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August 21, 2010

The New Normal: A Lot Like Now Only Worse

By Chaz Valenza

How bad, how disenfranchised, how weird will the New Normal America be?The future New Normal is not so difficult to divine. I believe it will be the same as now, and both worse and different.

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The "New Normal" is code for the continuing race to bottom that will marginalize what was the American middle class to a lower caste subservient population.

The promotion of the New Normal concept can be seen the current socioeconomic situation and the matter-of-fact statements about coming social trends.


The New Normal Robber Barons by realityzone.blogspot.com

If you haven't heard these platitudes, meant to condition you to your "New Normal" life, you haven't been paying attention. Since you probably have, I beg you to take just a moment to reflect on them and their meaning:

"We are experiencing our second jobless recovery...

"Germany is succeeding now due to wage concessions made by their workers...

"There's a disconnect between economic recovery and job creation...

"The recovery from this recession will be very slow with many ups and downs...

"The new normal may include higher levels of unemployment than in the past...

"America needs to learn how to produce and export more...

"Corporations are cash rich but are afraid to hire as they are unsure about the rules of the game...

"Unemployment benefits stop workers from looking for a job...

"Workers may not see low unemployment and wage gains for ten to twenty years...

"We will not be able to replace the 8 million jobs we lost overnight. It's going to take some time.

"Employers are less likely to hire someone who is unemployed...

Do you find these messages irritating? You should. They're telling you to lower your expectations. You will be hearing more and more of them, until you relent, become numb and tune them out.

At that point you are finished. You have accepted the New Normal. Less hope for your future. Less opportunity for your children.



Lots of good work perfecting the scenery to come. by Town of College Park, MD

It started in the 1980's but it's picking up steam now. From 1947 to 1979, top earners' share of income was stable. But from 1979 to 2006 it doubled, from 7.3% to 13.6%. It doesn't sound like much but by 2004 the top 1% wealthiest households controlled more wealth that all the wealth in the hands of the bottom 90%.

Between 1962 and 2004, wealth held by the bottom 80% of Americans slipped from 19% to nearly 15%. In 2008, 30% of American households had a net worth of under $10,000, and 17% had a zero or negative net worth. During the same period studies showed upward class/financial mobility in America was nothing but a myth. You were more likely to get ahead in any of a number of more rigid societies including Germany and Denmark. (The State of Working America 2008/09 -Economic Policy Institute).

Clearly, the days of the magic wand, the days of what would you do if you had your druthers; follow your dreams and the money will come; get a good education, work hard and you'll be alright have ended for nine out of ten Americans.

Many of us are all ready there

Sixteen percent of Americans now say they are living in poverty. That realization is backed up by private studies that question the official definition of poverty. Just a decade earlier only 8% would admit to a pollster that they were poor.Nearly 40 million Americans still do not have health insurance.

Real unemployment is at 16 to 25%, depending on what source you believe and how you count the discouraged and under-employed.

Just to keep up with population growth, high school and college graduates entering the work force, we need to create 150,000 new jobs per month. So, even though we are now creating jobs instead of losing them, unemployment will continue to raise.

How bad, how disenfranchised, how weird will the New Normal America be?

In Greece, large numbers of those twenty to thirty years old remain unemployed and living at home. They are not lazy know nothings. Many have not one, but two or three advanced degrees, including multiple PhDs. With sharp minds, and no jobs, they live in a purgatory of higher education. No jobs to be had they repeatedly return to college for yet another degree.

Don't say it couldn't happen here

Ask anyone who works in Information Technology (IT) how many times they have retrained, learned a new computer language, raced to get up to speed for a different industry, and where all that effort has gotten them.

Many IT workers remain unemployed as jobs have been shipped offshore. Others grab at 1099 contractor work with no benefits. They become second class freelancers fixing the problems found in the re-imported products they formerly developed here.

The future New Normal is not so difficult to divine. I believe it will be the same as now, and both worse and different. Here how:

Politicians will need to show progress putting people back to work. So, unemployment will decease slowly over the next five years down to about 6%. I base this on the fact that it took an unprecedented four years to recovery the job loses of the 2001 recession.

But even this relatively low unemployment, compared to where we are now, will continue to depress wages for the bottom 90% and drive up income for the top 10%.

The income and wealth disparity we have today, nearly what it was in the 1920's, will grow larger as the top tier of income and wealth consolidate and protect their assets, while the middle class slides into marginal poverty.

