Posted in Rants on February 8th, 2016 by Ed

The competition is fierce but the actual worst regular columnist in American journalism has to be Steve Tarter of the Peoria Journal-Star. Is it against the rules or the spirit of competition to pick someone from such a podunk media outlet? Maybe. But this guy is goddamn magical. He once did a restaurant review of Cracker Barrel. His standard fare is "business" stuff written from the perspective of a person forever trapped in 1957. I don't even think he's that old, to be honest. It's an extreme manifestation of the fact that everything in the rural Midwest is about 30 years behind the rest of the country. If it was popular on the coasts or in the cities during the Bush presidency, it'll get to Peoria sometime in the next 5-10 years. You don't find a lot of hot takes on the new economy in a place where every corner has a Family Video doing a land-office business. In 2016.

This humdinger from last week really shows Tarter at his Tarteriest, a word salad entitled, "Looking for a new career path? Freelance jobs, online employment are on the rise." If you live in a real city, read this and tell me it isn't depressing. Let's start with the fact that freelancing was a "new" "trend" in our economy in, what, 2000? Add in the fact that "online employment" – which Tarter, parroting most of his readership, does not really appear to understand – similarly has been popular for many years and you have a column that serves as little more than an advertisement for two losers who turned grant money into completely unprofitable "small businesses" of startling unoriginality. Oh, a website about "online career opportunities"? Gee why didn't someone else think of that. Explore an opportunity to become a "consultant"…that sounds lucrative.

This is why I'm sad a lot.

We hear a great deal at regular intervals about how Empowering the new economy is, freeing us from the shackles of a regular paycheck, benefits, and eventual retirement to let us run free in the playground of dreams that is piecing together a living a dollar at a time. Is it possible to cobble together some earnings online? Sure, things like Mechanical Turk pay in actual money. But the idea that this sort of thing can provide a real adult with a real working class income is ludicrous and indicative of someone who has no idea what he's writing about. Oh, the Internet! These nice young ladies told me there's all kinds of money to be made on there! Sounds good, where's my typewriter!?!

Remember, this guy is talking about making a living on the internet in response to the Fortune 500 employers in the region slashing a few hundred or thousand well-paid jobs every couple of months. You know. Because you can replace manufacturing jobs with pensions by turning people without any salable skills or familiarity with the tech economy into internet entrepreneurs. Sounds plausible, right?

I used to think that the economic elite wouldn't be happy until everyone in the country was earning minimum wage with no benefits. In hindsight that was naive; they won't be happy until nobody has stable employment of any kind. We can all drive them around for pennies as Uber drivers and do their laundry on some app that will make us underbid other unemployed people for the privilege and serve them food as just-in-time temps at mostly automated service industry outlets. This is the future we're striving toward as a nation, and it sucks. It sucks for 99% of the population on the planet but it doesn't matter. Eventually they will succeed in breaking the population of the idea that any employment is more stable than day-to-day, and lawyers and doctors and engineers will be groveling for nickels just like the rest of us. Here's an app that people can use when they need medical help, just enter the amount you're willing to pay and wait until your bid is accepted! Shit, where's my notepad? Has someone thought of that one yet? I should get in on the ground floor for once.

They call it economic freedom, but the absence of security is not the same thing as freedom. Insecurity just happens to be cheaper, so it needed a rebranding and a good marketing campaign. It has been relentless since the 90s or, in Central Illinois, since this year.