Pursuit of wealth for the sake of wealth is the 21st century's Manifest Destiny. People and businesses are attempting profit at any cost, because it's legal, their right, what people and businesses are supposed to do; short term goals do not equate to long term survival.
Profit taking and specifically, laying off employees, while necessary at times, can be the same as firing both a customer and advertiser. It's the inverse of workers negotiating themselves out of a job by demanding more and more perks. Companies are profiting their way out of business.
Divesting high cost employees in trade for less demanding and lower wage contingent workers sounds like good economic sense for an individual company. However, in the longer term it's tantamount to chumming the waters. Other companies smell the potential profits and want their share. Soon many companies are chasing larger profits through similar divestment and all the while diminishing the spendable income of their customer-base.
In the midst of this unfettered profit frenzy you have the companies at the edge of the fray keeping the mass focused on the middle. These are the companies that gain their profits at the cost of other people losing their livelihoods. They offer the promise of lower wage, highly productive, skilled and flexible workers. At the same time they look for in-roads to introduce increasingly expensive offerings. Their the lure fish, hanging the bright and shiny lure of $20/hr IT workers out waiting for a bite. When they get one it's just a short trip to a slightly higher cost worker liaison at $30/hr to help coordinate those lower wage workers, and then it's not must more to swallow needing a $250/hr project manager. And if that profit centered company plays their cards right it's not much further to outsourcing not just the individual project, but the whole of the operations.
The math starts out simple enough. A company might pay one worker $60/hr total compensation. But there's the offer to be able to have THREE workers at the same cost ($20/hr*3 = 60 = 3 times the productivity). Better yet they could just have TWO workers and have 2 times the productivity PLUS some savings. It sounds great, accounting bliss. But as the costs mount and various layers of higher cost management is added into the mix, the sales pitch changes. Cost is no longer the goal but instead it's flexibility, agility, and scale. Where it used to take a company weeks and months to find, hire, and train workers it can now take only weeks. And that promise is delivered on as new workers are spun up quickly and then just weeks later shifted onto higher profile projects and brand new workers spun up to replace them. In fact a constant stream of workers cycle through to the point where they are no longer people, but just grist for the machine.
Hopefully at some point someone sees that hiring 6 people at $20/hr, plus 1 at $30/hr, plus 1 at $250/hr and spending $832k/yr doesn't create the same value as hiring 3 people at 60/hr or $374k/yr. But it's hard to change direction once anchored to a certain idea.
These forms of extreme profit-taking become a form of wealth redistribution via hording. Companies spend less, meaning workers make and can spend less, meaning companies will see sales decline, which will cause more belt tightening and less spending and so on and so forth. All the while, those at the top of the food chain making these decisions are calling on others to do more belt tightening, make hard sacrifices, and pull together for the common good.
Some of the wealthy in this country would have us assume that they made it to the top by themselves. They are rich because they wanted to be rich and they did it themselves through shear self-reliance! Worse still is that they look down on the poor as "not trying hard enough" and that "anyone can do this!" They would have us believe that their success is not built off of a strong social system, one that provided a free education, free libraries, grants or loans for extending that education, roads and sidewalks to travel to that educational source, safe streets to walk down, asbestos free schools, etc.,. They would have us believe that they were never positively impacted by someone who partook of the welfare state or received public assistance. They did this all themselves, and you can too!
And some of us believe it! If there's a sucker born every minute. It's manifest destiny to take that suckers money.
Look at the irony intrinsic in the concept that businesses holding millions/billions in capital lobby the government for tax breaks, reduced regulation, subsidies, and other incentives to help fuel job creation. One never asks "why do businesses need incentives from the government to do business?" It's a little like a porn star asking the director "what's my motivation here?" Businesses work to create and sell products or services at a profit. A profit not A GUARANTEED profit. Tax breaks and incentives should be held back for those industries most in need 1) new potentially profitable industries (e.g. high tech and green) or 2) industries in hard times but with potential for higher profitability (e.g. drought stricken farmers, automakers).
Remember also that it's these same people to regularly voice concerns about the welfare state, how little the lower classes pay in taxes, and the burgeoning role of government in their day-to-day business. They make jabs at low income people not paying taxes and contributing nothing to society. Yet when the middle class asks questions about why top earners payed a lower tax percentage or in some cases no taxes, it's called class warfare.
To be clear. I have nothing against the rich. I think there are amazing people out there across the socioeconomic scale. If it weren't for some rich people there are a great many things that we wouldn't have. At the same time it's a balancing act. Some among the rich don't see the inherent bias being built into business, government and education that favors the wealthy first and everyone else second. They don't see that wealth brings opportunity and the lack of wealth reduces opportunity. For many the journey to wealth was either non-existent (38% inherited their wealth), quick (think Zuckerburg or the Google Chef, almost instant millionaires) or there time in the lower class was so long ago that they've forgotten how hard it is to climb out.
I think there has to be a dialog. Unfortunately that dialog right now is clouded with rhetoric about wealth redistribution. That's really a specious argument. It assumes that the government is taking $20 from Rich Bob and putting it in the pocket of Poor Sally. But that is almost entirely false. Most of that "wealth redistribution" is really "opportunity creation". So for Rich Bob $20 is lunch, but for Poor Sally it's a week worth of lunches for her daughter at a public school who can then focus on her grades and not her growling stomach. That education later turns into a better job or maybe even creates a new entrepreneur spawning more jobs.
Adversity is sometimes good in helping build character and challenging people to rise to a different level. However, it's very often over-emphasized as a means of diffusing lower class angst. We should focus on diversity of thought versus adversity in economic conditions. We should attempt to create a level playing field where people can find and grow their own talents and have ever smarter people competing against one another, versus a few smart rising to the top at the cost of pushing others further down toward the bottom.
It's all about balance. Let's make balance our new Manifest Destiny.