“Or We’ll Lose the Whole Middle Class”: Gallup CEO

Economic recovery, but not for the “Invisible Americans”

Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO at Gallup, who presides over endless surveys of American consumers and businesses and knows a thing or two about them, has a message for the media and the political establishment that seem to be clueless: this meme about the recovering economy – “It was even trumpeted on Page 1 of The New York Times and Financial Times last week,” he says – “I don’t think it’s true.”

In an article posted on Gallup’s website, he made his case:

The percentage of Americans who say they are in the middle or upper-middle class has fallen 10 percentage points, from a 61% average between 2000 and 2008 to 51% today.

Ten percent of 250 million adults in the U.S. is 25 million people whose economic lives have crashed.

What the media is missing is that these 25 million people are invisible in the widely reported 4.9% official U.S. unemployment rate.

Let’s say someone has a good middle-class job that pays $65,000 a year. That job goes away in a changing, disrupted world, and his new full-time job pays $14 per hour — or about $28,000 per year. That devastated American remains counted as “full-time employed” because he still has full-time work — although with drastically reduced pay and benefits. He has fallen out of the middle class and is invisible in current reporting.

And these “Invisible Americans,” as he calls them, are facing the “disastrous” emotional toll often associated with a sharp loss of household income. It hits “self-esteem and dignity,” and produces an “environment of desperation.” Even many American with good jobs and incomes are just “one degree” away from the misery of those with falling wages, or the underemployed or unemployed.

Clifton names three metrics that “need to be turned around or we’ll lose the whole middle class”:

  1. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of the total U.S. adult population that has a full-time job has been hovering around 48% since 2010this is the lowest full-time employment level since 1983.
  2. The number of publicly listed companies trading on U.S. exchanges has been cut almost in half in the past 20 years — from about 7,300 to 3,700. Because firms can’t grow organically — that is, build more business from new and existing customers — they give up and pay high prices to acquire their competitors, thus drastically shrinking the number of U.S. public companies. This seriously contributes to the massive loss of U.S. middle-class jobs.
  3. New business startups are at historical lows. Americans have stopped starting businesses. And the businesses that do start are growing at historically slow rates.

“Free enterprise is in free fall — but it is fixable,” he says. It all depends on small businesses. They need to thrive again. They’re “our best hope” for the economy to pick up some speed. And once they’re thriving again, they can “restore the middle class”:

Gallup finds that small businesses — startups plus “shootups,” those that grow big — are the engine of new economic energy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 65% of all new jobs are created by small businesses, not large ones.

But small businesses as a group are not doing well. Over the past three decades, the US averaged nearly 120,000 more business births than deaths per year. But between 2008 and 2011, according to Census Bureau data, on average 420,000 businesses were born per year, while on average 450,000 died. That the core of the US job creation machine has been faltering is not a sign of a healthy or even a “recovering” economy.

Clifton’s sobering message – that a big part of American households and therefore consumers are still in serious disarray in part due to the problems small businesses are facing – appears to be getting totally lost among the media hype, including the deafening razzmatazz about the 5.2% jump in “household income,” reported last week by the Census Bureau, and widely misconstrued by the media.

This disarray is even worse, once it’s parsed, as the Census Bureau has done, by men and women. Because men’s median income, adjusted for inflation, is now lower than it had been in 1974! Read…  That 5.2% Jump in Household Income? Nope, People Aren’t Suddenly Getting Big-Fat Paychecks

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  121 comments for ““Or We’ll Lose the Whole Middle Class”: Gallup CEO

  1. David Calder says:

    How are small business supposed to “thrive” in a era of internet behemoths like Amazon? It certainly won’t happen in retail.

    • d says:

      “I tried ( X Y Z) but there was no margin it, as everybody else was doing it”.

      Nicolas Cage, lord of war.

      by starting in something Amazon does not/can not, dominate.

      The mouse should stay well clear of the elephant until it has become a strong healthy adult that has no debts.

  2. The sooner Jim Clifton puts the ‘fairy dust’ away the better off he and Gallup will be. Small business creation isn’t going to recover until after the revolution. Congress and its endless bureaucratic lice, along with the Fed and it’s water boy, the IRS, have laid waste to the middle class. Only an idiot would start a new business venture under this current tyranny.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I started a new business: this website. And you’re probably right, I’m an idiot, given the economics of the everything-is-free internet. But I’m having a blast!

      • Michael says:

        Hi Wolf,

        I am not sure if you were joking in your response to the above. I think the majority of the people that read your website appreciate your information. Plus, if the average reader has read your bio they would understand that you know how to make money as an individual. I am one of those who worked as a paperboy at 13, did landscaping, worked in the back of a pizza parlor while in Jr and Sr highschool. Then, went and worked for a retailer and went from stock room part-time, to full-time, to supervisor to manager. Then, I worked for a subcontractor under the IBEW putting in under-ground gas lines, and made good money at 20-22 years of age. Eventually at the young age of 22 I eventually started college after a very long lay-off and decided to become a Chiropractor. (I also had a CDL license and did many part time jobs while in undergrad). I became a chiropractor and have been in that position for 17 years, as an associate, eventually being paid very well via salary and bonuses. Well, with the advent of ACA, that has all changed. Everything is going down hill. I love what I do as I specialize in 2 different specialties in chiropractic. But, I am very concerned about going out on my own as the costs of starting from scratch or even purchasing an existing practice is a potential gamble. I am a consistent reader of economics for the past 11 years and with all the negative actions the government and the FED are taking it would seem that the population at large will not be making an income that can support discretionary spending. Therefore, how can I or any of your readers that want to go out on their own to make a living without being dependent upon a boss succeed at doing it?
        Thanks in advance if you can answer that.
        Keep up the great work.


        PS. I sent you the article from Dr. Dan Murphy regarding Roundup last year.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Michael – my comment was tongue-in-cheek.

          Look further down for my response to your question. The column is too thin for a long response. So I started a new thread.

        • kitten lopez says:

          yeah, i didn’t know Wolf was joking, either! But Wolf, you seem like the kinda guy who finds adventure in anything. i like that and it’s calming.

      • JerryBear says:

        Wolf, have you heard about the New Liberal Economics that the Democratic big wigs are developing and that Hillary is supposedly going to implement after she gets elected? If it really is implemented it will offer the first ray of hope in a long time. Hillary always faithfully follows the dictates of the tycoons at the top. It may be that the more farsighted of these have become aware of the revolutionary anger that is building up in the country and are seeking to defuse the situation before it explodes. Of course, it may be just cynical lies like those Obama told in his campaign promises and after the election the upper classes will party on oblivious to their impending doom.
        I just don’t know, But if it is real it is important. From your vast experience, do you have any observations on this Wolf?
        Inquiring bears wish to know!

  3. Petunia says:

    Jobs are the biggest problem right now. Every worker is a temporary worker no matter the income level or the profession, and they all know it. You don’t get economic stability until you have stable employment. If you don’t have stable employment you get not just economic instability but political instability as well. Take a look around, both are everywhere.

    The middle class doesn’t just represent an income level, it is the buffer between chaos and privilege. As the buffer gets smaller you will get more of one and less of the other. This is a no win game.

    • Meme Imfurst says:

      Not to mention mental illness which grows with income loss…

      Washington D.C. ( Den of Corruption) can’t even find jobs for the military guys so they languish in desperation. Perhaps the worthless do so little bureaucrats should try living on the “new full time employment’ income for a month.

      Flee markets are, perhaps, where some can get started but the war on cash will end that.

      Does anything make any sense any more to anyone ?

      • kitten lopez says:


        YES! the “mental illness which grows with income loss”! it is TRUE. it is the reason for many of the suicides of my friends a few years back. they were the first line to go. the canaries in the coal mine, if you will.

        i liken the loss of all i’d sacrificed and worked for to be like a severe existential stroke from which i’m still recuperating. i have to move very slow now (so that i can use my spidey sense to really FEEL what bullshit someone’s spouting because it’s EVERYWHERE now. everything’s talk and people are mad. they are scared and holding onto old irrelevant illusions that no longer pertain to anything real.

        the dissonance makes even those of us who see what’s up, have a hard time. that’s an understatement as my heart is BROKEN.

        it’s why i realized that we’re in a transitional period–and it’s hard to live among the True Believers. it’s why this website has become a haven of reality for me every morning.

        and i’m also trying to find the space in the cracks off “amazon” and “etsy”. it means i have to go away from the internet world and see what’s LEFT in humanity and what they want.

        i’m going backwards in my next business venture. seriously backwards. i’m figuring out how to sew custom clothing to fit. something you can’t get on amazon or in china. personalized “superhero” clothing to help with the humans left with audacity and style, as the cheapness of china clothing with fast turnarounds has made everything look the same and fit badly and throwaway.

        i’m going backwards. but will i have a clientele? ha! that’s another needle to thread when everyone’s broke and i don’t want to serve the wealthy. AT ALL. James says it’s unrealistic, but…?

        i love seemingly impossible ideas. i actually get titillated by the nausea of fear and terror when i’m not hugging table legs in panicky moments.

        but i rely on JAMES, my best friend and former lover, who now is up to i think $17 an hour.

        this new life in america takes COMMUNITY, working TOGETHER AGAIN (remember that??), and a whole lotta XYZ factors i’m about to learn more about.

        i’ll report here as i figure it out.

        but those of us who’re SCRAPPERS are made for THIS NEW AMERICA and we mustn’t despair (at least indefinitely). this site of Wolf’s DOES give me hope for humanity and the creative spirit of the scrappers with HONOR and long views.

        i usually only call out Petunia, as she’s my new motherfuckin’ female HERO right now, as women in power have broken my motherfuckin’ HEART with their passivity and going with the status quo. even the so-called bad ass women are just…pffft…

        but i love ALL these commenters here.

        and if this site is about trying to find the tipping point for the burst of everything, it tends to attract the van guard, the ARTISTS, if you please! because the crustiest loner artists tend to see the future like you all here, and try and navigate it for what’s next.

        i may not be the crustiest van guard, but i AM looking for what’s NEXT. there will be a rebellion against the more deadening aspects of technology and at least an underground return to community and small business–possibly illegal, but underground, and maybe some bartering. i don’t know how it’ll look. but i’m betting on it and taking as many books out of the library as i can so i can learn how to take sewing/artistic/ business skills to level of artistry and individuality that china, amazon, or etsy cannot touch.

        because you’re not gonna make a killing at the flea markets. the old folks and po’ folks already have that shit covered. i don’t even see ’em on ebay like i used to.

        and because of cheap china crap, you can’t even find good quality stuff at USED shops or goodwill anymore. it’s fascinating!

        so that’s my story.

        and no. nothing makes sense anymore to ANYONE.

