The Emperor’s New Clothes Prominently Display A Brand

In the previous two posts Analysis investigated why a community’s elected “leaders” would actively pursue policies of stasis, of maintaining and reproducing the status quo. This was addressed particularly in terms of why three incumbents would be in such a hurry to declare their candidacy for re-election. Analysis found brand name association to be a partial reason for such eagerness. After all, being in a picture with LeBron James means not only that you like Mr. James but also that LeBron must like you. Otherwise, why would he allow for the image to be reproduced? Brands aggressively and jealously manage how they appear and are marketed. The brand Misters Hall, Bubb, and Ellington so earnestly seek to be pictured with is precisely one promoting the reproduction and maintenance of the status quo. All of this doesn’t answer the question “Who or what benefits from reproducing and maintaining the status quo?”

Answering this requires being able to identify the status quo, a slippery subject indeed. It camouflages itself within all that is obvious. Once, the status quo was laissez faire urban growth, considered de rigueur and exemplified by cities like Westerville and Newark Ohio. Today the status quo is with urban/community planning and restrictions as found in New Albany or Dublin Ohio. One of the legacies of Newark’s laissez faire days would be the absence of any residential rental property restrictions or requirements. This camouflaged obviousness reveals that there can be status quo within status quo. Webster’s gives “status” as “state or condition of affairs” and “status quo” as “the existing state or condition of affairs”. Within the contemporary digital information age, which changes so quickly, Analysis finds this to be a somewhat incomplete or outdated definition. Today’s account should orbit the incredible statistical capacity of the digital age. And statistics require some fixed, referential ground or starting point. The status quo pre civil rights differs from that post Viet Nam War, even more so within the contemporary. The status quo of sports was totally different pre Title IX than it is today. “Who or what benefits from reproducing and maintaining the status quo?” can only be answered by specifying what that status quo actually is. Obviously, with an urban environment of over 50,000 people, the status quo of not having comprehensive public transportation benefits the many new and used car dealerships along with the financial institutions that make for lease rental or ownership. But Analysis exposed the role and necessity of brand identification with its created image of maintaining and reproducing the status quo. Who or what benefits from the policies coming from this manufactured personality?

Neil Irwin presents a statistical contribution to this inquiry (with U S Bureau of Labor Statistics). In a piece entitled “Employers Will Have to Raise Wages. They Just Don’t Know It Yet.” (12-10-14), for the online NY Times Upshot, Mr. Irwin points out that “American employers are the equivalent of a shopkeeper who has a “Help Wanted” sign permanently on display in his window, but never actually hires anybody.” “According to the latest Labor Department data, employers had 4.8 million positions they were looking to fill in October. That’s up 25 percent in the last year and 125 percent since the start of the economic expansion in mid-2009. But for all these vacancies, actual hiring isn’t in a similar boom. The number of people hired is up only 12 percent in the last year and 33 percent over the five-year expansion. Or to look at the same numbers a little differently, the ratio of job openings to actual hiring has been higher in the last few months than it has been at any other time in the history of the data (though that only goes back to 2001). Since the current expansion began in mid-2009, employers have increased the number of job openings they say they have, but hiring hasn’t kept pace.” “Despite high unemployment, the ratio of employer openings to workers hired has risen to the highest levels on record. Here’s a theory to try to make sense of the disconnect: During the recession, employers got spoiled. When unemployment was near 10 percent, talented workers were lined up outside their door. The workers they did have were terrified of losing their jobs. If you put out word that you had an opening, you could fill the job almost instantly. That’s why the ratio of job openings to hires fell so low in 2009. As the economy has gotten better the last five years, employers have had more and more job openings, but have been sorely reluctant to accept that it’s not 2009 anymore in terms of what workers they can hire and at what wage.”

Since the financial meltdown and housing mortgage debacle at the twilight of the Bush presidency, the status quo promoted by the major brands in America has been that of the recession it created. Recession is where money goes on strike – meaning it insists on earning more before it will return to the job it has to do. Money should make even more money (the stock market has more than doubled since the start of the recession). According to the Upshot article, that is precisely what is currently “the existing state or condition of affairs.”

Who or what benefits, cashes in on reproducing or maintaining the status quo would be money (which stands to make even more money, especially if wages don’t even increase at the rate of inflation). Brands are manufactured creations that disassociate the maker from the made, much as a magician distracts the attention of the viewer from the actual sleight of hand taking place. Being identified with a brand, like standing next to LeBron James, makes it appear one is part of the global money making apparatus. The Licking County Board of Elections Financial Disclosure Reports show that this is being done for a pittance. The emperor’s new clothes may not be wearing the union label but they prominently display a brand.

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