Unlike many other issues, the disagreement about the death penalty in
the United States does not correspond with the partisan divide.
Many Democratic and most Republican politicians continue to support
capital punishment. Yet it is curious that those lawmakers who often
express concerns about trusting the government on other issues seem to
put so much faith in this life-or-death matter, especially when there
are continuing questions about its fairness and justice.
Instead of rushing to send more dead men walking, Florida should send its death penalty walking.
St. Louis, May 15, 2013
The writer, an associate professor of theological ethics at Saint
Louis University, is a former corrections officer with the Pinellas
County Sheriff’s Department in Florida.
Note from KBJ: Jurors are not "the government." They are our peers. We punish murderers with death because we value innocent human life.
David Fryman thinks I overrate the importance of wins for a pitcher. He says other statistics, such as earned-run average, are also important (and perhaps more important). I have a question for David: Do you say the same about military leaders? Do you say that it wasn't important for Robert E. Lee to win? After all, he didn't have the same army as Ulysses Grant.
The goal of every military leader is to win. It is not to have the best fatality ratio or the most enthusiasm. Lee lost. Grant won. Lee would be the first to tell you that he failed, and he wouldn't excuse himself by pointing to Grant's numerical superiority or greater firepower. (I would be very surprised if he ever mentioned these things.)
The fact is that Felix Hernandez has won more than 14 games only once in his eight-year career, and never won 20. He consistently fails to outpitch the opposing pitcher. He's a dud. If and when he wins 20 games, I will salute him. Until then, I stand by my judgment.
Josh Hamilton ranks 81st of 92 hitters in the American League, in batting average. I love watching players leave the Rangers for "greener" pastures. Most of them end up playing for losing teams and wishing they were back in Arlington. Meanwhile, the Rangers have the best record in baseball.
You are walking down the street when you come across a wallet lying on the ground. You open the wallet and find that it contains several hundred dollars in cash as well the owner's driver's license.
From the credit cards and other items in the wallet it's very clear that the wallet's owner is wealthy. You, on the other hand, have been hit by hard times recently and could really use some extra money. You consider sending the wallet back to the owner without the cash, keeping the cash for yourself.
Is it appropriate for you to keep the money you found in the wallet in order to have more money for yourself?
Unemployment is staying high despite the end of the recession because we
are now in a historic transition. Because of automation, globalization,
efficiency and other factors, we no longer need the share of people
working that we have had in the past. With these trends moving in only
one direction, it is clear that the job crisis is permanent and will not
go away with better economic times.
We can see this shift in recent social patterns. Working ages, once
routinely 21 to 65, are narrowing, with younger people dependent longer
and those older, often thrown out of their careers, increasingly
choosing different lifestyles. More Americans without realistic
expectations of supporting themselves legally are falling into bad
habits, a problem cutting across racial, regional and urban-rural lines.
The “brain drain” no longer refers to workers coming to the United
States; it now means foreigners going home after being educated here, or
even our citizens moving elsewhere. Since women have weathered the
trends better as a group, we are having new tensions between the sexes,
with unemployed, directionless men becoming more common.
Protectionist solutions will not solve this core problem. A more
effective measure would be a Works Progress Administration-style
infrastructure project, which with relatively low labor and material
costs will never be cheaper than now. Also beneficial would be reducing
work hours, to spread work around while improving our quality of life.
If we continue assuming that the job shortage will resolve itself, we
risk dire consequences. More Americans will be without hope or purpose.
Companies of all sizes may crash from lack of customers.
The challenge for our public policy as well as for Americans
individually is to adapt to the permanent nature of what we are facing.
JAMES B. HUNTINGTON Eldred, N.Y., May 13, 2013
The writer is the author of “Work’s New Age: The End of Full Employment and What It Means to You.”
In decades gone by, it was assumed that mechanization would liberate the
masses from the drudgery of work. Instead, mechanization and
globalization have “liberated” them from the ability to make a living.
We produce ever more as a society, be it food, clothes or iPads.
However, the rewards of this bonanza are concentrated in ever fewer
hands, while most of society struggles to get by. To continue on this
path is ill advised, as a society out of financial balance cannot
ultimately be stable.
Large chunks of the population must not be allowed to remain unemployed,
but what jobs can be created that will be neither mechanized nor
outsourced? Mr. Huntington mentions infrastructure projects, in
conjunction with shorter working hours. I would also suggest projects to
train large numbers of health care and elder care workers. We have a
nation full of people desperately in need of these services.
