Monday, August 22, 2016

That's right, nobody ever sheds a tear for the lost Blockbuster jobs.

So I saw this the other day on Reddit, and like a lot of you I thought it was pretty funny.

But then I started to think that it was also a great commentary on progress and the importance that folks place on only certain lost jobs from certain industries.

Now I was not sure if Blockbuster ever really had a workforce of 60,000, but as it turns out it did: 

At its peak in 2004, Blockbuster had 60,000 employees and 9,000 stores worldwide with a market value of $5 billion and revenues of $5.9 billion. 

So the meme is accurate in that regard.

However its larger point is that changes in technology, consumer tastes, and even government regulations often means the loss of certain jobs that communities have relied upon.

The example that always occurs to me is the impact that automobiles had on the buggy manufacturers, not to mention the ranchers who raised horses to pull them, and the farmers who grew hay to feed those horses.

That is at least three industries that suffered in the wake of the new technology, and yet I would bet that very, very few of us are sorry that those advances were made.

So yes coal miners are going to lose their jobs, and in the short run that is going to cause a negative economic impact to those families and to the states that rely on that industry.

However in a hundred years from now will any of our great, great grandchildren REALLY shed a tear for the coal industry or regret the move toward renewable clean energy sources?

No, I seriously doubt that they will.

Besides that you can bet that in a hundred years Netflix will have gone the way of Blockbuster and there will be some new entertainment giant that has taken its place. (Probably one that sends movies and television shows straight into our brains via microchips we will have surgically implanted for that very purpose.)

So yes progress will continue forward, and I am sure that politicians will continue to argue against it for the sake of their constituents still laboring in the soon to be obsolete industries, but that does not mean it will not happen. Nor does it mean that it should not happen.

By the way, where is my damn flying car?


  1. Anonymous3:03 AM

    It's more about the coal mine owners and operators losing control over everything. There are many, many organizations in WV working very hard to update the whole state with new technologies and industry. Remember when folks would talk about Kanawha River being Duponts discharge basin. Drop a match in and set it on fire. That's gone, but the state is still very much controlled by large businesses. Miners will survive doing other things. Give them a chance.

    10 cats.

    10 cats

  2. Google Joshua Pearce of Michigan Technological University. He has recent articles everywhere from Consumer Reports to Forbes on transitioning to clean energy and how coal miners can be a part of that transition.

    Years ago in this country we talked about Yankee ingenuity and putting a man on the moon and how we were the brightest, best educated, most scientifically advanced country in history and how we could do anything we set our minds to.

    If the oil corporations in this country had wanted to, they could have been in the forefront of driving alternative energy and reaping the benefits and profits of new industries. Instead they have tried to hold everything new back.

    Expecting coal to return to its heyday is stupid and shortsighted. The industry can lead, follow, or get out of the way of the future.

  3. Anonymous3:45 AM

    You live in a very sheltered make believe world.

    1. Thank you for your helpful and illuminating feedback.

    2. Anonymous8:59 AM

      meghan please go away you bother everyone.

    3. Anonymous 8:59 AM wrote: meghan please go away you bother everyone.

      8:59, speak for yourself. Do not presume to speak for me. When you write "everyone" you are asserting something you have no way of knowing. Narcissism in full flower.

  4. Anonymous3:48 AM

    Well lets just say this "Welcome to America". Like dust in the wind, times are a changing. Nobody is immune from it. Even the profiteers!! Sadly the media has hired and swayed evil nasty people a loud obnoxious voice. They promote division and hate in this great land. What we have witnessed is a hateful party of traitors change their color/spots. The Republicans have caused war, hate, division, for their profit!. Their lobbied subsidies and vouchers? Is called stealing public money. Their Private prisons, private heritage schools, deregulated energy corps, stealing public lands, redistricting, citizen united, rigged electronic voting machines? All republican. This toxic mixture of a party is an outhouse full of outcast, losers, convicted criminals and global thugs.

  5. Anonymous3:51 AM

    Let's go back to rotary phones and party lines - so all the old operators can get their jobs back too (and I am sure everyone will gladly give up their smart phones)

  6. Anonymous3:54 AM

    Frankly, I think we should be sad when anyone loses a job. There are always bills to pay and mouths to feed. I hope that the person who dreamed up that little scene won't lose his/her job soon.

