Friday, March 27, 2015

Jobs and our Next President: What, If Anything, Do We Know?

Around the horn in the world of presidential politics, on jobs and beyond:

If you were announcing a run for president as the first major declared candidate, wouldn’t you have a website with your positions on issues ready to go?  Well, Ted Cruz didn’t.  Searches on “Ted Cruz” and “Ted Cruz for President” brought up nothing new, so I can’t say much about what he plans to do about the permanent jobs crisis.  His old stuff, mainly asserting that unemployment benefits are bad, wasn’t too encouraging.  I guess none of the 2.7 million Americans officially jobless for 27 weeks or more and legally required to look for work weekly are in his inner circle. That may be a reason why you can get 40 times your money by betting on him to win a year from November, as you can on, say, Martin O'Malley.

Speaking of politicians making stupid statements, get a load of Ben Carson!  The man is a neurosurgeon.  You can’t get into that specialty by just choosing it – you need to beat out lots of well-qualified doctors (not just medical students) to get the training you need.  Bet that every single neurosurgeon in the country would qualify for Mensa, going away.  I see how he might need to appeal to his base by comparing gay marriage to bestiality, or saying Obama is “like a psychopath,” but how can anyone of that intelligence say that men are gay by choice?  Carson, somehow, makes me want to root for him – he can be partially excused by now being more a politician than anything else, and wrote a good, remarkably thoughtful book about what he thinks – but there’s a difference between routine pandering or spouting ideology you think will go down well, and saying things which are clearly wrong.  Which, since it calls his grip on reality into question, I don’t like at all.  As for Carson on jobs – well, what does he REALLY think?  Will we ever know?

How about Scott Walker?  Radio host Rush Limbaugh has seemed to endorse him, at least for now, and has him as the second most likely Republican to become our next president, at 9½ to 1 behind Jeb Bush at 6½ to 1.  He’s had his doubtful statements too, and his lack of a bachelor’s degree all these years on is strange, but he has the right view on labor unions.  As classic business author Robert Townsend put it, unions served a noble purpose once, but now they’re part of the problem.  There is all the difference in the world between reigning in the abuses of the early (and not so early) Industrial Revolution, when few knew and too many didn’t care how long, hard, and unsafely people could work, and getting the most from governmental employers with little or no incentive to limit pay and perks.  Ultimately, unions cost jobs, which is why Walker did the right thing in leading Wisconsin to right-to-work status.  Could he be good for jobs in other ways too?  We’ll see as the campaign progresses.

Still no word from Hillary Clinton on employment.  Being way in front, Emailgate notwithstanding, with odds of 5 to 3 against in the 2016 election, has made her more noncommittal than ever.  Since she’s moderate, it would be consistent with her views to tone down pushes for higher minimum wages, which are now popping up here and there anyway, and campaign on a national infrastructure project.  But I’m not holding my breath.

Then there is Chris Christie, with both good and bad attributes of being forceful.  He’d love to lead a 1950s Chicago-style “machine,” in which people on his side were assured of decent jobs if they got out the vote, but the time for that sort of thing has passed even in that city – you could have asked Representative Dan Rostenkowski, who tried to reinstate one and ended up wearing stripes.  Could Christie lean on possible employers to make more work available?  That possibility alone could make him a fine candidate – but I don’t know if he would or could.  So I’ll still go with the hope of Jeb Bush, if he’s not too beholden to his fellow one-percenters to realize they can’t make money if the bulk of Americans have none to spend. 

As for political views, America’s problem goes deeper than anything above.  Why is it that the combinations of opinions are as set as they are?  Why do almost all of those who think there is no human-caused climate change also oppose gun control?  Does it make sense that those against capital punishment are consistently in favor of more spending on social programs?  Would someone from Mars see it as logical that humans seeing government as more of a problem than big business tend heavily to see abortion as murder?  Can’t be.  The answer is that most of us make complex realities easier by going with, in effect, a slate of opinions.  That is unexamined, and, if Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living, we are falling short.  If Americans were more independent in chosen views, we would reach the right answers more often as a country.  We are not doing well at that now, and, strangely enough, think almost everyone on both sides, and in the middle would agree.  Will we ever be up to that challenge? 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Yes, the Pay Gender Gap is Real – But It’s Not All from Discrimination

One work-related issue seems to have perpetual press coverage.  Consider the following:

Men and women must be paid equal wages if they perform substantially the same work under the Equal Pay Act.  “Equal pay” refers to more than just your paycheck.  Under this law, all employers must provide employees within the same establishment whose jobs require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and are performed under similar working conditions “equal pay.” – U.S. Department of Labor Website

In 1951, women made about 64 cents for every dollar earned by men.  The wage gap has narrowed over time, with today’s women (age 15 and over) earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, for year-round, full-time work.  –

How can we reconcile the above two statements?

