Category Archives: Greatest Generation, Boomers, Millennials, Alphabets

What Happens if the Jobs We Want to “Bring Back” No Longer Exist?

Years ago I worked for the Coca-Cola Company at its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. The company gave an orientation tour for the new employees. As part of the tour, we visited a Coca-Cola bottling plant.

I was amazed at the small number of workers employed in the plant. A few people tended the bottling machines. Since then, even more manufacturing jobs in diverse industries have been lost to machines.

We can talk about bringing jobs back from overseas. Indeed, transportation costs and other factors have led some U.S. companies to return operations to the States. However, they may be employing less workers than before due to the machines that have taken over.

Jon Talton, writing in The Seattle Times (November 27, 2016), observes: “. . . so much manufacturing is automated today. In 1980, generating $1 million in manufacturing output took 25 workers. Now it takes about 6.5.”

The five fastest growing jobs listed in the Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook are wind turbine service technicians, occupational therapy assistants, physical therapist assistants, physical therapist aides, and home health aides. As you can see, technician and service occupations predominate.

Changing our work force for today’s jobs will require more than bringing back “manufacturing jobs.” Our work force needs job training, and it will need continuous training.

Actually Leaving Facebook?

A news columnist, Froma Harrop, announced her intention to leave Facebook. She’s leaving because she believes Facebook has become a platform for fake news.

At the same time, Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook, has posted (on Facebook) an announcement that his company is acting to curb false news stories. It is, he said, developing new tools to detect and classify “misinformation.” Further, he has said, the company won’t accept adds that are “illegal, misleading or deceptive.”

Possibly the problem is with the “friends” concept. Facebook may fit comfortably among a group of actual friends, brought together by some kind of kinship. It runs aground when it becomes an advertising center for businesses or political parties. Calling customers or potential voters our “friends,” when we do not even know them, degrades the word.

For the moment, I am still on Facebook. I have decided, however, that I will not like or click approval of any product or any unknown opinion piece. In fact, I will limit my viewing to personal notes from actual friends. And my time on Facebook will be minimal.

An Absence of Caregivers

Humans are dependent on others to care for them for the first several years of their existence. In addition, independent citizens can become dependent through sickness, old age, or misfortune.

Caregiving is as necessary for a society to function as are healthy political and economic systems.

In our justifiable concern with women’s rights, we have too often forgotten the caregiving performed by women over millennia. We made inadequate provision for it in the new system.

In the rush to give women the right to be “more” than mothers, we forgot the damage done to society when fathers neglect to be fathers. Children growing up without fathers compensate in often damaging actions, from drugs to gangs. We need both parents.

In a sense, mothers have followed fathers into a life not healthy for either parent. Both, in the words of Erika Bachiochi have chosen “to compete on a playing field designed for the unencumbered.” (“Embodied Caregiving,,” First Things; October 2016.)

For those who choose to be caregivers, what help do we offer them? Help may mean longer paid leaves, or part time work, or permission to drop out of a career for a while.

Caregivers need time more than any other gift, time to shape children’s lives and to provide services for the aged and the sick and the broken.

Decreasing the Demand Side of Abortion

No subject divides Americans like the abortion issue. David P. Gushee, a Mercer University professor, discussed abortion in a November, 2016, Sojourners article.

Since World War II, Gushee writes, “all kinds of factors have conspired . . . to create a society whose conditions constitute a perfect storm for abortion.”

Young adults need more years for education and training. Parents are less able to supervise dating partners for their children. From the age of sixteen or before, young adults have access to automobiles. Changing attitudes toward morality are evident in the films we see and the books we read.

We have Gushee says, “a culture deeply dependent on abortion.” Our efforts, then, should go toward preventing, as Gushee says, “that miserable drive to the abortion clinic,” a decision after the fact of pregnancy.

We could recognize valid needs on both sides of the abortion equation. One side sees an act requiring both a man and a woman, yet whose consequences are often borne by the woman alone. The man can walk away with his wombless body, back to his career and even to another woman, unencumbered by life within him.

Others ask: If it’s okay to stop life in the womb because it’s inconvenient, why is it not okay to take any life that’s inconvenient? Why do some accept abortion in general but become incensed with sex-selective abortion? Isn’t all life valuable?

Both groups might question why, in a time when women in developed countries now have many choices, we appeared fixated on two individuals and their attraction to each other without any care for the wider community.

What about the importance of goals, purpose, and meaning, especially for young women?

Homelessness, Drugs, and Purpose

The battle lines are drawn in Seattle, a ferry ride and an hour or so away from where I live. On one side are those who wish to remove Seattle’s growing homeless camps. On the other side are those who argue for the camps as necessary in a city with sky high rents and inadequate resources for dealing with mental illness and addiction.

Some of the homeless are responsible citizens with jobs but inadequate salaries to afford the high rents. Others have lost jobs through no fault of their own, victims of medical misfortune or of jobs lost in a changing economy.

