These days, that's a dicey proposition - as Robert Reich points out:
If you ever wonder what’s fueling America’s staggering inequality, ponder Facebook’s acquisition of the mobile messaging company WhatsApp.
According to news reports today, Facebook has agreed to buy WhatsApp for $19 billion.
That’s the highest price paid for a start-up in history. It’s $3 billion more than Facebook raised when it was first listed, and more than twice what Microsoft paid for Skype.
Given that gargantuan amount, you might think Whatsapp is a big company. You’d be wrong. It has 55 employees, including its two young founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton.
Whatsapp’s value doesn’t come from making anything. It doesn’t need a large organization to distribute its services or implement its strategy.
It value comes instead from two other things that require only a handful of people. First is its technology — a simple but powerful app that allows users to send and receive text, image, audio and video messages through the Internet.
The second is its network effect: The more people use it, the more other people want and need to use it in order to be connected. To that extent, it’s like Facebook — driven by connectivity.
WhatsApp’s worldwide usage has more than doubled in the past nine months, to 450 million people — and it’s growing by around a million users every day. On December 31, 2013, it handled 54 billion messages (making its service more popular than Twitter, now valued at about $30 billion.)
How does it make money? The first year of usage is free. After that, customers pay a small fee. At the scale it’s already achieved, even a small fee generates big bucks. And if it gets into advertising it could reach more eyeballs than any other medium in history. It already has a database that could be mined in ways that reveal huge amounts of information about a significant percentage of the world’s population.
The winners here are truly big winners. WhatsApp’s fifty-five employees are now enormously rich. Its two founders are now billionaires. And the partners of the venture capital firm that financed it have also reaped a fortune.
And the rest of us? We’re winners in the sense that we have an even more efficient way to connect with each other.
But we’re not getting more jobs.
In the emerging economy, there’s no longer any correlation between the size of a customer base and the number of employees necessary to serve them. In fact, the combination of digital technologies with huge network effects is pushing the ratio of employees to customers to new lows (WhatsApp’s 55 employees are all its 450 million customers need).
Meanwhile, the ranks of postal workers, call-center operators, telephone installers, the people who lay and service miles of cable, and the millions of other communication workers, are dwindling — just as retail workers are succumbing to Amazon, office clerks and secretaries to Microsoft, and librarians and encyclopedia editors to Google.
Productivity keeps growing, as do corporate profits. But jobs and wages are not growing. Unless we figure out how to bring all of them back into line – or spread the gains more widely – our economy cannot generate enough demand to sustain itself, and our society cannot maintain enough cohesion to keep us together.
Add the intern nation problem we have, wherein companies use unpaid interns to do jobs that used to be entry level without ever hiring those interns as regular employees, to the problem of the correlation in customer base to the number of employees necessary to serve them and you have a very, very poor work environment out there for everybody from the high school kids looking to work fast food and finding adults are doing jobs teens used to do to the college kids who have to work half a dozen unpaid internships to try and get a paying job to the middle aged people who get downsized and can't find work ever again.
The jive we hear from Obama and Duncan, Gates and Bloomberg, Cuomo and King, that Common Core and education reform will solve the jobs problem in this country is, quite frankly, bullshit.
We don't have an education problem in this country.
We have a jobs and inequality problem.
A very small segment of the country takes more and more of the wealth and leaves the rest of us to fight it out for the crumbs.
Until that changes, we are going to continue to have a jobs and inequality problem in this country.
And once again, Common Core isn't going to change that.
If anything, the drudgery that is CCSS is meant to get kids ready for a life of drudgery in the 21st century workplace where they will work long hours and get paid little to do what few jobs remain.
As Sarah Littman noted in a blog post:
In the preface to the 1946 edition of Brave New World Huxley wrote, “a really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned…to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors, and school teachers”
That's what Common Core is meant to do these days, with the close reading of a story for seventeen days until the kids hate reading or the refusal to allow kids the background knowledge or context to know what they're reading about because the text itself is sacrosanct and answering text-based questions is all that we want kids to do after reading.
But the Common Core drudgery isn't for every kid.
That's why Obama's kids and Cuomo's kids and King's kids aren't learning Common Core in school.
They're not going to lead lives of drudgery - they're part of the political and economic elites in this country who still have a shot at the American Dream.
It's the rest of us who are screwed - unless we rise up and take back the opportunities that were stolen from us by the economic and political elites pushing globalization and technology as economic panaceas on us all.
One of the first battles in the fight is to put a stake through the heart of the Common Core State Standards and the education reform movement that pushes privatization and standardization for the unwashed masses in the public school system and going back to an education system that teaches kids a love of reading, learning and critical thinking.
That's what will keep kids from growing up to be the numbed-out drones Huxley wrote about in Brave New World.