In 2005, to answer that question, author Warren Farrell published Why Men Earn More:  The Startling Truth about the Pay Gap – And What Women Can Do About It.  Per its subtitle, the book also included constructive ideas on how women can avoid getting less than men.  The way they can do that, the author wrote, is for them to make more of the same choices as men.  And what are they?
Note that none of these are about acting differently in the workplace, or fighting remaining sex discrimination.  Such things would help, but are hardly the whole story.  So what did Farrell, backed with documented statistics, come up with?
First, women can choose from the 25 worst positions, as assessed by the Jobs Rated Almanac on quality of work environment, employment prospects, physical demands, job security, and related stress.  As of 2002, 92% of workers in these 25 jobs were men.  Only one position, dancer, had more than 32% female workers.  Some of the better paying ones in this list were carpenter (99% male), boilermaker (100% male), and the overall lowest-ranking one, lumberjack (98% male).

Second, Farrell recommended that women opt for careers with lower personal fulfillment, such as being a tax accountant instead of a child-care professional.

Third, on the lower-qualification end, women are likely to be paid more if they end up with jobs outdoors, such as package deliverers, instead of those only requiring work inside.

Fourth, if women seek positions in which they “can’t psychologically check out at the end of the day,” such as corporate attorney, instead of working as, for example, librarians, their earnings will tend to be higher.

Fifth, being more willing to take the most extreme physical risk, being killed on the job, of which 92% suffering that early last decade were men, can help women’s pay.

Sixth, female workers can help themselves by putting in more hours.  According to a 2004 Department of Labor survey, women were less than half as likely than men to work over 50 hours per week.

Seventh, gaining more experience, by not being among the 50 times as many women as men who are full-time homemakers, the 8 times as many who take at least four years out of the labor force, or the 9 times as many who leave work for six months or longer for family reasons can boost expected income.

Eighth, simply getting to work more often, and not contributing to women’s averaging twice as much time away from it as men, can help.

Ninth, being more willing to take nonphysical as well as physical risks, such as joining heavily male fields such as venture capitalism, generally pays more.

Tenth, taking jobs requiring working at inconvenient times, such as being a doctor in private practice instead of working for an HMO, can shrink the income gap.  

These ten were only those I chose from one old book – many, many more are out there. 

Despite sex discrimination laws in effect for half a century, there are reasons for women still being paid less, overall, than men.  There are certainly men in positions of power who would prefer their subordinates to be the same.  But that sort of thing is nowhere near the whole story.  Choices matter too, and mean enough that no simple assertion of broad-based pay differences should be taken as being caused by other reasons.  The issue of average pay differing by sex, as is the case for many, is far more complicated than it looks. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Sharing Economy and Jobs – II

Now, back to the phenomenon I wrote about two weeks ago.  Why is it not as great as its believers claim, why is it so controversial, and what should and shouldn’t we do about it?

Its main weakness is that once proper expense accounting is applied, sharing economy engagements, compared with conventional employment, simply don’t pay very much.  Last month, Joann Weiner wrote in The Washington Post that while Uber claimed taxi-like drivers averaged over $74,000 per year in San Francisco, making it one of the most lucrative sharing-economy propositions, the real net number was more like $40,000, with no paid vacation or other benefits, and mandatory health insurance and matching Social Security contributions pushing that even lower.  (The Internal Revenue Service, not known for its generosity, allows 57.5 cents per business mile – if a driver averages 120 miles per day, as I did for Yellow Cab in the 1970s, he or she would have annual car expenses alone of over $18,000.)  If they drive, as true taxi drivers often do, 55 hours per week, $40,000 net, even if that high, pays even a lower cash rate than an $11.00 per hour job with time-and-a-half overtime.  

