From The Ramparts
Junious Ricardo Stanton
The Past As Teacher
“If firms in the private sector cannot use or refuse to hire low-skilled adults who are willing to take minimum-wage or sub-minimum wage jobs then the jobs problem for inner-city workers cannot be adequately addressed without considering a policy of public-sector employment of last resort. Indeed until current changes in the labor market are reversed or until the skills of the next generation can be upgraded before it enters the labor market, many workers, especially those who are not in the official labor force, will not be able to find jobs unless the government becomes an employer of last resort.” When Work Disappears The World of the New Urban Poor William Julius Wilson page 115
Several years ago I purchased a book by William Julius Wilson a black sociologist entitled When Work Disappears The World of the New Urban Poor who studied the flight of jobs from large cities to the suburbs and how this situation impacted the lives of the black folks who remained in the city. The book was published in 1996 but the conditions it addressees are timely and germaine to today’s economic situation.. While reading the book I thought to myself, “This was a prelude to what is happening to the whole US because jobs are being shipped overseas and US manufacturing is vanishing”. Africans in AmeriKKKa living in large cities were like canaries in the old coal mines. We are the harbingers of the quality of the air and dangerous conditions deep in the mines. In the late sixties and early seventies when the factory jobs moved to the suburbs or were eliminated altogether; black folks experienced a rise in unemployment consignment to a permanent underclass. Last hired and first fired meant a rise in joblessness. If folks didn’t have cars or public transportation wasn’t available to get them to the new suburban industrial parks, blacks didn’t have access to the relocated jobs.
Economists watched as the shipyards in Camden New Jersey and Chester Pa. closed. They kept track of what happened to us when the mills and factories around the country closed. They chronicled how these economic downturns impacted the people. Wilson’s book takes a sympathetic sociological look at how joblessness impacted black attitudes and relationships.
We are in the most dire economic situation since the Great Depression. The same entities and forces that created the 1929 Stock market crash and the Great Depression are at work today: the Federal Reserve Bank, Wall Street bankers, the major brokerage houses, the mass media and the government. Market manipulation, fraud, greed and corruption on Wall Street led to the crash of ‘29. They may not have had Hedge Funds back then, but they did have entities called Syndicates and Pools that did the same thing the Hedge Funds are doing today only with a lot less money. Do some research into the 1932 Pecora Commission and how its findings led to major changes on Wall Street, how it instituted regulation to separate the banks and brokerage houses and the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission supposedly to watch over Wall Street and the stock market.
The current financial collapse is a virtual replay of 1929. The depression was not the result of the 1929 Stock Market crash. The crash was a factor, but the protracted depression was due to the policies of the Federal Reserve Bank, the contraction of the money supply and withholding of credit. The Fed policies prevented business from expanding even though the raw materials, technology and labor were readily available. What was lacking was available capital from the banks. In a capitalist system lack of capital is the death knell. Unlike the ‘30's depression, when factories were shut down because of a lack of available capital and credit, today’s situation is exacerbated by a lack of manufacturing altogether. US Manufacturing is going the way of the dinosaur. If the Detroit auto industry goes belly up, and even with a government bailout the prospects of that happening are probable, it’s all over. Even with US government bailout of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler if there is no money (credit) available for people to buy their cars there is no business.
Industrial mobilization for WWII got the US out of the depression. The US promoted the purchase of US Bonds and personal savings. War profiteering, the devastation of the allies and the destruction of the Axis powers left the US all alone on the top of the hill once the war was over. The US was able to lend money, technology and materials to its allies and its former enemies. But today, the US is a crumbling debtor nation. The US government is insolvent. Personal savings are at negative levels. Most of us have no significant savings. Much of the so called prosperity we have “experienced” since 2001 was debt based. Our liabilities are greater than our assets; especially as home prices are falling precipitously. Our wealth is a shallow illusion that is unraveling as we speak.
Every day the economic news worsens. What can we do? We don’t control the stock market, the banks or the government? Nevertheless, we not helpless or hopeless. We can become more resourceful and self-reliant. We have to get back to basics: trusting one another, helping each other, coming together as a community. We can barter services and talents amongst ourselves. We can learn to grow our own food using non-genetically altered seeds and foods in urban community gardens, in our back yards and on farms. We can form savings and investment clubs to capitalize businesses in our community. Most importantly we must support our own. We are in for some rough times but don’t despair. We are a resilient and resourceful people. Our ancestors experienced and endured a whole lot worse. How we transcend the crisis is limited only by our imagination and our willingness to come together to thrive amidst negativity and adversity. We have a long history of doing this in this country.