The Causey Consulting Podcast

Working poverty & the service economy

June 15, 2023
The Causey Consulting Podcast
Working poverty & the service economy
Show Notes Transcript

I recently watched "Essential -- A Documentary about America's Working Class and the Challenge of Income Inequality," which you can find here: The film explores unions, income inequality, the declaration of "non-essential" during the pandemic, etc.

Key topics:

✔️At 8:54 we learn that the American economy has transitioned from 70-80% production work to 70-80% service work.
✔️Low wage jobs = survival public benefits. But hey, as long as the corporations can make out like bandits, what else matters? 😒
✔️The juxtaposition between the middle class life of yesteryear with the gold watch and the pension versus working poverty and no pension.
✔️Neocon narrative: "everyone is lazy and wants stimmy checks." Neolib narrative: "the government will figure this out and save us." IMO, both are incorrect.


Links where I can be found:

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Welcome to the Causey Consulting Podcast. You can find us online anytime at And now, here's your host Sara Causey.

Hello, Hello, and thanks for tuning in. In today's episode, I wanted to talk about a documentary that I recently watched on YouTube titled essential, a documentary about America's working class and the challenge of income inequality, and a little write up blurb on YouTube we read, essential as a documentary film that exposes the extreme economic vulnerability that income inequality has created for millions of working class Americans. viewed through the lens of the Southwest carpenters union. And featuring numerous experts, the film examines how unionization in the 20th century created the largest middle class in the history of the planet. But union demise in the 21st century, has created income inequality that is reaching levels not seen since the Great Depression in quote. I feel like we're getting too many comparisons to the Great Depression, and the great recession for my liking. Not saying they're not valid, because I definitely believe that they are. It's just scary. It is scary to think about the economy collapsing to that point again. And then here we are john and jane Q Public, the unwashed masses having to saddle up and just deal with whatever the overlords have in store for us. Before I get into the meat and potatoes of the documentary, this also for me, set off some memories of Elon Musk getting mad at remote workers saying that they're living in la la land, and it's not fair that there's a laptop class. If some people are working in person, and that's the only option that they have, but then you are working remotely, then you are a moral reprobate, which is pretty rich. Coming from someone like Lordy, you want to tell anybody else that they're a moral reprobate. But, sure. Over on tech Republic, we find the pandemic created a perceived new class division, the laptop class versus everyone else. The pandemic created a rift between those who could easily shift to remote work and those who could not what are the responsibilities of the former. In various editorials and COVID related commentary, a new term emerged during the pandemic, the laptop class, describing the class of people who were able to work remotely and maintain their employment with relatively little personal risk to their health and livelihood. This is opposed to other workers that needed to perform their jobs in person ranging from health care and emergency responders, to the dozens of people that enabled the laptop class to hole up in their homes, from all manner of drivers for UPS, DoorDash and Amazon to grocery store clerks and taxi drivers and quote. So I think that I do I do want to be careful about how I say this, because I don't want to drift off into some crazy territory here. Let me let me just let me hit the pause button and really think about how I want to put this. Okay, so it's not the fault of remote workers, that we had a pandemic. And I think blaming remote workers for the pandemic, or even blaming them that they happen to be holding jobs in March of 2020. Where they could take a laptop and go home with it. I feel like that's a pretty thin argument. It For Me, it just is and I know okay, well, you're biased because you do work from home and want to continue working from home. Sure. I just had no way of knowing in March of 2020, that I was going to be handed a laptop and told to go home. I mean, I don't I don't think anybody outside of the you know, extreme top of the pyramid powerbrokers, nobody knew this was going to happen. We're only just now starting to see news articles pop up in mainstream media sources to say, oh, yeah, oops, it may very well be that a lab leak caused the pandemic after all, I mean, Google it and you will find mainstream media news sources, finally saying what conspiracy theorists were verboten to say, a long time ago that hoped Well, I mean, maybe this stuff was doctored up in a lab and Oopsy daisy, it got released and oh that's an not the fault of someone working remotely. Nor is it the fault of someone who had a job or has a job still where they are required to show up in person. I feel like the haves are very good at dividing the have nots. And they will figure out whatever way necessary to do that, whether it's divisions by race, religion, national origin, skin color, or whether or not you're part of