Solutions to the unemployment issue require financing. Income and
corporate taxes in the United States are low by historical standards,
and rife with loopholes. Revising the tax code and funneling the
resulting tax income into job-producing programs is a good way to begin
Unfortunately, I am not optimistic that this can happen in the current
environment, where big money all too often calls the shots in its own
KIM JOHNSON Stamford, Conn., May 15, 2013
Mr. Huntington states what is rapidly becoming obvious: given the rise
of the machines, human labor is worth less and less in the marketplace,
leaving many without a living wage.
But we must also recognize another new development: there are now
sufficient resources and productive capacity to provide food, shelter
and health care to everyone, whether fully employed or not. The moral
conclusion to draw is that if there’s not enough work to go around—and
if it isn’t necessary to boot—then one shouldn’t have to be employed
to deserve a life worth living. In terms of meeting human needs, there’s
not a job crisis, but a crisis of resource distribution.
However, as Mr. Huntington points out, idleness undermines motivation,
hope and purpose, so we must be more imaginative in creating meaningful
work. There are many human-to-human, non-automatable occupations that
could be expanded: teaching, mentoring, counseling, caring for the
young, sick and elderly, rehabilitating offenders, providing social
services, and training people for such occupations.
If we can put people before profits in allocating resources (a radical
proposal, I realize), we’ll apply the growing labor surplus not just to
building and maintaining infrastructure, but to meeting the growing, and
permanent, demand for human services with a human touch.
THOMAS W. CLARK Somerville, Mass., May 15, 2013
The writer is a research associate at the Institute for Behavioral
Health, Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis
When my husband’s corporate career was cut short, and we hung on by our
fingernails to what was left of the gracious living it provided, we
hoped and prayed (and job-hunted) for a miracle that would rescue us. It
was not to be. We sold our house on a short sale.
Two years later, we live in a basement apartment, and at 61 and 59
contemplate the future. He’s selling cars, I’m job-hopping and wondering
if my white hair is a detriment to my chances of getting a job at a
local grocery store.
My husband thinks back to his father, coming of age during the
Depression, and how fortunate that the Civilian Conservation Corps was
available for him. A repurposed C.C.C. is just what we could use—and
we are so not alone in this. Many people our age have found themselves
jobless, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have skills, talents,
determination and, most important, the desire to get a feeling of
satisfaction back after years on the corporate track.
SUSAN MITCHELL JOHNSON Urbandale, Iowa, May 15, 2013
Mr. Huntington is right about the extraordinary economic transformation
we are now undergoing. Unfortunately, the remedies he proposes are mere
Disruptive technologies are always accompanied at first by job losses—for example, farm jobs at the onset of the Industrial Revolution. But
they have eventually always created more and better-paying jobs than the
This new technological revolution may become the first time that
historical pattern is not repeated. And that’s because this new version
is eliminating jobs that are higher up on the economic scale—middle
management, for example, and skilled, educated technicians—and
replacing them with higher-paying but fewer jobs.
It is critical that we think about how to respond to a new economic and
social paradigm. Should we still consider work to be a necessary element
in how we define human beings? Should we redefine how people contribute
to the community? What kinds of assistance should we offer to those who
have been replaced by machines? How, ultimately, do we define what it
means to be a productive member of society when there are no longer
enough jobs for people?
ARNOLD BROWN New York, May 15, 2013
The writer is chairman of Weiner, Edrich, Brown, a consulting firm that analyzes trends.
Mr. Huntington assumes that present trends will continue into the
future. He cannot possibly know whether or not “automation,
globalization, efficiency and other factors” will always work to depress
the job market.
Economists are not necessarily good at making even near-term
predictions, as the failure of most of them to predict the financial
crisis suggests. We should be skeptical of long-term economic
predictions and especially of predictions that purport to tell us what
is going to be true permanently. Mr. Huntington’s claim that “the job
crisis is permanent” overreaches.
JONATHAN MARKS Collegeville, Pa., May 16, 2013
The writer is an associate professor of politics at Ursinus College.
As the author of an Op-Ed article in The Times entitled “The Age of the Superfluous Workers,”
I agree most strongly with Mr. Huntington’s analysis, predictions and
most of his policy ideas. However, effective work time reduction
requires enough progressive tax reform and income redistribution to
compensate for the accompanying wage and salary reductions—and that
requires reducing America’s inequalities.
HERBERT J. GANS New York, May 15, 2013
The writer is professor emeritus of sociology at Columbia University.
