21 February 2012
Our “Hourglass” Economy
In these most recent economic times, it is clear to see that the rift between the extremely rich and the extremely poor is expanding, with those in the middle being stretched to one extreme or the other. There seems to be no reconciliations for this ever-growing disparity, as the corporations that used to comprise solely our economy lose national borders. Robert B. Reich discussed this issue in his work, Why the Rich Are Getting Richer and the Poor, Poorer. There are many reasons that go into play and many factors that sway each reason, but the major factors that influence our so-called “hourglass” economy are (but are not limited to) seniority, the increasing automation/mechanization of the workforce, outsourcing, and by the “secession of the rich.”
A major player in the rift of the rich becoming richer while the poor are becoming poorer is seniority, namely in labor unions. Routine production jobs have vanished fastest in traditional unionized industries, where average wages have kept up with inflation. This is because the jobs of older workers in such industries are protected by seniority; the youngest workers are the first to be laid off. Faced with a decision of cutting wages or cutting the number of jobs, a majority of union members (secured by seniority) often voted for the latter (Reich 426).
Another major factor of our “hourglass” economy is the increased automation/mechanization of the workforce. Technology nowadays seems to advance at an ever-increasing rate. As more and more “labor-saving” machines and robots are “employed” to do the jobs of hard-working people, more and more jobs seem to shrivel up and become a casualty of our ever more modern society. In the late 1980s, Nippon Steel joined with America’s ailing Inland Steel to build a new $400 million cold-rolling mill fifty miles west of Gary, Indiana. The mill was celebrated for its state-of-the-art...
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