As I See It: Return Of The Swami
January 10, 2011 Victor Rozek
It’s that time of year when The Swami dons his turban, dusts off his crystal ball, and peers into a future unseeable to mortal men. And you think your employment is uncertain. We Swamis once benefitted from the faulty memories and short attention spans of our adherents. Stay away from the screwball stuff someone might actually remember (DOS will make a comeback; Paris Hilton will graduate from Harvard), and your average Swami could sound believable.
But the Internet, which The Swami predicted Al Gore would invent, changed everything. A Swami’s prior pronouncements can now be recovered, plucked from the ether from whence they came. Skeptics may pounce upon the occasional error to impugn the predictive prowess of The Swami. So this year, The Swami mans up, not only offering new predictions, but reviewing three years of past prognostications to pit his record against the historical record.
But first, The Swami wants to start with a can’t miss, take-it-to-the-bank prophecy. Are you ready? The Oregon Ducks will spank the Auburn Tigers in the BCS National Championship college football game. Thought you’d want to know. But The Swami digresses.
Three years ago we were in an election year, and everybody’s pet economist was spinning data in support of his or her favored conclusions. We didn’t yet know the full extent of the damage to the economy, but predictions ranged from “don’t worry, be happy,” to “the world ends at noon tomorrow.”
Not wishing to alarm the skittish masses, The Swami made what he thought was the responsible call. “Let’s pretend we’re Olympic judges and throw out the high and the low scores, which leaves us with an economy that will likely be pretty flat.” OK, The Swami whiffed on that one. A few months later, the truth would emerge: times were so tough that the incoming First Lady was growing her own vegetables.
But in 2007, The Swami was right on the rupee with his jobs prediction. “There will be a handful of growth sectors which will serve as oases for job thirsty IT professionals. The security industry, and its handmaiden the surveillance industry, will continue to require huge amounts of computing power and expertise, as corporations and various government agencies gather and sort vast amounts of our personal data.” As The Swami was heard to say when airport security dragged him off to x-ray his turban: “Never underestimate the economic potential of paranoia.”
That year, The Swami also noted that “Boomers are in their surgical years,” which makes the healthcare field more promising than a hooker’s smile. (Not that The Swami would actually know of such things personally.) Since then, The Swami has had minor surgery himself, and the data entry alone for that procedure could employ a small village.
The following year, The Swami gazed through the haze and saw “a bunch of 800-pound gorillas with begging bowls. Bankers, brokers, and crummy car makers; guys with private jets and $5,000 suits who burn through money like Rastafarians burn through ganja.” The Swami’s first prediction of 2008 was that “throwing money at them is like trying to fill a Zodiac with a bicycle pump. By the time the raft is seaworthy, the ocean will have dried up.” The all-seeing one also accurately predicted that “when it comes to economic policy, the operative word in “promised change” will be “promised.” And The Swami hit nothing-but-net when he concluded: “. . . the lack of regulatory reform means this nonsense will last longer than it needs to.” This Christmas, The Swami was reminded why the jobless recovery is a lot like Handel’s Messiah; you think it will never end.
In 2009, The Swami made a bold prediction based in precedent: “all major economic recoveries have begun right after taxes were increased on the wealthy.” And so would this one if anyone actually paid attention to history. “When taxes on the wealthy were high, GDP and real wages were also high. When the rich received deep tax cuts, wages fell, the rich gambled and schemed with their surplus money, and bubbles and crashes followed.” During the presidential election campaign, candidate Obama announced his intention to rescind the Bush tax cuts and raise taxes on those making more than $250,000.” We know how that turned out.
The Swami predicts the President’s Secret Service nickname for 2011 will be “the lawn chair” because he folds so easily.
For 2010, The Swami predicted insurrection. “There are a lot of angry people out there, and increasingly they are becoming desperate. If the job recovery lags behind the expiration of unemployment benefits and the exhaustion of available credit, what next? Angry and desperate is a bad mix, and the establishment may find itself scrambling to maintain its security.” Before you add that prediction to the whiff column, consider the farsighted nature of The Swami. When 25 hedge fund managers make as much money as 658,000 teachers, how long do you think it will be before a bunch of angry educators are throwing dictionaries and mimeograph machines at these guys? The Cubs haven’t won yet, either. Doesn’t mean they won’t.
This year, the economic news has The Swami scratching his head (a task made difficult by his stylish turban). A full 96 percent of Fortune 500 corporations reported profits this year. That’s good, is it not? The stock market is nearing its pre-meltdown valuation. OK, that’s good too. And shoppers, shaking off their frugality fatigue, emptied their wallets this holiday season. Yet, officially, unemployment still hovers near 10 percent (over 15 percent if you count those who have given up and are living in the Wal-mart parking lot). Everyone is asking the musical question: “Where have all the good jobs gone?” And The Swami answers: “Gone to foreigners, every one.”
Yes, corporations are creating jobs, but 1.4 million of them were created overseas, many more than were created at home. To put things in perspective, we need 22 million jobs to reach full employment, so The Swami has two predictions. First, more IT professionals will consider working overseas. Markets with huge emerging middle classes, such as China, India, and Brazil, are rife with opportunity. And native English speakers will be valued as bridges between parent corporations and spinoffs. However, if English is your only language, you will be as useful as a one-legged stool. Therefore, The Swami forecasts that more IT professionals will be returning to school–not to upgrade their technical skills and learn a new programming language, but to learn a second human language. Unfortunately, even though people who know two languages are worth two people, they will receive only one salary.
Still, not everyone will want to learn Mandarin and breathe the discolored air of Beijing. They ask The Swami, is there hope for us? Why, yes, gentle job hunter, there is. As Mick Jagger once crooned: Time is on your side. Starting this very month, an estimated 10,000 Boomers a day will turn 65–a trend that will continue for the next 19 years. Ten thousand a day for 19 years! Can you say labor shortage? The Swami’s generation is doddering toward senility, losing their edge, retiring, or being forced out of their high-paying jobs. It’s the gift you kids have been waiting for. No batteries required. Just plant a foot squarely in the middle of our expanding butts and shove us out the door. You’ll need that job because we Boomers are fully unprepared for retirement and will have to live with you at some point down the road.
But that’s in the future. For now, your youth, your energy, and your seemingly bottomless capacity to tolerate being ripped-off will serve you. We are the bottleneck, and the bottle is about to break. The Swami predicts 2011 will be a surprisingly good year for younger IT professionals. As for IT’s elders who “can’t get no satisfaction” in a hostile job market; one admonition: don’t hang on too long like Mick. When you’re pushing 70, and your pants are as tight as consumer credit, maybe that bulge in your pocket is desperation. The Swami has a more dignified suggestion.
Come this evening (January 10), pop open a frosty, plop yourselves in front of the flat screen, and yell as loud as you can . . . . GO DUCKS!