Letter: Facing Our Real Challenge

To the Editor:

As economists, politicians and ordinary citizens grapple over the best way to “grow our economy again” so we can reduce debt, create more jobs and strengthen our position as a world leader, I am unable to understand their thinking.

The United States has met its citizens’ material needs. This is the first time in the history of mankind that poor people are overweight. Productivity is at an all-time high and rising. A large backlog of productivity improvements are in the pipeline but not yet implemented. These improvements will reduce the quantity and quality of the work required in the future. In short, there is continuing downward pressure on jobs in America.

Cheap energy and labor-saving and life-enhancing inventions, combined with rising pay levels, made the last century one of great growth. Those opportunities and conditions no longer exist.

I fail to see how a country that has met its needs and has long-term downward pressure on jobs can expect “to get back to growth.” We could all work 20 hours per week and easily meet our needs. Our challenge is how to switch our focus on more stuff to one that deals with the alarming loss of good-quality jobs we have experienced in the last 50 years.

The idea of more permeates all of our thinking: more defense, more money for schools, more cars, more clothes. As individuals we (mostly) understand that hurling more money and things at problems is not a solution. But as a society, we act as if it is. Now that sequestration is upon us, does anyone believe that cutting defense spending by 10 or 20 percent is really going to endanger us? The real threat is how will we employ people if our bloated military budget is cut.

The issue we should be addressing is how can we have a sustainable, balanced system that helps provide meaningful work in an economy that is not growing. Our current system is under great strain because it requires a growing work force, with at least 96 percent employed, that pays ever-increasing taxes to government entities that have ever-increasing budgets.

Pat Colt