Joe Sacco has a degree in film making. I asked him if he would turn down a job with a salary of $74,000, and he said that he would consider it, depending on the benefits package. He made it clear that his sign is totally serious. Note the high quality, expensive astroturf signs stacked in the background.
Many college grads voiced their grievances about the fact that they didn’t immediately get high paying jobs right out of school. Choosing fields of study that are not in high demand, or racking up debt rather than working and saving, were their choices. The consequences of getting a degree in art history or an advanced degree in basket weaving, like Stanley Ann Dunham, can be living on food stamps when one is unwilling to take a job below one’s qualifications. Boo Hoo.
Yadda yadda yadda. To whom is his sign addressed? The job fairy!
Now, when I look at these pictures, what I’m seeing is the complaint that these new grads can’t find the jobs that they want. Mr Sacco, the gentleman in the top picture, got his degree in film making, apparently without considering that there might not be all that many jobs available in his major. He wants $75,000 to work for somebody, and while El Marco might have been being a bit snarky when he asked Mr Sacco if he’d turn down a job offer of $74,000, what I would have asked him is whether he’d turn down a job paying $50,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the mean annual wage¹ for all occupations in the United States is $44,410. Mr Sacco is asking for a wage 68.9% higher than the national mean. Will he work for less, or is he too good for that?
The gentleman in the second picture, the one who looks like he stole Yassir Arafat’s hijab scarf to hide part of his face, stated with his sign that he’s $50 grand in student loan debt, and has zero prospects of getting a job. If his prospects truly are near zero, one ought to ask: in what did he major? If he had majored in electrical engineering or nursing or pharmacy, he’d probably be employed today. If he majored in English literature, yeah, I can see where it might be more difficult to find a job.
But the third picture ties it all together. The semi-masked sign holder wants to see Better Jobs 4 College Grads. While El Marco snarked about the “job fairy” providing such, I’d ask the question more seriously: just what better jobs does he believe ought to exist?
It seems to me that there is a very serious disconnect between the fleabaggers’ notions of what ought to exist and the types of jobs the economy can actually provide. Our economy runs on private businesses — including those wicked old corporations — producing sufficient goods and services to meet the reasonable economic demands of the public, reasonable meaning, in this case, the things for which the public can actually pay. Because we are productive and prosperous, we can provide more than basic subsistence, but can also provide luxury goods and services. We can provide a cinema, we can afford the arts, we can employ journalists and writers and musicians, all things which make life and society more pleasant, but things without which we could still survive.
But there must be a relationship between the number of luxury services provided and the capacity of the necessary production industry to pay for them. We have to have food and we have to have clothing and shelter and roads and automobiles and tools and heavy equipment, we need plumbers and electricians and HVAC technicians and carpenters and garbage collectors and even concrete producers in our industrialized economy. But the profit from providing the necessities can support only so many luxuries, and for many of our graduates I have to wonder if proper consideration was given to that economic relationship; how many of them considered majors and careers in the necessities?
Because reality bites, and the current reality is that a lot of people who used to (borrow and) spend more money on the luxury items have become much more concerned about keeping their jobs, and have cut back on luxury spending. Consumer price increases have outpaced wage growth, further restricting the amount available for luxury consumption, and the savings rate has increased significantly as well. People, faced with an economic downturn and uncertainty about keeping their jobs, responded responsibly, spending less on luxury items and putting away more money for future needs. And that is going to have an impact on new college graduates who have chosen careers in luxury fields.
The problem for the fleabaggers is that they just don’t seem to have any concept about economics. They hate those evil corporations, but four out of every five Americans who are employed are employed by private businesses, by corporations. It is private business which organizes our productive capacity and provides the structure and equipment to turn American labor into the goods and services we use, and for which we pay. They seem to not like the bosses and capitalists who take the risks and make good money for having done so — forgetting that many people tried and failed at business — because those people make more money than they do, and that’s just not fair! But if Mr Sacco expects someone to pay him two-thirds again the mean annual wage, he’s going to have to look to someone making much more than that to be able to hire him and pay him that 75 grand.
¹ – BLS defines the “mean annual wage” as “the estimated total annual wages of an occupation divided by its estimated employment, i.e., the average annual wage.” This is different from the median annual wage, which would be the point at which 50% of the population earned that or more, and 50% earned that or less.