That shining beacon on a hill…it’s a Wal-Mart sign, dummy

The mother of a friend of mine was laid off a while ago. She’s in her late 50s and so is taking some re-training classes to make herself more “marketable.” Still, she’s college-educated and has computer skills. And she worked for years in an industry where you have to have brains. So we figured it wouldn’t be too hard to get her back into the productive segment of society. Maybe she’d have to settle for a little less money, but she’d always had a good position and felt secure she could get another.

So what was one of the jobs they told her she should train for? Wal-Mart greeter! Seriously, I didn’t know you had to train for that. I mean, what do you have to know to stand at a door and say hello?

But what’s more interesting is that years ago, back in the 70s when we had our last really bad downturn, the same scenario happened: people were laid off and many went to retrain. They retrained as things like tool and die makers so they could get high-paying jobs at places like Ford and GM. Now they do that stuff in India and Mexico. Here in America we are training our workforce for Wal-Mart. Fucking Wal-Mart.

And it’s no wonder. Thirty-five years ago, GM was the largest employer in the United States, with an average hourly wage, adjusted for the present, of $39. Today Wal-Mart occupies this position, with an average hourly wage of $8.70. Incidentally, last time I heard, the average hourly wage for autoworkers in Germany was about …$39.

How many comparisons between the U.S. of now and the U.S. of just one generation ago, or the U.S. of now and other industrialized countries of now, do we need before we realize just how dead in the water we are?

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