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Let Them Eat Cake

Around 1789, Marie-Antoinette, bride of France’s King Louis XVI, is believed to have said “let them eat cake,” when she was told that her French subjects had no bread to eat.   Soon after, the French Revolution felled the Monarchy and Marie-Antoinette literally lost her head.

I doubt a revolution is in our future, but our national government today is top heavy with people, mostly men, who are as far from understanding the needs of the vast majority of Americans as the French Monarchy was in 1789. 

The Trump Cabinet (not to mention Trump himself) is filled with billionaires and multi-billionaires.  A few are lowly multi millionaires.  But, as the New York Times has discovered, the vast majority of White House staff are themselves multi-millionaires.  In fact, politicians in and out of Congress and on both sides of the aisle, are far more wealthy than most realize.  Before Trump, and the emergence of the billionaire class in the executive branch, politicians have found increasing opportunities to fill their pockets, to become millionaires and more, while doing the people’s business.

But 7 in 10 Americans don’t have a $1,000 in savings.  One half of one percent of our citizenry have 10 million or more dollars in savings, and many senior members of our government have resources that place them in the tiniest imaginable percentage of citizens.

America is now, more than ever before, in the hands of an extremely wealthy elite.  The irony, of course, is that Trump and Republicans came to power because America’s working class rejected Hillary Clinton (and her husband) primarily because they felt she and Bill had hugely enriched themselves as a result of and during their roles in politics. 

But, today – irony or not, those in power are furthest away than ever before from understanding the needs of most Americans.  The replacement health care bill that went down just a bit ago is a case in point.  But, that bill is just the beginning or a period ahead when the most wealthy are going to try to serve the population at large.

Given that history has shown time and time again that it is virtually impossible for most people of enormous wealth to understand and serve those with infinitely less, there is little reason to expect much from the men now in power.  In fact, I would not be surprised to hear “let them eat cake” in today’s corridors of power. 

Eating Alone with A Woman!

The New York Times has discovered that Vice President Pence will not eat alone with any woman other than his wife!

And, he is Vice President of the United States!

And, it’s 2017 in America!

And, last I looked, the vast majority of women, by choice, do not spend most if not all of their time in the kitchen and at home.

And, last I looked too, women are at least equal if not superior to men in every human endeavor.

So, what on earth is he afraid of?  Does he worry that a woman might accost him over lunch?  Or he her? 

What internal daemons is he fighting?

Does this mean that Pence could not have lunch alone, or, heavens forgive, dinner with a senior woman in the Trump Administration or the Congress?

I am not sure how many decades one needs to go back to place this behavior, or which extreme religious sects one has to identify, but this is surely not universally accepted and expected, 21st Century American behavior.  It is, in fact, amazingly sexist and sends a terrible message to young and older women throughout the country – the Vice President of the United States will not eat alone with a person of the opposite sex.

It just blows the mind and is one more indication of the striking and abnormal behavior of yet another senior member of the new Administration.

Whistling In the Dark

There is much talk about the return to the manufacturing world of the twentieth century.  Lots of promises being made to out-of-work people that old plants will come to life again and new, greatly increased numbers of manufacturing jobs will be the hallmark of America in the first quarter of the 21st Century.

America may become more of an island again, buying less from abroad and producing more goods at home.  America may see a renaissance of “Made in America” products.  But, it is far less certain, even in the most rosy of scenarios, that we will see much if any net gain in blue collar (or even white collar) jobs as a result. 

All one has to do is look at manufacturing today in the U.S. and abroad.  Robotics has transformed manufacturing in industrial countries.  The result of this, of course, has been a net reduction in numbers of jobs for humans.  And, as robots become ever more omnipresent and ever more sophisticated, jobs for humans will become ever more scarce and require ever greater skill levels. 

In an article in the New York Times of March 29, 2017, a study by economists at Boston University and MIT found significant evidence of the negative effects of robots on jobs in manufacturing in America.  The article noted that data clearly show that robots are to blame for hundreds of thousands of lost manufacturing jobs over the last decade or so and that the number of industrial robots will increase many fold again in short order. 

It is clear that automation is here to stay and ever more an essential and central factor in manufacturing in this country and abroad.  To assume, as politicians may suggest, that manufacturing jobs will increase by bringing them “home” is as naïve as to assume that robotics is just an academic pursuit and that Robots will not continue their inexorable takeover of almost every element of manufacturing in the developed world, whether in the United States or wherever.  Robots are well rooted now and humans have already lost the race for American jobs.  Very simply, there will be increasingly fewer and fewer skilled and unskilled manufacturing workers as this decade advances no matter how many more plants in America expand or are opened.