        • kitten lopez says:

          p.s. i say i’m going “backwards” into the future because i once thought to sew for a living was “lowly.” now i’m ashamed. it’s something the women in my family did and i didn’t wanna touch that. i wanted to buy crap off the rack like all the other kids. how stupid i was. i had custom clothes ever since i was a child. i was INSANE to have not appreciated it.

          and my artist goal of audacity is to actually start an art/fashion SCENE. when i got here to san franciso, it was sight unseen from philadelphia, to follow a cartoonist mentor’s fan letter to invite me here.

          she started an ART SCENE. i learned how by accident. i’m gonna use what i learned to start my own scene next. (smile) but there aren’t any arty people around so there’s the catch.

          but that’s why the existence of folks like you all here make me ever hopeful.

          thank you each and have a good day.

          gotta go/James made me breakfast just now. i love him so much!


        • kitten lopez says:

          p.p.s. and my mentor, Kris Kovick, is one of the ones i loved who committed suicide awhile back.

        • Petunia says:

          As a former fashionista, not by choice, I love your idea. James is right, you have to go where the money is. You are right to think of your pieces as art and you should sell them that way. Partner up with a boutique, if you can, and show your pieces all at once. Make it more like a gallery event than just another trunk show. Gallery event says come look, trunk show says come buy. Don’t forget that half of all women in America are a size 14 or larger.

          P.S. Philly had the best shopping, IMHO, I still miss Manayunk, Walnut, and the Mainline. Best restaurants too.

        • kitten lopez says:


          only James was knowing the “cunning plan” and he’d calmly nod in approval but YOU’RE BLOWING MY HEAD OPEN WITH APPROVAL!!!!! i respect what you say SOOOO much, i troll these forums looking for your WISDOM!!!

          and YES YES YES!!! i’m so on what you’re saying about pairing up with a BOUTIQUE and turning it into ART!!!

          the vision i had that i’m still as of yet too embarrassed to “own,” is i want to do an artistic clothing version mix as if i were Basquiat and Warhol…

          art you save up for to WEAR. i want to make one-of-a-kind coats for men/women, too. fancy one-of-a-kind art jackets.

          but yes… i’d kinda forgotten the BOUTIQUE idea…

          that is BRILLIANT because you made it … BIGGER somehow. now i see how to do this more like an EVENT…which is NECESSARY.

          i don’t wanna promote online. in fact, i wanted the beauty of my stuff to actually be that you only found out about it WORD OF MOUTH.

          then i’d also BE the “advertising” as just being myself in public gets attention. i’d wear the stuff and hand out cards whenever anyone asks me about it. even on the bicycle!

          i fucking ADORE you i could crush hug you!!!

          thank you soooo much, Miss Petunia. see why i’ve been panicking??? i was thinking: “art is dead. no one CARES how they look anymore. this idea will DIE a horrid DEATH!”

          but i love that you got what i was on about and then went BEYOND what i was ever even thinking!!!!

          you are such an amazing woman. you listen, take in everything, and spew out the BEST stuff.

          god i love this place. i’m so glad i sorta met you. i’m not traveling much these days, but if you EVER get out here you MUST let me know!!!! you are a wonderful woman and i’m lucky you lend me your brain…

          more later.

          thank you. i needed this soooo much.

          Wolf, thanks for making this site. sorry i’ve been spewing all over it shamelessly. i’ve been finally having epic breakthroughs after such a period of depressing darkness.


          Miss Petunia, that was SO generous of you. i’m off and running. i needed that. i wondered if i was going too crazy with this epic idea. but it kept coming BACK as the only thing that made SENSE. but i couldn’t square it with the world i’m seeing, and i’m kinda feeling a little burned and chicken shit and don’t wanna waste James’ support of me.


        • Holly says:

          There are actually boutiques that specialize in wonderful and unique hand made clothing items. The one I know is called Earth Spirits in palm desert
          They carry designs from
          Alembika, Art of Cloth, Ayala Bar, Barbara Poole, BELLINKY, Biba Schutz, Bodil, Cynthia Ashby, Giselle Shepatin, Lee Andersen, Mummy’s Bundle, Patricia Palson, Rebecca Noble, Robin Kaplan, Robin’s Originals, Terri Logan, WATCHCRAFT

          You could find other boutiques that carry these artists and have your designs there or start your own boutique. I assume you are in Bay Area which is rich with creativity. Calif School of Arts and Crafts in east Bay might have other artists with whom you could collaborate……just an idea.

        • John says:

          W M 75y M50y :)

          “Nothing makes sense anymore to ANYONE”…who can not think or laugh or weep. But by god I can sit upon the beach and laugh at my self while watching that soft and lovely walking down the beach. And she won’t look at me…

          And too, I have read your lament and I cry and hurt inside for myself because I remember discovering that I didn’t know anything and no one would tell me anything because they didn’t even know who I was. Who sat at my table? Several! We studied the great books and which was better, McDonald’s or Kings Food Host.

          Beside my wife, I learned to go with the flow (some) and I grew older and wildly wiser and learned that I didn’t need to hurry

        • kitten lopez says:

          if you get this, THANK YOU. i’m returning to this page and will refer to those boutique names when i’m READY!
          i’ve been off and running lately with new ideas and DIRECTION.

      • polecat says:

        nope ….

        • Jerry Bear says:

          Oh come on Polecat, what is that supposed to mean?

        • JerryBear says:

          I have just read the platform of the American Libertarian Party and I am absolutely horrified and appalled. It is utterly false, twisted and evil. I am totally against it now. They are as deceitful and misleading and as utterly irrational and impractical as the Scientologists, snd as just as much of a cult. Woe unto this nation if it listens to those fools. America will fall faster than it took to burn down Rome.

      • chris Hauser says:

        i like that, flee markets. i will attribute it to meme imfurst when i use it to sound cleverly aphoristic, proverbial, cryptic etc etc

        now, as to the plan of rich democrats to help us all, it’s just a different sauce from rich republicans’ plan….with which would you like to cook, or be cooked for, or cooked with. or just watch the cooking show on cable.

        where’s the antacid?

    • kitten lopez says:

      on the chance that you have it set to notify you of replies, click on whatever’s lit up around my name, because i’m putting in the “secret” hyperlink page i put on my site of the sketches i just did today of the wild bicycle jacket.

      thanks. it takes me longer to figure out hyperlinks etc. than it did to DRAW the pictures. i’m sooo over computers.


  4. Uncle Frank says:

    I see small businesses open every day and in six to twelve months they go broke and the building space is for lease once again. It’s an ugly cycle that is becoming more common.

  5. Chicken says:

    You’re damn lucky you have a job these days and should be thankful you’re still drawing half your former pay. Lean to compete on a global basis, you should expect your wage will normalize with global wages.

    • Mary says:

      Thanks for saying the truth.

    • Mike G says:

      Unless you’re an upper executive, where Americans get paid many multiples of similar positions in other western countries, and collude in control fraud and corrupted governance to make sure it stays that way. You never hear of a management team getting outsourced to India no matter how rotten they perform.

      • GoldCastle says:

        That or even Wells Fargo management facing the piper for all the fraud that occurred. Instead of being punished – PERSONALLY – they instead get nice fat wallets.

        • chris Hauser says:

          ads a wells stockholder, i say it is clear they knew this was going on for five years……..on the other hand, banking is predicated on paying as little as necessary, and charging more.

    • David Calder says:

      Foxconn, the maker of the iPhone for Apple, laid off 60,000 people in China and automated the factory because wages had ballooned up to 65 cents per hour.. If our wages normalize on a global scale we can expect the same thing..

    • walter map says:

      The market-clearing price of labor is slavery.

      In the global race to the bottom, Amerikans are losing. They have nothing to gain but your chains.

      All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.

    • JerryBear says:

      You mean the sort of wages paid in Bangladesh or the Dominican Republic? The economy will crash completely long before then. The working class will rebel when they realize that this is what the upper classes have in store for them. Free Trade has to be shut down before it destroys us.

  6. Paulo says:

    Say the people whose jobs most likely are not ‘normalized’ with the globalized workforce.

    “You’re damn lucky you have a job these days and should be thankful you’re still drawing half your former pay. Lean to compete on a global basis, you should expect your wage will normalize with global wages.”

    Or as my Father-in-Law used to say, “It’s always trimming the fat when it’s the other guy, when it is you, or a family member that’s getting cut it’s a goddamn shame.”

    In this race for the bottom, or if you like ‘globalized wage rates’, people are getting screwed, pure and simple. Small business cannot compete due to economy of scale, unless, said business offers a niche product or service that cannot be offshored.

    At this rate there will be unrest and revolution in one way or another. Although, adequate EBT card levels and an easy source of mind numbing products like drugs and electronic devices may keep the anger tamped down for awhile. (I am not joking).

    I just watched “The Wolf of Wall Street” this weekend. As Jordan Belfort said in his staff pep talk, “This, is America”.

    Is it? I know it isn’t the America my Father fought on the Normandy beachhead for, that’s for damn sure.

    • Jeb says:

      “Small business cannot compete due to economy of scale, unless, said business offers a niche product or service that cannot be offshored.”


      A fellow I know quit a lucrative career as an electrician servicing industrial sized windmills (ie. like the California windfarms), and started up a small business servicing automated machinery… you know, the like of McDonald’s computerized ordering systems.

      This fellow figures that no matter how many jobs are outsourced or computerized, the guy that has to FIX those machines will always be employed at healthy rates, because, think of how fast McDonald’s will FREAK if those machines go down for a day! And then you can charge the big bucks to get them fixed fast!

      I think he’s right.

      • David Calder says:

        Until robots can fix themselves and that is just around the corner.. This whole computer driven robotics reason for being is to replace wage earning humans.. There might be a human who picks up the machine from McD but it will be a robot that will fix it.. Your friend’s career won’t last 10 years, tops..

        • kitten lopez says:

          no dice/i may be a touchy-feely emotional art chick but even i don’t believe THAT.

        • nhz says:

          and why wouldn’t the owner of the mills from time to time fly-in people employed by a foreign company that pays slave-labor wages?

