Archive for June, 2016

Look Out! Here It Comes!

 

I try to limit my intrusion into these posts, obviously failing sometimes. For this one, I am head over heals in. The British vote to get out of the European Union has relevance in this country. Beginning in the late 70’s, American manufacturers began to shift some of their productive activities overseas. A sample statistic is illustrative. American total manufacturing gross domestic product in 2008 was11.5% of U.S. economic output, down from 28% in 1959. Jobs relating to manufacturing have declined proportionately.

From the mid 1990’s to 2010 my wife and I drove from D.C. through Pittsburg to Detroit to visit our son and his family. (We don’t do that any more because he lost his job in GM downsizing.) The steel mills along the Ohio River were bustling as evidenced by some observable fire and lots of smoke. The closer we came to Detroit, the more trucks we saw hauling new cars. On occasion we came along the road at the time work shifts changed and for some time we were in rush hour traffic. By the time we stopped this trip, the steel mills were closed, sometimes we passed no trucks hauling cars and there was no worker’s traffic. If we could see this, why couldn’t the “experts” and politicians see a problem growing bigger? Thousands of men and women who got jobs on assembly lines right out of high school were, and are, out of work with no other job skills.

Of all the literature that was produced about the movement of production out of this country, I can remember very little that dealt with the unemployment created. This unemployment was not just limited to the middle west and the automobile industry.  For instance:

Illinois: 848,760,  6.6% out of a total population of 12,860,000
Michigan: 476,283,  4.8%,  9,922,576
Ohio: 603,898,  5.2%,  11,613,425
Wisconsin: 253,938,  4.4%,  5,771,337

It is from these people, nationwide, and those like them still working in some similar job that the support for Donald Trump is heavily drawn. A younger version gathered around Bernie Sanders.

The point is, this problem of a changing work world is not new. We began this past world roughly around 1900. It was pushed along by two world wars and inventive human minds. Why are we just now coming to deal with the social and economic problems that arise out of major change in technology? Why have we left it to those affected to finally force our attention to their problem? Is it that we really don’t have sense enough to recognize that this change involves real people, and that it is more than an economic problem that trained economists can write articles about?

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Permanence

What is there in life that is permanent? Since I have retired this question arises in my mind more than it did when I was working. Life itself is change and when you are young change is expected. I was told that my case of acne would disappear, yet it hung on through high school and to a lesser extent through college. Then those red and purple bumps were a real worry for me. Why would girls look at me? (Fortunately one did.) As my face began to clear, I went in the Navy where no one cared and I stopped worrying.

When my wife delivered babies, it took me some time to get with the routine of diapers, feeding and burping, but I did. And, then one day that was no longer necessary. Increasing age led to school, with children in two different schools for several years. Elementary was the easiest to relate to because it was smaller, children had some of the same teachers with whom you could compare notes. The school size allowed the principal to get to know parents. Junior and senior high meant running all over to meet teachers on back to school nights, and you never met one of the principals, unless you had a son who had administrators calling and asking you to visit

Summer swimming started with the oldest and worked its way up to all four for a few years. Since all of the jobs involved in managing swimming meets were volunteer, I was “encouraged” to join the ranks of our other “volunteer” timers (well, you do have a child swimming with three others coming along). It was not too long before the head timer had had enough and I was “encouraged” to move into that job which involved finding enough people to time each Saturday, keeping a supply of working watches, generally seeing that the timers did their job and that there were the right kids lined up for each race. One of the best things about this sometimes frantic activity was lunch during the week, prepared by MOM, under the trees in the yard with our children and often a life guard or two (they thought MOM’s sandwiches were marvelous).

The activities involved in being a parent constantly changed as did the relationship with each child. Being a professor seems to be quite different, but over time you slip into something of a routine. Your relationship with students is one in which they are paying money to learn something they need from you. Your relationship with them is in providing that information they need. However, the information you have acquired through research and other means of study may be related to the course description, but not what all the students need or want. Since professors also provide grades, students generally keep quiet if they are not getting what they want. The relationship between students and professors is not as crass as this sounds. Most students want to like their professors and most professors make an effort to be impartial and likable with their students, and provide sources for different knowledge.

