Riffed by Dr. Geek
from an idea by Vitriol


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non-cost effective

I hate to sound like some prophet of economic gloom and doom... two things happened to me recently that underline my relatively weak position in the current supposedly "strong" economy. First, I did a little exploratory calculation with respect to Mrs. Geek and I buying a house and having kids. Second, I listened in an organizational "all hands" conference call here at Company O.

First, let me talk about the conference call. It was all pretty standard stuff, but one part of the inevitable Q&A stuck with me. One caller asked how much hiring in the organization occurred here in the United States, and how much occurred abroad. The Glorious Leader of our Division here at Company O. responded that it was not possible to break out hiring in terms of the United States and the rest of the world. He went on to say that management divides the world into two categories: "cost effective" and "non-cost effective". The "cost effective" locations are pretty much the places you hear about in the same breath as the phrase "high tech outsourcing". The "non-cost effective" locations are Western Europe, North America, and the developed parts of Latin America and the Pacific Rim. The eventual message was that about only half our hires were in the "cost effective" areas, but still! Does the fact that I am a professional living in the United States, trained at one of the better research Universities in the world make me "non-cost effective" all by itself? I resent the label, and the implication.

I could go on about some experiences with "outsourcing"... but I won't. Suffice to say, personal experience has shown that shifting jobs to the emerging economies of Asia has not proved to the be quite the perfect experience that a lot of senior managers (read: non-engineers). But even knowing that I'm still "non-cost effective"? Thanks, Company O.

Secondly, I started to run a few numbers regarding tax liability with respect to housing and kids. The picture is not pretty. The mortgage interest deduction does help us somewhat... but only in a way that makes us "a little less house poor", unless we were to have housing payments about the size of our current rent. This will not happen. With respect to children, the good news is that while we don't do worse. By the same token, we can't really afford to have Mrs. Geek stay home to take care of children for any length of time... and that means daycare... and I have no idea what those expenses look like... but they are expenses.

I wonder how much longer this can go on. The actual manufacturing capacity of the United States in decline. Good paying jobs are moving overseas, disrupting the economy... in order to provide this country with cheap consumer goods. The accumulated capital of the last 150 years is slowly seeping out of the country, or gathering in the hands of those wealthy enough to make money off of other money. I have to wonder -- when does the standard of living start to be impacted?

I am feeling the middle class squeeze. I am a highly trained technical professional. I have a good job, in a lucrative sector of the economy. Yet, I cannot seem to afford to buy a house within 50 miles of where I work... or to have children. I have interviewed with several of the marquee names in computer software in the last 18 months, in an attempt to find a job in an area with a lower cost of living, but to no avail. Is there something wrong with me? What else can I do? Live abroad?

said drgeek on 2007-05-10 at 4:24 p.m.


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