Wednesday, March 23, 2005

did i strike the right set of chords

You know, you hear a lot of people talk about how lazy and stupid Americans are. You hear it from a lot of screaming Democrats who think the cause of stupidity or unemployment is a President who they didn't vote for. In all actuality, the nationwide unemployment rate has corrected itself within two percentage points over the past couple of decades, and according to the US Department of Labor, is exactly where it was 10 years ago, when a President you did vote for was in the White House. The latest release says that unemployment in the US as of February 2005 was 5.4%.
Many of these same angry Democrats talk about moving to the Great White North, where the unemployment rate is on the decline, but is still above 7%. I don't suppose that has anything to do with anything. Except that moving to Canada wouldn't be a better thing in terms of being able to find good work. The job market is slightly more tight.
That's not at all what I wanted to write about, though. I really wanted to write about the French people, but I suppose there is a connection here (albeit a weak one), with those damned Quebeçois. There was an article in the paper today about how France is abolishing its 35 hour work week. Got that? They used to have a national standard of 35 hours for a work week. Compulsory days off, extended holidays, and the like. According to the new outline, workers will be permitted to work as many as 48 hours in a single week. Evidently, this is the maximum allowable in the whole of the EU. In comparison to Koreans, who work an average of 2,390 hours per year, Frenchmen work an average of 1,431. Meanwhile, Americans are working 1,792 hours. Oddly enough, that American figure comes to 35 hours a week, but at least it isn't compulsory here. Seems the froggies were getting tired of a lagging economy and an unemployment rate of more than 10%. Lots of firms were putting new jobs in other countries where productivity (read : profits) would be higher. This move, of course raises the ire of the left leaning French, who perceive this as nothing more than a Capitalist way to exploit workers. It also angered the folks who had become accustomed to having a gravy work week. So the Socialists and the Lazy have been joining forces by marching, protesting, striking and whatnot.

I guess this post isn't very entertaining.

Now playing: Yo La Tengo -- I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One


doug said...

"You hear it from a lot of screaming Democrats who think the cause of stupidity or unemployment is a President who they didn't vote for."

No, not the cause of stupidity - just a symptom.

d-lee said...

I just realized that I might upset some people because I said "screaming Democrats" instead of Screaming Democrats ®. Sorry about that. Of course the zealots from the party whose guy is not in the White House are the most vocal at that time. I'm just talking about the same type of people who show up at a protest just because it's a protest. You know, the kind who Reid pointed out as wearing the "If you're not outraged you're not paying attention" badge. I'm not talking about normal folks.
Anyway, the whole point of that was that we have a low unemployment rate in this country, as we have for the last few decades. That and I just wanted to take a chance to take a potshot at the French, who don't like to work.
Whenever there's a Democrat in the White House, the Screaming Republicans® like to bitch about how irresponsible Americans are and pin that on the Prez. I'm sure if you check the stats on things like homelessness, unemployment, level of education, home ownership, etc, you'll find that the numbers vary only slightly over the years, regardless of who's in the White House. People just like to say "Well, I didn't vote for him" and blame their countries problems on the President.

Reid said...

Interestingly enough, I was just talking about the French strikes with a friend who just got back from there.

I think that the main problem is that all human beings have trouble giving up luxuries, regardless of the negative consequences of having those luxuries. The two examples that I can think of are 1) the dividend check in Alaska, where oil revenues are shared in the form of a yearly check to every Alaskan citizen, and in spite of the education system and a lot of public works desperately needing a good fixing, people don't want to give up their yearly checks for anything, and 2) when I worked at a startup in the dot com glory days, they gave us free soft drinks and snacks, and then when the company started losing money, one of the places they cut back was to charge us 25 cents for soft drinks. Man, you should have heard the uproar. No one cared that it was a sign that the company was starting to go under; they just didn't want to lose their free sodas. Bottom line: people don't like losing luxuries.

I will also say, though, that the standarized work week came about largely to prevent abuse at the hands of employers. And Americans statistically work more hours than the French, but there's PLENTY of American jobs going overseas as well.

The President doesn't have as much power over the economy as everyone of every political persuasion wants to believe. Repubs still believe that a Democrat in the White House will mean instant poverty in spite of the fact that we had a Democrat president during the best economy in the nation's history. So it's not really a big deal.

The problem with Bush...that's another issue entirely.

Scott said...

There's an old joke about how French workers are the most productive in the world....*when* they're actually working. In addition to the 35 hr work week, large parts of the workforce there also take vacation during the entire month of August.

It's interesting that their 35 hr work week was created in order to lower unemployment...the idea being that firms have a set amount of work that needs to be done, so if they can't get as much work out of someone in a given week, they'll have to hire additional people. Didn't work out too well though, since it cost less to lower production than to hire additional employees. Also, unless they lower wages, certain jobs are always going to go abroad. There are already cases of jobs in India being outsourced to China. China will eventually lose jobs to Africa. Africa will lose jobs to West Virginia. And so on.

Reid hit it right on the head though: people don't like to give up their luxuries, no matter how large or small. Look at the AARP ads about social security.

Personally, I hate having to pay state income tax, after living in Florida where there wasn't any.