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Disruption of the middle class


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We are in an age of exponentially accelerating change.  Technology is allowing start up Davids to topple corporate Goliaths.  What gets championed as innovation often comes with a dark side.  Automation results in cost savings that results in huge profits that wind up primarily enriching the already wealthy investors and executives.  Meanwhile, a huge swath of middle class workers are left with outdated skills and a hard struggle to remain middle class.  They in turn become easy targets for populist movements like Trump’s that promise to restore order to their lives.

These were my thoughts after watching this video about the first 3D printed homes coming to market on Long Island.  Completed in half the time at half the cost with only three operators, it could be a great answer for low-income housing in areas where locals are priced out of the market.

But I still wonder about the flip side of that coin.  If this disrupts the construction industry, what happens to all those blue collar workers that are no longer needed to build homes?

Previously, we’ve mostly seen these people simply left to fend for themselves as best they can.  Just within the circle of people I know that have faced similar disruptions in their industries in the past, they were strongly allured to Trump and his message to re-establish an older and obsolete order.

So what should be done to mitigate this?  How do we allow for progress and innovation while not allowing the ground to be ripped out from under the feet of the blue collar middle class?  Because this trend cannot continue indefinitely without the complete disruption of our society when the mass in the middle decides resolutely that enough is enough.

US_Wealth_Inequality_-_v2.png

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Real talk. There has never been a better time to start a company that resembles something that a business used to. 

No one is interested in investing in real businesses, just corporate entities or financial products that allow them to dodge taxes and actually enrich themselves on the back end while letting you suck s little off the teet in the meanwhile. 

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39 minutes ago, Goredho said:

So what should be done to mitigate this?  How do we allow for progress and innovation while not allowing the ground to be ripped out from under the feet of the blue collar middle class?  Because this trend cannot continue indefinitely without the complete disruption of our society when the mass in the middle decides resolutely that enough is enough.

Technology is a part of the story. Technology does influence the disparity in wealth between the upper and the middle/lower classes.  IMO technology plays a minor role when compared to our policies related to taxation, education, social safety nets, worker protections, minimum wage, health care, etc. etc.

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12 minutes ago, Brisketexan said:

Nope, we can't discuss this.  The American dream is to have a 1 in 100,000 chance of being super-rich, and for the other 99,999, suck it.  To conceive of any other economic outcome is socialism, and means you are an evil commie conspiring with the ghost of Hugo Chavez.

Go back to Venezuela, commie!

The American Dream is that we everyone in the middle class is one life-altering decision away from becoming millionaires.

Just that they haven't invented time travel for 99% of the middle class to go back in time and ensure they are born to a rich white family so they can achieve that dream. 

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10 minutes ago, immamac said:

Real talk. There has never been a better time to start a company that resembles something that a business used to. 

No one is interested in investing in real businesses, just corporate entities or financial products that allow them to dodge taxes and actually enrich themselves on the back end while letting you suck s little off the teet in the meanwhile. 

next you're gonna tell me we have an endemic lack of long-term thinking in this country

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1 minute ago, Captainant said:

next you're gonna tell me we have an endemic lack of long-term thinking in this country

MongoDB is real cool. They lose 229M on 700M top line and GCP, AWS and MSFT suck out 400M+ in top line associated cost of revenue. You tell me who's the real benefactor there? Oh, the cloud companies lol that's right. The losses fuel cloud growth, not enterprise and SMB growth. It's a fucking ponzi scheme.

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1 minute ago, immamac said:

MongoDB is real cool. They lose 229M on 700M top line and GCP, AWS and MSFT suck out 400M+ in top line associated cost of revenue. You tell me who's the real benefactor there? Oh, the cloud companies lol that's right. The losses fuel cloud growth, not enterprise and SMB growth. It's a fucking ponzi scheme.

No disagreement there, and the pattern exists in other parts of business too. Like that one or two day free shipping? It's fueled by thousands of small business truckers going bankrupt every year. It's unsustainable. Totally not a ponzi or pyramid scheme though, it's a reverse funnel!