Second, the income achieved by Uber, similar Lyft, and room-renting facilitator Airbnb service providers is inflated by a temporary lack of regulation.  It is almost certain that major cities will develop legal limitations either banning or charging high license fees for what they are selling.  It is unthinkable that with New York City taxi medallions, or permits, costing over a million dollars that amateur cabdrivers will be allowed to proliferate, or even operate, forever.  Once zoning laws, and legally sound complaints by neighbors, catch up with the extent of Airbnb rentals, the time when anyone can run a de facto hotel or even a bed and breakfast in residential-zoned neighborhoods will be over.  Good money for now, but not by decade’s end at the latest. 

Third, once such regulation catches up, the bulk of other sharing-economy opportunities will be what established businesses don’t want to pursue for lack of profitability.  In Salon last month, Robert Reich said a more proper name for it would be the “share-the-scraps economy.”  Whatever you think of Reich, that phrase, sadly, fits too well. 

Fourth, while being paid for personal resources provides useful money, being able to sell them means you already have them.  If you have an apartment in Manhattan, you can do well renting it out, but most people don’t.  Not everyone meets the driving-record, car-condition, and other standards Uber and Lyft require.  If you don’t have the right kind of aptitude, you will not do well at doing tasks requiring it.  That does not mean these propositions are invalid, but it does mean that many are effectively available to only a minority.

Overall, once the laws and their enforcement get in place, once more participation and therefore competition brings prices lower, once the drivers and house hosts have commercial insurance, and so on, there won’t be enough left of the sharing economy to constitute a broad-based alternative to even minimum-wage employment.  What will remain will be the selling of possessions and other finite resources, ventures with appeal dependent on incomplete expense accounting, and, as the best of the lot, small business propositions, requiring as for more established ones the right kind of attitude, drive, stamina, wide-range skills, and often willingness to put in hours unheard of when working for others – a set of attributes few people have. 

How can we best deal with the sharing economy, as it is and will be?  There is no need for special regulation, as existing laws will do just fine.  With vastly differing personal completion times, efforts to establish a minimum wage of sorts for less remunerative and more unusual tasks would be misguided, not to mention bureaucratically difficult or impossible, and anyway more opportunities for people to earn money should not be discouraged.  Yet we are best off resisting being enamored of the sharing economy, as it is hardly a jobs-crisis solution.  We need more for what we face in America. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Another Good Month, But February’s AJSN Shows We’re Still 19.3 Million Jobs Short

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly Employment Situation Summary continued its good and remarkably steady pattern again this morning.  Seasonally adjusted net new payroll employment jumped 295,000, and the jobless rate reflecting it reached a post-recession low of 5.5%.  Average wages improved also, with an average 3 cent gain that may sound puny but in fact works out to an annual rate higher than inflation has been. 

The American Job Shortage Number or AJSN, which is not seasonally adjusted, fell about 260,000, essentially completely on lower official unemployment, as follows:

The raw number of technically unemployed declined 400,000 from January to February, meaning that latent demand for jobs from that segment fell 360,000.  The AJSN, though, did not drop that much, because the count of people in three significant smaller categories, those not searching for work in the previous year, those discouraged, and those temporarily not available to work now, were all up.  Since any seasonal bias in these figures would call for them to be lower instead of higher, as employment is generally better in February than in January, once again the job creation statistics did not tell the whole story.

The four key secondary measures were mixed.  Long-term unemployed, out 27 weeks or longer, improved by 100,000 to 2.7 million.  The count of those working part-time for economic reasons, or wanting full-time work but only finding part-time, dropped 200,000 to 6.6 million.  The employment to population ratio, which shows what percentage of Americans are working, held steady at 59.3%, but the labor force participation rate, despite official joblessness tumbling substantially, fell to 62.8%.  As well, seasonally unadjusted unemployment fell from 6.1% to 5.8%. 

Year-over-year AJSN component comparisons were much the same as between the past two months.  The AJSN is almost 1,000,000 less than it was in February 2014, but way more than that – over 1.6 million – is from the drop of people technically unemployed.  Those in other categories, in particular the count of people wanting to work but not looking for it for at least the previous year, which has jumped from about 3.22 million in February 2014 to 3.74 million last month, offset almost 40% of that improvement. 