          I see this happening in more and more sectors in Europe, e.g. most truck drivers in my country are now probably from Poland or even further away, working for ‘foreign’ companies that are exempt from Dutch tax, employment, environmental etc. rules and pay wages that are normal in e.g. Romania (which is significantly below the Chinese ‘slave-labor’ wages).
          Of course the foreign companies are not really foreign, the owners are probably Dutch (or American) but they register the company in far-out Europe so they can cheat.

          Even if you have to compete with local people with the same skills and income, it still is almost impossible to compete because the big multinationals skip taxes which gives them a 20-40% advantage right from the start. Also, they are far more likely to get subsidies and special exemptions than a small company.

          You cannot avoid these problems unless you work in an extreme niche of the market that is totally uninteresting for the big money. And of course, many companies can look profitable in the first 1-2 years simply because people work 100 hours a week and get lots of tax exemptions, subsidies, starter rents etc. (at least in Europe, don’t know about the US).

    • Robert says:

      “I know it isn’t the America my Father fought on the Normandy beachhead for, that’s for damn sure.” He fought against “Facist tyranny,”and may he be enjoying a restful retirement. My generation was called onto fight “Godless communism,” to stop Vietnam from triggering a series of “dominoes.” What must the millions who spent a year, or two wading through fetid, malarial rice paddies think of that country, now fully Communist, being granted Most Favored Nation status during the last Clinton in office’s term, and currently being courted in helping oppose China, who our heroic ally in WWII?
      It will not be until enough Americans read Butler’s* War is a Racket, or independently discover that what is touted as “American interests” are almost invariably “someone’s corporate interest,” and take up, if not arms, then the strongest opposition to the war-mongers, of whom both Clinton and Trump are the vetted candidates. Like Big Pharma, the “defense” industry has no scruples against sucking the nation dry: at least in WWII, when your father fought, Congress had to publicly debate and declare it- and then impose price controls. There were no billionare arms-makers in WWII

      • David Calder says:

        Not many know who Butler was.. I hold no animus toward Vietnam but I do despise those who sent us for fake made up cause as if a barefoot farmers were ever a threat.. We don’t have a Butler but we do have Col Pat lang.. turcopolier.typepad.com (My father was at Juno Beach, Normandy) Ditto on your comments..

      • Winston says:

        “…or independently discover that what is touted as ‘American interests’ are almost invariably ‘someone’s corporate interest'”

        Some books:

        “Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq”

        “All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror”

      • Drew says:

        Hate to break it to you, but Vietnam is communist in *name only* now-a-days. The ‘Party’ still runs things and the big companies are state owned (although they are looking to sell them off). Everyone else is capitalist through and through. Every, and I mean every, or at least 99.9% of all houses in Vietnam have a first floor business (most houses here are very narrow thin buildings built back deeply and about 5 storeys tall). Everything from hair dressers to auto repairs (Rolls Royce, BMW, Mercades included – they and Harley Davidson all have dealerships here!) and on to groceries to day care to – just use your imagination. The Communist Party did win, but Capitalist ideology rules.
        I know, because I’m writing from here.

        • d says:

          The communist takeover of Vietnam, in particular south Vietnam was simply the largest crony land grab on the planet.

          Look at who the state sold the land it grabbed from the peasants to, and the price.

          Vietnam, China ,Russia, DPRK, all corrupt, 1 party, crony/mafia states.

        • chris Hauser says:

          if you want to know why russia china vietnam went communist, look at their capitalists.

    • d says:

      “Is it? I know it isn’t the America my Father fought on the Normandy beachhead for, that’s for damn sure.”

      Vampire corporate America, stole that version, and gave it to china as an entry fee, to their cheap labour sources.

      America has been betrayed, and sold, by a select group of companies and their politicians, they are in fact Traitors. And should be called to account as such.

      They with china hijacked globalisation, that was supposed to help raise the lowest and ensured it raised only them selves and china at everybody elses expense, but especially the Western middle class.

      The opening scenes in Saving Private Ryan, with all those bodies washed up on the high-tide line, is a very sanitised version of some very real Photos of the event. I have seen. In the Estate possession’s, of some who were there.

      72 Years on, what a (*&)*$# waste, is an understatement of momentous proportions.

      As someone whose grandmother survived the Holocaust.

  7. T.L. says:

    Gerald Davis is the man to read in order to understand the evolution from the career pursuing past to temp jobs of today, from large corporations (which are thinning out, as Clifton points out) to Nikefication (a handful of people designing things in the US and production being done in LDCs) and, lately, Uberization (“platform capitalism”; self-employed minions who have only a contractual relationship to their firm and are on constant stand-by. This is the destruction of labour as we knew it. It’s not a pretty picture.
    Interestingly, some people are fooled all the time, particularly the most vulnerable (see White Trash, a great book).
    For a short-cut to Davis’ thinking see: http://webuser.bus.umich.edu/gfdavis/Papers/Davis_P%26S_2013.pdf

  8. Merlin says:

    Damn, these comments are so on target! I’m gonna lift and use some of the wisdom and vision herein to educate my offspring…..

  9. jim wilson says:

    This should not be a surprise.

    Tech gets”smarter” and more capable every day, seemingly at an increasing rate. Humans not so much, in fact on average we probably don’t change much. So we compete by working for less money or working longer hours (cell phones always at the ready for work calls). And each day we become, on a relative basis, less competitive.

    Look at the jobs being created. A steady 30K a month in bars and restaurants. Manufacturing – zero.

    It is game over for the middle class unless the way resources are distributed in society changes. I think it is time for a 2 or three day work week, a guaranteed annual income, and far less of a consumer/consumption driven society – might even be good for the planet too.

    Where does the money come from … dividends! Yes dividends. Any owner of a machine or a large company owes it existence to those who have invented or built before them (Facebook is nothing without the internet, computers, and heck even electricity). They should have to pay dividends to society for using the intellectual property of all our ancestors. So a generalized redistribution, plus opportunities to make more if you wish.

    • OutLookingIn says:

      Margaret Thatcher said;
      “The problem with socialism is when they run out of other peoples money”. Nuff said. Your pie-in-the-sky “generalized redistribution” model is a fail. There is no free lunch. Someone ALWAYS pays.

      • David Calder says:

        That someone will be humans.. If robotics replace a human workforce, and that is the whole intent of robotics, then what to you propose actual people are to do? You can’t glibly say there will always be something to do because the intention of the firms buying the robots is to eliminate people; wage earners. Stephen Hawking can see this coming as can CNBC’s Art Cashin.
        Margaret Thatcher said lots of things that are so appreciated in such diverse places like say, Ireland.. The Irish loved her so well they even wrote songs about her..

      • night-train says:

        Like it or not, and some here will not like it, we are going to have to change our views on what kind of society we live in. Tech and its guaranteed automation of most of what human’s now do, or have historically done, has to be reckoned with. As a society, we can turn on each other like a pack of hungry dogs, or we can approach the problem in a civilized manner. I recommend the latter.

        • Jon Sellers says:

          “As a society, we can turn on each other like a pack of hungry dogs, or we can approach the problem in a civilized manner. I recommend the latter.”

          Too late. The international wealthy already turned on America and already won.

      • Mike B says:

        And so what exactly are you saying?
        The 20, 25, 30% of humanity that is finding itself increasingly extraneous and useless should just up & die?

        Seriously, I want you to have the honesty and balls to follow that train of thought out to its logical and hideous conclusion

        • Smingles says:

          His argument rests on a cliché quote from a terrible woman.

          There is no train of thought to follow.

      • JerryBear says:

        The people pay and the rich collect it. You are dead wrong about Socialism and quoting the Iron Lady is drawing water from a poisoned well. During the 70 year heyday of the Soviet Union, the national wealth of Russia increased 50 times. Britain’s national wealth only doubled in that same time. i think it is high time you came down from your ivory tower and joined the real world!

        “The problem with Capitalism is they run out of other people’s money to steal.” JerryBear

        • d says:

          “The problem with Capitalism is they run out of other people’s money to steal.” JerryBear

          No Maggi was being nice

          What she meant was “The problem with Socialism is they run out of other people’s money to steal.”

          During the 70 year heyday of the Soviet Union, the national wealth of Russia increased 50 times. Britain’s national wealth only doubled in that same time.

          If the USSR was so wealthy why did it implode in bankruptcy????????

          Pure communsim like pure capitalism ,can not work.

          Social responsible capitalism can.

          What we currently have is capitalism, funding.

          Wealth and success hating Socialism.

          Where the Socialist keep demand more from the wealthy, yet producing nothing themselves.

          Which can not work either

        • Sound of the Suburbs says:

          Pure capitalism dies through lack of demand.

          Russia was never really communist anyway.

          The human race is far too primitive for socialism and is only motivated by personal gain, so it doesn’t work.

  10. Felix_47 says:

    There are many good suggestions but as long as labor is not freely as moveable across borders as capital there is arbitrage profit to be made. When a Vietmamese woman has to work in Viet Nam and cannot work in the US then Nike makes money on her labor. Ultimately we have to either raise the wages in the third world to first world level or we will lower first world wages to third world levels. One way to solve this would be with making unionization and wage rates equal in trade agreements. If the car makers are faced with the UAW in Mexico or Nike with the ILGWU in Hanoi or Foxconn with the IBEW in China wages would rapidly equilibrate with and escalator benefit to the rest of society. Consumption would go up.

    • Winston says:

      “One way to solve this would be with making unionization and wage rates equal in trade agreements.”

      It’s not just wage arbitrage, it’s also environmental protection costs arbitrage.

      • d says:

        ““One way to solve this would be with making unionization and wage rates equal in trade agreements.””

        Yet TPP which mandates some minimum wage, Environmental, and Labour conditions, is not to be Ratified by, Congress, Clinton, or Trump..

        How to you propose to make these conditions part of trade agreements when the US wont ratify the first one that has some?????????????????

        • nhz says:

          What TTP, TTIP etc. are trying to impose on the world is the lowest common denominator (which in environmental, food safety etc. matters is often the US position). For Europe the TTIP mandates would make the current situation – which is already really bad – a lot worse.

          This won’t fix anything, it will make matters a lot worse in most countries except for big business (being able to get away with the lowest possible standards everywhere in the world, instead of having to fight/bribe your way through stricter standards in some countries) and the 0.1% that own these businesses (collect fat profits without doing anything when some country has laws that makes business a little bit more difficult for you or similar scum).

        • d says:

          “What TTP, TTIP etc. are trying to impose on the world is the lowest common denominator”

          Then there is nothing to worry about, as that is what the globalized vampire Corporate Allied with china, are already doing.

          TPP will halt them, not help them, as contrary to your belief, its starter standards are higher than theirs.

