TALE OF THE DISAPPEARING JOBS

By Jim Jordal

It’s a twisted tale, folks! How can anyone say jobs are disappearing when reports show hundreds of thousands of new jobs created every month and middle class incomes rising? But it’s all smoke and mirrors as scenarios use “alternative truths,” (the newly-created euphemism for outright lies) to confuse and disguise the truth that things are not as good as they say.

One problem arises from the ever-changing definition of just what a job is. A generation ago a job usually meant 40 hours per week, overtime pay, medical benefits, retirement programs, union protection, wages and hours legislation, a personal relationship between employers and employees, and a government friendly toward labor. Today things have changed a bit, as most new jobs are part-time in the service sector, have few or no benefits, pay measly wages that have essentially stagnated since Reagan’s day, and are often of a contracted nature, meaning no protection against unemployment and no benefits. Government speaks in favor of labor, but acts otherwise as it allows continuous erosion of the age-old source of working class family welfare---a good, steady job.

Labor in general explains this as a negative result of corporate off-shoring of jobs to take advantage of lower wage rates in other countries. Yes, offshoring did have something to do with job loss, especially over a generation ago, but since the 1990s a new culprit has surfaced---automation, or use of machines to replace labor.

Every new week seems to usher in a new technology designed to increase corporate profits by increasing productive efficiency. Recently it was computer-guided trucks and robotic bank tellers. Each advance is predicted to cut several million jobs. The business justification for such heavy job loss is, “Yes, but designing and building the machine will also create even more high wage jobs, and besides, it’s just the free market at work.” But of course they don’t reveal that the jobs lost were mostly those almost anyone could be trained to do, while those added require college or more. So several million potential workers will likely discover that their skills and training are insufficient for the new positions.

What is being steadfastly ignored by the captains of industry is that even as jobs disappear worker productivity rapidly rises. Productivity is the measure of how efficient an operation in in terms of how much value an hour of work adds to the product. With added automation and use of labor-saving robots, value added per hour of human work is vastly increased. So you might think that labor should at least share in the value added. But no, it doesn’t work that way since the lion’s share of the value of increased productivity goes to the owners of capital, not to laborers. So the already-rich get richer as the poor suffer from the inability or unwillingness of the holders of capital to share in the fruits of production.

What’s happening is that the 6,000 year-old Adamic curse of heavy toil is being lifted, but we in our technological world don’t know how to handle what really is a great blessing. As you may remember, God cursed the earth because of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden with the far-reaching pronouncement that from now on the earth would with reluctance bring forth what humans needed. He added that this curse was for Adam’s sake, since with his new-found knowledge of good and evil he would quickly fall into grievous and destructive sin without the “salvation” of hard work.

 The industrialized and technologically-advanced nations of the earth need to rapidly and surely bring forth a new idea: that labor should share equitably in the purchasing power earned by their effort, even, and especially when, that productivity is supplemented by machines.

God has a way for this to happen, but of course we’ll resist the wealth redistributing principles of biblical Jubilee until we have no other choice. It’s for-ordained by God, so watch while the drama plays out. More later.

TALE OF THE DISAPPEARING JOBS

By Jim Jordal

It’s a twisted tale, folks! How can anyone say jobs are disappearing when reports show hundreds of thousands of new jobs created every month and middle class incomes rising? But it’s all smoke and mirrors as scenarios use “alternative truths,” (the newly-created euphemism for outright lies) to confuse and disguise the truth that things are not as good as they say.

One problem arises from the ever-changing definition of just what a job is. A generation ago a job usually meant 40 hours per week, overtime pay, medical benefits, retirement programs, union protection, wages and hours legislation, a personal relationship between employers and employees, and a government friendly toward labor. Today things have changed a bit, as most new jobs are part-time in the service sector, have few or no benefits, pay measly wages that have essentially stagnated since Reagan’s day, and are often of a contracted nature, meaning no protection against unemployment and no benefits. Government speaks in favor of labor, but acts otherwise as it allows continuous erosion of the age-old source of working class family welfare---a good, steady job.

