This weekend, about every third editorial I read was about what can and should be done by government to promote the creation of more jobs. One common theme among the articles was the seeming paradox that corporate profits are improving, but this isn't resulting in a new wave of hiring.
At the risk of sounding like a cranky radical (you may judge left wing or right wing), corporate profits are improving because corporations have figured out how to make and sell as many things as they used to using fewer people. Corporations don't have a mandate to create jobs; they have a mandate to create profits for stockholders. Employees are just a cost of doing business, and smart businesses cut costs wherever they can.
Some people are attracted to large corporations because they provide the illusion of job security. Microsoft or Fedex or even McDonald's look to be companies that will be around for the long haul, and it might seem like, once you get a job with a corporation that has been around decades and will last for decades, you can be assured your job will last.
But, it's big corporations who can be the most agressive when it comes to making the cuts needed to stay profitable. So you've got twenty years experience? Do you really turn out more work than the five part timers you could be replaced by for the cost of your salary and benefits? Or, having gotten secure in your job, are you actively making yourself replacable by taking for granted that you've found your niche in life?
I'm not writing this to condemn corporations as cruel or heartless, however. I'm writing more as a wake-up to the American worker. We can bemoan the fact that corporate CEO's take home multi-million dollar bonuses that could have been used to hire more workers, or we can accept that these are the facts of life in the new American century, and, really have been the facts for a good twenty or thirty years now.
The only way to ensure that you will never be fired is become your own employer. Develop your most profitable skills to the point that other people willingly pay you money to excersize those skills.
Self employment isn't easy. I'm writing this as someone who still has a job with a corporation, because, while I can concievably replace my salary with my own efforts, it's a much higher hurdle to replace my salary and my benefits. Health insurance is a huge expense. But, I know my goals, and the longer I strive, and the harder I work, the closer I get to reaching them.
One giant hassle of self-employment has been handling my taxes. I think I've done a fairly good job. As a writer, my revenues in a year come from fewer than a dozen sources, and my expenses aren't excessively difficult to keep track of. Still, the stress I feel every April when I mail off the taxes I owe always cause me to wonder if it's worth it. It's not like I've sat down and read our entire zillion page tax code. What if there's some odd sub-clause I'm missing and the next thing I know I'm in court defending myself because I didn't pay the 9x12 manilla envelope tax when I mailed off my last book contract?
So, returning to the question that started this column: What should government do to create more jobs for you? Nothing. It's up to us. This is still America. If we've reached the point where we can't pull themselves up by our own boot straps, we're done for. But, the government could do more to put us bootstrappers on equal footing. Corporations can deduct health insurance. Why can't I? Give the American people fairness, and we can't provide our own opportunities.