Plutocrats, Income Inequality and the future of Amateur Woodworking
To begin with, this post isn’t about politics. It’s about economics, pure and simple.
No matter what your political stripe, most Americans will agree that the folks at the top of the income ladder have done very well over the last twenty years, very well indeed. The rest of us haven’t faired nearly so well. The group that is usually referred to as the middle class, has seen its spending power dwindle, year in and year out during the same period.
Joel Moskowitz, Owner of Tools for Working Wood, recently suggested that most of our population no longer puts a very high value on fine furniture and accessories. As a consequence, the interest in fine woodworking, both doing it and purchasing it, seems to be on the decline. I would argue that “taste” is, more often than not, a construct based on the availability of surplus wealth. It’s as simple as this, if the ratio of your essential costs (food, clothing, shelter) to income is rising, then there’s every possibility that you’re going to be spending less on the finer things of life (like furniture and/or tools).
It’s probably safe to say that most Plutocrats are not woodworkers. They’re too busy buying and selling governments, sending manufacturing jobs overseas and the like. And it’s equally safe to say that most wood workers are, pretty much, middle class. So here’s a bit of economic reality that even the most unschooled can understand: Ten people making $100,000 per year, will, collectively, spend significantly more money (thereby improving the economy for everyone), than one person making a $1,000,000. It seems to me that until we see the economic health of the middle class improve, we’ll continue to see the erosion of traditional “non-essential” businesses in this country.
Looking back to my youth, I remember that almost every guy in the neighborhood did some woodworking. Everyone (mainly males), was introduced to woodworking in school (public schools), as a means to provide students with a skill set that would be valuable to employers involved in the manufacture of goods. Now that traditional manufacturing has been decimated in this country, there is no longer the need for training in the “Industrial Arts”.
In recent years, organized labor has nearly been destroyed. Its power to successfully negotiate higher wages for its members has been severely weakened. The forty hour work week, that our parents fought for, is a thing of the past. And that is truly unfortunate. The middle class is not only poorer in income, it has less free time to engage in recreational activity. And most unfortunate is that many members of the working class have come to the conclusion that the Plutocratic/Oligarchic combination has their best interests at heart.
There’s no punch line here, no hidden political agenda. But the next time you talk to your Representative in the government, let him, or her, know that you think that there’s nothing more important than improving the economic position of the middle class by ensuring that there are good paying jobs available to all Americans. All of us will be far better off for your efforts.