Others are homeless because they are mentally ill, suffering from diseases such as schizophrenia. The state of Washington, through budget slashing, has seriously eroded the state’s ability to care for victims of mental illness.

The most difficult homeless are those addicted to alcohol and other drugs. These are the homeless that neighborhoods fear: the addicts who shoot up, dropping needles behind as dangers to children and other innocents; who camp on public spaces, leaving them trashed and unfit for human use; who attract drug dealers and turn neighborhoods into drug bazaars and sometimes murder scenes.

Dealing with addiction is surely complex and difficult. Any person under the terrible pull of drugs no doubt needs a strong purpose to conquer their awful hold: Family? A place of service? A pet to love?

If I had a loved one on drugs, I don’t think I’d want them living in a homeless camp. I’d want them removed to a safe place with supervision to help them find a way, a purpose for choosing a better life.

Safe spaces to rehabilitate require money, tax money. Cutting taxes may be a campaign pleaser, but sometimes cutting taxes means we pay higher costs down the road in wasted human lives and neighborhoods.

What’s So Great About the Forty-Hour Work Week?

My current work in progress is the third in a series. A new mother puts her career on hold to start her children “on the right path,” as well as provide a break from her stressful job. Now she’s going back to work, and her husband is considering taking off a couple of years from his career to parent them full time until they’re a little older.

The career theme pops up in my writing, both blogs and novels.

I keep returning to the need many of us have, whether parents or not, to take a rest from our careers. We want to do something different or pursue an idea or take care of others. The sabbatical is a part of some professions because it is deemed worthwhile.

Obviously, barriers prevent most working people from taking sabbaticals. Money is the main obstacle. A single person needs a hefty bank account, usually impossible for most singles without a spouse to back them up. And even couples struggle on one income, with rents or house payments taking a significant percentage of their earnings.

Second is the impossibility for most folks of having a job waiting, certainly the same job, if they decide to take a “sabbatical.” The work must go on. Somebody must do it. Employers may also see a request for a year or so of leave as evidence of laziness or lack of dedication. Certainly, it rarely makes the supervisory job easier.

Also one must consider career advancement. Leaving for a year or two or more can put one behind the power curve for career development.

We need new career models, not the one formed during the suburban decades of post World War II, centered on the single male breadwinner.

Innovative employers could consider changes in career models. Now that we live longer, some of that longer retirement could be used in the middle of life rather than all on the elderly side. Employees might work more years if they have breaks in between paid work. “Retirement” might come to mean merely a longer break.

Another Shooting, Closer to Home This Time

A young man, apparently angry at being dumped by his girl friend, killed her and two other young people and seriously wounded a fourth. This one took place only a ferry ride away from where I live.

According to reports, when his girl friend did not agree to restart their relationship, the young man purchased an AK-15 assault rifle and a manual on how to use it. He later returned for more ammunition.

At a gathering of alumni of a local high school, the young man saw his former girl friend with another man.

He returned to his car and studied the manual. Then he came back to the gathering with the AK-15 and shot his former girl friend and others that he knew as they ran for cover. The police later caught him as he sped down Interstate I-5.

Young men have always had trouble controlling jealousy. Before, they broke up parties with fist fights. Why does any young man, too young to legally purchase a six pack of beer, now choose an assault rifle to vent his anger?

Betting on the Losers to Lose

I took out a mortgage and bought a condo in my single days. I had a good job and good credit and put down a sizeable down payment. I got the condo, lived in it for several years until I joined the Foreign Service, then sold it.

I thought everyone bought homes this way. They saved money for a down payment, worked up a good credit record, then chose a house that suited their income. Bankers wouldn’t lend money on a house that the buyer couldn’t afford, I thought.

Several years later, after my mother died, my brother and I sold her home. The buyer sold a smaller house to buy hers. That fitted into what I understood was one way to buy a house—to build up equity in a smaller one, then sell it.

However, the buyer of her house bought it with a 100 percent mortgage, no money down. It was the first time I knew of someone buying a home without the requirement to pay a portion of the price as a down payment.

Not long after that, the housing bubble burst. Lots of people, it seemed, had underwater mortgages. They owed more on their houses than they were worth.

The drop in house prices was a major reason, of course, but some of it could be traced to the owners not being required to invest more in their houses before they bought them.

So why did the lenders not require home buyers to make sufficient down payments?

Lots of mortgages, it seems, were packaged together. Some included mortgages which shouldn’t have been made under the old rules, but, supposedly, other mortgages to able buyers would balance them out. Lenders would make more income than ever from lending more money, even to unqualified buyers.

So it was okay to set up a home buyer for failure. It was okay to lend to folks that lenders knew weren’t going to be able to continue in their homes, who would fail. It was okay to do this because it would work out, for the lenders, at least.

