What Is Going On?

I talked to my mom yesterday. She was upset about the jobs situation and worried that Obama will not have any solutions when he addresses Congress on the issue this week. I'm worried about all of this too. But I have no illusions that Obama or anyone in government (including those who want Obama's job) can do much about it.

The most interesting piece in the New York Times yesterday was not David Carr's hatchet job on Mike Arrington. It was the piece about problems at the US Postal Service:

The post office’s problems stem from one hard reality: it is being squeezed on both revenue and costs. As any computer user knows, the Internet revolution has led to people and businesses sending far less conventional mail. At the same time, decades of contractual promises made to unionized workers, including no-layoff clauses, are increasing the post office’s costs. Labor represents 80 percent of the agency’s expenses, compared with 53 percent at United Parcel Service and 32 percent at FedEx, its two biggest private competitors. Postal workers also receive more generous health benefits than most other federal employees.

Right there you have in a microcosm the issue facing most developed economies, particularly western europe and the US. We are undergoing a big time technological revolution that is disrupting big industries and big companies all over the place. And many of these big companies (and societies) have in place huge entitlements that make it impossible to operate them profitably.

The US Postal Service story is not a unique situation. It is the situation. And we are going to be living with this situation for many years to come. We are crossing a huge chasm from an industrial society to an information society. And there is immense pain in that transformation. Obama can't solve the problem nor can any of his opponents. Time will solve this problem as new industries get built, people learn new skills and new jobs, and we dismantle entitlement systems that are not sustainable.

That is what is going on. I'd love to hear Obama tell the country that. But I doubt he will. But someone should.