There is certainly much more to say than I can deliver right now on this issue I am discussing here. But I’ll give it a go. Why do we soon need to introduce a lower retirement age, alternatively a 4-day work week, alternatively a shortened work day? That question is set up in Konflikt in Radio P1 in the podcast – Jobba tills vi dör – Work until we die.
In that program, P1’s reporters have looked not only at public health aspects and people’s wallets, but also at the national economic gains that could be achieved with the implementation of a lower retirement age, or a 4-day work week, or a shortened work day.
Let us not succumb to the temptation to reverse the causality and say that ”we need to ease the workload for us workers united” in order to bring about social reform. The labor movement has de facto largely disappeared in Sweden. No, we should look at the issue soberly and rationally and have the benefits for our society in mind. Even if we do so, we as individuals can still have the labor movement in mind if or when we introduce reforms. In this way, a determined individual can actually bring about a revived labor movement in Sweden. It’s just a matter of attitude and will.
The technical automation has reached a level where Sweden has been able to afford to have more people on disability leave, if that can be seen as a merit. But a lot more documented medical conditions have been added as disability qualifications in the last 20 years or so. In the United States, the Republicans have no soft pillows for penniless, or as they call it – ”white trash” – Americans. These constitute Trump’s voter base. The reluctance of the Republicans to even discuss ”universal healthcare” creates an increasingly larger voter base for such grotesque figures as Trump on both the right and on the left (on the left we have AOC Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). Although many Trumpists – still in true opposition to those by the Republicans dubbed RINO (Republicans In Name Only) as John McCain (R.I.P.) and Mitt Romney were called – refuse to let non-white Americans take part in universal healthcare. They’d rather risk dying due to future lack of medical care for themselves and their loved ones, just as long as those damned migrants from those shit countries don’t get any healthcare. Until these MAGA Americans themselves stand alone with diagnosed malign cancer or if they’re just spitting blood. America voted for Trump in both the 2016 election and the 2020 election because Trump was the only presidential candidate politician who wanted to end America’s traditional immigration policy, by the means of his choice – building a wall against Mexico. It was a big, bombastic and spectacular action, but it turned out to be a dud. As a footnote it could be said that it came at just the right time, it came when Mexico’s oil was practically on its last barrel [study the CIA WORLD FACTBOOK folks].
Anti-immigration from South American countries and other crap countries, along with a strong military defense, and then tax breaks for the rich, have always been the Republicans’ hobby horse. It’s just that Trump put into action the ”white trash” (what a damn choice of words) patriots’ own thoughts and he gave them a vision that they could understand in their small low-achieving brains. ”Migrants – border – wall”, was as far as they could think. The US has become a plebeian empire. Biden is trying to rectify that, of course, not least because his plans to fuel an American/Five Eyes war in the Middle East against Iran but indirectly against China, woul’d be blocked. It is, of course, simplified described by me.
Neoliberalism and ”trickle down economics” policies in the US since Ronald Reagan was in office have proved disastrous, since blue collar jobs have been largely replaced by machines and computers. First Average Joe loses his job, soon after or right after that he loses his income. Then he loses his home. And throughout this procedure there is no longer any trace of a societal safety net to speak about. Alternatively, Average Joe may find himself taking a really crappy job in competition with many others who have become unemployed due to the automation and computerization of the last twenty or thirty years or so, and to a much lower wage.
Therefore, the middle class has diminished in the United States. Average Joe may even have to take two jobs, or three, to support himself and his family. This means that he/she can be grateful to be able to cling to the squirrel wheel, at the cost of his/her personal state of health (cheap food is bad junk food after all) and the personal relationship with his/her children. It might work, but as soon as he/she hits the wall or someone in his/her family becomes seriously ill, which will always happen to everyone sooner or later in their lifetime, he/she ends up in the not-so-enviable position of having the dubious pleasure of choosing between losing the family home or letting the family starve. And then it is surprising that the US has experienced social turmoil in the last decade, or what?
What must we Swedes do to avoid such a horrific situation?
It may not be a question of what we Swedes should do, because we probably all know what to do here in Sweden’s collective consensus landscape. Thank God for that! We are no more stupid than that we can learn from America’s unsustainable political and social situation. It is more a question of how we should go about achieving a socially sustainable society.
Even though I advocate a profitable national solution, we still must, in order to proceed in the reasoning, take Fia Mediocre’s perspective into account here. Fia Mediocre, a single mother of two, experiences food prices rising, fuel prices skyrocketing, and the cost of living skyrocketing in general. But her salary doesn’t. Fia Mediocre is now facing three choices.
- She has to compete with many other job seekers for a second low-payed job. This means that she will also have less time for her own children, and maybe she will also hit the wall and face disability leave, and has to see her own children become pariahs because they cannot afford decent clothes, mobile phones or anything at all really. Let’s hope that Fia Mediocre’s strengthened finances cover the childcare costs if she gets an extra job.
- She gets to ”cut her losses” and with an inflated economy go into default. (See 1 above)
- She goes to school in the hope of a better paying job in the future, even if she then has to pay back student loans. (See 1 above)
All three alternatives means a financial deterioration for Fia Mediocre and for society in general. What is bad for Fia Mediocre is bad for our country. She can’t afford to buy anything beyond the bare necessities. Of course, the occasional pensioner can make an extra income when Fia Mediocre and others leave their children in their care. But will Fia Mediocre become an employer then, with all that it entails in extra working hours, bookkeeping, complicated employer and VAT declarations and authority contacts? Poor Fia Mediocre with children. It will not work out well for Fia Mediocre, unless she and many others have to contribute to the black economy. It’s not popular in Sweden.