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1 minute ago, Captainant said:

No disagreement there, and the pattern exists in other parts of business too. Like that one or two day free shipping? It's fueled by thousands of small business truckers going bankrupt every year. It's unsustainable. Totally not a ponzi or pyramid scheme though, it's a reverse funnel!

exactly, it's a really good time to start one of those businesses and know that - intentionally enrich yourself with a high salary because "the market says it's okay" and then just crash and burn as fast as possible. The amount of failing up in corporate america now is incredible.

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4 minutes ago, SydneyCarton said:

And eventually there's going to be a revolt in this country. I just don't have any faith they're going to revolt in their own interests. 

We saw one on 1/6.

And it was not in their own interests.

It only gets worse.

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Alright, I’ll open myself up for some fucking tomatoes.  What about a worker re-education fund so that for every job automated away, a company has to drop some cash into the fund to help retrain displaced workers?  Would require regulations and government intrusion to enforce, which the corporate guardians would cast as the proximal cause for all the lost jobs and then the people left unemployed would vote for the corporate interests that just used them up and threw them away when advantageous.

You all are right, fuck it.

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1 hour ago, Goredho said:

US_Wealth_Inequality_-_v2.png

 

58 minutes ago, immamac said:

MongoDB is real cool. They lose 229M on 700M top line and GCP, AWS and MSFT suck out 400M+ in top line associated cost of revenue. You tell me who's the real benefactor there? Oh, the cloud companies lol that's right. The losses fuel cloud growth, not enterprise and SMB growth. It's a fucking ponzi scheme.

 

55 minutes ago, Captainant said:

No disagreement there, and the pattern exists in other parts of business too. Like that one or two day free shipping? It's fueled by thousands of small business truckers going bankrupt every year. It's unsustainable. Totally not a ponzi or pyramid scheme though, it's a reverse funnel!

it's reaganomics!

 

https://www.marketplace.org/shows/make-me-smart-with-kai-and-molly/40-years-later-is-this-the-end-of-reaganomics/

 

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16 minutes ago, David Dennison said:

Sadly, Americans tend to believe the myth that we live in a classless society and that social mobility is a common occurrence. 

But surely you’re aware of this anecdote of a person not graduating high school and becoming rich. 

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1 hour ago, David Dennison said:

Middle class workers of all types need to realize they have much more in common with the poor than they do with the rich.

They should organize accordingly.

But it's more fun to watch Vanderpump Rules or go to Starbucks or hit up Chuy's.

 

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Once upon a time automation and innovation were understood to benefit everyone in the form of abundant living and more leisure time, and while those norms were destroyed in the 1980s we've seen revolutions of values before and very well could again. Hope it not a strategy, but that's no reason not to have some. Like Eddie Izzard said, this can be the last century for humanity, or it can be the first. 
 

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19 minutes ago, Bozo_Casanova said:

Once upon a time automation and innovation were understood to benefit everyone in the form of abundant living and more leisure time, and while those norms were destroyed in the 1980s we've seen revolutions of values before and very well could again. Hope it not a strategy, but that's no reason not to have some. Like Eddie Izzard said, this can be the last century for humanity, or it can be the first. 
 

You and I both know what the smart bet is.

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30 minutes ago, Bateshorn said:

The absurd notion by the white working class that they live in a caste and class free, meritocratic society never ceases to amaze me. 

Brady Bunch K GIF

It's not entirely their fault. It's what they are taught from K through 12. 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Walden Ponderer said:

Universal Basic Income is on its way. But we'll get to witness new and exciting variants of self-destructive stupidity before it finally gets here, because Murica.

We have got to divorce self-esteem from work. We just have to. Until one's worth as a human being is separated from what they do for a living, we are going to be stuck in this mess.

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1 minute ago, Goredho said:

Rather than looking at them as idiots not worthy of sympathy, we and they would be much better served by realizing that good and reasonable people can act unreasonably when their lives are thrown into chaos, their well being is made uncertain and they are subjected to years of blatant disinformation.