the laptop class. Because I think that, deep down, they have a fear that if people really sat and talked to each other, if they really got together, and they realized that, in spite of differences, if you really sit down and you talk to people, you'll find that we have a hell of a lot of things in common. I've certainly discovered that over the course of time, taking language lessons and doing conversation practices with people all over the world. I remember there was a man that I talked to, who told me, I feel like everybody, every country, every person just wants the same thing. They want to be free, they want to be happy and healthy. They want a good life for themselves and their family. And that's pretty much it. I don't I don't think it has to get more complicated than that. But the more divided that we can be between who works from home and who doesn't mean I feel like Lord Elon is using that I don't I don't feel like he actually gives a shit about John and Jane Q Public or service workers. I feel like this is still part of the RTO push, you're going back. The cronies and corporate real estate want to start getting paid rent, again, they don't want to see a corporate real estate collapse, necessarily. I mean, I think there's probably some hedge funds that do because they want to scoop that real estate up on the cheap. You're always gonna have vultures out there that any crisis, they're not going to let it go to waste. But I think by and large, the landlords, they want you back in that office space, the mayors of these towns want you back. cross pollinating was their term, shopping downtown, eating in the restaurants going to the coffee shops, like let's just play pretend that that never even happened and go back to like 2019 Your ears like you're just supposed to wipe the slate clean and forget about all of that. And if you still have lingering health concerns, if you don't want to go back because there were aggressions or micro aggressions, or you think your coworkers are a bunch of dickheads. I'm sorry, I told you this is going to be the year of raw authenticity. Like, if you just don't want to go back, then now you're going to be shamed. You should no longer be afraid of that. You should just be over that. And if you're a long hauler, well kind of like Screw you. Forget about you anyway. If you don't want to go back, then you're part of the laptop class, you're just some elitist snob who can't identify with the little guy, which is a pretty good laugh riot considering exactly how elitist the hyper elites actually are. One of the things that gets talked about in this documentary is that low wage jobs drive people to seek out survival public benefits, things like snap cards EBT, food banks, public assistance. So it's like as long as the corporations can make out like bandits as long as they get to pay as little as possible, and then shunt people off into the public assistance programs that the taxpayers pay for. Well, then it's all gravy. We're supposed to demonize people who enjoy working from home and who like working from home, because apparently they don't care enough about service workers. Meanwhile, corporate America doesn't give me an effing break. I mean, that to me, that's just absurd. I'm sorry. It is. Now if we want to take part of this argument, there were people considered essential workers who were allowed to still work in person during that those people enabled the laptop class to hold up in their homes. There's some validity to that argument, drivers for UPS DoorDash and Amazon, grocery store clerks, taxi drivers, people that had to be responsible for going to the grocery store suiting up and putting on gloves and a face mask and if ratio, and all that and going to the grocery store and getting stuff, and then sitting it on the front porch and leaving with no contact to any other human. That's a valid argument. My point in return is, this is the same thing that corporate America does on a very broad scale, they get people in pay the minimum wage, do not offer any kind of benefits. And then those individuals have to go on public assistance to survive. So it seems very rich, to blame remote workers who had nothing to do with the VA, wherever it came from, whether we're ever going to be allowed to know it's true origin or we're not. remote workers did not cause that. They didn't remote workers, just like everybody else. We're told in March 2020, the reality that you had before this is gone, and you have to improvise, adapt and overcome. If you're going to survive this, you need to keep your body at home, people are dying, this is horrible. But it is not the fault of remote workers that they were sent home. And it's not the fault of remote workers that that happened in the first place. And that is my point, the more that the haves can cause the have nots to engage in infighting. Don't focus on the hyper elites at the top of the pyramid who are jonesing for this recession, they are lying in wait, they are so excited to take your stuff. Don't focus on that. Let's have divisions based on race, religion, skin color, national origin, sexual orientation, who's part of the laptop class and who isn't focused on this. Because if you ever got unified with one another and said, eff those EMFs, oh, we might really have some trouble. So they keep everybody divided. And now it's the laptop class versus who isn't. You know, then meanwhile, in this documentary, it's like