America’s job crisis is temporary. It is a result of an aging population
and the recent economic crises. The baby boomers who have delayed their
retirements, because of economic fears and uncertainties, have caused a
bottleneck in the job market. According to the 2011 Associated Press
surveys, 60 percent of the baby boomers lost value in investments
because of the economic crises, 42 percent are delaying retirement and
25 percent claim they’ll never retire.
The dramatic demographic change caused by the high birthrate during the
baby boom years has resulted in a disproportionate number of older
workers in the labor force. The employment picture will improve
dramatically once the baby boomers retire and open up jobs for young
workers. It is very likely that 10 years from today, when the United
States has a disproportionate number of retirees, the economy will be
facing a labor shortage.
ANDRE MONTERO Brooklyn, May 15, 2013
The writer is professor emeritus of accounting at Kingsborough Community College.
The job crisis is a reflection of the fact that we buy foreign products
because of price, and our companies have gone overseas to supply us.
Moreover, we are raising children who will be unable to compete.
Our universities are churning out ill-prepared graduates in many useless
fields. We need to produce more employable graduates.
Employers are the job creators. Why should they receive any subsidies
for jobs they create offshore? Begin by eliminating the foreign tax
credit and scrutinizing transfer pricing.
Our government needs to acknowledge the reality that foreign competitors
compete unfairly in many cases. We should have customs duties that
include a charge for undervaluation of their currencies.
Our greatest strength is our human capital. Why do we invest so little in educating and developing it?
DIEGO G. MARTINEZ Pittsburgh, May 15, 2013
The Writer Responds
There are many ways we can deal with this problem. True, Mr. Brown, the
solutions proposed aren’t enough, but we need to start somewhere. As Kim
Johnson pointed out, the “current environment,” not to mention our
distance from a consensus that the job crisis is permanent, means that
we are a long way from acceptance of stronger medicine.
I believe that employers should get better tax treatment for creating and even sustaining jobs located in America.
However, some of the measures suggested would not be responsive to the
problem. Training workers, even for positions as relatively promising as
health and elder care, does not create jobs. The issue is not that our
people are unprepared for work; it is that they can’t find it.
Increased customs tariffs would hurt prosperity and would only move jobs from one foreign country to another.
Most important is for us to understand the depth and stability of the
job crisis. Disappearing service positions are not likely to be replaced
by anything with paychecks. Disconnecting health care coverage from
work, and shifting from income to other taxes, will eventually prove
mandatory. Although guaranteed income, even if spartan, would be
expensive, it is worthy of national discussion. Such a program could
reward or require activity of some sort, with working in the community
to provide services such as Mr. Clark proposes prominent on the list.
Until we acknowledge and address this crisis, more and more Americans,
like Susan Mitchell Johnson, will find less and less to do with their
“skills, talents” and “determination.”
This morning, in Flower Mound, Texas, I did my seventh bike rally of the year and my 546th overall. I've been doing this rally since 1990, when I was 33 years old. Now I'm 56. Where does the time go? Today's rally was my 23d in the past 24 years. The rally has started in several different locations. For the past few years, it has started inside the Texas Motor Speedway. Yes, inside. The speedway is huge. There is plenty of room for vehicular parking. The rally organizers allow the riders to go around the track once before heading out into the countryside. It's way cool.
Two of my friends showed up: Phil and Scott. A year ago, Scott rode 100 miles at this rally. Phil and I rode 67. The wind was wicked. I still don't know how Scott did it. He says he geared down and took his time. Today, the three of us rode 62.25 miles. (My elapsed time was 3:37:02.) The wind was stiff, but not as stiff as a year ago. By the time we finished, it was hot—probably close to 90º. We sat in an open building afterward, rehashing the ride, eating, drinking, and enjoying the breeze.
My average speed for the day was 17.20 miles per hour, which is better than the 16.11 of a year ago. I used to average over 20 miles per hour in this rally, but age has taken its toll. The turnout was down, probably because the rally organizers increased the fee from $30 to $40. I don't understand this. If the goal is to make money, why not keep the fee down? Five hundred people paying $30 apiece generates more money ($15,000) than 300 people paying $40 apiece ($12,000). But hey, I'm not in charge.
My average heart rate was 123. My maximum heart rate was 153. My maximum speed was 32.1 miles per hour. I burned 3,748 calories. The rally was my second-fastest of seven this year. I like to think that I'm getting stronger with each passing week, but, truth be told, the increase in speed may be due to the lack of hills. We climbed only 1,542 feet today. Here I am, before the start (click to enlarge):
Here are Scott (left) and Phil, ready to roll:
We had a great time today, despite the suffering. (There is always suffering, but as long as it's self-imposed, it's tolerable.)