Monday, March 5, 2012

College Days

When I was in college, wow, almost 47 years ago, that's almost half a century!, I remember writing a paper on the consequences of automation in our industrial world.  What would happen when robots took over the work force?  Wow, was I pretty dumb, way beyond naive, just a dumb college kid.  I was an idealist and a bit of a romantic, not at all the cynical hard nosed guy I have become!  I had imagined a return to the Renaissance, a resurrection of literature and the arts, real live theater in every town and huge libraries everywhere.  We were given the best gift of all:  time, and I had hoped we could have put it to good use.  I had imagined wonderful schools teaching us the languages of the world, poetry, theater and the arts.  All kinds of things because we had the time.  I thought we could return to building great buildings and bridges, structurally sound and full of art.
   I imagined a far shorter work week, an earlier retirement, greater advances in medical care, an end to world wide strife and poverty and a blossoming of the human race.  In fact, no race at all.  Machinery could now bear the brunt of labor and people, finally rising above survival necessities could thrive with the better part of what makes us human.
   Remember this was a long time ago.  My father was a History Professor and made a salary of $900 a month with no benefits, no medical insurance.  Minimum wage was about $1.25 an hour and a boss, the CEO of a corporation made about six times the wages of his hourly workers.  I bought my house when I was making less than two dollars per hour, working at a local factory where the big bosses might have made three of four dollars per hour.  Oh we had supper rich people back then too, maybe the lumber mill owner, especially if he also owned thousands of acres of forest land to feed his mill.  Back in those days we had a graduated income tax and fair or not if you made over a million dollars a year you paid a lot of taxes on money over this amount.
It seemed like this system worked.  The divide between regular working people and well off people with really good jobs was three times the money and this was a hurtle and horizon, an obstacle that was conquerable.  I put myself through college with a part time job, working less than 15 hours per week.
   Initially robotics and this post modern industrial revolution made things much cheaper.  Modern manufacturing and conveyor belt construction with robots on the line could keep a five cent candy bar at a nickle.  What happened?  Why was I so very wrong?
   The government gives us so much more than they did in the old days and modern industry gives us much less.  Some CEO's make six hundred times the money of their average worker, some make six thousand times that much!  The distance between the average worker and the the wealthy with their great paying jobs have become an abyss; reasonable hurdles have become insurmountable obstacles.  The tax structure has changed so that people like Mitt Romney pay less than half what a regular worker would pay.  I was naive to have thought that this new found wealth created in the post modern world would have been shared.
   The problem for Society, as I see it, isn't that some have a great deal of wealth and really, they do not pay their fair share, it is that we have created a divide impossible to get across, a chasm so deep as to be impenetrable.  We lose our values of working hard because that experience is meeting with defeat and our dreams now are tied up with lottery tickets, the government approved way to wealth!
   It was a good essay; I got an "A" on it.  It was just so very wrong.  But, it coulda been! 


CrimsonLeaves said...

On this particular point, I do have to agree with you. The taxes should be paid equally by all. Hence the rich would get richer and the poor poorer wouldn't be such an awful truth of today.

stonepost said...

See, Sherry, I told you we wouldn't disagree that much! I just have to 'splain it better!