Psych professor once said only one memorable thing in a lecture, and it was this: 

Quote

"If you think that during the Holocaust you would have been one of the resistance fighters, the odds are pretty overwhelming you are kidding yourself."

The vast majority of people are susceptible to acting against their self interests, and in illogical and immoral ways, if their fundamental worldview is thrown into chaos, and there is a backdrop of change for which they are not personally well adapted to making the appropriate mental adjustments. Yes, some are more susceptible than others. But it is wrong to simply write off a huge chunk of the population simply because their idiocy is more obvious than ours.

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Just now, Walden Ponderer said:

Universal Basic Income is on its way. But we'll get to witness new and exciting variants of self-destructive stupidity before it finally gets here, because Murica.

yeah, the 0.2% are going to have to realize that eventually the 99.8% will want to eat them and that pitting the rest of America vs the bottom 10% is not working anymore.  Then some of that wealth needs to be converted into circus bread and UBI or everything burns.  Maybe a new form of actuary will calculate, to the penny, the minimum amount of wealth that needs to be sacrificed to avoid getting eaten by the poor (job creation!)

I think the young will adapt but there will be a huge swath of people who fought tooth and nail to get rid of societal safety nets (while they had good jobs) that get caught up in having their livelihood eliminated and suddenly need it. 

Or maybe a tailor-made virus that only affects people below a certain credit score will pop up.  who know what new and exciting adventure awaits us.

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6 minutes ago, Walden Ponderer said:

Psych professor once said only one memorable thing in a lecture, and it was this: 

The vast majority of people are susceptible to acting against their self interests, and in illogical and immoral ways, if their fundamental worldview is thrown into chaos, and there is a backdrop of change for which they are not personally well adapted to making the appropriate mental adjustments. Yes, some are more susceptible than others. But it is wrong to simply write off a huge chunk of the population simply because their idiocy is more obvious than ours.

I took an excellent course on Germany between the World Wars.  This was one of the big take aways.

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Posted (edited)

As to the orginal post, the Davids conquering the Goliaths usually create more inequality. As mentioned, creating a process/tech to be more efficient usually involves eliminating people from said process/tech. The Goliaths in that industry ultimately go out of business destroying many jobs. The Davids of the world consolidate that business need and wealth into fewer hands. 

Which I agree with the above, in that UBI is a natural consequence. The winners, the Davids will need to be taxed heavily in order to pay for it. Or we will just continue to print more money until the USD loses all value.

I don't favor taking wealth from people and would argue against it, but we don't need billionaires in the world. We need someone to snap their fingers and cap wealth at 999 million. I don't think this would stifle innovation or convince entrepreneurs to stop working. But there is no way to do this. academic statement.

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57 minutes ago, Bateshorn said:

The absurd notion by the white working class that they live in a caste and class free, meritocratic society never ceases to amaze me. 

Brady Bunch K GIF

They don't.  You see, the playbook is to vilify browns/blacks... then even though Jimmy and BettySue are in the same bucket of shit - you tell them, look, you're much better than those pieces of shit over there.  And I'm here in office, to make sure it stays that way.  Now give me some of the little money you have...

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Everyone can think what they want, but I've seen enough in the past 4 years and have interacted with enough people internationally on a daily basis to know that America is completely fucked and 100% an oligarchy pretending that capitalism still exists. We are dog eat dog, there is no sense of communal good or well being, only mine. 

Free market captialism would actually see the big guys get taken the fuck down and they lobby to protect those interests. We saw it clear as day with the GME/WSB fiasco. The US Government protecting the wealthy and fucking the every day man who didn't break any of the rules.

The real problem is people are getting paid insane amounts of money and staying in the positions that pay that much for extended periods of time. The whole concept of "let someone else on the ride" is completely dead in modern corporate society. These guys aren't fucking transcendent leaders or visionaries. Jobs death wasn't the end of apple. Gates leaving msft wasn't the end, neither was balmer. Bezos fucking off from Amazon is going to be a big nothing burger. Elon musk not at paypal. The list goes on and on and on. These people are just people.