Labor in general explains this as a negative result of corporate off-shoring of jobs to take advantage of lower wage rates in other countries. Yes, offshoring did have something to do with job loss, especially over a generation ago, but since the 1990s a new culprit has surfaced---automation, or use of machines to replace labor.

Every new week seems to usher in a new technology designed to increase corporate profits by increasing productive efficiency. Recently it was computer-guided trucks and robotic bank tellers. Each advance is predicted to cut several million jobs. The business justification for such heavy job loss is, “Yes, but designing and building the machine will also create even more high wage jobs, and besides, it’s just the free market at work.” But of course they don’t reveal that the jobs lost were mostly those almost anyone could be trained to do, while those added require college or more. So several million potential workers will likely discover that their skills and training are insufficient for the new positions.

What is being steadfastly ignored by the captains of industry is that even as jobs disappear worker productivity rapidly rises. Productivity is the measure of how efficient an operation in in terms of how much value an hour of work adds to the product. With added automation and use of labor-saving robots, value added per hour of human work is vastly increased. So you might think that labor should at least share in the value added. But no, it doesn’t work that way since the lion’s share of the value of increased productivity goes to the owners of capital, not to laborers. So the already-rich get richer as the poor suffer from the inability or unwillingness of the holders of capital to share in the fruits of production.

What’s happening is that the 6,000 year-old Adamic curse of heavy toil is being lifted, but we in our technological world don’t know how to handle what really is a great blessing. As you may remember, God cursed the earth because of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden with the far-reaching pronouncement that from now on the earth would with reluctance bring forth what humans needed. He added that this curse was for Adam’s sake, since with his new-found knowledge of good and evil he would quickly fall into grievous and destructive sin without the “salvation” of hard work.

 The industrialized and technologically-advanced nations of the earth need to rapidly and surely bring forth a new idea: that labor should share equitably in the purchasing power earned by their effort, even, and especially when, that productivity is supplemented by machines.

God has a way for this to happen, but of course we’ll resist the wealth redistributing principles of biblical Jubilee until we have no other choice. It’s for-ordained by God, so watch while the drama plays out. More later.

WHEN GOD’S LAW IS SMOTHERED BY GRACE

By Jim Jordal

“I have written unto him the great things of my law, but they were considered a vain thing.”                                                                                            Hosea 8:12 NKJV

This Bible verse is troubling because it details the sad portrayal of a nation that once possessed the great things of God’s law, but allowed them by disuse to sink into triviality and meaninglessness. Hosea’s message, as he spoke for God, was to the tribe of Ephraim, one of the larger tribes of Israel.

Arguably, the United States is the only nation in history to be founded upon principles of freedom, morality and justice. The Founders believed these principles came from God, and they had their Bibles with them when they reached the New World. Believing they had founded the New Order of the Ages, they immediately undertook to create a new nation under law and dedicated to the proposition that righteousness and justice were vital in nation-building.

As we know, the episodes and moral teaching of the Old Testament are intended to provide examples and instruction for later Christians, including those living today. We are spiritual, if not racial, descendants of these same people, so we benefit or suffer in direct response to what we do with God’s law.

Moses in Deuteronomy 4 puts it this way: “this [the law] is your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people….And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day.’ “

Projecting forward some 34 hundred years from 1451 B.C. when Moses wrote these words, we see the same moral and ethical principles surviving today with little change in the principles of English Common Law and the U.S. Constitution. But now we see these ethical principles and precepts threatened by recent Supreme Court decisions and public policies aimed at favoring the top few percent of our people against the remaining masses. This is not the righteousness and justice envisioned by the prophets, nor is it what the Founding Fathers thought they were creating.