          To increase standards, first there must be some mutually agreed and enforced ones.

          Globalization in its current form, is an abused failure.

          TPP can only be better.

          It must be better, china dosent like it.

        • nhz says:

          you are totally wrong, maybe not for the US market but definitely for Europe.

          Most EU countries have far stricter standards than the US, and rightly so. TTIP would lower all those to the US level, which would be really bad. A huge majority of EU citizens doesn’t want US GMO food, hormone meat etc. – with TTIP it will be everywhere and retailers will not even be allowed to clearly mention what they are selling. I don’t see any silver lining except for the multinationals who can now sell the same junk everywhere in the world (and sue any government that demands better quality or stricter standards on their own market).

          It has nothing to do with China, Chinese products on the EU market currently have to conform to the same standards as EU or US products.

    • JerryBear says:

      D, it sounds like you know little or nothing about history and just repeat propaganda instead of actually learning something. The “50 times” referring to Russia reflects the fact they were starting from dire desperate Medieval poverty. They ended with the strongest nation in the world, the only one able to compete with the U.S. I honestly have no idea why you are so clueless as to think productivity can only come from fat profits. We now have an economy dominated by fat profits reflecting no productivity at all.
      Productivity in socialism is based on central planning, which under emergency circumstances can accomplish miracles of production when ?Capitalism would just disintegrate. Need i remind you that the entire country submitted to central planning and a quasi socialism that was pretty far reaching. At the time, the united states had a desperately weak military that was rated just below sweden. We only had one division under arms versus 150 for Japan and 300 for Germany. Yet in two years all that changed dramatically, an example of what central planning can accomplish. It is the reason the United States still exists and still speaks English as opposed to German on the east Coast and Japanese on the West.

      • d says:

        “The “50 times” referring to Russia reflects the fact they were starting from dire desperate Medieval poverty. ”

        Now tell me Something I don’t know, that isn’t obvious.

        How many pictures exist of any your relatives with Stalin??

        They were not the strongest nation in the world, simply the most dangerous and aggressive.

        Yet in two years all that changed dramatically, an example of what central planning can accomplish.

        You as usual leave out far to much as it suits your narrative.

        The US society submitted to central planning, and willingly aided it as after dec 41 the entire nation felt violated. Even Japanese Americans in internment camps volunteered to fight in Europe as they also felt violated.

        Without the 100% cooperation of the society central planning fail’s, it can achieve a lot ,but eventually it fails, as it eliminates individualism, and entrepreneurial spirits, the mainstays of human society.

        Thus teh USSR failed and china has evolved in to a mafia state, to keep the CCP central planning model alive.

        Responsible light Social Safety-net Capitalism, can work, in the correct political system.

        Socialism and communism, can not ever last, long term.
        you always get a collapse like Russia and Venezuela. ALWAYS.

        As long running central planning ALWAYS, enables massive incompetence and corruption, by the planners, and their masters.

        The CCP is in trouble with its people, not due to its failures, but due to the FACT, it is now much more corrupt, than the nationalists ever were.

        • Sound of the Suburbs says:

          Companies are centrally planned from the board of directors.

          Big US multi-nationals are financially larger than many small countries.

          Sack the board of directors and let employees do what they want.

        • JerryBear says:

          D, let us not start a flame war! You seem rather incoherent and rambling and rather emotional. I can only conduct a discussion with someone who uses verifiable evidence and clear logic. Like I said, you know remarkably little about Oriental history at least or you would not make such silly and ridiculous statements about China. Let me remind you I have a degree in a Asian Studies and I know far more about China than you ever will. I find you way to dogmatic and inflexible. Please remember a closed mind can no longer learn. But if I can make you think, even a little, I feel I have accomplished something. I am basically a teacher after all……

  11. Ptb says:

    Wells Fargo fired a bunch of people for this latest indiscretion….none of them higher than second level management. And most were low wage grunts.

    • night-train says:

      Those fired: The Expendables. Participate in our scam or be fired. Participate in our scam and be fired. A Hobson’s Choice for regular folks.

    • Meme Imfurst says:

      And where is Uncle Warren? Likely chatting with his best bud on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. ( Deceptive Crooks) about keeping the FBI and DOJ away from the theft.

      THE IRONY is Wells Fargo is the largest stock holder of Private Stock Traded PRISIONS in America. One roll of TP a week and you have to buy your own food on the weekends, one guard for 500 inmates. DISCRACE Uncle WARREN the devil builds the tenth circle just for you.

      • chris Hauser says:

        camel through the eye of a needle, and all that.

        and i say that as a shareholder and an admirer and student of a great and all too flawed human.

        do you suppose job was a tough negotiator and a capitalist? is there a message there about achievement?

  12. Jungle Jim says:

    This situation was predicted two hundred years ago by the eminent British economist David Riccardo. In 1817, he postulated the “Iron Law Of Wages”. What it says is that when labor becomes interchangeable from country to country, then competition would drive the price of labor down to subsistence levels or below. He emphasized the below part.

    The wealthy and political elitists have recognized the truth of that and exploited it to their own benefit.

  13. Wolf Richter says:

    Michael – my comment was tongue-in-cheek. But the internet is a very tough place to be because competition is endless. Yet my “business” – this site – has been growing in leaps and bounds. I really enjoy what I’m doing, and I have big plans.

    I cannot answer your question: “how can I or any of your readers that want to go out on their own to make a living without being dependent upon a boss succeed at doing it?”

    But let me say this:

    I totally see your anxieties. If you make the leap, and if you succeed, it could turn into one of the best experiences in your life. If you fail – and there’s always a chance – you have to be ready to get back up, brush off the dirt, and move on.

    I don’t even know if I should encourage you to take the leap. It really depends on your situation. I tell you this: I’ve always worked hard in my life, but I’ve never worked this hard before. But in my business, this is what it takes. And I have a passion for it. So that helps.

    Maybe some commenters can weigh in. Many of you have made the leap successfully. Maybe, you could share some of your thoughts.

    • Chris from Dallas says:

      Yes, building a successful small business is difficult, but it is actually quite achievable.

      Here are a few of the things I learned on my way to what I consider success:

      1) Stop watching TV and surfing the internet and start your journey by standing on the shoulders of giants by READING about how business works, biographies on businesses and leaders, motivational books, how to do the different business skills, and everything related to a business you are intetested in.

      2) Start ANY business to get experience IN ALL PHASES of creating a product or service, selling it, managing others, doing accounting, etc. As you master these skills they can be applied to larger and larger businesses and/or you can switch to a completely different industry.

      3) Start it as a part-time, moonlighting endeavor. Your regular job pays your bills and you can learn and make mistakes with much less risk and stress.

      4) AFTER you learn how to do ALL the business tasks, figure out which ones you do best and which ones are the most critical for your company’s success. Focus on these. Delegate and outsource all the other tasks.


      The problem is most people want all the rewards without the risks, without working hard, and yes, without any setbacks or failures.

      You must have courage, find a niche, have the stubbornness to NEVER GIVE UP, the stamina to work very hard on your business(es) for 10,000 hours, the desire to continuously learn and improve, the discipline to do the business tasks you are afraid of AND the ones you dislike, the self confidence to keep a low profile and to keep your expenses to a minimum, and the willingness to SACRIFICE when all your friends are having a great time because they only work 40 hours per week and spend all their money on short term pleasures instead of you investing in yourself and your business.


      • kitten lopez says:

        hello, Mr CHRIS FROM DALLAS~
        damn, that was GOOD. so true, so true. all of ’em.

        MICHAEL, Wolf and Chris from Dallas are spot on.

        part of my horror with the internet and social media is not only the time it wastes and the level of mediocre same blandness that circulates, but the social media system TRAINS you to comply, fit in, be liked, count thumbs ups. and to be different or try something with a margin of profit because everyone’s NOT already in it, you have to DARE TO BE DIFFERENT. TRY THINGS. BE WRONG. FUCK UP. BE EMBARRASSED.

        and you will spend a LOT of time alone. i call myself an “external recluse” because i interact with folks on a heightened level. i’m loud, laugh a lot, and i do things in public others would NEVER do—but i don’t CARE because i don’t want to be LIKED, necessarily. of course i do…but not really. because what’s the point of behaving in a certain polite way when someone’s not even paying your RENT???

        but then i spend a lot of time alone thinking, crying, being depressed, then reading books, sewing samples, screwing up fittings… blah blah blah.

        i’ll show you how i’m working my new angle on this venture and trying to FLIP what’s bad into a LESSON:

        so everytime i lose another comfort, like we just lost this great car we’d had for 12 years. i was so depressed. i’d have to start riding a bicycle. i’m not working/making any real money yet, and that’s how it is.

        BUT i copy James and don’t wanna wear a bicycle helmet. it’s not COOL. yeah, yeah… i used to ride motorcycles and wore helmets. but the point is that i noticed that since i wear big silver hoop earrings and lipstick, along with a hi-vis yellow construction-like vest, i get SEEN and people even give way for me on this bicycle i’ve begun to ride.

        so one of my (many) latest ideas is to make CRAZY, cool, hip, fashionable bicycle jackets that’re feminine, flattering, fluttery and GET ATTENTION. because it’s the damndest thing how cars and vans actually PROTECT ME when i wanna make left turns on big streets!

        i used to SCREAM and ride in the MIDDLE even if i was going too slow so i’d be SEEN.

        so i say this because all the so-called disasters of my life are usually able to be flipped into something unusual and good for me.

        the TERROR that both Chris and Wolf talk about is going somewhere NO ONE ELSE HAS YET GONE.

        you have to develop a TASTE FOR THIS TERROR, and that is why Wolf says he cannot even say if it’s the thing to do because it IS dangerous. and your terror is TRUE.

