clients who could no longer afford their services, and another high-income group re-learns what it means not to have much money coming in anymore - and they don't like it one little bit:

The Last Stand of the 6-Percenters?
September 3, 2006

WHEN David and Annette Wolf decided that their family was outgrowing its Seattle area home, they also decided that they did not need much help finding a new one. Mr. Wolf, a software engineering manager at the online directory InfoSpace, said he and his wife ... used an online broker called Redfin.

Redfin opened in 2004 as an online real estate listings site for Seattle, and now has 35 employees, including 12 agents in Washington State and California. Its first innovation was to layer maps with historical prices for each area as well as information on property taxes and which homes had a view, for example.

In February, it introduced a Web site that automates the bidding process — and the commission rebates. The sale of a $500,000 house, for example, typically yields a 3 percent commission of $15,000 for the buyer’s agent. A Redfin customer would get $10,000 back.

“At that point we became a true pariah to the industry,” said Rob McGarty, Redfin’s director of West Coast operations.

Mr. Wolf said they turned to Redfin because it gives two-thirds of its sales commission (which is usually 3 percent of the sale price) to its customers. “I didn’t want to pay 3 percent for the opening of a door,” he said. But customers like Mr. Wolf — affluent and comfortable with the Internet — are a frightening prospect for real estate agents who, as a group, reap at least $60 billion a year in commission income.

[T]he typical 6 percent commission, paid out of the seller’s proceeds and split between the seller’s and buyer’s agents, is under attack because, as economists note, it does not serve consumers well. [A]s the couple’s story shows, people who want to use Web-based brokers often have to fight to do so. Many are, and there are growing signs that they are succeeding.

The battle by the traditional agents reveals how vulnerable the broker’s 6 percent commission has become. Agents are quick to point out that the average commission may be closer to 5 percent — a 17 percent decline over 10 years...

Some economists wonder why agents fight so hard
to maintain this pricing system
when it is making so few of them rich.
In every housing boom, the number of new agents entering the market tracks the climb in home prices. As a result, the average agent sells far fewer homes and makes less money. On average, agents earn $49,300 a year, according to the National Association of Realtors, and that is before paying for their own health insurance and retirement benefits.

“It’s a case where nobody wins,” Chang-Tai Hsieh, an associate professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, said of the current system. Traditional agents spend very little time brokering a deal, Mr. Hsieh added. Most of their time is consumed looking for new clients, which is of no benefit to consumers.

Buying a home online is not too different from ordering a book at or a computer at A prospective buyer finds a house on the Redfin site, which populates its maps with homes found on the local M.L.S. “It took eight minutes,” said Perry Webster of Des Moines, a suburb of Seattle, who bought a new four-bedroom house through Redfin.

“Is it really worth $10,000 to ride in a real estate agent’s Lexus?”
Redfin’s financial backers, who so far have invested $8 million in the company, say they see parallels in the past introductions of automatic teller machines, big-box stores and discount stock brokerage firms — all innovations that faced industry resistance until consumers embraced them and forced change.

“If you give people freedom, you can’t take it away,” said Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Redfin.

Hizz Sore Hindni$$ and Field Mashall Rummydummy just might want to take note of that statement, coming as it does from the corporate world they claim to worship.

But I digress.

When Janis Joplin sang Kris Kristopherson's immortal words - Freedom is just another word for nothin' left to lose - no one at that time (1968) dreamt that such a time not of their choosing would come for far too many people.

Despite this condition, there are a lucky few who seem - at least for the moment - to 'have it all':

The Summer Next Time
By TOM LUTZ, Palm Desert, Calif.
September 4, 2006

Tom Lutz is the author of Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers and Bums in America.

IN late May, for those of us who teach, the summer stretches out like the great expanse of freedom it was in grammar school. Yes, teaching and research are rewarding, but we face as much drudgery as in any professional job. [O]ne finds out right away in graduate school that in fact the typical professor logs an average of 60 hours a week, and the more successful professors work even more — including not just 14-hour days during the school year, but 10-hour days in the summer as well.

Once you’ve read 10,000 freshman essays, you’ve read them all.

On paper, the academic life looks great. As many as 15 weeks off in the summer, four in the winter, one in the spring, and then, usually, only three days a week on campus the rest of the time. Anybody who tells you this wasn’t part of the lure of a job in higher education is lying.

Why, then, does there continue to be a glut of fresh Ph.D.’s? It isn’t the pay scale, which, with a few lucky exceptions, offers the lowest years-of-education-to-income ratio possible.

I was recently offered a non-teaching job that would have almost doubled my salary, but which would have required me to report to an office in standard 8-to-5 fashion. I turned it down, and for a moment I felt like the circus worker in the joke: he follows the elephant with a shovel, and when offered another job responds, “What, and give up show business?”

[W]e academics do have something few others possess in this postindustrial world: control over our own time. Left to our own devices, we seldom organize our time with 8-to-5 discipline.

All the surveys point to this as the most common factor in job satisfaction. The jobs in which decisions are made and the pace set by machines provide the least satisfaction, while those, like mine, that foster at least the illusion of control provide the most.

Note to Hizz Sore Hindni$$ and Field Marshall Rummydummy: To paraphrase that great philosopher Yogi Berra - "You can hear a lot by keeping your ears open." I guess that you two are EXTREMELY satisfied with your Iraq jobs, aren't you? It's little wonder then that you can't identify with those who are not so convinced that they are as in control as you two are.

Considering how you two act now, just how much worse would you two get to be if you realized just how out-of-control you are?

WAIT! Ignore that last remark. I doubt the nation can survive you two experiencing reality all of a sudden. The resulting explosion would devastate the planet (I know it's hard to tell, so trust me on this). There is already too much to do to add anything more to our overloaded work schedule.

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pessimist :: 7:18 PM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!