Desperation

by Dave Schuler on February 19, 2013

The title of this blurb from the Gallup organization, “Democrats Push U.S. Satisfaction Up to 27%”, has a palpable air of desperation. The facts reported are:

  • 73% of Americans, nearly three quarter, are dissatisfied with the way things are going.
  • Democrats are more likely to be satisfied with the way things are going than are Republicans or independents.
  • A majority of Democrats, 53%, are dissatisfied with the way things are going.

Nothing is said about the nature of the dissatisfaction although I could make a few guesses and I suspect that Democrats, Republicans, and independents differ pretty markedly in what they think would constitute a better direction.

How do I reconcile this result with the election results in November 2012? The president won re-election by an extremely narrow majority of the voters. They didn’t think he was good; they just thought he was better than Romney.

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

TastyBits February 20, 2013 at 8:31 am

@jan

I am not aiming at you specifically. It is more about Republicans in general and the reasons they keep getting beat-up by the Democrats. For a recent example, the Democrats wail about Wall Street bonuses, income inequality, the 1% vs the 99%, lack of regulations, etc. If the President were really concerned about these things, Timothy Geithner is the last person he would make Treasury Secretary.

I am tired of listening to the two parties squabble. They are like children fighting in the back seat of the car. It is all nonsense, and irrelevant. I would like to see one of the parties go away, and because the Republicans have sunk so low, they are the better choice. In a few years, it will be the Democrats.

TastyBits February 20, 2013 at 8:54 am

@michael reynolds and @steve

I thought @Steve Verdon would have jumped in about the libertarians. Libertarians believe government can hinder job creation through intervention or uneven imposition of the rules. According to conventional wisdom, the Democrats are the interventionist party, and therefore, the Democrats will screw up things more than the Republicans. Libertarians do not buy the conventional wisdom, and they blame Republicans as much, or more.

The conservatives can defend defend themselves. I will note that a proper “come to Jesus” moment requires a full listing of one’s sins and a repudiation of those sins. If one now realizes that Republican big spending is bad, one must now realize that voting them into office was bad.

michael reynolds February 20, 2013 at 10:04 am

Ice:

I didn’t address the president’s jobs proposal because I didn’t take it seriously as a thing which was going to actually happen. It’s a SOTU line. I still don’t care.

I may have been careless enough at times to credit Obama with saving the economy, especially if I’m dealing with a Jan sort who insists the world was rosy right up until January of 2009, and then maintains that we’ve descended into a post-apocalyptic socialist hell. I debate people at their level.

More often you’ll find me eliding the subject, pointing out that under Obama the economy improved, etc… He did save the auto industry (already in the process of being saved) and he did push out a mostly pointless stimulis, which probably helped around the margins a bit. But no, I don’t believe presidents save economies. Not in this country. Not with the powers they have. And not with the size, complexity and mystery of the object in question.

My guess – and it’s just a guess – is that we’ll never get back to “full” employment. I think technology and off-shoring are the main causes. We can’t compete with robots and we can’t compete on some jobs with people who make $2000 a year. I don’t think tax reform or financial reform are going to have much impact on that.

I think the future is more of what we have right now: most people are where they’ve been for a while now, okay but slowly slipping. A large minority are fairly desperate. A tiny minority are richer than ever. That feels unsustainable to me, unstable, volatile, which I believe means we’re looking at a fair bit more redistribution and a change in our attitudes about work, jobs and communal obligation.

I don’t think ten years from now we’ll be talking about the “long term unemployed.” We’ll have a new phrase, something that begins the job of shifting perceptions to the notion that those who have jobs are privileged and obligated, while de-stigmatizing an inability to find gainful employment.

Steve Verdon February 20, 2013 at 11:52 am

Can someone explain to me why libertarians – who believe the government should have only a very minimal role in the economy – nevertheless think a president should be able to pull jobs out of the air?

Michael,

Are you being deliberately obtuse–i.e. mendacious? I’ve already said that I don’t think Presidents can do that, but they always claim they can.

Don’t be such a fucking douche.

Steve Verdon February 20, 2013 at 11:54 am

Same goes for steve, don’t write posts that imply you are an amazing retard.