  7. Anonymous3:54 AM

    Nice commentary!

  8. Y'all missed the big pink collar example.

    Affordable computers erased lots of jobs for office workers all over this country.

    But we pink collar women adapted because we had to.

    The lumberjacks from the hills around here had to move on when the redwood forests were pure stumps.

    I surely have empathy for coal miners,but when technology passes you by, you have to find something else to do.

    That's going to be rough for coal miners, most of whom went into the mines when they were old enough to.

    They and their families need other ways to make a living.

    Tourism replaced harvesting lumber in the NW, but it was a rough transition.

    Coal miners, underpaid from the git go, might not be able to last out a transition like that.

    When times change, the lowest ones on the income scale get shafted.

    Just as it ever was.

    A man I loved died of black lung.

    His son died earlier than he should have.

    Griff, up to you, but this emo comment probably shouldn't be approved to share.

    1. 66gardeners7:28 AM

      I worked as a medical transcriptionist and retired before those jobs became endangered.

      Now I work as an independent gardener. I don't work enough to pay the bills with the $$ I make gardening, but I do have one of the best yards anyone has ever seen using that money as a sound investment in my property value (2 suburban acres).

    2. Anonymous7:36 AM

      gardening is good because you will never run out of weeds

    3. Anonymous7:51 AM

      Thank you for sharing.

  9. 66gardeners4:28 AM

    Also and too, just think of all the cab drivers who are being put out of a job, not only by Uber drivers, but by cars that do not even need a driver.

    Progress, it is what makes the US great.

  10. Anonymous4:33 AM

    Typists have lost their jobs because employers are using a system auto-transcription.

  11. I complain because there's not enough horseshit in the streets. It's all on television.

  12. Anonymous6:08 AM

    The meme is a false equivalence because the blockbuster employees generally lived in cities that had other employment opportunities nearby.

    It should be noted that a blockbuster job was different because of late hours of operation allowing for employees to go to school etc while employed - much more flexible than 9-5 jobs in that regard.

    The coal miners living in coal towns in coal country are basically captured by coal. their whole community is captured by coal. they need a substitute job market IN the coal towns not hundreds of miles away in scattered locations. that is the crux of the problem for coal miners and their families - they have to move and leave property, etc behind because who is going to buy land in a place with no employment? this is a simplification of the problem but definitely the heart of it along with less emphasis on formal education or training that could lead to non-coal employment.

    1. Anonymous6:34 AM

      An extremely false equivalence. Every semi decent sized town had one or two blockbusters. Retail. Manned by high school and college kids mostly, and a manager or two. Other than the managers, who probably mostly went into another retail jobs, nobody was raising families off Blockbuster. Towns were not built for generations around blockbuster.

      I always laugh at the enviros who go out and spend a ton of money on manufactured, marketed, and transported- supposedly environmental objects.

      Where do you think all that metal, plastic, battery chemicals and metals, and rare earth elements come from for that Prius?

    2. Anonymous7:21 AM

      My gawd, you're right! People should trash their environmentally-responsible cars and go out and buy Hummers that guzzle gas and ruin the environment and spew toxic chemicals, because that will bring back the coal-mining jobs! Oh, wait. You're an idiot.

    3. 66gardeners7:30 AM

      Coal mining communities paid a hefty price for those upper middle class-paying jobs. In many cases they paid with the health and their lives, not to mention the environmental catastrophes in their back yards.

    4. Anonymous2:13 PM

      here you go 7:21

      Whats the bottom line?... There is no free lunch, everything has a cost, and feel good enviro marketing plays well in the US.

  13. I think the comparison is a little too simplistic.

    Blockbuster jobs were low paying service industry jobs while coal mining is a high paying industrial job.

    Blockbuster jobs are non-skilled and employees did not typically stay for years. Coal mining is skilled labor and many employees have many years of experience.

    And most importantly, Blockbuster jobs were spread out across 9000 stores worldwide. Coal mining jobs are usually the main source of employment in a community. The impact of closing a coal mine affects all the other businesses in that community.

