Friday, March 29, 2013

Around the Horn on Jobs – End of March, 2013

It’s the last business day of the first quarter.  It’s finally starting to look like spring here in the Catskills, and there have been many different issues getting press.  Some, such as gay marriage, I can’t do much with from a jobs standpoint, but others bear on this ongoing crisis.  What have we had to read this week?

“Median Household Income Down 7.3% Since Start of Recession” – Catherine Rampell, Economix blog, The New York Times

No surprise.  One-third of new jobs created since 2008 pay $12 per hour or less, so naturally the median, as opposed to the mean, will get worse.  And we’re not in a recession – that ended two years ago.  When we have another one, we’re going down more than 7.3%.

“Jobless claims tick up for second straight week” – Don Lee, Los Angeles Times

This supposed bad news means almost nothing.  If people don’t have jobs, they can’t lose them.  One effect of companies being so cautious about hiring permanent workers is what looks superficially like a good outcome – few recent hires mean fewer recent job losses.    

“For federal workforce, the furlough terrain is uneven” – Lisa Rein, The Washington Post

Will people cut back to four days a week from five file for benefits?  They can, but will they?  The one-week waiting period some states have after a job loss, with no checks will be issued, will hurt them also. 

“Cheating Our Children,” Paul Krugman, The New York Times

The Nobel-winning polemicist takes on the issue of which rips off the younger generations more, raising the deficit or cutting spending on education and the infrastructure.  He concludes the latter is worse, of course, but makes good points.  If they have no work and can’t get across town anyway, Millennials and beyond, indeed, won’t care much how many trillions are on the right-hand side of the country’s balance sheet.

“Jobs Act falls short of grand promises” – Dina ElBoghdady, The Washington Post

Yes, it has, but not only Obama is to blame.  Both sides have continued stinking up Capitol Hill on infrastructure work, the lack of which is poised to do real damage to American pride as well as to American business competitiveness.  Not to mention that much of the act reads as if it were written by conservatives.  That lack of action is one of the worst outcomes from our current partisan-only climate.

“Energy security and American jobs” – The Chicago Tribune

This editorial says we’ve had “enough dawdling” and that Obama should approve the Keystone pipeline.  This editorial is correct.  We want those jobs in the United States, not to mention getting the geopolitical advantages of getting more energy from Canada, instead of from the likes of Venezuela.  The number of positions, especially permanent ones, the pipeline would actually create is uncertain, and may be disappointing, but the environmental concerns must be weighed against other advantages, which comfortably prevail over them.

“’Lean In’ author Sandberg:  It’s time for women to lead” – Cheryl V. Jackson, The Chicago Tribune

I have closely followed the Sheryl Sandberg controversy, but have not mentioned it in this blog, mainly because it has little effect on the number of jobs.  I will weigh in here, though.  Sandberg’s ideas are not sufficient to equalize the overall career outcomes of men and women, but they are necessary.  We need to get past the idea that protected groups are 0% responsible for their statistical shortcomings;  whether their share is more like 10% or more like 90% is, strangely, not the issue.

“Where Obama should hear Paul:  Legal pot” – Clarence Page, The Chicago Tribune; Colorado pot growers gear up for ‘green rush,’” The Washington Post

Now HERE’S a source of jobs!  With marriage equality clearly unstoppable, how about also moving forward quickly on marijuana legalization, which a majority of Americans now support?  Let’s tax it, and collect money instead of paying for enforcement of hopeless laws.  Keep it away from children.  Test for it roadside.  Collect income tax from both its workers and its businesses.  Discover, as we will, that the huge majority of people not smoking it now won’t do it when legal either.  We have better, and much more constructive, things to do as a country than banning what citizens do with a common domestic weed. 

In the meantime, prepare for our next recession.  When it happens, and we discover that today’s sub-8% unemployment was not so bad after all, tens of millions of Americans will need all the help they can get.

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