        BUT when you are able to have the musculature to withtand the embarrassment, the mystery and TERROR, and you blast through it to the other side?

        fuckin’ hell.. there is NOTHING LIKE THAT FEELING. but it’s a muscle that gets flaccid when you’re trained in school to behave so that you can work FOR people. insane people.

        i tried to get a job after being self employed most of my life, and while employers admitted they loved chatting with me and would go on for too long, i was never hired because i knew more than them. had more guts than them. one woman just starting her own business wanted me to come back just to talk to her because she said i was interesting. i said no way because i couldn’t work “for” people in first grade.

        i just couldn’t. my mind might TRY, but my muscles won’t move for something so deadening.

        so it’s a serious undertaking because it’s like having a baby. it’s a way of life. you’ve gotta be in for the long haul.

        like Wolf saying being on the internet is CONSTANTLY competitive? that’s precisely what made me quit the writing/promo game. i spent more time writing on social media sites than doing the actual work of WRITING. it was bullshit and making me insane to court likes and followers, especially when my entire living was made my doing the OPPOSITE. my unusual take in my writing made people WANT to read me. i couldn’t seduce by begging. i have to attract people by being myself….

        thus my new revelation in how to make clothing that gets attention FOR cyclists./ my other idea is to make custom comfortable, well-made clothing for guys who work out or are fat. neither can find anything in stores that’s not navy, grey, or black.

        and custom WELL-MADE flattering clothing for plus size women. i work out a lot, but love my groceries and my jiggles, and nothing in the stores makes me feel as gorgeous and swaggery as my own custom clothes do. i even make my own workout/daily clothes match my LIPSTICKS.

        this makes me feel like my own superhero more than you’d believe, and it helps me get past my despair about all that’s going on around me. it’s the damndest thing.

        point is: i’m trying to find the IGNORED “markets” now that i’m small-scale and can afford to do it.

        it takes a lot of CREATIVITY AUDACITY along with a constant dose of HUMILITY so you can “correct” what you learn.

        i’d cut and paste what Chris and Wolf wrote, because i already am going to. Chris’ list is a keeper fo’ sho’. it reminds me because i get lost. i don’t know a lot of entrepreneurs around here anymore now that the artists and freaks have long since been evicted.

        good luck. it’s thrilling like you wouldn’t believe, once you get a taste of true economic “fuck you.” that’s where the REAL fuck you money is. not LATER as a well-payed employee. no dice. i got off on negotiating contracts with my publisher simply for the GAME of trying new deals that hadn’t been done. be careful this stuff can get to your head and get outta hand, it’s so THRILLING if you love to fight in a good, clean way.

        good luck. you will have moments of despair doubt and that you’re crazy when you first start out. but remember eternal employees are CRAZIER because they’re paid to be.

        it’s a different paradigm. one that i worry we’re losing because of all the internet passivity. Chris is right about getting off the internet. it does something to your attention span and you have to be in for the long haul and be able to hold eye contact and be quiet: you see EVERYTHING that way.

    • Hi Wolf,

      I have another perspective — to add to — but not dispute what you and others have posted here recently. I’ll use as an example my wife (now retired) who began long ago as a keypunch/data entry clerk at an insurance company. Punched cards. She retired ten years ago earning $45K ( 50-ish with bennies ) as an executive assistant.

      She, and many hundreds of thousands of people like her, was born to report to work at some company, with a building and a boss and a steady paycheck.

      Think bank or utility or insurance company or supermarket, etc.

      Without such people the world would grind to a halt, and rapidly. Like those of us with an entrepreneurial bent, these “steady workers” , and all of them, achieved middle-class status and all of its “rewards” whatever that meant.

      Without the steady workers, there would be no clothing, no lumber for homes, no cardboard for stuff, and certainly no I-gadgets.

      THE STEADY WORKERS necessarily outnumber the entrepreneurs and other “management” types. Necessarily. It is like a mathematical identity in many ways. ( An analogy )

      So when I read things like what you wrote in this comment stream today — and also the wonderful things that Charles Hugh Smith writes in the same domain — I often find myself thinking this :


      I am not here today to dispute even 1% of what you and others have written — but only to, and humbly I might add, gently remind people that most people out there were born to report to work. And that can never change because of their social DNA. And good for that, because stuff has to be made and moved by the “steady workers”

      And they have been just as destroyed by the Fed and other federal policies as those on a hierarchically superior level.

      My 2¢ Wolf, keep up the great work, and I applaud and appreciate your success. Your blog improves my life, be sure of that.


      • kitten lopez says:


        “She, and many hundreds of thousands of people like her, was born to report to work at some company, with a building and a boss and a steady paycheck.”

        good god, man… no one is “BORN” to do others’ menial, steady, rote work. / i’m not gonna try and speak for Wolf, but i don’t hear him dissing worker bees; this is about survival now that even the bartelbys are toast.

        i met an older guy in the gym who’d recently retired from a government job he stayed in for the security even though it made him sob in the bathroom during his lunch for 30 years. i looked at him in amazement as i couldn’t even IMAGINE what it’d take to withstand that kind of abuse so long for any kind of “retirement.”

        it just takes different kinds, i guess.

        • Good Afternoon, Kitten

          I appreciate your comment very much. Agreed, no one is “born” into a vocation or a position. This is a comments forum — and as much as I try to construct thoughtful and erudite comments, I fall victim to poor syntax and other flawed constructions . . . Coulda said it better than I did for sure.

          Still, I think my point is valid. I have been ( at times ), and have had many neighbors and friends and co-workers who are temperamentally well-suited to be worker bees.

          Think about the line worker you have known, who has stated for his whole career that he does not want to advance to the next level: management. Or the woman who might be happy as a backhoe operator, or an accounting staffer or a medical device sales rep — who is happy collecting a paycheck – – – and for whom, the anxiety and other difficulties of running her or his own business, would be an overwhelming obstacle to entrepreneurship. The fact stands that more than 50% or all workers are “worker bees” and they are all as necessary for “the system” – – as their jobs are for them.

          So I am sorry for the impression that my poor choice of words conveyed — I only wanted to say this: many many people are temperamentally disinclined or otherwise ill-suited or unsuited to run a business that is sufficiently successful ( as an income generator ) to support them . . . . as well as my wife of many years was supported by being a worker bee at a mid-sized insurance company.

          I admire my wife A LOT for her long and successful career as a “worker bee” and I am saddened that the man you met a the gym had less happiness and success than he surely deserved.

          BTW, she retired, with each of the three legs of her “three-legged retirement income stool” bringing in $15K apiece. Not bad for a lifelong worker-bee: TO EARN AS MUCH AS A RETIREE AS SHE DID IN HER HIGHEST PAID YEAR AS A WORKER !

          Much better than I have done for sure. Ima lucky guy !

          – – – – –

          LATE ADD: I was not meaning to imply that Wolf was dissing worker bees — only that when people suggest “go out on your own” in a facile way — they may want to consider that such a path is not open for many of the worker-bees that I have known and loved.

          – – – – –


          PS : Bartleby – – I read that every few years just to remind myself of EXACTLY where I stand in the corporate world pecking order. It would be nice to follow Bart’s example more often — as least that’s a dream I have.

        • kitten lopez says:

          Dear Mr SNOWIE GEORGIE-

          just now, while i was making our weekly morning muffin mix, i was thinking about YOU, too, and how i also mis-understood what YOU were actually SAYING!

          i got caught in dreaded and deadly BINARY THINKING and i apologize:

          i was “defending” your wife in a way because i hate that in this culture we are what we do for a living and feel that we are infinitely more holy than the choices we are given.

          you were talking about the “support staff.” the folks who wanna LIVE life and have time with their family and have BALANCE! yes yes and more yesses! i agree that not everyone is meant to be either an entrepreneur OR the support staff.

          (plus, as an intense extroverted person, i tend to love people who’re my direct OPPOSITE–the laid back, chilled out folks who just watch me spin like a top while they smoke a cigar and sit back and relax… they are SOLID and i trust when they finally nod in approval! but folks like me usually end up being self employed in the first place because i’ve always been terribly unemployable!!! so it was a terrifying necessity for me from jump street. i wanted jobs and cars and houses but couldn’t hack what it cost my soul to fit in and do the game.)

          when i was done working for myself after all this time, i WANTED desperately to work for someone else as their powerful support staff and not take the job home. i wanted a LIFE and felt i’d wasted my youth on empty meaningless ambition for money i never cared about in the first place, and bullshit people i didn’t even like anymore.

          but i saw that other entrepreneurs/business people here were only hiring whipping boys and girls. i had NO IDEA it’d gotten this bad. my mother was an entrepreneur and hated the day-to-day operations and cherished her solid core of staff so much that she encouraged their creativity and people who’d leave to climb other ladders, often returned because she was FUN and ADVENTUROUS. i grew up with THAT.

          but in this new era, folks like us here on this hopping forum, we are going to need to be more creative than the dead corporations with working with each other’s strengths, working around or developing our weaknesses and encouraging different sides to emerge in EACH OTHER.

          we are out of balance and we are here on this particular site (for there is NONE like it elsewhere) to find out how to survive and THRIVE in this nonsensical data-driven (still subjective) era. i’m excited by the jumping of ideas here. it’s inspiring me. the kindness inspires me.

          in this new era of figuring out our own small businesses we can do in this bizarre era, we cannot at all afford to be dismissive of any “types” as anyone who’s been the entrepreneur knows, you DESPERATELY NEED “support” from the folks who don’t mind being in the background or doing some of the routine boring things. they often don’t like doing the shuckin’ and jivin’ it takes to promote or hustle for money.

          the consistent folks who’re willing to show up and do the unsexy work. they are solid. and i like doing–no, i LOVE doing–“worker bee” things for OTHER entrepreneurs whenever i can pitch in and help out. right now i’m actually into propping up OTHER people so that they may shine. it’s a form of love and love letters and i get off on it now. i’m soooo over years of constantly promoting “myself.” it’s just not HEALTHY!

          anyhow, it’s all about a respect thing. respecting both sides as there is a necessary symbiosis that has been forgotten in the larger scheme of things—this is precisely why we’re here on this forum.

          so thanks for writing me back and i get what you’re saying.


  14. NotSoSure says:

    Oh come on. 61% to 51%, that’s like 51% to go before hitting 0%. Quick, someone should calculate if the number of public companies were to halve, how many of the 51% will be left?

    If you can answer that puzzle, I am sure companies like Google will have a job for you.

  15. nhz says:

    it’s very similar – again – in Europe.

    Small business is being killed by ever more regulations and ever higher taxes, while most of the new business activity is big US multinationals like Apple, Google, Airbnb etc. etc. that shit on official rules and regulations and don’t pay any taxes. How can a small company paying 25-40% tax and having to deal with idiotic employment rules compete with a multinational paying 0.1% taxes or something in that range and ignoring all the other rules?

    Most of the retail activity over here is taken over by large US ‘risk capital’ funds and slowly bled dry while stealing millions or even billions from the Dutch tax office. And even many of the new small companies in my country are people who work for Google, Airbnb or some other activity that is based on government subsidies and tax avoidance. The Dutch tax office actively encourages small companies that ‘don’t grow fast enough’ to close up shop by making regulations and taxes a hell for them. Only the fast growing companies (almost always thanks to foreign or stock market money) get huge subsidies and other help from the government.