    Close a Blockbusters and it is a minor inconvenience. Close a mine and you destroy a town.

    1. Anonymous7:24 AM

      Blockbuster Corporation themselves put a lot of independent video rental stores out of business. Keep in mind these business owners did not consider their jobs entry level and WERE able to support their families on what they made. So the REAL problem is too many service industry and entry level jobs to begin with. Stop with the paid contractor work is what I say.

    2. 66gardeners7:31 AM

      I personally know people whose lives were greatly uprooted by the loss of their jobs at Blockbuster.

  14. Anonymous6:48 AM

    Blockbuster had a chance to move with the times. They chose to close.

    1. Anonymous7:34 AM

      Think about all the independent businesses (main street) that corporations have forced to closed. Nobody is crying for them.

      Corporations ARE NOT people my friend.

    2. Anonymous7:37 AM

      How many private video stores were put out of business by Blockbuster?

    3. Anonymous1:21 PM

      Used to be--before Internet--ALL videos came from small, mostly locally owned, family video stores.

      Some, I guess were purchased at bookstores, etc. But rentals, all where physical products and everything from gas stations, to quick marts rented videos for a nice extra income stream.

      Blockbusters was a transitional business between the 'old fashioned original' video rentals and online streaming.

      Ultimately, it is the internet that is killing local, small business, mom and pop type stores. From vids to clothing to books, to anything that can be sold.

  15. Back in the early 80's when Ronald Reagan was on his deregulation kick we had to close our gas station business and move to Texas. And then there was the oil boom in TX and people left the rust belt for oil field jobs...and then bust.

    I am thankful for having a good education and ability to learn many skills. I feel for the coal miners but the times they are a changing.

  16. Lindsay7:29 AM

    I had a friend who worked for 20+ years as Bank Teller. AT MS and online banking took her job. She had to go back to school in her 50s. She had a rough go of it and I feel bad for her but I'm certainly not going to give up my AT MS or online banking.

  17. They've seen this coming down the road for a long time, but I feel for anyone dependent on a specific industry for their livelihood.

    I'd like to think we can use lessons learned from other contracting industries to help transition this and future generations into safer, better paying and more stable fields. But of course we won't due to the right-wing's intransigence.

    There is such a rich abundance of other opportunities that the coal-belt could shift to, especially with many of the people's pride of their area: tourism, environmental science (e.g. cash crops wink), toxic waste mitigation science, green energy development are some of the area specific fields. But also development of high tech industries, because why not?

  18. Anonymous9:15 AM

    The coal mines are a holdover from the last century. When pollution, black lung and early death were acceptable.

    "The Times they Are A-Changin". Time for miners to enter the 21st century via federal retraining programs. The coal companies will try their damndest to keep that from happening.

  19. Connie4:45 PM

    Why is no one talking about Basic Income? I've not heard if the trial cities have posted any data yet. The hypothesis is to replace existing Human Services programs like welfare which require an extensive application and vetting process with a lump sum benefit available to all citizens.

    I've an idea of alternative funding. How about hiring forensic accountants to locate the trillions of dollars stashed overseas by corporations. Once the monies are found impose heavy fines to be earmarked for the Basic Income fund on top of collecting the taxes the corporations should have paid in the first place. Our infrastructure is in dire need of those monies. I believe this would allow workers no longer needed in a host of jobs to go back to school, switch industries, or even switch to part time or volunteer work.

    I've heard the argument against Basic Income stating it will result in no one working. I can't speak for other families except my own; if we can't work we start to vibrate and eventually explode metaphorically speaking. As an example I try to follow my mother is 79 and I have trouble keeping up with her; doing nothing is not an option.

    As for able bodied people who don't need Basic Income, well, they can return the unused money to the fund to help those who can't work. Whatever the situation I'm sure we can arrive at a solution. We are the Yanks, the Fighting Americans who can and have done anything their mind desires.

  20. Cracklin Charlie7:46 PM

    Not quite a flying car, Gryphen; but, until your car is ready, you could try out the flying golf cart:

    1. Anonymous8:27 PM

      Gryph wants enviro friendly, but also flying car............

    2. Connie10:35 PM

      Well, yeah.


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