So where are we now?   Unemployment keeps dropping, wages are doing better, and the number of new jobs is consistently more than covering the population increase.  However, although higher absolute numbers of Americans are working, the problem of people leaving the labor force remains, is not getting weaker, and will become much worse with the next recession.  Even after giving jobs to each technically unemployed person, we could, easily and quickly, fill over 10 million more.  But, to be fair, the turtle is still plodding forward.    

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Sharing Economy and Jobs – I

It’s way past time that I looked at the newest major way for people to make money. 

The first time I read about it was a year and a half ago in a Thomas Friedman New York Times column.  Titled “Welcome to the Sharing Economy,” it described Airbnb, an accommodations-reserving company then less than five years old but gigantic, with places to rent available in 34,000 cities and 192 countries.  The piece was informative, but displayed two of Friedman’s most irritating tendencies.  First, it seemed giddy about the possibility of people selling access to their resources, combined with the let-them-eat cake mentality he has shown on other topics (“The skills required for any good job keep rising – a lot of people who might not be able to acquire those skills can still earn a good living now by building their own branded reputations, whether it is to rent their kids’ rooms, their cars or their power tools.”).  Second, he once again tied a barely related subject into green politics (“Just think how much better all this is for the environment – for people to be renting their spare bedrooms rather than building another Holiday Inn and another and another”). 

Yet the final two sentences of Friedman’s column were prescient:  “The sharing economy – watch this space.  This is powerful.”  Although Airbnb was, in fact, a huge company when he wrote the piece, it has continued to prosper.  It is joined by amateur taxi providers Uber and Lyft, the former of which does business in over 50 countries, and any number of other similar businesses with the same or other specialties.  A lot has been written more recently on the sharing economy, with views of it ranging from glowing to execrable, so it is clear to many that, somehow, it must be dealt with. 

So how can we assess this movement?  This week, the positives. 

First, the sharing economy is indeed a legitimate means for people needing money to get it.  The sharers not only pass along their resources for a price, but also invest their time, energy, and knowledge in the process.  All of these things are often surplus for them, especially among those without regular jobs.

Second, it is a proper descendant of eBay.  People have been selling their unneeded items there for almost 20 years now, with the company, as with Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb, not owning anything that changes hands but only taking money from those executing the transactions.  EBay has been a boon for vast numbers of people, for collectors, suppliers, and bargain shoppers as well as its investors, and it would be silly to say that its overall effect has not been positive.

Third, other sharing sites, such as TaskRabbit, help people get paid for their surplus time.  They have no minimum wage as such, but allowing the otherwise unemployed to earn something, somehow, is in itself a good thing.

Fourth, the sharing economy fits well with the times we are in.  Although there is a permanent jobs crisis, neither political side has been doing much of anything to end or even alleviate it, so, improving employment levels notwithstanding, many people are stuck not working.  It allows them ways of earning money, in some cases, even without being physically present.   It also helps those who have lost good-paying work without finding it at similar compensation but have fixed expenses, especially for cars and housing, by providing the means to defray them without giving up their houses and vehicles altogether. 

Fifth, it is strongly market-based.  With so many companies and providers, the amounts charged for tasks, rides, and night’s stays will settle at amounts determined by supply and demand.  There will be little concern about wide-scale overcharging, as the systems will allow others to easily undercut prices that are truly, as opposed to seemingly, too high.  Sharing applications also have the potential to slash market prices for products which are, in fact, grossly overpriced due to not enough people selling them.

Sixth, those offering resources through Uber and Lyft, and to some extent Airbnb, can be seen as franchisees, a well-established category of business with its own sets of strengths and restrictions.  More franchises, held by willing entrepreneurs, generally mean more solid, taxpaying business activity.

Seventh, it provides opportunity, even if often meager, for people to sell skills nationwide.

These seven points, of course, are only half the story.  For the problems and disadvantages of the sharing economy, along with how we should best handle it, come back in two weeks.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lessons of the Persian Gulf

This week, I go off-topic. 

In January, I spent two days apiece in Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait, almost entirely in the largest cities of Doha, Manama, Muscat, and Kuwait City.  Not business – I had been to Dubai several years ago and liked what I saw, so returned to the area. 

So what did I see this time?