    I do believe that you can start a company and be successful if you like what you do and work hard. I’m a biochemist and started a computer/imaging company long ago, with no official training in computer technology. But it has become FAR more difficult than 10 or 20 years ago.

    I have no doubt that currently the best position financially in Europe is being a semi-government or government worker with a fixed contract (this doesn’t include most of the younger people over here) or even someone on social security, disability benefits etc. To be sure: in many EU countries these benefits are minimal, but in Netherlands, Germany etc. it affords living at a level that is often higher than workers with median income. These people see financial improvements every year despite the ‘crisis’, while most small business owners have seen strong declines for years – it started soon after Euro introduction. Many of these people are living from their capital but see no real alternative and they often continue their business until they completely run out of money. The middle class in Europe is finished, after the EU fake economy finally crashes hopefully it will get a chance to rise from the ashes.

  16. RobvC says:

    Gradually Wolfstreet becomes a platform of shared knowledge, experience and comfort.
    What a great place to visit!

  17. Chris says:

    Small business can and will recover once much needed reforms are made and consumers can find a way to deleverage themselves. Wholesale changes to the US economy and monetary policy are needed to reach this goal. Some changes: Controlled de-regulation; ease the tax burden; perhaps make all interest payments deductible; shrink government and government spending; re-structure our trade deals (Trump is dead on in this respect – you simply cannot have wealth leaving this country and expect strong economic growth!); re-invest in infrastructure; de-couple the US dollar from oil – very messy but it allows for clear eyed analysis of what is best for the US as opposed to the repressive and psychopathic regimes we are currently in bed with. The list can go on and on. Bottom line: we either advance as a nation that respects and encourages the individual achievement, value and dignity of our people or we will collapse into a globalized socialist wasteland.

    • nhz says:

      make interest payments deductible? blow an even bigger debt bubble? Make others pay for those who can’t live within their means??

      In Netherlands all mortgage payments are fully deductible from income tax (the biggest tax over here). It is one of the pillars of our epic housing bubble.

      I agree with you that small business should be able to recover when the debt problem is solved. However, that will not happen in our lifetimes I’m afraid. The current international debt bubble (and the housing, stock etc. etc. bubbles that go along with it) is so epic that when it blows the whole economy will go with it; the time for easy solutions has long passed.

      This is what happens when you let a cancer or parasite (central banksters and all that goes with it) go wild on a host and keep curing the symptoms instead of removing the cause of the problem.

  18. walter map says:

    The global market-clearing price of labor is slavery. Workers are not entitled to the product of their labor, and their prosperity, and even their survival, is contingent upon their ability to enrich their masters. People are disposable, and it is very convenient and always appropriate to blame the victim.

    Remember, people who work three or four part-time jobs are poor because they are lazy.

  19. Michael says:

    Thanks Wolf and Chris From Dallas,

    I appreciate the information in your replies. Taking that step into the unknown at this time sure is a scary prospect.


    • kitten lopez says:

      also, work out. take care of your HEALTH. it can become a form of break and meditation from the single-mindedness of such an epic pursuit. i’m not surprised that Wolf swims in the bay each morning.

      i work out seriously HARD 2-3 times a week. keep it SIMPLE. avoid “trainers” as i like some of ’em but think it’s another racket to keep you on the teat. plus you need to not have anyone or anything in your HEAD.

      but when i used to write, i’d sit on the computer for a whole day and ruin my body. the older we get the more balanced we must be and eat right so that we don’t go insane from the intensity.

      trust me on this! i used to go tits out and chainsmoke and not eat or binge eat and not sleep. still have my moments but i can’t do what i want when i’m toast.

  20. The Dude says:

    I can say that you have to minimize personal debt loads before even thinking about your own small business. I have a couple of them. Get ready to “do without” and work like a maniac. I find it funny that Gallop cites $14 an hour as a wage level. Hell its more like $10. However the “doing without” is what we should all be doing. Spending like drunken sailors on cheap Chinese crap, Swiss watches that don’t keep good time, and propping up criminal corporations and their minions is a fools game. Let the McMansion crowd spend their last dime then you can come in and buy their stuff at their yard sale before they are foreclosed on. Americans are delusional Im sorry to say. They bally hoo on all day long about freedom and most (even the most educated) are slaves to banks and credit cards. It’s the electronic plantation folks. You just a are chained to a cubicle and a lap top not picking cotton on a farm with chains around your ankles. Wake up people!!

    • Chris from Dallas says:

      You are SO RIGHT!

      Eliminating debt and getting into a “cheap” lifestyle is a HUGE STEP in your future success! It pays incredible dividends whether you start a business or are a STEADY WORKER.

      See http://www.DaveRamsey.com for practical steps and cheap group classes on debt reduction.

      BUT, you can start learning and testing the waters while doing this. Especially since you will have a lot more free time since some of the ways to save money are stop going out, stop going on vacations, stop buying stuff, etc.

      I started my 2nd software company on the side after I was told that my employer (a huge insurance brokerage) couldn’t give me more than a 5% raise because then I would be making more than my manager.

      This was despite the fact that I was SOLELY RESPONSIBLE for 64% of the revenue for my department of 7 people AND had worked 3000 hours that year WHILE my manager just sat in an office and played solitaire all year!

      Luckily they had a rule that gave me 26 days of comp-time, plus I had 3 weeks vacation, plus holidays and sick days. I spent the next year working evenings and Fridays-Sundays to build up a small client base helping non-profits with software development/deployment/training, neatly tied down all my projects at work so I could always come back if things failed, and at the end of the year I was able to go full-time on my business WITHOUT ANY DECREASE IN PAY.

      A friend of a friend I just met last night has turned his furniture-making HOBBY into a small business after he retired as a teacher. Everything he makes is high quality, his living costs are covered by his pension, and he has a 3-month waiting list.

      A very good friend turned his classic car hobby into a successful business that specializes in finding and restoring 1970s – early 2000s BMWs. He employs 6 STEADY WORKERS and loves the fact that every car and every client is a new and stimulating challenge.

      All 3 of these examples were built on DIRECT CUSTOMER CONTACT that cannot be outsourced and cannot be delivered by large companies.


    • JerryBear says:

      I can’t resist telling a story about Vietnamese immigrants in L.A. They came over not speaking English and no money or credentials. Many worked for poultry processing plants along with Central Americans. They worked long hours very hard and lived in trailers with at least 10 other Vietnamese. In the evenings they studied English. They were incredibly frugal and saved every penny they could. Slowly, they were able to gather enough money to invest in restaurants They were able to slowly lift themselves up, leaving the packing plant to newer immigrants from Vietnam while they invested in education, going to college and earning credentials and going on to good jobs. This generated no small degree of resentment aming the Central Americans. One day, they decided to attack the Vietnamese. These immediately broke out with kung fu stuff and they seriously kicked butt among the Central Americans. The latter then left the Asians alone. I have a lot of respect for the Vietnamese, they are a remarkable people. But this also shows what it takes to succeed in this country.

      • nhz says:

        I think those Vietnamese were lucky that their way of doing things threatened only some Central Americans, and not big government or some big company …

        We have a similar situation in our country with people coming mostly from China in the 70’s or so. I respect their enterprise spirit and hard work, but one reason they were able to succeed is all the crime syndicates that came with them and that are now impossible to root out.

        • JerryBear says:

          I have known a lot of Chinese Americans and none of them were involved with organized crime. They got ahead by being hard working and law abiding, by being personally disciplined and cherishing education. Now there are tongs in the old China towns but that hardly involves the great majority of Chinese in America. I cannot leave your misinformed and down right bigoted statement unchallenged!
          Of course, I have no idea what is happening in the Netherlands. My partner lived in Amsterdam for 19 years and learned to speak fluent Dutch. He says the Netherlanders are a people like no other. I suspect he is right……. ^,..,^

  21. Nicko says:

    Think global; developing economies will see sustained 4% ,5%, up to 10% annual growth for the next decade or more. That’s where the money is being made.

    • nhz says:

      you mean EM will become even more overvalued than it already is?

      Sure, as long as the money spigot from central banks is wide open but look out below when the money flow starts stuttering.

  22. RD Blakeslee says:

    This article and the commentary is outstanding.

    For my part, all I can say is early on I had the goal of finding a way to become independent of the need to be employed (other than self-employed), as early in life as possible.

    Thank you, Wolf, for your way.

  23. ERG says:

    “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

    This is known as ‘bad luck.’ ” – Robert Heinlein

    “We had reversed the recession, avoided a depression, gotten the economy moving again,” Obama told a crowd in Decorah, Iowa. “But over the last six months we’ve had a run of bad luck.” – Barack Obama

    • JerryBear says:

      You are repeating nonsense from the works of Ayn Rand. She basically had no contact with reality. Nothing in human history supports your statements. it is pure fantasy.

      • Sound of the Suburbs says:

        It is usually the desire of a few to take nearly everything and just provide a bare subsistence existence to the rest that do the work.

        During the industrial revolution collective labour movements started to increase the standard of living of the masses. In the factories of that time they could withdraw their labour and put a spanner in the works of the system that enriched the few.

        In a consumer society, consumers must have some money to consume.

  24. KM Tang says:

    Hi Wolf and all the contributors. What you have written provide wonderful insights that mainstream media can only dream of. And yes many of what is said is very similar in this part of the world in particular my country Singapore. Small business plays a large part in the economy. We refer to them as SMEs(small medium enterprise). If I could remember there are about 100,000 of them here. Most started as a 1 man shop. Driven by passion, with personal skills and hard work. Through the years the attrition rate of these businesses should be like that of other countries with a normal curve distribution. The recent years however was not good for many. We do have one more category – the internet startups, the ecommerce. They are part of the SME group. Generally they have a private investor or more and in many cases they qualify for state funding assistance. It is tought business as well. Long hours.
    After spending many years working in MNCs and 10 years in the academic world, I landed in an SME company. The company started as a small IT shop of 15 employees way back in 1982. The two founders were passionate people working very long hours those days. I was 48 when I joined them in 1998. By then there were almost 80 employees. Those years the working culture was very entrepreneur like. The rewards came in year 2001. A company in Thailand and another company in Malaysia all came together and decide to IPO the combine business. All 3 companies were headed by their founders. Soon, 2 other companies came on board the following year. From China and Indonesia. Somehow the SME label was in danger of peeling off. Working there later became stifling breathing the air of bureaucracy. The stakeholders decided to sell out in 2009.
    Another SME worthly of mentioning started as a small outfit assembling PCs in 1986. A small shop with a handful of part-timers they soon managed to offer their branded systems. Just like the Apple II cs and the Tandy Radio Shacks running on Trsdos and CP/M. The later years of the 1990s then 2000 saw them moving to supply almost all IT gadgets and devices and then IPO in the early part of year 2000. It was close to a 60 million company then.
    IT products and business seemingly in the sunset stages in the last couple of years. The company name Aztech Ltd tried diversifying in 2014. The founder and CEO issued a statement in the press just today. He decided to delist the company bring it back to private status. He mentioned that after spending millions over the last two years he was unable to turn the company’s performance befitting to that of a listed company. He offered shareholders .49 cents. The price traded today was .29 cents. His parting message was that he owe it to the shareholders who supported him those years.
    I think as an entrepreneur he succeded. Those long and passionate years. He knew when to let go.