In the process of dating biblical episodes scholars have evidently decided that the much-venerated Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God at the same time (1451 B.C.) as the provisions of biblical Jubilee (Lev. 25) that we have virtually left in the dust of history. One can’t help but wonder why both gained inclusion in our versions of the Bible, but one is enshrined in religious and political culture while the other is generally ignored.

My thought is that it had something to do with God’s inerrant timing of events in human history. The Ten Commandments were necessary for the new nation of Israel to survive over the first years after entering the Promised Land, since they dealt with interpersonal relationships and God-consciousness vital to public order and progress toward institution-building. Jubilee could come later after the new government was firmly established.

Is it now time for Jubilee justice administered by Jesus Christ to reign over the earth? I think if you ponder the disastrous news breaking every day, you’ll begin to think so. But have we had enough economic, political, social, and ecological shock so that we’ll finally turn to God? Not quite yet, it seems!

So where is grace and the church in all this? Grace does not substitute for law; it fulfils it. The “great things of my law” concerning justice and righteousness (right relationships) still remain, but due to our misapplication of grace they have largely been forgotten. What has changed is not the law, but the reason why we honor and obey it: We now obey, not from fear of punishment, but from the love we offer to God for his magnanimous gift of life in Christ.   Only the ceremonial and sacrificial law was abrogated by the death of Christ. The remainder, like Jubilee, remains, awaiting the time for unveiling upon the earth. As Isaiah said, then the “trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

TALE OF THE DISAPPEARING JOBS

By Jim Jordal

It’s a twisted tale, folks! How can anyone say jobs are disappearing when reports show hundreds of thousands of new jobs created every month and middle class incomes rising? But it’s all smoke and mirrors as scenarios use “alternative truths,” (the newly-created euphemism for outright lies) to confuse and disguise the truth that things are not as good as they say.

One problem arises from the ever-changing definition of just what a job is. A generation ago a job usually meant 40 hours per week, overtime pay, medical benefits, retirement programs, union protection, wages and hours legislation, a personal relationship between employers and employees, and a government friendly toward labor. Today things have changed a bit, as most new jobs are part-time in the service sector, have few or no benefits, pay measly wages that have essentially stagnated since Reagan’s day, and are often of a contracted nature, meaning no protection against unemployment and no benefits. Government speaks in favor of labor, but acts otherwise as it allows continuous erosion of the age-old source of working class family welfare---a good, steady job.

Labor in general explains this as a negative result of corporate off-shoring of jobs to take advantage of lower wage rates in other countries. Yes, offshoring did have something to do with job loss, especially over a generation ago, but since the 1990s a new culprit has surfaced---automation, or use of machines to replace labor.

Every new week seems to usher in a new technology designed to increase corporate profits by increasing productive efficiency. Recently it was computer-guided trucks and robotic bank tellers. Each advance is predicted to cut several million jobs. The business justification for such heavy job loss is, “Yes, but designing and building the machine will also create even more high wage jobs, and besides, it’s just the free market at work.” But of course they don’t reveal that the jobs lost were mostly those almost anyone could be trained to do, while those added require college or more. So several million potential workers will likely discover that their skills and training are insufficient for the new positions.

What is being steadfastly ignored by the captains of industry is that even as jobs disappear worker productivity rapidly rises. Productivity is the measure of how efficient an operation in in terms of how much value an hour of work adds to the product. With added automation and use of labor-saving robots, value added per hour of human work is vastly increased. So you might think that labor should at least share in the value added. But no, it doesn’t work that way since the lion’s share of the value of increased productivity goes to the owners of capital, not to laborers. So the already-rich get richer as the poor suffer from the inability or unwillingness of the holders of capital to share in the fruits of production.

What’s happening is that the 6,000 year-old Adamic curse of heavy toil is being lifted, but we in our technological world don’t know how to handle what really is a great blessing. As you may remember, God cursed the earth because of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden with the far-reaching pronouncement that from now on the earth would with reluctance bring forth what humans needed. He added that this curse was for Adam’s sake, since with his new-found knowledge of good and evil he would quickly fall into grievous and destructive sin without the “salvation” of hard work.