Steve Verdon February 20, 2013 at 11:56 am

I may have been careless enough at times to credit Obama with saving the economy

Dude, you were practically sucking Obama’s cock.

Steve Verdon February 20, 2013 at 11:57 am

Oh, and many of those programs you credit to Obama had their start under….Bush. Bailing out GM, TARP, spending bills, etc.

Steve Verdon February 20, 2013 at 12:04 pm

My guess – and it’s just a guess – is that we’ll never get back to “full” employment. I think technology and off-shoring are the main causes. We can’t compete with robots and we can’t compete on some jobs with people who make $2000 a year. I don’t think tax reform or financial reform are going to have much impact on that.

Okay, on a serious note. This is bullshit.

We’ve always had “creative destruction” in the sense of Schumpeter–i.e. technological innovation that renders jobs useless…and we did not have permanent increases in unemployment or even underemployment. The labor force participation rates were pretty good for a long time.

The problem isn’t “creative destruction” because idle labor creates new opportunities to do things with that labor you couldn’t do before. That does not mean that “creative destruction” leads to the land of milk and honey, but the idea of rising unemployment just isn’t supported by the historical record. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen of course, but if using history as a guide it isn’t something we should necessarily fear. A good argument can be made to make the unpleasant transition periods less unpleasant though.

TastyBits February 20, 2013 at 12:55 pm

@michael reynolds

The printing press and industrial looms put an entire industry out of work, but in doing so, a vastly greater number of workers were employed. These machines made these products cheaper, and they raised the quality of life for the non-wealthy folks. Automated machinery creates an opportunity for less skilled workers to be employed in a formerly specialized industry.

In the 1800′s, the loom was automated using a crude computer. This allowed the variety of patterns to increase. Robots are no different. They may initially cause disruptions, but ultimately, they will raise the quality of life for the non-wealthy.

Cheap energy and a mobile workforce will get the US economy moving again.

michael reynolds February 20, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Steve V:

Dude, you were practically sucking Obama’s cock.

On job creation? I doubt it. I support Obama for reasons stated: foreign policy, social policy and safety net.

Oh, and many of those programs you credit to Obama had their start under….Bush.

Yes, they did. Did I ever deny that? Of course they did.

We’ve always had “creative destruction”

Yes. But now it’s different. This isn’t the loom. The past is a useful guide right up until it isn’t. Look no further than the military. IIRC we had a nine million man army in 1945. Will we ever need nine million soldiers again? Even if we were fighting a two-front world war? No. We will never need nine million soldiers again, because we have technology that has replaced those men. Permanently replaced.

Will we ever have tens of millions of people on farms? No. Technology. Will we ever need large numbers of house servants again? No. Technology. Now professionals are being replaced – radiologists by computers, accountants by temps and software, lawyers by apps, college professors by massive open online courses. Drivers and fast food workers and will lose their jobs just as bank tellers and travel agents lost theirs. Technology.

This isn’t mill workers put out of work, it is just about every job on the line. Every job, all in the space of a couple of decades. We will not have full employment again, there is no magic force that will make it happen, and libertarianism is a relic, a time travel fantasy, not a realistic philosophy going forward.

michael reynolds February 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Tasty:

Nope, I don’t think so. I don’t think any force short of some government-imposed Luddite movement will return us to full employment. See my note to Steve above.

The idea that we will somehow automatically return to full employment if only this, or only that, or only some other thing, is a hope, not a fact. There’s no law of physics at work here, there are assumptions based on a relatively thin slice of history. Sometimes things change and are no longer predictable by reference to history.

Dave Schuler February 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm

We will never need nine million soldiers again, because we have technology that has replaced those men.

I think that’s a misreading of what’s actually happened. The way I see what’s happened is that our military is so overwhelmingly dominant (for reasons of spending rather than technology) that there is no prospective enemy that will challenge us on the basis of head-to-head second generation warfare.

Enemies are now using third generation warfare. Again, that has nothing to do with technology but with hegemony.

Steve Verdon February 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm

On job creation? I doubt it. I support Obama for reasons stated: foreign policy, social policy and safety net.

Please.

The GOP just got taken apart, and we have a two-term Democrat who gave us Obamacare and GM. Which is rather amazing given that in your eyes, Dave, the president was such a small, inconsequential fellow.–michael reynolds November 7, 2012 at 10:11 am

link

It is rather sickening…and to be fair, the GM bailout started with Bush and was continued by Obama.

