Poor Lo.

“Work is the least disappointing relationship you can have.”[1]  Unless work dumps you for some rough-hewn Latino from South of the border, down Mexico way.  Off-shoring and automation have destroyed many American jobs over the last several decades.[2]  This has left the people who used to do those jobs on the beach (and not in a Micheneresque idyllic way either).

Here’s an ugly fact: men and women have responded differently to the job-losses.  More women have been displaced by the changes than have men, but women responded by going back to school to up-grade their skills.  Then they migrated into higher-skill jobs than they had before.  This has been the traditional story of disruptive technological innovation in America.

Except that this time, men have not behaved in the traditional fashion.  Instead of up-skilling, they’ve down-skilled into fast-food servers, low-end retail jobs, and long-term unemployment.  They also have migrated out of rural areas and small towns to cities in search of opportunity.  Women seem to have been more likely to stay behind, take some classes at the local community college, and find work.  What they don’t have is a reliable man in their lives.[3]

These trends have become a social fact.  Women now account for 56 percent of undergraduate college enrollment; men account for 44 percent.  Divorce is common (51 percent) for men who don’t go to college—and for the now more educated women they married.  Not all of this is recent.[4]

It seems to be agreed that these men are abusing drugs and alcohol along the roads to and from the divorce court.  Liberal and conservative commentators alike—almost all drawn from the prissy, unworldly modern American “intelligentsia” which has the moral views of a Nineteenth Century Academy for Young Ladies–sound almost delighted.  The economic losers can be morally condemned.  The “Gilded Age” rides again.

Interpretations of these recently-discovered trends come in a bitter period of political strife.  Hence, people may suspect that they have been “weaponized.”  The “outlandishly male Donald Trump” resonated with voters amidst “a great spasm of cultural anxiety about masculine decline,” wrote one conservative.[5]  Similarly, one liberal writer opined that the administration’s new defense budget was a “Viagra budget” for Trump’s “insecure fanboys.”[6]  Andrew Sullivan[7] lifts a lonely voice to compare the agony of the disrupted small city and town/rural working class with the victims of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.[8]

Off-shoring and automation are going to destroy even more jobs.  One prediction says that a third of all men under 54 could be unemployed by 2050.  (So, those born from 1996 onward; so. today’s 21 year-olds.)  Does this mean that Donald Trump’s “America First” could become the brand of the 21st Century?

[1] Betty Davis, quoted in The Week, 31 March 2017, p. 17.

[2] “Social change: The decline of men,” The Week, 31 March 2017, p. 16.

[3] Although they may well have children.  There’s a whole genre of movies in this.  I can’t say that I’ve heard of any yet.

[4] Since 1981 single women have been buying houses at a faster clip than single men.   “The bottom line,” The Week, 10 February 2017, p. 32.

[5] It doesn’t invalidate this argument to point out that over half of women voters preferred Donald Trump (and “a special place in Hell”) to Hillary Clinton.  These women may also want traditional males back.

[6] “Trump budget: Hard power, not soft,” The Week, 31 March 2017, p. 16.  I suppose you can add this term to the lexicon of liberal vitriol, along with “Deplorables.”

[7] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Sullivan

[8] “The invisible plague of rural America,” The Week, 31 March 2017, p. 12.

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