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Saving workforce means overhaul

Listen to the rhetoric of Republicans and Democrats alike on the topic of jobs and you will hear both saying they would create jobs but the other party won’t let them.

But as this election year is underway Congress largely admits there will not be much legislation written the rest of the year. Not that we would notice, since no one can recall the last meaningful legislation passed since the Republicans took control of the House in 2010. Divided government has given us ineffective government as its byproduct.

Republicans have 40 bills to create jobs if you accept that job creation is identical with tax cuts for business and the end of regulations for health and safety.

Democrats have bills waiting if job creation is identical to federal funding of infrastructure and subsidies to favored industry sectors.

Neither of their favorite proposals offers much in the way of living wage jobs to replace the 6 million manufacturing jobs lost between 2000 and 2009.

The truth is those well paid manufacturing jobs are not returning to the U.S in any significant numbers, n.ot now and maybe never. And where companies once shared increases in productivity with workers that is no longer the working model. Worker’s wages and benefits stagnant and corporate profits increase with productivity improvement.

The real trend in America is toward increased automation of manufacturing and added efficiency through technology in white collar jobs. Not only is the meter reader obsolete, but so too is the bookkeeper and soon the hotel counter person. All lost to technology and efficiency.

The U.S. now ranks with Britain and France as the lowest percentage of developed nations with manufacturing jobs, at 12 percent of our workforce. In 1953 the US had 28 percent of its workforce in manufacturing jobs.

Consider the new industry of Advanced Manufacturing and its potential. The first such Institute has opened in Youngstown, Ohio and the outcome may end the die casting industry entirely while creating a smaller number of high skilled computer aided design (CAD) jobs.

These changes are irreversible and their impact on our economy will be the continual sluggish job creation that has been the hallmark of the past decade.

And in addition our labor force will be both more and more overqualified and more and more underqualified. Fifteen percent of cab drivers in America have college degrees, while we struggle to fill technology jobs and need to hire from outside the U.S. to continue to grow new technology careers.

The solutions lie in areas the politicians seem to offer little in rhetoric and less in substance.

We must significantly improve the kinds of skills training that reflect the new economy. That means more and more capable math and science grads; more Americans with high level computer skills; more medical practitioners at all levels; and more educators. To accomplish this we must revitalize our technical schools and re-invent their purposes to better match developing career fields.

We will also need to change service jobs from work that taxpayers subsidize to living wage jobs for workers who do not have the kinds of skills to fit more technical jobs.

And we need to strongly commit to investing as a society in research and technology, for our ability to maintain an economic edge will require continual development of products to sell the world.

We urgently need to fix our loophole-ridden corporate tax structure.

Finally, we must invest in our infrastructure if we are to succeed in attracting the premier business and industry companies to the world’s largest consumer market.

As for wages, there will always be another China, another lower wage environment where we cannot and should not compete for lower wages.

We need those we elect to solve problems, not create them.

 

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.