First, note that I handpicked probably the four safest, most prosperous countries in the region.  I stayed out of much poorer Yemen, a good thing since machine guns went off in its capital that week, and Saudi Arabia, still not big on general sightseers.  Although all four are more or less absolute monarchies, with the king or sultan taking at least the role of permanent president, they have done superbly at not only getting into the 20th century, where not all were 50 years ago, but further into the 21st than almost any others.  Their infrastructure is first-rate and getting better.  I have never seen more construction anywhere than in Doha.  The new airport with free Internet computers was finished last year, a city rail system is being assembled underground, and it seemed like every other building was either going up or being remodeled. 

Second, every single person I encountered, with the possible exception of a man who didn’t want me leaning back in my airline seat, seemed civilized.  Although my ordinary Western wear of polo shirts and khakis was not rare, it was in the minority, but nobody seemed offended that I was there.  People at hotels, restaurants, or even market stalls even went well past that to be solicitous.  When I went to the desk of my unassuming lodging for more toilet paper, I was assured that all I needed to have done was to call them and they would have brought it up to my room.  I like to think that the cause was that the locals’ Bedouin ancestors, going through the desert, were critically dependent on the hospitality of others, and passed it along in cultural form.

Third, those countries were excellent travel values.  The round-trip airfare from JFK to Doha was $680, which seems substantial until you see that much closer locations such as Rio de Janeiro, Casablanca, and even London and Dublin were priced higher.  On the ground, I stayed at places costing $37 to $85 per night, choosing as I usually do low-end hotels with private rooms and baths and decent online ratings, and ate somewhat like a local at smaller restaurants and food stands.  The meals rarely cost me more than $15 and usually much less.  Each hotel also had a fine free breakfast buffet, and I had hummus, olives, feta cheese, orange juice and pita bread for eight days straight.  Taxis cost less than in American cities, and museum admission charges and the like were nominal or nonexistent.

Fourth, the weather was wonderful.  It was dry, in the 70s and 80s during the day with ample but not intense sun, and in the 60s at night.  Given that I returned to a second straight unseasonably cold Catskills winter, which has continued throughout the three weeks since, it was just the break I needed.

Fifth, whatever you think about the first Gulf War, in which Iraq invaded Kuwait and was repulsed by Operation Desert Storm, the Kuwaitis have not forgotten the efforts of others.  When arriving there, someone said I should consider their country “my second home,” and my visa was free.  I visited the Memorial Museum, dedicated to the invasion – they had display after display of the nations which had liberated them, and an entire wall, including the names of every American soldier who had died there, honoring the United States.  Although it may seem that people in countries we have rescued “should” have that attitude, it doesn’t take much international travel to see that such a viewpoint is hardly the norm.

Sixth, physical safety in all four places was complete.  Whether on fairly dark streets near the market in Muscat, walking through a construction zone in Kuwait City, or though the mazelike narrow streets of Manama, there was clearly nothing to fear.  To be sure, they were all worthy of big-city precautions, but beyond that there were no problems.

Seventh, with their British colonial heritage, English is the second language in all four countries, and is on almost all signs.  That is convenient for those of us who know little Arabic.  English also served as a common tongue; in Muscat I often heard Indians, quite common there, and locals doing business in English, even though it was primary for neither.  I also talked with a man working at a candy store, found out he was from Iran, and determined that his English was better than his Arabic.  Tourists traveling to those places, at least in the cities, are not at all handicapped by not knowing other languages.   

Eighth, I never did see another known American.  I also talked with people from Bosnia, Sudan, Sri Lanka, India, and Great Britain, but not from here. 

Ninth, a few scattered observations.  As expected, there were any mosques, with loudly broadcasted calls to prayer.  It is not necessary to dress formally for public buildings, but the shorts and jeans should stay home.  In general, the countries were good places to see how people do things differently but still effectively. 

So, it was a great week-plus without thinking much about American jobs.  One of my usual topics, though, did present itself.  The quality of what and how much they are building made the case for a national American infrastructure project even stronger.  It would be a shame for Americans to consistently note, upon return, that places like Qatar and Kuwait are more advanced than we are, but at the rate we are going we will be there soon.  There is a lesson here – if we cannot accept that not all success comes from our country and ideology, we will not be the world’s leader for long.        

Friday, February 13, 2015

The State of the Union Address, Mixed on Jobs and Thus an Improvement Over ’14, Moves Pressure to Republicans

Last month had President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address, with only one from him to come.  It drew comments ranging from “meaningless” (Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post), to “combative” (the New York Times Editorial Board) and “replete with a certain swagger” (Eugene Robinson, also from the Post, on to his “best yet” for its relative lack of citizen vignettes (Alexandra Petri, likewise). 