Then, there is the political life professors live. Relationships with other professors, academic administrators, and administrative staff (particularly custodial) are the stuff of daily life in universities and that I will leave unexamined here.

When I began this article I was looking for permanence in life, and what I found was different from what I intended. To use an off beat example, permanence in men’s hairlines is not that they stay the same, they recede. What’s permanent about schooling is the process. What’s permanent about raising the children is another process: constant changing of your process for maintaining control of (or just keeping up with) human growth.

Now that I have tried to show how I exerted some control over my life, I realize how lucky I was to survive my endeavors.

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What do Churches Do Beside Worship?

All churches have worship services on Sunday, mostly morning but not always. They provide space for groups to meet; groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, various kinds of youth groups such as Boy and Girl Scouts as well as youth groups related to the church. Knitting groups, sewing groups, book reading groups, breakfast, lunch, and dinner clubs for groups that have similar interests – friends. They provide the organizational structure for members to travel to places related to religion. On an informal bases they provide places for people to make connections for personal reasons. In short, they can serve as community building centers.

As long as churches stay within specified financial limits, they can spend money to influence political activity. Generally that is less than 20% of a churches expenses. Voters can be registered in churches, but churches cannot engage in partisan political activity. Most churches tend to stay away from political activity, but for those who do involve themselves, that activity is often difficult to monitor.

The Seventh Day Adventist Church has written out its policies on community (local, state, national) involvement. Simply put, the first is that you do not see something wrong and ignore it. Second, morality does not have to be written into law. Third and fourth, In a free society, citizens must be free to make bad decisions that do not negatively influence others, and make sure you have knowledge of your concern before you blab about it.

This list could go on and on, but the point is made by these examples. Religion calls for people to be involved in community life. Some involvement reflects organizational concerns. More is informal and reflects the interests and concerns of religious believers. Therefore, churches, synagogs and mosques are institutions that bring people together to try to inculcate beliefs that will shape moral behavior. All three believe in a common being who shapes conditions in the world directly by individuals. Our common being, God, is described differently by each religion, yet is drawn historically from the Jews.

So, in addition to involving themselves in doing good in the name of the God they interpret, believers invest a lot of time and effort in thinking through their beliefs and applying them to the world they live in. Hence, the description of some of the things in the first paragraph that Christians and their churches are involved in.

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The Absolute Last Word On The Unemployment Rate

 

One of the things that is constantly discussed and argued over in books, newspapers and journals is the unemployment rate compared with whatever subject the author is interested in: influence on marriage (or even getting married), schooling and what happens in schools, effect on dreams, eating, health, you name it. But, in this year, what’s happening in the political scene, particularly election for president, sees unemployment dragged in frequently. So, I determined to come up with something as disinterested as I could.

I chose four states, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, because they (supposedly) have high unemployment rates. At least in my lifetime they have often voted Democratic in national elections, in large part because of the large number of workers related to the automobile industry, but recently have shifted to mostly to the Republican party. Then I set out to gather a set of population data to examine this hypothesis. Naturally, I thought the population data collected by the federal census bureau would be the authoritative place to start. I got the population figures for the four states and found that despite the decline in the economy, the population in all four states had increased slightly. The unemployment figures for the four states were:

Illinois: 848,760,        6.6% out of a total population of 12,860,000
Michigan: 476,283,    4.8%     9,922,576
Ohio: 603,898,             5.2%    11,613,425
Wisconsin: 253,938   4.4%      5,771,337

As I stared at these figures wondering what could I do next, it came to me that if the population numbers represented the total population, what was the population beginning at 18, or whatever the beginning working age was in each state? Or did each state have a different age for beginning work? What was the age for stopping work, or at least not counting people in the work force? Were all the unregistered Latinos counted? Were these figures worth a damn? After several days trying to find/work out a universal method of figuring out the number of unemployed workers was beyond me. BUT, I now know that people who are looking for a particular answer could find a way to get it out of the mass of numbers out there!

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