Campaign rhetoric misses the big picture | OPINION
October 24, 2012 · 1:18 PM
While 12.5 million workers remain unemployed, politicians blame each other for a weak job market using arguments like these:
“The president isn’t doing all he can to create jobs.”
“No, he inherited the mess. Your plan only continues that flawed system.”
“Oh, yeah? You think raising taxes for the people who make jobs is going to help?”
“Read your history! Whenever we’ve had higher taxes on the super-rich there’s always been high profits and employment.”
The public is tired of bickering. Not that it’s totally empty of substance, it’s that we need and deserve better, something that reflects educated understanding. Instead, leaders burden us with juvenile wrangling that gets the nation nowhere.
The media isn’t much help. They seldom look deeper than how many are drawing unemployment, how many have exhausted benefits, how many have given up searching and how many new jobs have been created. Nothing but soulless numbers there.
We’d like some depth, please. Give us something more to ponder than the surface of problems. Nothing gets done to solve this sticky issue by holding the focus on unemployment data. Data says only that we have a problem and describes its size. It falls short of identifying underlying issues and what can be done about them.
Imagine Democrats and Republicans positioned on opposite sides of a pond to study it. But all they observe and argue about is the few leaves drifting this way and that across the surface. Just so, they appear so focused on the surface of the unemployment problem that they seem blind to its root causes.
Identifying root causes brings up two questions: (1) Would it actually do any good to tackle some particular cause, and (2) would it be best for government to keep its nose out of certain issues. Keep those questions in mind while scanning 10 real causes for unemployment.
Outsourcing: The system is rigged to reward industries for shipping jobs overseas.
Mergers and acquisitions: Due to economies of scale, jobs are always lost when corporations marry. Where two companies have purchasing departments before a merger, one, along with its employees, will disappear afterward.
The retire-rehire revolving door: In school districts, industry, the military and government, hiring of new workers is minimized wherever retirees return to work while collecting retirement benefits.
Production technology: Jobs are lost when bigger faster machines are put to work. Though this cannot and should not be reversed, it still must be considered as a significant source of unemployment.
Foreign competition: Expect China to restrict importation of American goods while continuing to fill American shelves with Made in China inventory. If you want a plastic doohickey manufactured, it almost certainly will be made in China. Or Sri Lanka. Or the Philippines.
Dwindling resources: Over 60 years, Marysville lost three critical sources of employment; Logging, fishing and mill-work. After trees and fish were overharvested, thousands of jobs disappeared and with the demise of logging, mills that converted logs to finished building products shut down.
Reduced purchasing power: What goes around, comes around. When unemployed or underemployed workers lack the buying power to keep factories busy producing goods, factory payrolls are trimmed.
Stagnant piles of money: Apple, among others, sits on billions of dollars, awaiting a more promising business climate before putting the money to work. Meanwhile, thousands of small businesses are desperate for the working capital that creates jobs.
Monopolistic control: The giants of manufacturing, finance, agriculture and marketing overshadow opportunity for small business and small-business jobs. We’re witnessing two (soon three) local Walmarts strangling small Marysville and Arlington retailers. More jobs are lost than gained.
Fossil fuel industries fight development of alternative energy facilities. Daily TV ads show Big Coal and Big Oil working to convince the public that fossil fuels must remain the heart of America’s energy supply. On the other hand, thousands of new alternative energy facilities would hire hundreds of thousands of new employees. Of course coal and oil will remain, but not to dominate America’s changing energy profile.
This list goes on to charge Congress with stonewalling good jobs bills in order to damage the record of a sitting president. And of course unemployment, itself, is a great creator of unemployment. If you’re not working you’re not earning. If you’re not earning you’re not spending. If you’re not spending you’re not supporting employment across the economy.
The super-rich seem to have gone blind to this basic economic reality. Proof shows as investors pull down handsome profits while battling against minimum wage increases. As workers from whom they draw their income go broke, lose homes, file bankruptcy and go without medical insurance, all lose. How could investors forget that middle and low income spenders are the geese that lay their golden eggs?
The nation needs to mount a full-court press against every assailable limit to employment, whether large or small. I’ll vote for whoever appears to best understand this.
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