U.S. Wage Trends
The microeconomic picture of the U.S. has changed immensely since 1973,
and the trends are proving to be consistently downward for the nation’s
high school graduates and high school drop-outs. “Of all the reasons
given for the wage squeeze – international competition, technology,
deregulation, the decline of unions and defense cuts – technology is
probably the most critical. It has favored the educated and the skilled,”
says M. B. Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report
(7/31/95). Since 1973, wages adjusted for inflation have declined by
about a quarter for high school dropouts, by a sixth for high school
graduates, and by about 7% for those with some college education. Only
the wages of college graduates are up.
Of the fastest growing technical jobs, software engineering tops the list.
Carnegie Mellon University reports, “recruitment of it’s software
engineering students is up this year by over 20%.” All engineering jobs
are paying well, proving that highly skilled labor is what employers want!
“There is clear evidence that the supply of workers in the [unskilled
labor] categories already exceeds the demand for their services,” says L.
Mishel, Research Director of Welfare Reform Network.
In view of these facts, I wonder if these trends are good or bad for
society. “The danger of the information age is that while in the short
run it may be cheaper to replace workers with technology, in the long run
it is potentially self-destructive because there will not be enough
purchasing power to grow the economy,” M. B. Zuckerman. My feeling is
that the trend from unskilled labor to highly technical, skilled labor is
a good one! But, political action must be taken to ensure that this
societal evolution is beneficial to all of us. “Back in 1970, a high
school diploma could still be a ticket to the middle income bracket, a
nice car in the driveway and a house in the suburbs. Today all it gets is
a clunker parked on the street, and a dingy apartment in a low rent
building,” says Time Magazine (Jan 30, 1995 issue).
However, in 1970, our government provided our children with a free
education, allowing the vast majority of our population to earn a high
school diploma. This means that anyone, regardless of family income,
could be educated to a level that would allow them a comfortable place in
the middle class. Even restrictions upon child labor hours kept children
in school, since they are not allowed to work full time while under the
age of 18. This government policy was conducive to our economic markets,
and allowed our country to prosper from 1950 through 1970. Now, our own
prosperity has moved us into a highly technical world, that requires
highly skilled labor. The natural answer to this problem, is that the
U.S. Government’s education policy must keep pace with the demands of the
highly technical job market. If a middle class income of 1970 required a
high school diploma, and the middle class income of 1990 requires a
college diploma, then it should be as easy for the children of the 90’s to
get a college diploma, as it was for the children of the 70’s to get a
high school diploma. This brings me to the issue of our country’s
political process, in a technologically advanced world.
Voting & Poisoned Political Process in The U.S.
The advance of mass communication is natural in a technologically advanced
society. In our country’s short history, we have seen the development of
the printing press, the radio, the television, and now the Internet; all
of these, able to reach millions of people. Equally natural, is the
poisoning and corruption of these medias, to benefit a few.
From the 1950’s until today, television has been the preferred media.
Because it captures the minds of most Americans, it is the preferred
method of persuasion by political figures, multinational corporate
advertising, and the upper 2% of the elite, who have an interest in
controlling public opinion. Newspapers and radio experienced this same
history, but are now somewhat obsolete in the science of changing public
opinion. Though I do not suspect television to become completely obsolete
within the next 20 years, I do see the Internet being used by the same
political figures, multinational corporations, and upper 2% elite, for the
same purposes. At this time, in the Internet’s young history, it is
largely unregulated, and can be accessed and changed by any person with a
computer and a modem; no license required, and no need for millions of
dollars of equipment. But, in reviewing our history, we find that
newspaper, radio and television were once unregulated too. It is easy to
see why government has such an interest in regulating the Internet these
days. Though public opinion supports regulating sexual material on the
Internet, it is just the first step in total regulation, as experienced by
every other popular mass media in our history. This is why it is
imperative to educate people about the Internet, and make it be known that
any regulation of it is destructive to us, not constructive! I have been
a daily user of the Internet for 5 years (and a daily user of BBS
communications for 9 years), which makes me a senior among us. I have
seen the moves to regulate this type of communication, and have always
openly opposed it.
My feelings about technology, the Internet, and political process are
simple. In light of the history of mass communication, there is nothing
we can do to protect any media from the “sound byte” or any other form of
commercial poisoning. But, our country’s public opinion doesn’t have to
fall into a nose-dive of lies and corruption, because of it! The first
experience I had in a course on Critical Thinking came when I entered
college. As many good things as I have learned in college, I found this
course to be most valuable to my basic education. I was angry that I
hadn’t had access to the power of critical thought over my twelve years of
basic education. Simple forms of critical thinking can be taught as early
as kindergarten. It isn’t hard to teach a young person to understand the
patterns of persuasion, and be able to defend themselves against them.
Television doesn’t have to be a weapon against us, used to sway our
opinions to conform to people who care about their own prosperity, not
ours. With the power of a critical thinking education, we can stop being
motivated by the sound byte and, instead we can laugh at it as a cheap
attempt to persuade us.
In conclusion, I feel that the advance of technology is a good trend for
our society; however, it must be in conjunction with advance in education
so that society is able to master and understand technology. We can be
the masters of technology, and not let it be the masters of us.
Where have the good jobs gone?, By: Mortimer B. Zuckerman
U.S. News & World Report, volume 119, pg 68 (July 31, 1995)
Wealth: Static Wages, Except for the Rich, By: John Rothchild
Time Magazine, volume 145, pg 60 (January 30, 1995)
Welfare Reform, By: Lawrence Mishel
http://epn.org/epi/epwelf.html (Feb 22, 1994)
20 Hot Job Tracks, By: K.T. Beddingfield, R. M. Bennefield, J. Chetwynd,
T. M. Ito, K. Pollack & A. R. Wright
U.S. News & World Report, volume 119, pg 98 (Oct 30, 1995)