Only it didn’t, and thousands of homeowners suffered. People who were conned into thinking they’d finally reached their dream of home ownership dropped into a nightmare.

I Joined a Student Protest Once

College students made the news recently at one of the universities in Seattle. They are demanding curriculum changes. They say they want fewer courses centering on “dead white men” and more courses from a diverse set of writers.

I took part in a student protest once. Unfortunately, I can’t claim to have been led by noble purposes. The strike protested food in the college cafeteria. I joined because spring had arrived, and it was a fun thing to do.

Organizers worked with car owners to drive all students who wanted to participate to off campus eateries during lunch.

The college president met with us in meetings. He lost his temper in the group I was in. His mistake, I think, was in supposing that the protest was about our rejection of the food.

The protest wasn’t about food, not really. It was a way for us, the students, to believe we had a part to play in the ordering of our lives, to believe we counted.

I make no judgements today on the arguments of the students or the curriculum they protest. The protests do mirror those of youth in the 1960’s. Then, students were inspired by the election of John F. Kennedy to the White House. Through tragic circumstances, the Kennedy generation was eclipsed by the older generation of Lyndon Johnson. The younger generation felt betrayed.

Perhaps today’s younger generation, some of whom are campus protestors and many of whom support Bernie Sanders, were similarly disillusioned when the promise of Obama’s election was followed by years of political infighting.

Macklemore Speaks Out on Addiction

Macklemore (Ben Haggerty), the rap singer, recently teamed up with President Barack Obama in the president’s weekly radio address. (Reported in The Seattle Times on15 May 2016.) The two discussed growing drug addiction in the U.S.

Drug addiction is no longer a disease mostly of the poor or of minorities. Some have criticized the country for a lack of concern about addiction when it was perceived as a problem for poor blacks. Regardless, addiction is a tragedy needing attention. It robs the victim of a meaningful life while robbing the country of gifts the addicted could give to society.

Macklemore, in noting the cost of addiction disease, speaks from experience. Though sober now, he has struggled with prescription drugs and alcohol.

Addiction is not a new problem—alcoholics have been around since drinks were fermented to preserve them. However, all sorts of new ways to inebriate oneself now exist. The emphasis on pleasure as our main goal in life has fed the search for self gratification.

We no longer raise our children to “amount to something”—to serve. We want them to be happy—surely a goal no one can consistently reach. No wonder we consider unhappiness as an intruder with no right to trespass on our psyches. We must end it with a pill or a drink or an injection—even if we threaten our own self-destruction.

Concerned with the needs of the physical self, we forget to strengthen the inner self.

Who Eats Together Anymore?

Family therapists used to ask patients about their family meals in helping them understand their relationships. Apparently those questions are less relevant now because families don’t eat together enough to draw conclusions in many cases. This is how Les and Leslie Parott introduced their book The Hour That Matters Most.

Parents may consider meals a challenge: children crying, refusing to eat, or generally acting ornery. Apparently it’s worth the effort.

Studies have shown, the Parotts say, that dining together decreases the likelihood that the children will do drugs, become involved in promiscuous sexuality, or suffer serious depression.

Not every meal has to be a seven-course banquet. Simple meals may even be healthier: a salad thrown together, tuna sandwiches, and fruit for dessert.

Frankly, I’ve never found cooking as much fun as some do. Neither did my mother. We often had hastily prepared meals—canned corned beef hash or pork chops with mushroom soup and canned green beans, but we ate at least one meal together each day, more on weekends.

I’m glad she made the effort. I remember how pleasurable the talk was at the table (once we children grew into a more civilized state). Our discussions were civil, on just about anything and everything: politics, community, church activities, school activities, world events, and so on. We conversed, in other words.

Dining together promises a relatively easy way to promote healthy families. We all have to eat.

Those Favored Baby Boomers: Pay It Forward?

Today’s baby boomers, now beginning to retire, lived in a fortunate time. World War II ended before they were born. The Cold War never became the feared nuclear conflagration.

They were favored by the greatest equality yet known in an industrial society. Greater access to education and advancement narrowed the gap between the elites and the masses.

Today wealth is once again rising in society’s top tiers and falling in the middle and working classes. Even wealth for the much touted “knowledge” workers tends to accumulate only for a few at the top.

Ronald Inglehart writes: “In 1965, CEO pay at the largest 350 U.S. companies was 20 times as high the pay of the average worker; in 1989, it was 58 times as high; and in 2012, it was 273 times as high.” (“Inequality and Modernization,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2016.)

What lessons can the aging baby boomers teach? That wealth should be the only reward for a career?

Why not pride in quality products, beneficial to society, not gimmicks to make money? How about better salaries for employees? How about more contributions to schools and teachers and programs that help the less well off catch up? Drug rehabilitation and treatment for mental illness? More opportunities for the homeless to become useful citizens? Working hours more favorable to families?

Baby boomers profited from favorable times, not the least of which was the opportunity to advance if one worked hard.