    • Chris from Dallas says:

      Computers are so last-century.

      This is the BIOLOGY CENTURY.

      If my boys were better at school I would have advised them to get into genetics, lend them $15-$25k to get started and beg, borrow and dumpster-dive to get a CRISPR/CAS9 and associated equipment. Or at the least, get them to join a biotech incubator.

      $15-$25k might sound like a lot of money for a garage start-up, but a new top-of-the-line IBM PC and HP laser printer in the early 80s were $5k+ ($14,602 now in inflation-adjusted terms).

      • nhz says:

        I’m a biochemist by education (involved with e.g. photosynthesis and RNA/DNA technologies) but didn’t work in the field because when I graduated in the eighties there were NO jobs. I started a computer/imaging company by accident that was quite successful. Some years ago I had to close up shop because of health issues, but frankly I had also lost all interest in the field because innovation in computer tech had died.

        I’m now involved in biochemistry again but not as paid work. Yes, it’s very interesting and disruptive technology, but there also is lots of red tape. Much of what is happening now is related to health-care, and government fiercely protects the interest of big multinationals and the old-school medical community. I tried setting up a much needed lab with new diagnostic technology two years ago and had to stop because of all the opposition from the medical and political side. Before you know it you have some greedy lawyers breathing in your neck who try to bankrupt you because you are violating some idiot rule from the FDA or something (in reality of course they make trouble because you threaten some existing business model); not a good situation to start a new company.

        I bet that most of the ‘startups’ in this field are not in it for the long run, and just work for the biotech companies or hope to be IPO’d or purchased within a few years. Of course, there will always be people with the right connections among the elite to be successful in this field but without those high level connections you get nowhere.

  25. Steve says:


    How did you get so smart? Your articles are the most insightful and intelligent I have ever read—even more so than the ones written by all the biggest names out there.

  26. Sound of the Suburbs says:

    Ross Perot warned in 1992 about 19th Century capitalism.

    No one really understood what he meant at the time.

    UK 19th Century capitalism – A few very rich people and lots of very poor people who live in squalor with just enough to keep them alive.

    No trickle down, this is what raw capitalism look like.

    Getting there.

    We used to have first world and third world nations.

    The first world nations used some redistribution to improve the standard of living for those lower down the scale to create a modern civilised society.

    The third world nations had very rich people and very poor people and paid no attention to creating a civilised society where there was some redistribution to improve the standard of living for those lower down the scale.

    We took away the things that differentiated first world nations and third world nations and soon all the first world nations started to resemble third world nations as the middle class began to disappear.

  27. Chris from Dallas says:


    Everyone, think of how you can adapt the steps below to starting your own small business. The key is GET STARTED.

    Kitten, How long will it take to create a WILD bicycle jacket and post a link with a photo here in WS?

    Wolf, can you let her post the photo link? Think of it as a CASE STUDY in starting a micro-business.

    So here goes my advice for Kitten.

    Don’t worry about making money at first, but do track your time and costs in great detail (e.g. how long on design, how much for fabric, how long for sewing, etc.) so that you can later figure out how to optimize things and how to make a decent profit.

    Pour some (not all) of your creative juices into it. Your goal should be to FINISH this first jacket, NOT MAKE IT PERFECT!

    Perfection is a trap you need to avoid. It will suck your creativity into a dark hole. Be like the Japanese who used INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENT to create a world-class auto industry starting with just adding small motors to bicycles (these weren’t even motorcycles).

    For marketing, WHAT IF???
    1) You go to office depot and print some business cards on heavy card stock, cut them out with scissors SO YOU CAN TAKE ORDERS (should cost less than $5).

    2) take THE JACKET, 2 pieces of wood (one to go in the ground and the other to go through the arms to make a frame), one of the bright poster-sized sheets of paper (18in X 30in I think), and your bicycle TO A PARK.

    3) Put the jacket on the frame, on the bicycle and leaning as if into the wind

    4) Write catchy phrases on the paper (you are so much better with words than I am, but here is something to get you started)….

    FOR SALE $##

    and put some LOW PRICE (at this point your goal is to get maximum interest, NOT maximum money).

    5) Be your outrageous, outgoing self AND HAVE FUN.

    6) Even better, can James help you carry a fold-up table, chair, sewing machine and some other cloth for your 2ND JACKET so people can see you creating it. This works on so many levels. People won’t feel as if you are SELLING them, but rather it will tweak their curiosity like watching an artist at work. You won’t waste time just standing there. They can actually see and talk to the artist making what could be THEIR next jacket. You can start and stop working easily. You can take a break and enjoy the park. Etc….Etc….

    And even if it doesn’t sell you still WIN because you get valuable market research FOR FREE just by talking to people.

    7) If there is interest I can explain the next steps.

    P.S. Instead of starting from scratch (or in addition to it) can you gussy up a jacket from Goodwill or Salvation Army?

    P.P.S. Read this link about how to start writing a book and ADAPT IT to creating your BIKE JACKETS

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I don’t allow commenters promoting their own products or services directly. Otherwise this comment section will turn into an ad fest. I already have to delete about 100 spam comments a day – for male enhancement, fake Gucci purses, etc…. You don’t know what you’re missing!!

      However KL can add her website URL to the sign-in box (where it says “website”) and her screen name will appear as a clickable link to her site. She can post the image of her jacket (or whatever) on her site … just one click away.

    • kitten lopez says:

      i didn’t sleep a wink last night. i’ve been way too revved up. i’ve got vertigo and ice cream headaches!!!! THIS IS ALL SO PERFECT!!!!!

      and YES! What Petunia had said about doing a gallery show led to James doing music–he used to be in a “punk” kinda marching band where they’d sometimes practice by bar hopping and walking down Valencia st. all playing trombones and horns and drums…

      THIS IS A SCENE!!!

      and now, CHRIS!!!! yes… i am ruminating… i dance out in public while doing laundry or just wherever i happen to be in the city…

      but Chris- your idea re: sewing in PUBLIC as PERFORMANCE ART??? oh my GOD!!!! one of the big fabric stores got booted out of their industrial soma space when the rent jumped up to $25k a month and they’re on the outer reaches of town and have a BIG PARKING LOT…

      and i’d wanted to TEACH sewing because it’s empowering…

      i’ve already bookmarked this particular page of Wolf’s site because i kept returning and WILL keep returning because different aspects of what Petunia said–and now YOU, Chris—keep re-emerging and evolving.

      i can’t even read today’s posts or even check my email. i’ve been electrified awake since Petunia confirmed this wasn’t crazy–because the downside of being a hustler is that i’ve been thinking i hoodwinked or manipulated James into thinking this was a good idea and i was getting scared and stomach aches…

      CHRIS, you’re also onto something here with not only your business advice but your CREATIVITY and working beyond … just BEYOND. as “artsy fartsy” as i think i am, i get stuck and mired and scared.

      and Wolf, i so get what you’re saying re: sales and i don’t want to smarm up this place.

      i’m gonna spend a few days in my sketchbook and dancing and WATCHING and THINKING…

      whoa… but man, CHRIS.. you and PETUNIA are edgier than anyone i’ve EVER encountered in the arts–as producers, agents, editors….

      i’m so lucky. thank you thank you thank you…

      i have glorious ice cream headaches of joy over the richness of these ideas….

      i’ve got energy like you wouldn’t believe and am suddenly feeling empowered and seeing connections with others i hadn’t SEEN…

      i’m gonna keep returning to THIS page to keep the topics together on one place. also it’s good for other readers waiting to jump, to see the PROCESS (like making art in PUBLIC!!!!).

      Wolf, you totally fucking rock way more than any proverbial hurricane.

      Chris, you and Petunia… if youse guys are ever here, let’s go to aquatic park and hold Wolf’s towel while he swims and surprise him! i don’t know if you swim in the bay from aquatic park but man…

      i haven’t had this kind of input even when there WERE artists still here.

      i think i love you guys. not kidding.

      more later…

      and so NOT kidding. i’m not gone; just ruminating deeply and writing and drawing…

      CHRIS… so glad you’re into this wild bicycle jacket. it just gets more and more PERFECT. and re: perfection—you’re SO right!!!!

      i get hung up on quality and from the library books i’ve taught myself patternmaking, pattern GRADING, and now i’m trying to learn draping so i can directly fit actual people directing, and i’m learning how to use sergers better and just got a basic mechanical sewing machine so’s i can do APPLIQUE art on fabrics as my “art” and form of drawing and design.

      more later. i might set up a “private” link on my site later to show what i’ve been up to for youse guys. it feels a little like answering the door in my bathrobe and unbrushed teeth, but that’s what this is also about, RIGHT?

      it might inspire OTHERS. i’m so digging this it HURTS in a good way!!!! wow… i wasn’t expecting this at all…

      anyhow, return here later. i can’t get beyond this post yet. but i HAD to check in and tell Petunia what she started because when you have this kind of power to inspire you SHOULD be told. people will complain to you about stupid shit, but they rarely tell you the love letters and that’s my new art now. (smile)

      man, CHRIS FROM DALLAS… i could just crush hug you, too. even after what a shmuck i was to you. wow. thank you. i’ve gotta read your post again. a couple of times, actually. you have some killer ideas in there.

      a lot of kids and people have already wondered HOW i do whatever it is i do. this is a no brainer…

      thank you thank you thank you.

      more later…


      p.s. Chris, when i show you the DRAWINGS i’ve come up with regarding wild bicycle jackets that flutter in just the right places and are tight in the right places, you’ll SEE. it’s gorgeous. it’s got a “bustle” feel and a tiny waist look…

      and i’m mixing stretch fabric with non-stretch and that’s a new-ish thing for me so i’m gonna go do swatches… AND one of my fabric stores is RIGHT next to thrift town for looking at old jackets.

      thank you. i can’t thank you both enough for sharing your brilliance with me. this is better than anything. inspiration… you can’t BUY this stuff.

      more later…


    • kitten lopez says:

      okay. click on whatever’s lit up to take you to my site, because i just now did a SECRET page on my site for you and Petunia and anyone else who’s interested in the sketches i just did…!!!

