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Forget planned obsolescence; it will happen, planned or not

Dr. John Psarouthakis, Executive Editor of www.BusinessThinker.com, Founder and former CEO, JP Industries, Inc., a Fortune 500 industrial corporation, Adjunct Professor(ret.), Ross School of Business, University of Michigan.

Millions of American “smokestack” jobs no longer exist. Millions of other American jobs, from nearly every sector, have been exported. Tens of millions of Americans are now sustained only by the “safety net,” or by working multiple part-time jobs at low wages with no benefits. More than one-quarter of working Americans lack enough resources to sustain themselves three months if laid off, a number that no doubt has risen since it was last compiled. This is a very, very bad time to be an unskilled worker with no prospects of being retrained in a way that will land a job. A human being whose skills are obsolete is among the saddest of stories. Some of these Americans, especially older workers, are going to be left behind. Millions more will never earn the kind of living they once did. This states one hellacious problem; but it does not define the problem in any useful way for a problem-solver.

In getting one’s arms around what might seem like an unprecedented catastrophe, it’s good to start by realizing that today’s displaced workers are not alone in the American experience. Our workforce is undergoing massive transition, a tectonic shift, really, in the way Americans earn their livelihood. But it is not unprecedented.

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