Back in October, Democrats and Republicans, following the release of the nation’s employment numbers by the U.S. Department of Labor, retreated into their usual preelection fantasia.  Democrats trotted out the class-warfare tropes, while Republicans continued living in their dreamworld, where increased employment in the service industry—such as insurance companies and doctors’ offices—can make up for drops in manufacturing and housing-construction jobs.

A set of articles featured in the New York Times editorial pages over Labor Day weekend told a more substantial story and focused on economic indicators concerning the changing—and decreasing—status of the American worker.  Collectively, they show that, whatever the merits of “conservative” control of Congress or the governors’ mansions in the more than two decades since the advent of the Reagan years, the plight of the American worker has only worsened.

Consider some of the findings: People are working longer and later in life, even as a younger generation cannot find jobs appropriate for their overeducated and privileged selves.  Today, government workers are better compensated than private-sector workers, and the average salary of the counties around Washington, D.C., has grown sharply, thanks to the explosive growth of government in recent years and, especially, to the “War on Terror.”  Individually and collectively, we are head over heels in debt, a condition that affects the working and middle classes more harshly than the rich.  Unions have been devastated, having been largely reduced to negotiating how much of their wages and salaries to give away lest they see their jobs outsourced to more compliant “national regulatory regimes.”

And then there is immigration.  The flood of low-paid workers, on the one hand, and highly skilled transnational transplants, on the other, continues to squeeze middle-class Americans (except, of course, those on the government-salary dole).

Solutions from the usual suspects are almost nonexistent.  Liberals wonder why no one talks about good old-fashioned income redistribution anymore, ignoring the cultural degradation that comes with liberalism that many Americans, even now, disdain, recognizing that liberal economic policy mostly means taking from me to give to thee.  Conservatives, meanwhile, their faces frozen in a rictus from praising globalization, continue to sing paeans to postindustrial capitalism, not noticing (or caring) that the only jobs that will remain for Americans are those reserved for empty talking heads or think-tank chairs endowed by service- or financial-sector robber barons.

This is all familiar, of course, nauseatingly so, and was anticipated by thinkers as varied as Christopher Lasch and Wendell Berry.  The chattering classes are obsessed with the revenue and income numbers of faceless corporate entities, who care no more for their workers than they do for their country.  Pushed by the new darlings of global finance, such as private equity firms, companies make decisions based almost completely on the next quarter’s revenues and profit for shareholders; long-term value to actual American communities has largely fallen out of consideration.

Meanwhile, New York Times-approved conservatives such as David Brooks prattle on about human capital, as if people were widgets to be fitted for their holes holding up the capitalist edifice.  Even such august thinkers as the late Milton Friedman have bought into the fantasy that “education” is the solution to wage stagnation and increasing income inequality.  In a recent editorial, Irwin Stelzer—who, to his credit, recognizes the impact of immigration and concedes that recent studies have shown that social class is becoming the primary predictor of success for one’s offspring—writes that the American worker just needs to be provided with additional two-year junior-college and “apprenticeship” programs, and all will be well.

We have been sold this pack of lies before.  No doubt legions of factory workers can talk about the “retraining” buzz a few years back; a lot of good that did for those who caught the buzz, became computer programmers, then saw those jobs shipped overseas to people willing to work at a fraction of what it costs to maintain Brooks’ Bobo lifestyle.  Does anyone actually believe that there are jobs for which Americans can be “educated” that workers in Russia, India, China, or a dozen other places cannot be?  What the education mantra proposes is an endless race to the next new thing; for those who are left behind, too bad.  This is not an economic policy but a talking point for those who want fodder for the next generation and to hide the fact that America is in danger of becoming a Third World oligopoly.

The future, however, is already here.  Those same corporate executives and financial firms seeking “value” across the globe are seeing a mirror of their industry grow in India and other places that have decided it would be better to have their own capital spent at home than to water Greenwich golf courses or pay for plasma-television screens in Silicon Valley.  When that trend hits full speed, talk of capitalism’s creative destruction will disappear faster than you can say “protectionism.”