How many years in a row does an exec really need to make 3-30M dollars? The answer is not very many. Let someone else ride the ride. If the average stint was 3 years in senior exec or chief exec roles there would be a significantly diminished wealth disparity. Instead it spans decades and concentrates at exponential not linear rates. 

 

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Posted (edited)
36 minutes ago, Goredho said:

Its really easy to look at the people voting for him and to think they are the dumbest idiots in the world worthy of getting fleeced.  But a lot of them are, more than anything, just desperate.  They may not be able to connect all the dots to see who is really conspiring against them, but they sure as shit can tell their futures are getting less certain, and that something, somewhere is broken.

it's like the oil companies yelling about the GND or biden's infrastructure plan killing oil jobs, when the oil companies themselves have been automating away jobs for years.  but because the oil industry has hugenormous numbers of allies in the media you only hear the claim about the job killing GND.  so the trumpers are angry at AOC rather than the system set up to benefit billionaires. 

Edited by elfenix
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Set up self contained towns where you choose what decade you want to live in and if you have outdated real world skills you can go live there. Say Fiftiesville. You only have access to what was available in that decade.  See wow classic. 

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Our efficiency fetish in management is making humans expendable.

The savings from decreased labor costs result in a widening wealth gap, as the financial markets extract the wealth created by reducing the expense of human labor. 

The bigger problem? Our national economy is reliant on consumer (human) spending. A hollowed out middle-class impacts consumer spending and money velocity in the system as a whole. Centrally-planned capitalism (China) enters the void to profit from our weakening middle and working classes. 

TLDR - the Chinese are using capitalism to kick our ass, as we continue to hollow out the working and middle classes via increases in efficiency through our current model of corporate management. Self-inflicted and likely a crushing wound to America's dominant status in the world.  

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6 minutes ago, immamac said:

Everyone can think what they want, but I've seen enough in the past 4 years and have interacted with enough people internationally on a daily basis to know that America is completely fucked and 100% an oligarchy pretending that capitalism still exists. We are dog eat dog, there is no sense of communal good or well being, only mine. 

Free market captialism would actually see the big guys get taken the fuck down and they lobby to protect those interests. We saw it clear as day with the GME/WSB fiasco. The US Government protecting the wealthy and fucking the every day man who didn't break any of the rules.

The real problem is people are getting paid insane amounts of money and staying in the positions that pay that much for extended periods of time. The whole concept of "let someone else on the ride" is completely dead in modern corporate society. These guys aren't fucking transcendent leaders or visionaries. Jobs death wasn't the end of apple. Gates leaving msft wasn't the end, neither was balmer. Bezos fucking off from Amazon is going to be a big nothing burger. Elon musk not at paypal. The list goes on and on and on. These people are just people.

How many years in a row does an exec really need to make 3-30M dollars? The answer is not very many. Let someone else ride the ride. If the average stint was 3 years in senior exec or chief exec roles there would be a significantly diminished wealth disparity. Instead it spans decades and concentrates at exponential not linear rates. 

 

I can’t say you are wrong at all, but I hope those C*O oligarchs can understand that it’s in their best interests for the masses to be allowed to lead a reasonably content life.  Their pile of money can be turned to ash if and when the 98% decides they don’t want to play this game anymore.

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40 minutes ago, Bateshorn said:

The absurd notion by the white working class that they live in a caste and class free, meritocratic society never ceases to amaze me. 

Brady Bunch K GIF

The people at the top have diligently tried to keep the working and lower classes from uniting thus they seperate & pit people against each other on race, religion, etc. You rarely see mainstream media talk about class issues, they typically focus on race. 

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22 minutes ago, Goredho said:

I can’t say you are wrong at all, but I hope those C*O oligarchs can understand that it’s in their best interests for the masses to be allowed to lead a reasonably content life.  Their pile of money can be turned to ash if and when the 98% decides they don’t want to play this game anymore.

Another huge mistake people make is presuming that billionaires are actually that much smarter and make better decisions than average schlubs.  They're not.  They make just as stupid long-term decisions as most anyone else.