Fortunately or unfortunately, you will not need to be a sustenance farmer if you don't choose to.

More likely our children will lower their sights and work in some of the most dangerous jobs in the world: retail sales clerk (think armed robbery) and construction (falling is the major hazard here), and one not so dangerous: police and security work.

Nothing wrong with any of the jobs that will be abundant. Honest work is just that, but the wages they pay will not reflect their worth only their lowly status. The median pay for these jobs now is between: $29,150 to $44,500. Expect these number to fall and fall fast as people accept any job as better than no job. (Money.CNN.com).

Don't be fooled when the top economic story is "a increase in real hourly wages." These statistics include all the money that's levitating to the top 10%. The average wages of the bottom 90% may well be falling.

The New Normal will put America back to work and that work will be doing lots of things that the top 10% of our new two caste society wants...

The Three P's: Pampering, Perfecting and Protecting

The upper 10% will want to be well cared for. Think a house full of servants at Second World prices, labor deeply discounted to the point where everything can be had 24/7 without a thought as to the cost for the top dogs.

Pampering: Lots of personal services. Put personal in front of each of these: assistants, shoppers, physicians, coiffures, chefs, nannies, teachers, coaches, therapists, trainers, gardeners nay master gardeners and a full staff, et cetera.

To the wealthy the world should be a reflection of themselves, therefore, they shall be surrounded with as much perfection as possible with, again, decreased wages making it feasible.

Perfecting: Lots of maintenance and sprucing up. Manicured boulevards and golf courses, utilities moved underground, picture perfect towns and villages; ultra chic hotels, restaurants, night clubs, cafes, resorts, county clubs, etc.

Safety and security will, of course be necessary.


Beijing's Olympic Forces Drive Segways - New Normal Security by www.treehugger.com Alex Pasternack, New York, NY

Protecting: Lots of men and women with guns. Put gated in front of each of these and then add guards: communities, properties, resorts. Private and mercenary police forces to put down any unrest. Intelligence gathering to head off any unrest. Laws to keep the "have nots" at bay. People to bust unions or prevent organizing.

I know what you're thinking, all this has already happened. Yes, now think more of it, much more, and bigger and stronger.

We Can Fight this Battle in the Marketplace Everyday

That sucking sound you hear is your money, your hard work being vacuumed up to those who are in power, the uber-wealthy, Big Greed.

They have convinced you that their corporate way is the better, cheaper, faster, and the only way to live. You have been lulled into semi-consciousness and made unaware of how they can and do suck every last penny out of you and your life.

Here's the short list: Equity investments (stocks, mutual funds, et cetera through fees, programmed trading, market manipulation, out right fraud); banking and credit cards (interest, fees, charges, expensive and worthless rewards, et cetera), imported goods (decimation of the American economy made possible by subsidize oil), corporate influence (tax structures, barriers to business entry/less competition, job exporting, job importing H1B visas, government subsidies, et cetera), category killer big box stores (predatory pricing eliminating smaller competition, impulse buying, unnecessary volume packaging, cost of driving vs. local purchase, et cetera).


Abundant 3 P's Jobs: Pampering, Perfecting, Protecting by Buena Vida Active Adult Community

Basically, all the supposed "convenience" and illusory "low prices" the Big Greed corporations dangle are just a ruse. You pay for it all, sooner or later, and the price will eventually be bigger and bigger loses in opportunity and wages.

Considering all this, the high-priced alternatives, the mom and pops, are cheap, fair and a real value.

The farmers' market prices, probably higher than warehouse clubs, are a steal. Using cash isn't so difficult when you think of the billions of dollars credit and debit cards generate for the banks that are hanging you out to dry. The local hardware store is not gauging you, it's convenient and life saving. Saving accounts paying next to nothing are better than a 9% return that turns into a 25% loss due to an unforeseen "market turn." Shunning a corporation's products and services because they are "dabbling" in election politics is easy.

Start voting with your feet and your money. Things won't be getting any better unless you do. We can do this.



Submitters Bio:

Chaz Valenza is writer and small business owner in New Jersey. He earned his MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. His current feature film project is "Single Point Failure" an insider's account of how the Reagan Administration caused the greatest tragedy of the space age based on Richard C. Cook's book "Challenger Revealed." He is a former Director of Public Information for Planned Parenthood of NYC. His website is: www.WordsWillNever.com

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