income inequality is reaching levels not seen since the Great Depression. That's freaking scary. That is a scary comparison. And the film opens up with people at food banks. And the lines are astounding. lines that wrapped around buildings lines that lasted for miles, one of the interviewees was talking about how the food bank opened at 10. And people have been in line since 430. Because this was going to be their only opportunity to get food. That's scary. So whilst we're expected to pay attention to Lord Elon, and worry about what he has to say, and worry about who's still working from home and who isn't. In reality, you have people who are going to food banks now. Some of them got wiped out during the pandemic, and have never yet recovered. And some of them are victims of layoffs. Because even though you're expected to believe we somehow have a 3.7% unemployment rate, and all these open jobs, legit open jobs that pay a living wage for every one unemployed person, I'm here to tell you as someone that's in the job market every single flipping day, I don't believe it. I am not seeing the evidence of it. And when I talk to job seekers in real time, every single day, they're not seeing it either. And it's not like, well, you're only talking to one particular genre, you're talking to one particular skill set, or you're focused in one particular area of the country. So maybe it's a bit myopic, indeed, I am not. It doesn't matter if I'm talking to somebody in California or somebody in Maine, somebody in Florida, somebody in Washington State, somebody in the breadbasket, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Oklahoma, Texas, it doesn't matter. I'm hearing the same themes over and over again, I got laid off. I didn't really see it coming. I believed what I was told on the TV about how robust the job market supposedly was. And so when a layoff visited my house, I had no idea it was going to take me so long to find another job. Now, I'm out here month after month, and I'm scared. That is a story that I hear repetitively. And so it is with foodbanks people showing up who have maybe never had to go to one before or who have been consistently going to one since the start of the PA because I've never recovered. And yet you're supposed to spend your time thinking about Lord Elon and the laptop class. Right. Another point that this documentary raises is why Did we have workers who were labeled as essential workers during the pandemic. But then, as soon as we were told it was time to quit playing pandemic, those people were cast aside, like, they didn't even mean anything. Like, okay, so during the pandemic, the grocery store clerk and the health care workers, and the individuals that are having to go out in the fields and harvest the food, you're important, and you matter to us during that. But then the minute we're told that is over with and you're not supposed to even worry about it or think about it anymore, really, then we throw those people away like trash. I don't like the term essential or non essential worker, period. I feel like that's very demeaning. But then you realize how hollow it is. When these essential workers are then cast aside, like the gum on the bottom of somebody, shoot, your essential, okay, well, here we go. Here we go. Again, I'm gonna try to try to be careful how I put this but you panic when you're told to panic. You calm down, when you're told to calm down. You support this country when you're told to you get on social media, and you put up flags and slogans when you're told to and you think it's a good virtue signal. But then when you're not supposed to care about that anymore, then you stop? Well, so it is with this whole label of essential versus non essential. You're an essential worker, when the overlords tell you that you are when the overlords tell you that you're expected to go to work. And just suit up as best you can. Take the appropriate protocols as best you can put on your face shield and your mask and your gloves and try to stay six feet away from people. But you're going because your essential according to the overlords, but then the minute that you're not considered essential anymore, and the job market is slack. And we can hire people to replace you in the blink of an eye. If that's what we choose to do. Well, then you're not essential anymore. So really, when you think about it, who is essential, and who isn't, according to the overlords. It's bizarre, but to me, it goes back to that same control that saying, brainwashing. You do this when you're told. If we say jump, you say how high and you do it. But if we tell you to sit still, then you're supposed to sit still, you don't really think and react on your own common sense. You do what the overlords feel is best for you. If we tell you that you matter than you do. If we tell you that you don't matter, then you don't. That's pretty disgusting. If you asked me about 854, in the documentary, we learned that the American economy has transitioned from 70 to 80% production work to 70 to 80% service work. I also think that's interesting, because about 70% of our GDP in this country is tied to consumption. We really have become a nation of people that consume, as opposed to being a nation of people who produce. And in that regard, it is easier to shove somebody to the side, to label them as non essential to say, well, we forced you to come into the office for all this time, we made you feel