 The industrialized and technologically-advanced nations of the earth need to rapidly and surely bring forth a new idea: that labor should share equitably in the purchasing power earned by their effort, even, and especially when, that productivity is supplemented by machines.

God has a way for this to happen, but of course we’ll resist the wealth redistributing principles of biblical Jubilee until we have no other choice. It’s for-ordained by God, so watch while the drama plays out. More later.

SHOULD ALL AMERICANS SHARE IN THE NATION'S WEALTH?

By Jim Jordal

The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me….If one of your brethren becomes poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his redeeming relative comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold. Or if the man has no one to redeem it, but he himself becomes able to redeem it, then let him count the years since its sale, and restore the remainder to the man to whom he sold it, that he may return to his possession. But if he is not able to have it restored to himself, then what was sold shall remain in the hand of him who bought it until the Year of Jubilee; and in the Jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his possession.

Leviticus 25:23-28 (NKJV)

Last week we discussed the recent book by libertarian researcher and writer Charles Murray in which he proposes a Guaranteed Annual Income of $10,000 to every American citizen over the age of 21 and not in jail. What Murray proposes is actually quite close to what the Hebrew Year of Jubilee proposed some 3,000 years ago.

Jubilee and its requirements signified nothing less than God's provision for the deliverance of Israel from hunger, poverty, ecological despoliation, landlessness (lack of access to productive resources), debt, usury, homelessness, and slavery, including that of waged workers. As the Bible passage above indicates, the land belonged to God, and could therefore not be permanently sold. Since most Hebrews of that time were farmers or herders, land was the essential productive resource; without it, a family would likely be doomed to debt, poverty, indentured servanthood, and possibly other forms of social and economic oppression.

Because possession of productive land was necessary for family and even national security, God mandated a law of redemption under which either the debtor or a relative could redeem land sold for debt. And even if the now-landless debtor or his relatives could not redeem the land, it still returned to his possession at the 50th Year of Jubilee. Thus permanent estrangement from productive resources was prevented in Israel. Every family had access to enough of the God-given productive resources to earn sustenance for themselves and to avoid any permanent state of poverty or destitution.

Today, modern urban society would have great difficulty implementing such a proposal. But there is a viable alternative--the Guaranteed Annual Income. In this manner all Americans could share fairly, but not necessarily equally, in the nation's wealth. There would still be differential rewards for innovation, risk-taking, and diligence; but the entire economic pie would not go to people with sufficient power to claim it. Everyone would have at least an equitable share sufficient to ensure a decent living standard and opportunity to gain further wealth should they so choose.

Jubilee laws relating to redemption dealt mainly with land, since back then land was the major productive resource. But today we must ask other questions: What of minerals and substances lying under the land? What of water flowing through the land? Who owns these things? Who gets to develop these resources? What rewards accrue to owners or developers?

It seems obvious that if the land belongs to God, then so does the planet and all its resources--air, water, minerals, and even the now-coveted oil and natural gas. If the principle of the land being distributed fairly to the people so they can earn their sustenance is just; then so should justice today require that the blessings of nature be distributed and used for the benefit of all people.

But now we run head on into the entrenched capitalistic view that private property belongs exclusively to those who own it, and that resources become the property of those discovering and developing them. This view is in direct contradiction to what God ordained at Jubilee. But how could a modern industrial society with a complicated economic structure ever accomplish any useful redistribution of private property and natural resources?

Perhaps it can't be done through widely disseminated personal ownership, but it can be done through taxation of those allowed to own and able to develop resources, and a distribution of the resulting public funds in the form of a national dividend payable to all citizens. So the principle holds true, although the strategies for implementation may change. That's one of the beauties of God's law, if we only could drop our traditions and rigidities long enough to see it.