  28. kitten lopez says:

    and CHRIS from DALLAS:

    “Think of it as a CASE STUDY in starting a micro-business.”
    yes! that’s why i’m gonna return to THIS page. i think. unless Wolf wants me to move on. but i get the reason he started a new thread for column inches and not scrolling down so much. it took me a moment to get that.

    but i kinda like ALL the related comments. they all go together.

    i’d totally be into being the guinea pig for the new case study. it’ll make me feel like i’m not out there “alone.” and any “failures” would be fodder for learning. this is PERFECT!

    okay, i’m staying home from the gym today to seriously go underground for a bit and ruminate….

    with much much affection and gratitude…

    your little business sister


    • Wolf Richter says:

      KL, we don’t do “column inches.” They have no meaning in blogging. However, we have a LOT of readers on smartphones, and they’re having trouble reading the narrow columns that you get when you’re the fourth reply….

      This is
      what it mi
      ght look l
      ike on sma
      rtphone an
      d supermons
      trously long

      So when I/you have a long-ish response that might trigger more replies, it’s a good idea to start a fresh one. Simple as that.

  29. kitten lopez says:

    actually, don’t worry Mr Wolf- since we all are regulars, i’ll give updates as i move along to read newer posts and not make this one a mile long after a month of updates. i’m just “STUCK” here on this page right now. in a good way. / i can’t take any other information in my head right now that isn’t related to this idea.

    i feel like there were pearls strewn all over the room and i had no thread on which to STRING them so i was slipping all over the place…but NOW…


    THIS is the place we hope to get to, you know??? after YEARS of confusion, struggle, fighting for faith, knowledge… and finally when you quietly smile and go “fuck yeah….” and feel like you’re flying.

  30. kitten lopez says:

    for MICHEAL if you’re still here:

    i’m also SCARED and excited. you can get USED to being lost and having direction takes responsibility and a new level of terror to overcome! but thank you for giving a damn; it’s inspiring to have to be accountable.

    i’m saying this for YOU, Michael, if you’re still here. James reminds me that “nowadays people are afraid of being afraid.” people usually see my swagger and attitude but aren’t privy to me sobbing and chewing table legs out of terror, in private.

    i’m gonna try and be honest about all this so you don’t waste precious time berating yourself for the bouquet of contradictory emotions you’ll experience in trying anything new. especially nowadays when the WORLD is in a panic.

    story books romanticize going your own way but it’s often HELL and people don’t LIKE it when you’re different. you challenge how they’ve lived their entire lives and what they believe. people will KILL to maintain their illusions of safety and that the world is how they think it is.

    swagger’s nice but it’s never easy when it’s real. those wells fargo and epipen CEOs are some of the biggest pussies i’ve EVER seen. that’s fake swagger. it shatters. they can’t answer questions directly. they turn to water.

    • Michael says:


      I am still here. Thanks for your advice, and thank you to everyone else for contributing to this thread. It is awesome how many people have replied. Like a true community.

      Good luck to all of you in these pressing times.

  31. kitten lopez says:

    (Click whatever Wolf said to click for my site. i put it in the field under my email address)

    in the interest of divulging all, as well as our micro-biz process here, i’m going to show my stagnant starting point by showing my site as it is NOW.

    but i must warn you that i talk a lot about race and sex–as it’s part of the audacity i want in my designs. so if you’re squeamish or prone to over-sensitivity, i’m never gonna be for you. like when i say i hate “rich people,” i don’t REALLY. i was actually BORN a cartoonist, see things in cartoon extremes and scream in extremes.

    i’ve had a lot of folks with money in my life (they’re rampant in the arts–publishing, art, and film businesses), as well as my own mother.

    and i’m half white–WASP to boot—and i make fun of oversimplified white and rich folks, especially the ones taking over this town.

    i hate it whenever people aren’t real people or treat others like real people. that’s what you’ll be reading. but i have to move/change how i rant because the rage is killing me.

    i know it’s a class thing now. but i can’t oversimplify anymore. even on class. so i don’t know where i’m going. i’m just trying to find the LOVE not the HATE.

    i’m middle aged now and have been kicked out of the YMCA over a rich white lady thinking i was the maid there and complaining about my “uppityness” (and they called the cops when i sobbed about how they were treating me and 4 cop cars came and escorted me out for CRYING–the white complaining rich lady was enraged by my crying/no kidding). my black Puerto Rican father marched in Selma and my parents were 60s civil rights activists so i know what this looks like and was taught how to stay cool/non-violent in the face of racist acts.

    i’ve lived here in SF 23 years and it wasn’t until the last handful of years that i started to get cops routinely called on me for dancing in my own neighborhood or by my new gym.

    i feel every colored person getting shot like it could’ve been me and it’s part of why i get stage fright whenever i leave my apartment now. i never never know what will happen, what i’ll inspire. people either come up and hug me or hate me and try to make me stop. just STOP.

    i’ve been attacked twice by two self-entitled white men who recently moved into my neighborhood. the second hosed me down and attacked me because when he called the cops they laughed that i was doing nothing, and moved on.

    so i’m struggling. please understand my fear and rage and don’t hate me for it.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The link works


    • JerryBear says:

      Hee Hee! I kind of get the impression people don’t really know what to make of me and keep a cautious distance.
      Kitten, you are a little bit crazy but I like you! ^,..,^
      You add a welcome change of tone here.

  32. Jeff D says:

    WOW, Thanks for the great article… at least somebody gets it!
    Probably way too long for comment section, but I wanted to provide an example, will try to keep it short…

    I started my structural drafting career in 1984, after a year of tech school immediately after graduating high school… making a whopping $5 an hour. I survived a couple recessions and slow construction times over the years by doing whatever I needed to support our family with 3 kids. Once I was a fueler at the airport (back to $5 an hour from about $12 then) to have an income and get off unemployment. I averaged about $1 an hour until 2009 when the crash hit me, I was making $30 an hour and with overtime, made 60K that year on my tax return.

    My nephew had just been laid off from his job as a superintendent overseeing new homes being built and got both of us work taking care of foreclosed homes (as independent contractors) After being in an office for 25 years, I was working 60-70 hours a week mowing lawns and hauling stuff to the dump. I almost had a retroactive hernia when I added up the dump tickets for a year and realized I had hauled 75,000# to the dump… Hand loaded and unloaded from my trailer… that was 75 tons considering I handled it twice… I did this trying to make the income I had been making before, and pay down our debt immediately… while they continually cut the rates they paid for things, because other contractors came in and under bid everything… we were down to $15 for driving to a house and cutting the yard when I finally had enough almost 3 years later.

    About the same time I got a contract labor drawing job from my old boss… I had never been fired or laid off officially, we just ran out of work. He told me he would never be able to hire employees again because of 99 weeks of unemployment, since our office had grown to about 25 employees when this hit… If he ever did payroll again, his tax to repay the fund would make it impossible to stay in business. A business that began with me doing some drawings for him, a registered structural engineer that could not find employment in 1990, but he had find somebody to pay him to design a huge custom home. Anyway, he was optimistic we finally had work starting to trickle in again…

    Since then, in the past 4 years, I have barely managed 10K a year self employed from him and 3 other engineers, while selling literally everything I own on craigslist to keep the bills paid with a roof over our head and buy a few groceries… Every time I start getting concerned and think about almost abandoning my career and taking a minimum wage job, something else comes in… Luckily my kids have moved out and its just the two of us living on that pittance… BUT, bright side, looks like if things stay as they are over the next few months, I might do $15K this year.

    My wife and I are but a couple of the invisible Americans.

  33. Herk says:

    There is another metric to the loss of the middle class that was not mentioned; UNREPORTED INFLATION.

    The example way up at the top of the article about the guy with the $65k a year job going down to $28k a year? News for those that do not pay attention but $65k a year ain’t what it used to be, that is not a breadwinner wage these days. It is after taxes if you have mom and dad making that much, but in 2008 I had a total after tax income of 46,000 and living alone with no kids or pets or Ex’s to support I classified that as “middle class,” though just at the threshold of middle class.

    Now, at 47,000 per year after taxes I am most certainly NOT middle class, and aside from the about 3% increase in net income nothing else has changed but the prices I have to pay.

    In fact, my life has shrunk to the point where every month I have to look for more things and ways to cut my spending. I have not bought a new garment since about 2010, I got rid of the newspaper subscription when it more than doubled in one go back about then too. I all but stopped buying red meat when hamburger went to $7.49 a pound. In spite of coffee on the world markets going to $1.30 per pound Starbucks has risen 85% and thus they are gone, have not been in one in years. I owned a house but after Chase stole it I went back to renting in 2010, and since then rents are up here by more than 70%, with most of that being since Q1 2013. I now have to pay $1,300 for a shabby place that was 700 in 2013.

    Some of the rise has been due to local conditions which may not be the case (YET) where you are, but I contend that prices (generalized to the term INFLATION) have taken over 40% of purchasing power in just the last few years but most certainly since the 2009 lows post crash.

    People in general do not understand that many changes have been made to both how and when prices are measured, and once measured what is done to them so that inflation is edited out of existence. It has been fabricated to fit monetary and economic policy and the victims are the middle class and poor. At least the poor have some cushion as entitlements they rely upon have acted as a buffer to their personal finances, which I say snidely because the majority do not have what most of us call personal finances. Better off high school kids get better allowances than most poor people I know, and we are not talking about welfare Moms either but mostly just elderly people or disabled vets who would be fine on SS combined with what they managed to save if this were in fact still 1978.

    Just because fuel is cheaper than it has been in many years does not mean there is no inflation. My gasoline savings is great and I hope it lasts (IT WILL NOT BUT WE CAN HOPE) but it does not even begin to cover the increases in housing costs by several times. The 100 or so per month I am saving on gasoline is swamped by the $600 more per month I have to pay to have a roof over my head. The extra $200 I am paying to feed myself. I hear a lot of denial, and a lot of excuses why this is not inflation, but baby when I have to keep looking for ways to stretch a buck at my income level then this nation is in deep Caca.

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