that you didn't have any other choice. I mean, the gag is you could have been doing this from home the whole time. But you needed to go through the corporate pantomime. In the meantime, while that was going on, here's your laptop, go to the house. Now. You need to continue to be productive. Even though the kids have also been for voting to go to school, and they're scared and they're confused, and they don't understand what's happening. They're going to get laptops as well. You're going to be expected to be productive. So even if you come down with the PA or somebody in your household does if you're having to do elder care, child care, pet care, because those things don't exist anymore. The kids are freaking out. They're confused. They're trying to do their lessons. They're hybrid, they're bouncing off the walls, in spite of all of this now, we need you to be as productive as possible. And you're going to figure out how to do that. And then we're going to slap you in the face about three years later and say, well, even though you have your lifestyle ironed out, you know how to be productive, you're doing better than you ever did in the office. Fu you need to come back now because that's what the overlords are telling you to do. The whole thing is mind numbing to me. I mean, maybe I'm the only one that just sees the hypocrisy and the complete weirdness and madness of this all but to me it is completely and utterly insane. Something else that they cover is something that I've talked about before in particular We're thinking more so of my grandparents generation, this idea that someone could work in the household and back then don't send me hate mail and talking about a bygone era. Back then it was typically the Man of the House worked a job outside the home. The woman was a homemaker. And they afford it a house and a vehicle. I mean, and grow trips to the grocery store. And one or two nice vacations, somewhere each year, the kids had school clothes and school supplies, and how far gone we are from that era. Now. I mean, it takes if you have a two person household, two individuals who are married, whether they have children, or they don't, it takes both of those individuals working in order to be able to make things happen. And even at that you have people living paycheck to paycheck. This really stirred up a memory for me, it's one of those memories that I had buried until I watched this documentary. And it just it brought it back to the forefront of my mind. Before I bought my farm, I had been tinkering with the idea, I knew that I wanted to do it. For a while it was something that was sort of on my bucket list. But then someone close to me died. And it happened so fast. The time between his diagnosis with cancer and his passing felt like a breath. It was so ephemeral, so fleeting. And it really inspired me to take some things off of my bucket list and bring them into current reality. I just did not want to put all of my dreams on hold. Because I saw what happened to my friend. He was very close to retirement, he had a bucket list, he had several things that he wanted to do in retirement that he was actively looking forward to. And then he died. And all of those dreams went unrealized. And that was heartbreaking to me. And I thought I don't want that to be me, I want to figure out a way to make these things happen. And so as I was talking to a person at the Small Business Administration, he was telling me about a farm services agency that's part of the USDA. And he said, You might you know, if you're considering getting into farming, buying a parcel of land and making that your full time thing, you might go talk to somebody at the farm Services Agency, see if there are any grants and tax breaks, just kind of figure out the lay of the land, no pun intended and see what you might have in store. And I went and talked about having your dreams dashed, right. I went and I made an appointment with this lady. And I remember, in the course of our conversation we talked about like, what do you have in mind? What is it that you're wanting to do? What's the goal? what's the end game, and one of the things that I told her is I want to get out of corporate America. I'm not happy. I've never really been happy. You know, I've worked at places where I enjoy my coworkers, I had a great boss. But those places have been the minority, the majority of places where I have worked, I have not felt that way. And I want out. I want to live off the land. I want to have a more organic type of lifestyle. I'm just I'm done with this fake corporate America bullshit. I'm just done. And I remember she is she like clasp your hands together and sort of took a deep breath. And she looked down at the desk. And then she looked at me. And in hindsight, I know that she was probably like, I'm gonna have to crush this girl's dream and I hate to do it, but I feel like I have to do it. And she told me, it really takes two people. This idea of someone's going to live off the land, be a rugged individualist and have this old school family farm from yesteryear. That just doesn't fly anymore. People who do that go broke, they figure out that you can't make enough money to pay for the house and the barn and the land and the fencing and all of that just selling fruits and vegetables or honey and eggs at the farmers market. Agriculture just does not provide a living the way that it used to. I mean, it was a cold hard dose of