Yes. But now it’s different.

Yes, that is always the case.

This isn’t the loom. The past is a useful guide right up until it isn’t.

Mechanization and automation have been going on a very long time. The term computers used to refer to people (usually women) who “computed”. The advent of computers decades ago destroyed all of those jobs….it also created new ones for people to build the modern computers, people to program them, and people to use them to do analysis.

Will we ever have tens of millions of people on farms? No. Technology.

Yes, and we managed to solve that employment problem too.

This isn’t mill workers put out of work, it is just about every job on the line. Every job, all in the space of a couple of decades.

C0mputers can’t think Michael, not yet. And until they can they will need to be told what to do. Eventually we may get to something like the singularity, but not any time soon and until we do stop saying this time is different. And if we do reach the singularity and don’t turn the planet into a giant ball of mush, then we wont have to worry since there will be plenty of resources.

We will not have full employment again, there is no magic force that will make it happen, and libertarianism is a relic, a time travel fantasy, not a realistic philosophy going forward.

This isn’t one of your novels Michael and this isn’t the Star Trek universe.

TastyBits February 20, 2013 at 2:44 pm

@michael reynolds

Large armies are needed for large wars. Wars are won by taking and holding ground, and a larger amount of ground requires a larger number of men.

Each technological advancement has certain people decrying it, but each technological advancement improves the lives of the non-wealthy. Each worker displaced additional jobs are created. I know of no technological advancement that has resulted in a worse quality of life, but I could be wrong.

The mechanical loom resulted in every weaver being thrown out of work. Scribes were unemployed by the printing press, but the number of workers replacing them is multiple times greater. Both of these technological advancement resulted in new industries being created. The fashion industry and department stores are non-existent without the mechanical loom, and the printing press has had the same result – coloring books and user manuals. Almost everything related to cloth or paper would not exist without these two machines.

This is old ground, and we have covered it. You owe your good fortune to those thrown out of work by the printing press.

The US will eventually get back to a low employment rate with cheap energy and a mobile workforce.

jan February 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Some good comments above, as well as sensible retorts to Michael’s perspective of the future. Apparently we are at the end-all-be-all in his opinion. The little people, those who the dems like to keep tethered to social programs, can do nothing but huddle around and be beholding to the party that gives them their life on a hook, via food stamps, HUD, unemployment and other benefits. Talk about slotting people into being defeatists!

While I don’t have an eye into the next hundred years, futurists say that populations all over the world are aging and shrinking. With the baby boomer bulge getting older, health care positions will grow, along with the need for medical personnel in all areas — PT, OT, lab work, Drs., RNs, LVN, NPs, alternative medicine practitioners , nutritionists — it’s endless. Then with people having smaller families, many advanced societies having a populace opting to have no children (US, Japan, Italy etc.), the predictions are there will be a scarcity of workers, rather than too many sitting idle, helpless and hopeless. The only way the latter might happen is if you instill such a deeply rooted and sanctioned sense of entitlement. followed by utter dependency on government, people will lose either the desire or will to work. We already have a good chunk of generational welfare recipients — those who live to work the system, because that is how they were raised. Also, studies have demonstrated a propensity with people suffering from long-term UE fatigue, to lose self-confidence and automatically give up looking for work, even when it is there.

Unfortunately the US is propagating that kind of behavioral paralysis under the programs pushed by Obama and the social progressives. Such a scenario is only reinforced and validated when you have people like Michael parroting the gloom and doom of “this is all there is, so get used to it” kind of rhetoric. It reminds me of what Christopher Columbus must have gone through with the Flat Earth experts telling him that taking off across the ocean was futile, because everyone knew they would just end up falling off the edge of the world, anyway.

michael reynolds February 20, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Dave:

Rome had hegemony, they still needed large armies.

Look at it this way. How many men do we need to destroy, say, France? Two. Two guys in a missile silo in North Dakota. The Mongols might have destroyed France (surely wanted to) but it would have taken them tens of thousands of horsemen. The tech changes the number of men you need to accomplish a goal. Fifty years from now we’ll have forces numbered in the tens of thousands at most, with 90% of the killing and “dying” being done by machines. Large numbers of men will just mean large numbers of targets.

