When I was in elementary school, a stack of newspapers used to appear in the classroom every Thursday afternoon. The publication was called American Scholastic. I hated those Thursdays as we were required to read and discuss several of the articles it contained. At 11 years of age, I couldn’t care less about the major export of Finland unless it was Hershey bars.
If I ever learned that country’s major export when I was in school, I’ve forgotten it now. But two articles, predictions really, did stick with me. The first promised “Dinner in 15 Minutes.” No more cooking from scratch, it announced. Moms across the country would be putting hot food on the table before a kid could wash his or her hands. As I was always hungry, I thought the idea was magic, but impossible.
The second article predicted that growth in automation would eliminate the tedium of the assembly line. The nation’s productivity would increase while the work week would be cut in half. The extra time would allow folks to go fishing or shopping or take up a craft because corporations would share the increased profits with the worker. The idea made sense and I never doubted it would come to pass.
Well, the frozen food industry did revolutionize the way America eats. Most of my dinners come in a tray, I admit. But the average work week hasn’t decreased as predicted though salaries have, factoring for inflation. Some new jobs have been created. But others have been lost. Take, for example what’s happened in the automobile industry. According to writer Derek Thompson, “The car industry has accounted for 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. economy’s growth in the last five years but only a 2 to 3 percent increase in jobs.” (“America’s jobless auto recovery,” by Derek Thompson, reprint from The Atlantic.com by The Week, 9/20/13 pg. 34) Profits gained from automation haven’t been redistributed either. They’ve been pooled at the top, creating an historic economic disparity between the worker and upper management.
The American Scholastic is still around, probably still carrying articles about Finland. Maybe if I read one, I’d discover what that grand little country does export. But I’d prefer to dust off the old article about workers sharing the wealth of this country. Why shouldn’t they? They helped create it.
(Courtesy of americancholastic.com)