There are plenty of billionaires sounding this exact alarm -- maybe 5% of them.  The remaining 95% give zero shits.  They continue on the path of accumulating as much money as possible today, who cares about the long-term health of the economy.

We are a species with a handful of very smart members.  But as a whole....we are not a smart species, at any level.

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27 minutes ago, washparkhorn said:

Our efficiency fetish in management is making humans expendable.

The savings from decreased labor costs result in a widening wealth gap, as the financial markets extract the wealth created by reducing the expense of human labor. 

The bigger problem? Our national economy is reliant on consumer (human) spending. A hollowed out middle-class impacts consumer spending and money velocity in the system as a whole. Centrally-planned capitalism (China) enters the void to profit from our weakening middle and working classes. 

TLDR - the Chinese are using capitalism to kick our ass, as we continue to hollow out the working and middle classes via increases in efficiency through our current model of corporate management. Self-inflicted and likely a crushing wound to America's dominant status in the world.  

Something that comes to mind is a show on Prime called The Expanse. Most of the country, and world, no longer work and are given what amounts to a living allowance. Going down this path will not be a fun one, but we are in certain ways trending that direction with a sizable chunk of our population. We should be using this time to re-train workers for new jobs in emerging sectors of the economy. That should absolutely be a priority of this administration, as well as those that follow over the next 15 years, at a minimum. 

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54 minutes ago, immamac said:

Everyone can think what they want, but I've seen enough in the past 4 years and have interacted with enough people internationally on a daily basis to know that America is completely fucked and 100% an oligarchy pretending that capitalism still exists. We are dog eat dog, there is no sense of communal good or well being, only mine. 

Free market captialism would actually see the big guys get taken the fuck down and they lobby to protect those interests. We saw it clear as day with the GME/WSB fiasco. The US Government protecting the wealthy and fucking the every day man who didn't break any of the rules.

The real problem is people are getting paid insane amounts of money and staying in the positions that pay that much for extended periods of time. The whole concept of "let someone else on the ride" is completely dead in modern corporate society. These guys aren't fucking transcendent leaders or visionaries. Jobs death wasn't the end of apple. Gates leaving msft wasn't the end, neither was balmer. Bezos fucking off from Amazon is going to be a big nothing burger. Elon musk not at paypal. The list goes on and on and on. These people are just people.

How many years in a row does an exec really need to make 3-30M dollars? The answer is not very many. Let someone else ride the ride. If the average stint was 3 years in senior exec or chief exec roles there would be a significantly diminished wealth disparity. Instead it spans decades and concentrates at exponential not linear rates. 

 

I agree w all those names except Elon Musk.  Him leaving would absolutely tank TSLA and it would have a really hard time ever getting back to this PE valuation.  It’s the same cult of personality bullshit with a certain fat orange fuck,  just Elon’s followers aren’t as dense (who is?)...

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12 minutes ago, UpperWestside said:

Something that comes to mind is a show on Prime called The Expanse. Most of the country, and world, no longer work and are given what amounts to a living allowance. Going down this path will not be a fun one, but we are in certain ways trending that direction with a sizable chunk of our population. We should be using this time to re-train workers for new jobs in emerging sectors of the economy. That should absolutely be a priority of this administration, as well as those that follow over the next 15 years, at a minimum. 

I used to think it’s insane how much of Europe sits around collecting a pension and living just above poverty...now in a relatively short period of time I’ve come to realize that’s likely our least painful/costly solution.  

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12 minutes ago, ChiTownDoc said:

I agree w all those names except Elon Musk.  Him leaving would absolutely tank TSLA and it would have a really hard time ever getting back to this PE valuation.  It’s the same cult of personality bullshit with a certain fat orange fuck,  just Elon’s followers aren’t as dense (who is?)...

Yes they are.

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22 minutes ago, UpperWestside said:

Something that comes to mind is a show on Prime called The Expanse. Most of the country, and world, no longer work and are given what amounts to a living allowance. Going down this path will not be a fun one, but we are in certain ways trending that direction with a sizable chunk of our population. We should be using this time to re-train workers for new jobs in emerging sectors of the economy. That should absolutely be a priority of this administration, as well as those that follow over the next 15 years, at a minimum. 


