Sunday, March 12, 2023

To avoid slouching towards Gilead, it's time for liberals to connect the dots

When it comes to job creation, we got another good jobs report this week. Those who insist that a recession is looming continue to scratch their heads wondering what the heck is going on with this economy. So let's take a look at some headlines and see if we can connect the dots.

Chip makers feel labor market squeeze

The teacher shortage is real, large and growing, and worse than we thought

The State of the Nation’s Nursing Shortage


Whenever one of these pop up, we see politicized finger-pointing at how the opposition is to blame. For example, right wingers claim that the BLM protests caused the law enforcement labor shortage while liberals blame the teacher shortage on the right wing attacks leveled at public education. There might be some truth to those claims in individual situations. But it is imperative that we all look at the big picture: we have a shortage of labor. 

While it is true that things like early retirements and a pandemic have had an impact, the fact is that we've been heading in this direction for awhile. Six months before we had ever heard of COVID,  Alexia Fern├índez Campbell wrote this:
The US economy doesn’t have enough workers.

For a record 16 straight months, the number of open jobs has been higher than the number of people looking for work. The US economy had 7.4 million job openings in June, but only 6 million people were looking for work, according to data released by the US Department of Labor.

This is not normal. Ever since Labor began tracking job turnover two decades ago, there have always been more people looking for work than jobs available. That changed for the first time in January 2018.

Ten years ago Ezra Klein noted that "the ratio of working Americans to retirees will fall from 5-to-1 today to 3-to-1 in 2050." Fewer workers and more retirees spells trouble.

But there are several reasons why it is critical to connect these dots. For starters, it has sparked a natalist movement on the far right. 

A bill introduced in the Texas legislature would give tax breaks to heterosexual couples who have lots of children. J.D. Vance has also proposed tax breaks to families with multiple children while lambasting the “childless left” who have no “physical commitment to the future of this country."

These folks aren't just against abortion and contraception. They literally want women barefoot and pregnant. Anyone who has read "The Handmaid's Tale" knows that this is how things started in Gilead.

Just as ominous is the fact that natalism begins to build a case for "replacement theory," which is a dangerous melding of xenophobia and misogyny.

An extension of colonialist theory, [replacement theory] is predicated on the notion that white women are not having enough children and that falling birthrates will lead to white people around the world being replaced by nonwhite people.

And like so many fundamentalist ideologies, the foundation of this one requires the subjugation of women.

Of course, one easy fix for the labor shortage is to reform our immigration system. But while right wingers are busy with their xenophobic and sexist proposals, too many of us in the real world are simply ignoring what's going on. It's time for us to wake up if we want to move this country FORWARD instead of slinking backwards towards Gilead. 

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