the truth, but I'm glad that she told me that I remember getting back in my car after that meeting, to drive off and thinking, Oh God, I was so like crestfallen and depressed. And I thought Oh God, what do I do now? This was going to be my ace in the hole, this was going to be the thing that I did to get the hell out. So what do I do now? Now I, I, for me the commitment that I have to making the world a better place than I found it, at least what I can do. That's still there. And I did buy land. And I do animal rescue and rehabilitation. That's one of the reasons why I love to be able to expand whenever we're able to, I want to be able to help more animals, I want to be able to do even more than I already do now. I just had to really retool my game plan to include not giving up my corporate job. I was I wasn't in a position where I could buy a farm and give up my corporate job with the salary and the benefits at that point in time. It took me some maneuvering and some thinking, and a business failure, quite frankly, it took that first iteration of self employment failing so bad, and then me going back to a corporate job and hating it so bad to get my ducks in a row for my current iteration of self employment to work. They say failure is a great teacher. And in my case, it sure as hell was. But I think back to that moment of it takes two people, it takes somebody who's willing to work outside the home and have a corporate job and carry the benefits and really make the money while the other person stays at home. And tins the farm and tins the animals and goes to the farmers market and all that. And in talking to other people in agriculture, they all told me the same thing. The day of a family, good old fashioned family farmer, being able to get 20 or 30, or maybe 40 acres of land, farm at full time, and have that be enough to take care of an entire family, that's dunzo, that's gone. It's that way, for so many professions, it's that way for the American life. Now, the amount of money it takes just to survive, and to have anything resembling to a middle class lifestyle, whatever that even means anymore. You cannot do that. Without some type of corporate job, every adult in the household working a corporate job and carrying some corporate benefits. If you freelance, then you're going to have to figure out an affordable way to carry your own benefits. I wish that I could tell you otherwise. But when you look at the statistics of people living paycheck to paycheck, and the amount of debt that people are in, the old ways are gone. And I don't know if they're ever coming back. The documentary makes it seem like if everybody just unionized if there was a higher level of union participation, we could help these problems to go away. Maybe I think it would help I think more unionization would help. Do I think that it would be a panacea, a Hail Mary pass a miracle cure all? No, I don't. I don't. And I'm sorry, but I don't. I think we're just too far gone. I think we've gone too far down the path of UVA nursing and UVB happy agenda. 2030. I think we have gone too far down that path of being controlled by the overlords to have some big. I have to be careful. Okay. Let me just think because, you know, we have to be careful what you say you kind of have to tuck around things. I just think we're too far gone to have some great big change. And I don't think that, you know, even if 90% of people working were unionized, I still don't think that that would change. What's coming. I believe me, I know that sounds incredibly bleak, incredibly depressing. I'm just here spitting the truth as I see it. Another point they bring up is the focus of politicians, on whatever whatever their particular bill weather is, whatever they think is going to be the best measure of making them look good. So for example, they talk about the stock market. I know with Orange Man, the stock market was something that he talked about often and pointed to, I think with senile old man he points a lot to the job market. Meanwhile, any of these numbers can be manipulated. The stock market doesn't always help the average American person that's living paycheck to paycheck and just trying to get by the job market can help the The average American person who's just trying to get by if it really actually is robust. If the numbers are being doctored to make the market look like it's robust to make it look like there are two legit open jobs for every one unemployed person, when in reality that's complete and utter bullshit, then it does not help your average working class person. So I feel like these numbers can most certainly be the victims of tricky math. around minute 49, they talk about the philosophies of Milton Friedman, who very openly, very famously said that companies are beholden to the shareholders, the investors, the responsibility that they have is to turn a profit for those shareholders and those investors period. They don't have social responsibility, they don't have responsibility to the workers, f all that. It's all about the shareholders and the investors. One of the things that I have told you many times, whether we're talking about here on this podcast, or in my various blogs, the places where I publish, I have told you and told you and told you. Corporate America does not care, highway don't care. They don't care. They answer to people like the shareholders, the investors and the Board of Directors, they do not answer