I was glad to see the emphasis Obama put not only on the American economy, but on jobs in particular.  While some of his claims were narrowly selective, such as that “over the past five years, our businesses (emphasis mine) have created more than 11 million new jobs” when either including other positions lost or changing the time to four or six years would make it much less favorable-looking, politicians will be politicians, and of more concern was what he said about the future.

The president’s stated wishes were a mixture of ideas, some good for employment and some bad.  On the down side, we heard yet again, though thankfully not in a belabored way, about the need for a higher minimum wage, defended by the difficulty to “support a family on less than $15,000 a year.”  To name just one objection, when we have a permanent jobs crisis, we do not have the luxury of legally mandating that all positions pay enough to fully provide for multiple people. 

Other of Obama’s proposals would also, as Rubin wrote, “put more burdens on employers.”  Two were federally required paid sick leave and paid maternity leave.  He also called for a “law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work,” presumably stronger or more results-based than the one designed to serve that exact purpose that has already been on the books for some 51 years.  While it is true, as he said, that “nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages,” nothing gives families a more sudden and severe financial setback than being put out of work, possibly due to one’s employer being simply unable to pay higher mandated costs.

The other points in the speech, though, were favorable to jobs.  I counted six, which were four or five more than he had a year before. 

First, he said we have emerged from the recession.  Though self-serving, that statement still has a no-excuses flavor which might stifle contrary, action-inhibiting words from other Democrats.  Second, he mentioned the need to pay people properly for overtime.  Abuse of statuses such as “manager” and “contractor” have too often facilitated employers circumventing such laws, which, even in a job-scarce environment, should not be allowed to deteriorate.  Third, his requested strong connections between community colleges and the companies most suitable for hiring their graduates are not only critically necessary but in need of ongoing, proactive maintenance.  Fourth, although vaguely presented, his idea of rewarding companies investing in the United States should affect tax laws much more than it does.  Fifth, his call at the end of the speech, “if you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree,” makes it clear that responsibility for refusals to discuss or negotiate falls, barring the absurd idea that none of his proposals could under any circumstances be acceptable, squarely on Republicans.

Obama’s sixth pro-jobs view was perhaps the first one to take substantive form thereafter.  He mentioned the need for a large infrastructure initiative, which became a $478 billion item in the budget he sent to Congress earlier this month.  He said on February 1 that he thought Republicans were in favor of extensive infrastructure work, and that he and they should negotiate not the general idea, but how it should be financed.  He was right, as people of both parties can see that American bridges, ports, highways, airports, sewer systems and so on need repair, upgrading, and replacement, which must happen somehow.  If congressional Republicans refused to even debate how these things could be done, that would mean that they were going beyond their beliefs and would be, for some other reason, simply acting in bad faith.

One more thing became distinct last month.  Obama being a Democrat, and in many ways a liberal, does not mean he consistently wants a larger government.  One reason why the 11 million new business jobs he cited was not as good as it sounds was that, during that time of his presidency, government positions had decreased 500,000.  Not increased less than expected, not increased less than the pattern of the past few years, not “cut” in the old Washington sense of asking for two million but only getting 1,500,000 – but actually down overall.  He said in the speech that his proposed tax increases on the wealthiest Americans would not go for more workers in Washington, but would ease burdens on the middle class.  So, taking those two things together, it was completely unfitting for House Speaker John Boehner to rally Republicans by saying, as he did, that “making government bigger isn't going to help the middle class.”     

Overall, the 2015 State of the Union Address was true to type.  It was self-congratulatory, filled with wishful thinking, and too vague in spots for even its general purpose.  I stay with what I wrote a year ago, that there will be no fundamental American employment progress under this administration.  However, as our president’s views on jobs have improved, the reason for that is shifting.  Barring tragedy, Barack Obama will be President of the United States for almost two more years, with almost no chance that he will be replaced by a Republican before January 20, 2017 – at the soonest.  It is now up to people of that party to decide whether to negotiate and implement what they as well as Democrats, know we need, or to throw out babies such as the infrastructure initiative with the bathwater of further burdens on employers in the name of unconnected ideology.