First, by way of introduction to this discussion, a key political economic question:
Is there any reason that virtually everyone in our country should not be provided with enough quality education and employment opportunities to allow them to:
a) purchase, rent or otherwise acquire what is today a median-priced home,
b) pay what is today median family expenditures for food, dentistry, child care, transportation and utilities
c) pay for basic medical/health care such as is now provided, by way of Medicare, to those over age 62.
And why is it that in some countries of northern Europe, a much larger percentage of the population has the ability to acquire these things than we do here in the USA? What sacrifices must they make to provide these benefits in their society, and wouldn't we be better off, as a society, and as individuals, if we had national policies, laws, and programs, that allowed us to do something very similar? And if not, why not?
In today's American economy, the only way we can even begin to provide enough employment for all the people who need jobs is to spend hundreds of billions of dollars every decade in the promotion/creation of wants for products and services most of which the vast majority of people would not buy unless they were surrounded by a 24/7 barrage of advertising, marketing efforts, as well as a culture that emphasizes the personal gratification and status that can be gained through consumption of these products and services.
What's so wrong with this existing system of work, want and consumption?
Well, for one thing it requires the expenditure of ever more energy in terms of the coal, natural gas and petroleum products that are burned in order to produce, distribute, sell, and ultimately dispose of all these products for which wants must be created. That, in turn, adds to the abnormally high levels of CO2 in our upper atmosphere, which is of course the main cause of the global warming that is triggering ever larger and more destructive hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons. And at some point in this fairly rapid increase in the size and destructiveness of these extreme weather events, these events are going to be so large as to make us wonder whether all this expenditure on global-warming consumption is really worth the ever increasing and terrible price we are ultimately going to be forced to pay, for damaged homes, infrastructure and businesses, lost lives, millions of downed power lines, flooded subway systems, missed business opportunities etc.
At that point, I predict, people will become open to the consideration of those steps we might take as a nation that would allow everyone to work fewer hours . . by means of redistributing the most essential work (that needs to be done), among much larger numbers of workers. That way there would be no need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars, every decade, in the promotion and creation of wants for products and services "that the vast majority of people would not buy unless they were surrounded by advertising, marketing efforts, and a culture that emphasizes the personal gratification and status that can be gained through consumption of these products and services -- all so as to begin to provide enough employment for all those who need jobs."
Can you imagine what would happen to our ecocidal hyper-production, hyper-consumption tread-mill society if we ever found a way to allow any low-paid worker who wanted a better job . . to work directly, cooperatively and efficiently on the production of all basic goods and services -- and then, in return for such work, they would receive their fair share of all the basic goods and services they helped produce?
What would happen is that the ecocide would stop. It would end within a few years, as the vast majority of people learned to appreciate leisure time over the national gluttony and ecocidal results of ever more consumer goods and services produced and consumed, virtually without limit. Those who were particularly low-paid would quit their jobs in the superfluous-goods production sector of the society and would immediately go to work in the new cooperatively-based arm of the basic-goods-production sector of the economy, wherein they would be able to acquire what is today a median priced home, and acquire it with far fewer hours of work than they would ever have to expend in the superfluous-goods production sector.
By this means, huge numbers of the middle class would no longer be transitioned to the lower class by way of the low-paid jobs that must usually replace the better-paid jobs they've lost to continuing automation, computerization, and low-wage countries like China. And those who have already been transitioned to the lower class would have the means to get back into the middle class.
Why would the downward transitioning no longer take place? It would be due to the fact that the vast majority of low-paid workers would abandon such work in order to go to work in the new basic-goods-&-services production sector. And in order to replace these lost workers, employers would be forced to pay much higher wages, thereby bringing still more people back out of the lower class.