Friday, June 4, 2010

Welcome To the Chicago Service Economy

This past week I ran into a very interesting high fashion designer. A 3rd generation sansei, Japanese American, she graduated from New York's Fashion Institute of Technology and spent years in the realm of Manhattan high powered fashion design.

She commented that not long ago, the preponderance of American high fashion creations were actually produced in New York's garment distict. Today she lamented, the percentage actually manufactured in the USA hovers around 3%.

This made me recall an incident which occured a few years back. While dog walking in East Rogers Park, I ran into a twenty-something black guy. He was living under bushes in the park by night and cadging quarters to buy malt liquor by day.

During one of his infrequent lucid moments, he sadly recollected growing up on the South side in a stable family headed by a well paid steelworker. All those jobs are gone now, he said.

And with them have gone opportunities for a stable, dependable good job for Americans lacking a secondary education. As those jobs have flown to lower paid overseas cheap labor havens, a critical component of our societal stability has flown away alongside.

The US in general and the Chicago area, in particular, have been hemorrhaging industrial jobs at a fantastic rate for the past three decades.

Today a mere 10% of workers in the Chicago metropolitan area are employed in manufacturing. A greater number work for government and when you include the government schools, that becomes a vastly greater number.

According to 2005 Federal statistics, these are now the largest employers in the Chicago metro area:

Largest employers -- Number of employees

U.S. Government 88,000
Chicago Public Schools 39,402
Jewel-Osco 36,749
City of Chicago 35,978
Cook County 26,505

Instead of tax generating, real goods production, our economy is now dominated by the parasitic tax consuming government classes.

Since the Reagan years, we've been hearing a lot of the new "service economy" reliably compensating for the loss of industrial jobs.

Frankly, I never bought a word of it. Real production of tangible goods, is, in the final analysis, the only real basis of wealth.

The 1961 economic analysis by British economists, Cole and Postgate, The British Common People,chronicled the flight of manufacturing from Great Britain which began as early as the 1920s.

"Napoleon is said to have called Great Britain 'a nation of shopkeepers,'" they wrote. "By 1939, it seemed to have turned into a nation of shop assistants, clerks, waiters and machine attendants."

If Napoleon had scoffed at Americans as a nation of fast food franchise owners, he would be likewise wrong. It is fast becoming a nation of hamburger flippers and Wal-Mart greeters.

Welcome to the new "service economy."

"Do you want fries with that?"


  1. There are no jobs here. Businesses are shutting down or moving away.

    There was a lot of truth to the saying, "Buy American." At the same time, with all the unions driving prices unreasonably high, no one could afford to buy American.

    Now we can't buy American. Remember when Walmart used to brag that all their products were made in the USA? It doesn't seem all that long ago. These changes seem to have come crashing down all of a sudden.

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Comments invited, however anonymous commentors had better deal directly with the issues raised and avoid ad hominem drivel. As for Teachers' Union seminar writers -- forget about it.