Saturday, December 20, 2014

Attacks on human workforce


I have a few follow-up comments to state Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, after her remarks at the March 1 legislative coffee in Ottawa.

First, with respect to legislation to slow or stop corporations from buying farmland in Kansas and to help family-owned farms to continue to exist, good luck. Though a laudable goal, it is slightly behind the curve as prices for farmland in various parts of the state already are exceeding the price most farmers can pay — $5,000 per acre. This is resulting from hedge funds, investment clubs, and wealthy individuals with not that many real good investment opportunities available to them, diversifying into farmland, water rights and potential oil/gas properties. As far as keeping corporations out, any one individual could very easily partner with a corporation to be the face and name on a land purchase with the money to buy coming from Seaboard, Tyson or even Chiquita. So, good luck controlling anything except the explicit use of corporate money in the purchase of Kansas farmland.

With respect to the Affordable Care Act/ Obamacare/Romneycare being the root of all future evil with respect to small businesses, including pushing employees from full-time to part-time, well ... 

• Walmart has, for years, been pioneering how to press their first-tier employees into only part-time positions. The result? Walmart has successfully made many of its employees dependent on emergency room medical care, food stamps for daily living, and what little they could get from Social Security for pensions. This would seem to make Walmart one of the biggest corporations in the U.S. dependent on hand outs from local, state and federal tax dollars. Without all those government handouts, who would have worked for Walmart? Would Walmart have gotten as big as it has? Is there any karmic justice that Walmart’s fourth quarter 2013 profits fell as a result of the cut in federal food stamps?

• Walmart guided one business after another into moving its manufacturing operations to plants in China or some other Second or Third World country, where the employees have only an expectation of making enough money to make it through the day, maybe the week or month. How else can the company meet the demands of “Always Low Prices”? Boeing, following suit, now is pressing one of the best design and manufacturing work forces in the world to accept less and less for their services. Hey, wasn’t it Boeing that promised to build part of the U.S. military tanker plane in Kansas if our U.S. senators and representatives would throw their weight behind them getting the contract? But wait, didn’t Boeing decide to build it elsewhere after they got the job? Isn’t Boeing having issues with its Dreamliner?

• Sen. Tyson, you, as a person in the world of computer technology/software development, must be aware, too, of the fact a successful business-to-business software program reduces costs — primarily by removing the human element from the mix. That means we get to reduce the number of real people involved, not paying living wages, not paying for health costs, not paying for retirements. Replacing with a machine only demands a cool environment and electricity, then when they break down they are replaced immediately. Hence, fewer human workers. So, as a successful software developer, how many jobs can you claim to have eliminated?

Add these points together to equal the reality that America’s human workers are under assault from many fronts, sometimes somewhat deservedly so. To stay employed, American workers increasingly have to be highly educated, experienced, multi-talented in performing thought-related tasks — tasks that cannot be replaced immediately, more safely, and more cheaply by a machine. Yes, a few people will be missing these traits and will still succeed.

With respect to mom-and-pop retailers, they have been and are competing with Walmart, Amazon, Google, and all the companies that have found and are finding ways to reduce the human element. Look at any Main Street in Kansas to see how these small businesses are fairing. Mom-and-pop cafes and restaurants might actually want to try to pay their employees a living wage, but they have to compete against big chains relying on government handouts to offset their employees’ wages. Maybe what we need is a “human tax” on all products, not unlike the proposed carbon tax, that would be implemented to raise the cost of production and sale to cover our human costs?

So, looping back to the issue of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare/Romneycare, where does it really rank with respect to all the other factors affecting the middle class?

— John Holland, Ottawa

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