“Average-Wage Earners Fall Behind: New Job Market Makes More Demands but Fewer Promises,” by Jonathan Krim and Griff Witte, Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A37628-2004Dec30?language=printer, 31 December 2004.
A very complex article, tied together by the changing economy and the need to prepare for it. While reading, I was struck by the opportunities Senator John F. Kerry threw away.
In the middle of a story of a retraining worker, a surprising complaint
If she can’t stay on her husband’s health plan, her costs for health insurance offered by the hospital will be $200 a month, more than five times as much as at the airline. There are no pension benefits beyond the option for a 401(k) savings plan and few job protections. She makes $2 an hour less than before; to have a chance at higher pay, she will need to continually train herself in new areas.
Reading this I was less than sympathetic. I have never had a job were I could expect to sit on my knowledge. Paragraphs later the theme repeats..
This new era requires that workers shoulder more responsibility and risk on the way to financial security, economists say. It also demands that they be nimble in an increasingly fluid job market. Those who don’t obtain some combination of specialized skills, higher education and professional status that can be constantly adapted will be in danger of sliding down the economic ladder to low-paying service jobs, usually without benefits.
The article has switched from the specific to the general, but still it reads like a litany. But then the “Ah ha!” moment
In the political world, debate over labor market restructuring has been dominated by finger-pointing about free trade or the ethics of offshoring, rather than by discussion of possible solutions.
Exactly. Kerry bizarrely railed against “Benedict Arnold CEOs,” painting himself as an economic luddite, but then shut up, exposing himself as a flip-flopper. But did he ever focus on a real way to solve the issue? Restricting trade would be more idiotic and more radical than Kerry was capable of, but where were his real answers? If he could have jumped ahead of Bush, proposal globalization-era solutions to globalization-era problems, he could have painted W as the candidate of the pass. Instead JFK v 2.0 became the candidate of JFK 1.0 America, surrounding himself with unions and labor-intensive heavy industry.
But as displaced workers fail to make the transition into new jobs that afford them the same kind of lifestyle as their old ones, economists say that politicians ignore the issue at their own peril.
What might Kerry have done?
Last year, the Labor Department launched a pilot wage insurance program that would provide workers age 50 or older with half the difference between their old salary and their new salary when they’re forced to take lower-paying positions following a layoff. Workers would also get a tax credit for 65 percent of their health insurance premiums. But the eligibility requirements are many — the layoff, for instance, must come because of competition from abroad. As of August, only 715 workers nationwide had enrolled.
Some contend that such ideas only touch the edges of a looming crisis. While they may help individual workers in the short term, they don’t address the larger difficulties faced by the workforce in adapting to the demands of 21st century jobs. For that, these labor market experts say, the educational system will have to continue to raise its quality and reach a broader population.
He should have gotten ahead of Bush. A Republican administration is proposing a backward-looking plan that is immediately out of date and unpopular plan.
Thomas Bradtke, a manager at Boston Consulting Group, said that for the United States to retain its technological leadership and create new job-producing industries, it will have to keep coming up with a large share of the world’s innovative ideas. At a time when other countries’ students are routinely testing higher than American children in science and math, that’s not a given.
What if Kerry would have attacked failing public schools? What if he would have proposed a system to support school choice, economically benefitting the poorest Americans most? This would be big government in the best sense: federal action to protect and defend America’s vital interests.
Carnevale, who was a member of the White House advisory committee on technology and adult education in the Clinton administration, argues that the country needs the equivalent of an industrial policy focused both on getting more people through college and on retraining them for new jobs.
Don’t stop there. We need an “industrial policy” that doesn’t waste the first 18 years of the life of every public-school American. JFK 1.0 had the vision required for pro-American federal efforts, and won an election against an incumbent party. 2.0 was an “upgrade” worthy of Microsoft.