The problem is with that is getting people to agree on what new jobs and what sectors will emerge, finding the people with the requisite skills to teach others the skills needed to go forth and multiply, and doing so before the next boomlet arrives and disrupts everything again.

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1 hour ago, Goredho said:

I’ve got a few patents to my name and was responsible for the IP that led to a small Austin start up getting acquired for some reasonable numbers.  The patents are around the usage of machine learning to automate fulfillment of online orders.  Given an order with line items of products of a certain weight, dimension and quantities and the recipient and their location, automate the decision making around the carrier, box, class of service, etc.. Everything needed to have a shipping label in hand and ready to slap on a box without any human involvement.

Part of my effort was to quantify the value of the system.  How much faster are shipments getting out the door after an order comes in?  How many fewer humans are needed to ship the same volume of packages?

So I know for a fact I personally automated away thousands of jobs across a lot of different fulfillment centers large and small.  And when I became aware of that, I felt much less proud about those achievements of innovation.  I got rewarded for it to be sure, but the vast bulk of increased profits never went anywhere except into the bank accounts of execs and investors that were already free of want and worry.  The low-level employees that used to look at an order and make selections necessary to pick a box and generate a shipping label?  Well, for anyone using our fulfillment software, you only needed 64% of them.  I guess the other 36% went to work at Blockbuster.

These type of changes only increase the need for policies about taxation, education, social safety nets, etc...  But we simply leave it to the morality of the corporation to do anything for the middle class workers that are left in wake of these changes, and they don’t do shit.

Then along comes a man like Donald Trump...

Its really easy to look at the people voting for him and to think they are the dumbest idiots in the world worthy of getting fleeced.  But a lot of them are, more than anything, just desperate.  They may not be able to connect all the dots to see who is really conspiring against them, but they sure as shit can tell their futures are getting less certain, and that something, somewhere is broken.

Rather than looking at them as idiots not worthy of sympathy, we and they would be much better served by realizing that good and reasonable people can act unreasonably when their lives are thrown into chaos, their well being is made uncertain and they are subjected to years of blatant disinformation.

If we protected and enhanced their ability to live comfortable middle-class lives, then someone like Trump would have no audience to propel him to power.  If we don’t, then there will be another likely more capable would-be despot to come along and sell themselves as the common-man’s savior.

Technology is surely playing a role in wealth disparity, and I agree market efficiencies can leave folks out of a job. We have always had changing technologies.  IMO our current problem is bigger and is a result of the boomer generation.

We used to heavily tax the rich and invest in future generations. Boomers benefited from all of that.  When the boomers came along and due to their large population held a lot of political power (which they still wield), those trends shifted. 

Higher education was much more affordable for boomers when compared to current college kids.  Pell grants have been replaced with our current student loan system.  At one point, the cost of college was growing eight times faster than wages.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College_tuition_in_the_United_States#/media/File:InflationTuitionMedicalGeneral1978to2008.png

Boomers were able to support a family on a single income. That is no longer the case.  

From the 1930s to the 1980s, the top annual tax rate never dropped below 63%.  When the boomers came of age, the top annual tax rate dropped to 28% and has virtually remained below 40% for top earners.    

Since boomers came of age, government investment in future generations have decreased.  RDGDP.png

 

The solution to our growing wealth disparity IMO is reversing the boomer trends.  We need to greatly raise taxes on the rich and heavily invest in workers and future generations (like prior generations invested in the boomer generation).  

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35 minutes ago, ChiTownDoc said:

I agree w all those names except Elon Musk.  Him leaving would absolutely tank TSLA and it would have a really hard time ever getting back to this PE valuation.  It’s the same cult of personality bullshit with a certain fat orange fuck,  just Elon’s followers aren’t as dense (who is?)...

What? You are saying someone else can't get on twitter and blatantly lie and manipulate their stock price? 

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