to you and me. They don't care. And I don't think it matters over much whether you're talking about being a W two employee plugged in and accompany as their employee, or whether you're a freelancer like myself, where you come in on a 1099 basis, work a project or do a temp assignment, and then you're gone. They don't answer to us. And I think when you work on that 1099 basis, you see it more clearly. I mean, there have been points in time where a project could not have gone better, it was smooth as glass, it came together for lawlessly. And I felt so good. And then the next day I got that, Well, hey there, Oh buddy, old pal, we're gonna have to make some budget cuts, we're gonna take things in a different direction. But we appreciate Jeff. And it's like, oh, okay, great, what happened to long term relationships, what happened to you, we've got plenty for you to do, we're gonna keep you busy. It's just they're gonna tell you, whatever they need to tell you to get you to take that job to work that assignment to do that project, whatever. And then whenever they're done with you, they're done with you. They don't care. That's the thing. They answer to the shareholders, the investors, the Board of Directors, they do not answer to you and me. And I'm very glad that this documentary brings that up. I think this also ties back to trickle down economics, the idea that if these corporations are making a boatload of money, that wealth will trickle down into the rest of the economy, and then everybody else will benefit. If we give these corporations a big banquet, a big steak dinner with all the trimmings, then even the crumbs that falls from the Masters table will be enough to feed the rest of us and all, we shall all benefit from the control of the feudal lords. Meanwhile, I think we all know that's bullshit. I, I feel like most people understand now that that Emperor is not wearing any clothes. The last thing I'll say, as I start to wrap it up here is the documentary also talks about current generations, realizing they're not going to have it as good. They talked about the window of time from 1945 to 1975, when the middle class grew, there was good access to union jobs, there was not only a growth in worker productivity, but the wage increases also kept pace by and large, with that increase in productivity. And then in about the mid 70s, that started to go in the opposite direction. People continued to get productive. But the wages were not keeping pace. You also saw this massive divide between how much the CEO of the company was making versus how much the average employee at that company was making. And so I think for those of us, you know, you're talking about people who were young and 1975, decidedly, you're talking about Gen X, which is my generation, and you're also most certainly talking about the millennials and the Gen Z ers who are coming out into the workforce in this insane mess. They talk in this documentary about how the younger generations now are realizing they're never going to have it as good as some earlier generations had it, particularly the people that were out in the workforce benefiting during that 1945 to 1975 timeframe. And please understand, I'm not one of these people that says, the baby boomers had everything easy. Nobody was ever poor. Nobody ever struggled. Nobody ever saw hardship. We know that's just simply not true. We're painting with a broad brush here. And one of the experts that they interview in this documentary is Arlie, Hawk shield, who wrote strangers in their own land. I actually was inspired by this documentary to check that book out, and I'm reading it as we speak. And the last the last thing that I want to say here, again, we just we have to be so careful. We have to almost speak in riddles at times. When you have people getting economically disenfranchised, you have people feeling like they've been thrown away, like maybe the parents or the grandparents or for some young people, it might even be the great grandparents had it good. And they had some opportunities, and we're not ever going to see those things were living in a dystopian hellscape. I feel like there's a very scary danger zone there, particularly as it relates to demagogues, and political hucksters. I think that when you go back and you look at Weimar Germany, and you see this, the sort of opening there that was left for just that type of racist, evil, horrible demagogue to rise to power. Could something like that happen again? Could there be some kind of great R E S, E T, that goes in the direction of, we'll look at how bad things are. If you want things to get better than we have to go along with these agendas. We have to have this great r e s. E T to make it happen. I hope not. I hope not. But it's troublesome and it's scary. This is another episode where I don't have a neat and tidy answer for you. I can't sum everything up with a bow and put the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae and tell you that everything's going to be alright. We don't know what's lurking around the corner. We really don't. The most I will say is that I think that the more that the haves can divide the have nots, the more that they benefit from that. The more that we can get on the same page with one another and stop being divided. The better off I think we will be. Stay safe, stay sane, and I will see you in the next episode.

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