So how do we untie the knot? After all, we have this thing with automation taking over certain jobs, even if new jobs are added. But there are hardly any new jobs in the low-wage occupations. After all, that is where the automation takes place. But that is not quite true, because if Fia Mediocre works in elderly care, automation probably means less physical strain to her body. Which is good. But social and business managers tend to turn to staff reductions, seeing them as necessary when the workload for employees decreases. Then we are back to square one, albeit with yet another unemployed bread provider – Fia Mediocre with daughter Pia and son Liam. It’s proper to name them, because they have names in real life too. Reliable managers do not shy away from evicting families with children. But on the plus side, society becomes richer when automation puts Fia Mediocre with her children Pia and Liam into bankruptcy. It is lucky then that Fia Mediocre happened to work at a privately owned nursing home! Then the money has somewhere to go – into the owners’ pockets. Now I would like to add that I am in no way advocating a return to the time when all nursing homes were municipal nursing homes. I’m just trying to point out the problems that comes when the money finds its way up into the pockets of the already wealthy, if you don’t tax the already wealthy more at the same time. What money is it that ”trickles down” in Fia Mediocre’s situation? Currently none, as taxes tend to be lowered rather than raised, both in America and in Sweden. But sometimes Fia Mediocre gets a breadcrumb thrown her way too. Mostly so that there will be no social unrest, I think. Some options:
- Perhaps we can best solve our common future by lowering the retirement age by five years. But maybe only for some work demanding professions.
- Or we reduce the work hours for the working day by one hour, but we maintain the salaries, mind you.
- Or we shorten the work week by one day. This option is more expensive because a normal work day is eight hours.
Alternatives 1) and 2) cost society the same if every blue collar worker currently works eight hours from the age of 20 for a period of 45 years. Both options result in fewer/milder occupational strain injuries.
But in alternative 2) it will be difficult for Fia Mediocre to find a one-hour job if the working hours are reduced by one hour per day. It will be difficult for all Mediocre workers to find a one-hour job, as long as one-hour jobs do not pop up like mushrooms from the earth.
Option 3) or shortening the work week requires in larger workplaces that you really make use of the AI computerization to calculate when Fia Mediocre will get her time off, if you are not fully in favor of removing an entire work day in the week, but settle for a five-hour shorter work day on Friday or Monday. Fia Mediocre will still have to work Fridays at another workplace if her finances are to be strengthened, so her working hours have not actually been shortened. But she doesn’t strain her shoulders due to monotonous heavy lifting as much anymore, and she may therefore not burden the healthcare system in the future, at least not as much or for as long.
Will the Doctor become obsolete due to AI?
No I do not think so. As improbable as it is for a driver to be able to go lie down in the truck’s sleeping compartment during a drive, just as improbable is it for a doctor to be rendered obsolete by AI. In these work areas, it will certainly be required that someone monitors the information that controls the truck or the information that leads to medical advice and prescription writing. Those who become obsolete are the low-income earners who work in monotonous stationary jobs, as employers tend to not want more employees than absolutely necessary.
We can afford more disability leave, can’t we?
We should probably see disability leave as something of a market regulator to avoid becoming USA 2.0 I, who don’t even see myself as a left-wing guy, see this as a possible solution. I am absolutely pragmatic before I am ideological. Now that what I am saying is out in the open, we’ll see if the US can learn from our choices without bull-running towards the cliff itself. I do not imagine so. The antipathy, towards non-Americans from various crap countries, is too great. But in my country no one should have to lie and die in the gutter! Another thing is the emotional coldness of Americans towards their drug addicts, many of them rendered addicts by their own pharmaceutical industry, which in the long run leads to the addicts camping on sidewalks and shitting and pissing in alleys. Because what American business owner wants drug addicts to use their local restrooms. God forbid, then they would become like the socialist Swedish grocery chains COOP or ICA that let beggars use their toilets and sit and beg in front of their stores. The addicts cause many social problems, as addicts. In Sweden we rehabilitate, our addicts, as long as they themselves wish to be rehabilitated. Then we won’t have to step in shit, in the cities. Well, maybe we can’t avoid stepping in dog shit even though we have dog latrines and dog enclosure areas. I even think there is a law on picking up crap in plastic bags after the dogs here in Sweden. But I don’t know, I don’t have a dog myself. There is no one who follows up any such law and controls dog poo handling in any case. And it actually shows.
What about their gun policy in some parts of America?
It is deplorable. They have huge gun-related problems on their side, both among their minorities and among themselves. In California, Chicago and New York, it is quote ”minorities” end quote, who commit most of the shootings. The gun laws are more restrictive there, as far as I know. In the gun-liberal states, it is the whites who commit most of the mass shootings anyway. But here it must be said that Sweden is probably more bomb-throwing than the United States. We all know who throws them bombs. We also have our own problems with wild shootings. We’ve even had some school shootings or other acts of death related violence in some schools. But I am firmly convinced that we will come to terms with our problems or at least contain them. As for the US, I’m not so sure.
Am I too hard on America, amigo?
No, I don’t think I am. What you are not aware of, you cannot fix. I’m just making them aware. If they don’t want to deal with the problems the only way that has a chance to lead to success, that’s their problem. Pile it on the top, I say!
Roger M. Klang