Steve Verdon February 20, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Rome had hegemony, they still needed large armies.

Rome didn’t have helicopters, carrier groups, or jets.

Fifty years from now we’ll have forces numbered in the tens of thousands at most, with 90% of the killing and “dying” being done by machines.

No, unless you are positing forever wars where no human ever dies. If your goal though is to vanquish your opponent you’ll need to kill the humans. Killing their machines might be a necessary condition, but it wouldn’t be sufficient.

Steve Verdon February 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I would suggest that the only way we will end up with a high percentage of permanently unemployed people is via government programs.

michael reynolds February 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Steve V:

If your goal though is to vanquish your opponent you’ll need to kill the humans.

If your goal is annihilation, yes. If your goal is to eliminate another player’s offensive capability, depriving him of weapons is sufficient. That was the idea behind counter-force nuclear targeting — take away Moscow’s nukes and he can’t touch us.

It would have worked in the old days, too. Had William the Conqueror showed up without swords, spears or bows he wouldn’t have gotten very far.

michael reynolds February 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Wars are won by taking and holding ground, and a larger amount of ground requires a larger number of men.

Wars were won that way and may be in limited cases where we are taking resources, conquering. But those are not going to be our wars. Our wars in the future will be about eliminating threats. We can do that with obliteration (nukes) or some combination of decapitation, counterforce, and specific targeting of combatants. Unless you’re planning on invading Iran and occupying it, there is no reasonable scenario that involves large armies in our near future. Further out there’s even less reason to suspect we’ll need large armies. Large bodies of men are no longer helpful in most cases.

The essential lesson was taught in WW1. Large forces charging machine guns. Machine guns won. You see the same today. The MOH ceremony the other day featured a sergeant at an outpost. Bad position, outnumbered 5 to one, but we prevailed. How? Better training (small, professional force) and better technology (air strikes, night vision.)

This is an example of a situation simply changing. What was useful is no longer. Paradigms do shift.

michael reynolds February 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Steve:

This isn’t one of your novels Michael and this isn’t the Star Trek universe.

Oh, but it is. The self-driving car we predicted in one of our books for 2011 actually arrived, pretty much on schedule.

I have in my back pocket a device that does a lot more tricks than Captain Kirk’s old communicator. I don’t think he could talk to his and have it text his wife. No FTL, but the Pentagon has beam weapons in the works. It’s Star Trek and you just didn’t notice.

Steve Verdon February 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm

I have in my back pocket a device that does a lot more tricks than Captain Kirk’s old communicator.

I was referring to their replicator technology…aka cornucopia machines (or molecular assemblers), not the hum-drum communication devices. Once we get cornucopia machines yeah, we might never have “full employment again” but then again we probably wouldn’t need such a concept either.

So you missed the mark dude. The other Star Trek gadgets are cool, but compared to the cornucopia machines they are nothing. Those are game changers and your iPhone doesn’t mean shit because it can’t produce a ham sandwich (out of dirt) or a brick of gold (out of wood) or a shirt (out of broken glass).

Of course, the other possibility is that a technological break through along those lines could also turn the planet in a grey ball of goo.

Have you read Singularity Sky?

If your goal is annihilation, yes.

No. Even if it is merely conquest, you need to kill enough humans to make them stop fighting. That is the idea behind the military’s current Shock and Awe doctrine…you shock and awe them into no longer wanting to fight….and to do that you don’t just take out their jeeps or their laptops, you kill a goodly chunk of them in a rather overwhelming manner.

Hell, even a defensive war will still focus on killing people and almost surely always will.

TastyBits February 20, 2013 at 6:18 pm

@michael reynolds

How is this high tech warfare working? Iraq? Afghanistan? Pakistan? Yeman?

Chariots, iron, stirrups, longbows, cannon, machine guns, steel ships, airplanes, aircraft carriers, missiles, etc., etc., etc., all require changing tactics to employ them offensively and defensively. Maneuver warfare was being developed by the Germans at the end of WWI.

The next major war may start with India & Pakistan, but there are many possible locations. A two front war is not impossible. Whenever and wherever it occurs, it will be a slow and bloody.

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