EDINBURGH — Here’s one sign the global elite is starting to get worried that capitalism isn’t working for the Western middle class. At the TED Global gathering in Scotland’s elegant capital city this week, much of the spotlight was on what’s going wrong with the 21st-century economy.Eye Opener for the Elite on Inequality Christia Freedland, The New York Times
That matters because the TED conferences (TED stands for technology, entertainment and design, and is a not-for-profit global conference organization) are one of the obligatory stops on the itinerary of any self-regarding plutocrat, and in the past that constituency has often preferred its vision of the economic future served sunny-side up.
The gloom started with former Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece. In a remarkably candid and introspective talk, Mr. Papandreou offered a mea culpa for his own mistakes and those of the European political elite. He admitted that hardship had been imposed on people who were “in the main, not to blame for the crisis” and accused the European establishment of uncritically, and at great cost, clinging to “the orthodoxy of austerity.”
Small Greece, he argued, had been made the scapegoat for a larger political and economic failure. As Mr. Papandreou mockingly put it, Europe chose to point the finger at “those profligate, idle, ouzo-swilling, Zorba-dancing Greeks.” Instead of addressing the harder, underlying issues, the impulse was to say: “They are the problem! Punish them!”
Mr. Papandreou is a son of privilege — both his father and grandfather were prime ministers of Greece — but, in a sign of the times, he inveighed against “plutocrats hiding their assets in tax havens” and “powerful lobbies protecting the powerful few.” His comments made an impact partly because he was so open in declaring his own shortcomings. Nor did he shy away from how angry a lot of people are about them.
“It’s no wonder many political leaders, and I don’t exclude myself, have lost the trust of our people,” Mr. Papandreou said, in the most affecting passage of his talk. “When riot police have to protect parliaments, a scene that is increasingly common around the world, there is something wrong with our democracies.”
And this remarkable statement by one of the governors of the Federal Reserve (!!!), Sarah Bloom Raskin (three names – definitely upper class) was posted on The Big Picture:
I became interested in this question of quality somewhat by accident. I did something atypical one day. I decided on my way into work I would stop at a jobs fair. There was a jobs fair at a local community college close to my home and I thought, I’m going to, you know, instead of pounding through all this heavy data that we typically look at at the board of governors, let me just go into this job fair. It turned out to be a really interesting morning, I have to say.
I should preface this by saying – purely anecdotal here, this is not something that is going to count as hard science or pass much muster in terms of statistical significant. But it was really interesting to me.
I went in and I have to say the kinds of jobs that were being offered surprised me. There were a number of restaurant jobs, some jobs from the military. There was one job from a community bank. Then there were a slew of jobs from, of all places, swimming pool companies. I thought that was kind of interesting. When I inquired about what these jobs were, they were lifeguard jobs, which I thought also was quite telling because back in the day to be a lifeguard I didn’t think quite required an advanced degree. These were the kinds of jobs we got in high school summers, I thought.
I was about to leave when I did see a sign that actually said IT jobs. So I thought, ‘here we go, here is going to be something pretty significant.’
So I went up to the person behind the both and they said, ‘we’ve got two kinds of IT jobs here: we’ve got armed security jobs, and we’ve got cyber security.’
So I thought, well, I’m probably not the armed security type, so tell me about the cyber security jobs.
This is how you go about getting it. You take your resume and you put it into a database. And this firm essentially collects resumes and then they kind of troll for government contracts. And when they find a government contract that might use your resume then they call you. Then you might actually get a job.
‘So what I need to do is put in my resume and then I’ll be able to get this job?’ And she said ‘yes.’
And I said: ‘while I’m waiting can I go to some other firms and throw my resume into their databases as well?’Job Fair Shocks Fed Governor Raskin. Imagine some of the elites, you know, actually venturing out among the hoi polloi to see what their lives are like instead of reading The Wall Street Journal and watching MSNBC! Surely no good can come of it.
And she said ‘oh no, you can’t do that, because you’re going to sign a letter of intent.’ And that letter of intent is basically an exclusivity agreement that says that by putting your resume in here you agree to not put your resume anywhere else.
I said ‘well, gosh, that’s going to be kind of rough. But tell me: what are the percentage chances that I’ll get a job?’
‘You know, we’re doing pretty well. Maybe a 25 percent chance.’
‘How do these jobs pay?’
‘They pay by the hour.’
‘Do they pay benefits?’
‘No benefits, it’s a straight hourly job. And it’s temporary so it’s going to be until the government contract is completed.’
This was really eye-opening for me.