For a long time in American culture people have invoked the spirit of the 1950s as somehow more pure, as a ‘better, simpler time’, but the right wing ideology that claims to long for the days when black people basically couldn’t vote in some areas because of flawed voter regulations which allowed them to administer reading tests, and many of the white people in the south in the time of segregation couldn’t pass the reading tests either. Sadly, however, America’s future prospects don’t look good.
Decades of America slowly losing its stranglehold on the world economy established at the end of WW2 and corporations liquidating their positions in America and either automating or moving to Mexico southeast Asia, or basically anywhere else in the world dethroned the country as the singular superpower it was, and left the nation in a much worse position than before. Now in a period of global economic stagnation where only a few globalized mega-corporations are successful people talk about an end to capitalism, or a ‘post-capitalist state’. It does not look like this could or would become the case for some time, due to the fact that capitalism is expanding in a new and rapid way, and has been for the past 10 or 15 years.
The digital revolution has become fully integrated in the way we live, which is by commodifying. We are now all sort of like commodification machines. Each purchase we make is data-mined, direct marketers follow up later through phone calls and emails, and there are little strings everywhere that you trip whenever you do anything, all designed to show what you’re most likely to buy next, and intercept you. We are ourselves working to build up this monster of capitalism with every pin, retweet, and purchase. Everything gets traded on ads, and ads equals money. Every business is maximized for profit and minimized for investment
All of this is diminishing returns on the investments of science and technology that America made. Advancements made in the space race were so powerful they spurred technology and growth into a new age, the ‘space age’.
Before the 21st century America was the leader in space, but the program was retired in 2011, and now it’s all about the international space station. Perhaps it’s the fact that we funnel our profits into less and less hands, and that there’s a growing population of people without work. But it’s not just high technology and engineering jobs which have been some of the most iconic American professions. For a long time the life of the American trucker was one of respect, dignity, and a livable wage. Truck drivers still earn an average of just over $40,000 a year (Heavy 1).
Here’s the thing about driving a truck in 2017. Right now it’s a reasonable way to earn a living (Heavy 1). The average pay is $41,000, and all you need to drive a truck is a Commercial Driver’s license which takes less than 10 weeks to get, and usually costs $3,000 to $5,000 which is a lot of money, especially for someone who’s already earning a low income (How Long 1).Not everybody can afford to take the time to go to college, and many college grads struggle to find work after school. That being said, this graph from the Bureau of Labor statistics in 2016 shows that as education level goes up, unemployment goes down (Employment Projections 1) . But it’s difficult to go to college. Many people are not in a financial position to work the job they need to work to survive and go to school. Automation is always expanding because it cuts down on costs, which means bigger profits. Massive layoffs in trucking are coming because of self-driving trucks, which by some estimates may be here as soon as 2021 (Solon 2).
But technology is changing things everywhere, not just in America. Over 120 million people a day in China verify their identity just by looking into a camera (Knight 5). Automation appears to be the new frontier of maximizing profits while minimizing costs in a global economic cycle which will only continue if unimpeded. There could be advancements which make our every day lives easier, but people’s quality of life will only go down if there aren’t social mechanisms in place for a person to have the opportunity to better themselves and their situation. We’re heading towards a social security cliff in 2034 (Max 1). Social security won’t just ‘run out’, it’s projected that the fund will be paying at a reduced rate of 79% until 2089, but the congressional budget office says this ‘cliff’ could come as early as 2025. If America is ever going to turn around this shift in power from the government to corporate interests we need a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Solon, Olivia. “Self-driving trucks: what’s the future for America’s 3.5 million truckers?”. The Guardian.com. 2017 Guardian news Media. Published 6/17/2016, accessed 7/18/2017<https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/17/self-driving-trucks-impact-on-drivers-jobs-us>
Knight, Will. “Paying with your face: Face-detecting systems in China now authorize payments, provide access to facilities, and track down criminals. Will other countries follow?”. Technologyreview.com. MIT Technology Review. Published March 2017, accessed 7/18/2017 <https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603494/10-breakthrough-technologies-2017-paying-with-your-face/>
Max, Sarah. “Will Social Security Really Run Out of Money?” Time.com. Time Inc. Published 3/21/2016, accessed 7/18/2017 <http://time.com/money/4213065/will-social-security-run-out-money/>
“Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers”. Bls.gov. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Published 12/17/2015, accessed 7/18/2017. <https://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/heavy-and-tractor-trailer-truck-drivers.htm>
“Employment projections”. Bls.Gov. 2017 US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Published 5/20/2017, accessed 7/17/2017. <https://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm>