I am 70 years old. These are called “The Golden Years.” But really the are “The Platinum Years.” The reason is simple. Never in history have millions of the elderly lived so well. We have the computer that permits us to do everything from banking, to attend college, to communicate with people from across the globe, to create music and make a movie, all from the comfort of home. We have cable television that provides endless entertainment and news. We never have to be alone. We can get practically everything we want without leaving our home. All for basically a modest price. Compare this to years ago when the elderly were often confined to a rocking chair on a porch, cut off from mainstream society, totally dependent on family, friends and neighbors. The elderly were often pushed aside, considered too old to do anything creative. “The Platinum” years, however, comes with a price. The computer and cable gobble up jobs like a hungry beast. Every Christmas card created on a computer is one less card sold in a store. Every movie rented on cable is one less ticket sold at the movie house. Every college course taken on the web means fewer travelers, fewer snacks, jackets, pens and pencils sold on and near the campus. We know this but we don’t really understand it. The extent of the job destruction is as hard to comprehend as is the national debt. The number is too big for us to get our arms around it. The job destruction, like the national debt, is an 800 pound gorilla in the room. Government statistics indicate people are reducing their spending out of necessity or fear or both. But we’re also whistling in the dark, banking that government policy will eventually create enough jobs to bring back prosperity for the vast majority of citizens. But that’s not a given by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve never faced this situation before whereby computers, the Internet and human-like robots can do work better and more efficiently than humans. A robot that can display empathy and bring an old man like me comfort and companionship, will take jobs away from the young and middle aged. Jobs will continue to be lost to low wage countries. Students in foreign countries will study American law via the web and be hired by American law firms to handle some of the work load. And it goes on. What’s troubling is that there is not a sense of national emergency over jobs. The biggest story of the 21st century so far has been the death of Michael Jackson, an entertainer who played no role in the nation’s economy or future. I just wish the national media would give the same attention to the job crisis as it did to Mr. Jackson death. And the issue just isn’t job creation. it’s also about creating good jobs with benefits. We must never forget the government can do just so much. And government can take away what it gives, just ask the educators and social workers in California. We need to go into a World War 11 mode about jobs. We need to get across to the general public that job destruction is the greatest crisis we’ve ever faced as a nation and we need preparation and sacrifice. It’s the faiiure of our leaders to adequately articulate the crisis that’s what’s tarnishing my “Platinum Years.”
Who — or what — really controls your mind?