Thursday, October 07, 2004

514 I heard it on the radio, pt. 1

While driving to the coffee shop this morning, Chocolate Cafe, I was listening to WJR out of Detroit. Apparently there are some local problems in the 'burbs with political signs. A caller to the show yesterday complained that his Bush-Cheney signs were being torn up or stolen. The radio host checked it out with the police who told him that 85% of the complaints they get about this are because the Bush signs are being vandalized or destroyed. Must be that ABB crowd. Hatred overpowers the normally honest person.

The host also reported that he was flooded with e-mail and calls after he interviewed a columnist who pointed out that despite what we're hearing here in Ohio (and Michigan) about out-sourcing, that isn't the problem. Only 1% of the lost jobs in 2003 were a result of out-sourcing, and in-sourcing is providing much higher paid jobs (in the car capital, that would be firms like Toyota, Hyundai, BMW, etc.). People had apparently believed the screed of Kerry-Edwards. Technology is the big cause of job loss, as it has been for the last 200 years.

While at the coffee shop (did I mention the chocolate theme?) I read in USAToday there has been a net increase of 36 million jobs in the last 20 years. "Studies show that the migration of U.S. jobs overseas is a tiny factor in weak employment growth. A Labor Department study of job losses in the first three months of the year found that only 2% went overseas. Other studies have put the figure closer to 1%. . . .Technology lets companies do more with fewer people. In 2002 and 2003, output for each U.S. worker increased by more than 4% a year, the first time productivity was that high two years in a row, according to the Labor Department. Health care costs. Federal Reserve Board surveys show rising medical expenses — more than 10% annually for four years running — are dampening hiring as firms worry about paying for new employees' benefits." So apparently the USAToday op/ed was using the same Commerce Dept. report.

I heard it on the radio, pt. 2

"When I'm 64" is a Beatles song written by Paul McCartney; John Lennon would be 64. It is the basis of an article in USAToday about how much more active and valuable to the economy older people are today than in the past. After bulleting a few choice statistics (all good), the editor suggests: "It seems clear that older adults today aren't, as the Beatles song goes, "wasting away." They won't be "knitting sweaters by the fireside." And they won't be fitting easily into other stereotypes, either. "

Let's hold on a minute here. My four grandparents lived into their 80s and 90s; six of my eight great-grandparents did too. There was no retirement for farmers and housewives in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the myths we live with today is modern longevity. Actually, if you lived past the dangerous childhood years, your chances of having a long life, busy life, were excellent, if I read my genealogies correctly. Stop by any cemetery--after you get past the babies and the women who died in childbirth, you'll find "old people."

Ours is not the first generation to remain healthy and useful past 60. People remained busy and useful to their family and society long before the 21st century. They were happy and although they didn't have medical care as we think of it today with check-ups and testing, they weren't so unhealthy. They may have had fewer self-induced diseases caused by obesity, nicotine and alcohol.

Great aunt Rachel is a good example. A widow, she travelled the midwest taking care of new babies and infirm elders, assisting with laundry, the garden, cooking, and canning, staying six months or a year at the homes of her siblings and nieces. Then she would return to Pennsylvania and take care of those relatives. My great grandmother in the early 20th century shared her home with her mother-in-law and the retarded step-son of her daughter. I'm guessing her mother-in-law helped with the babies, the garden and the canning.

I'm grateful for the many conveniences and miracle drugs that give us a healthy life, but let's not pretend we're the first to have useful, active senior years.

We're following in some mighty big footprints.

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