Saturday, June 17, 2017

Our new overlords in the West will offer scads of jobs but little hope

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth lately about the state's brain drain.

No, we're not talking about the sinking IQ levels of WY GOP legislators. We're talking about the exodus of smart young people. The recent high school graduates. The grads of our community colleges and lone four-year state university. Some will establish lives in Wyoming. Most will depart for jobs and adventures in other states. other countries. Parents urge our young ones to fly from the nest. It's done with more than a little sadness accompanied by a dash of hope. People seek out jobs in metro areas, and Wyoming is sadly lacking in those. I read an article in The Denver Post that said local unemployment numbers were closing in on zero. Zero? Colorado's unemployment rate of 2.3 percent in April was the lowest in the nation for the second straight month.

In case your geography isn't up to snuff, Colorado borders Wyoming. The Colorado border is 13.9 highway miles from my front door. I can be in Old Town Fort Collins in 45 minutes, about the length of an average rush-hour commute in Denver. When my daughter Annie was living in Aurora, a Denver suburb, I could get to her house in less than two hours. My trips were made during retiree hours, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays. I sometimes was trapped in evening traffic, which was no fun. Friday evening is the worst. Beware if it snows or hails. Denver traffic jams is how I discovered The Colorado Sound on 105.5 FM. Wonderful indie music with an emphasis on Colorado bands and no commercials.

There's a trade-off, see? Can't have low unemployment without high population. And you can't have low unemployment if your economy is heavily dependent on fossil fuel extraction. Good jobs abound when those industries prosper. Wyoming loses jobs and population when that sector goes south.

What about those jobs that used to be called "white collar?" We have them, mainly in government. Of course, our enlightened GOP legislators have responded to the downturn in the usual way -- cutting state government. Trump and his minions are doing the same on the federal level. Fewer jobs are the result. Americans looks elsewhere for work. We have no real tech sector, although there are some bright spots. Tourism continues to be hot, especially during this Total Eclipse year. But those sites and resources that cater to travelers are being hit by cutbacks. Entrepreneurs do their best to start small businesses and local bistros. But again, they are faced with declining population in the state that's already the sparsest populated in the U.S.

But there is one bright spot, according to Jim Dobson's June 10 article in Forbes, "The Shocking Doomsday Maps of the World and the Billionaire Escape Plans." Billionaires are buying up chunks of land in the Intermountain West. They are using the land as an escape from the coming apocalypse. Lest you think this land is mostly in resort areas such as Jackson and Aspen, think again. The buyers want farm land and acres for cattle grazing and accessible coal mines so they can be self-sufficient when the shit hits the fan (as shown in the article's accompanying maps). Who will do the work on these enclaves? You and me, the less affluent residents of the West. We will be like the serfs of old, farming the fields from dawn to dusk for the feudal lord. The menfolk and kidfolk will scrape coal from Powder River Basin mines and transport it by mule cart to the coal-burning private power plants which no longer have to worry about pollution controls. Our womenfolk will make and serve meals to the lord in his fortified castle. All of it will be guarded by a private security force trained in Iraq and Afghanistan and any other wars we can conjure up with in the next several hundred years.

So, there is hope for our sons and daughters and grandchildren. Jobs galore created by our new feudal overlords.

No hope but lots of jobs.

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