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Jobs, Education and Policy

Charge more but offer less. That's essentially the game plan thrown out by John E Potter to Congress this week, as the Postmaster General of the USPS once again admitted that his organization is incompetent, corrupt, and bloated.

What's significant is not that a government bureaucracy would - as usual - refuse to address the causes of its problems (once again it appears that accountability, like paying taxes, is only for the 'little people'), but that Congress is an accomplice in that denial. This is evidenced by the new "stimulus" bill, which provides pretty close to nothing for the average American but saddles the nation with nearly another trillion dollars in debt. That's not to say the first one was a great idea, but at least that one involved getting money to people and it is - theoretically - paid for by reductions in this year's tax refunds (if you have not read through your tax instructions for this year, get ready for a shock - the government is all about taking your money, and they are determined to do just that, no matter what they say in front of the cameras). The new "stimulus" includes a mess of government spending which does all but nothing to help mainstream American businesses and communities, and which effects won't be seen for two to three years, and a tax-cut component which basically rewards people who don't pay taxes, and does nothing for employers who need help finding a way to keep the employees they have now, let alone hire any new ones. Unemployment, alas, is also not a problem for the bureaucrat to worry about, but one of those things that only hit those unfortunates who work to support their families.

I have been thinking about this mess, and the heart of things is unemployment. If folks lose jobs, they worry and spend less, which in turn hurts the economy and causes more job loss. The only way to stop that cycle is for enough people to get new jobs that the people getting jobs outnumber the people still losing jobs. Well, it should surprise no one that our good elected officials in Congress lied to us; they're not going to help in the jobs market, not least because they never really could help. Ask anyone who has been in a hiring position, and they will tell you that government never significantly impacts the job market. Government jobs fall into three broad categories - the military, bloated over-staffed positions that could be better done by private companies, and pure pork positions which do nothing but eat tax money. Jobs are always available, even during the Depression some companies were hiring, but to get those jobs you had to be in the right place at the right time, but you also had to be well-qualified. And sorry, "well-qualified" means being able to do the job and to prove your credentials, not being the right race or gender or culture.

There's a lot of whining about jobs going overseas or jobs that do not pay well. And there are groups which exist solely to force companies to provide jobs to people who frankly are not interested in working hard, and to pay a "living wage", which always means about twice as much as the job is worth. Look, imagine you were going to buy a car, and you chose the Hyundai over the Mercedes because you couldn't afford the Benz. "Living wage" is the same thing as someone coming up and telling you that even though you bought the Hyundai, you have to pay the Mercedes price, just because they want you to do that. Same logic, folks. If you want a job that pays a certain amount of money, then you best get off your butt and make your services worth that kind of coin. A high school diploma and a resume that shows nothing more complicated that customer service and jobs that primarily involve data entry, are not jobs that lead to high pay or security.

- continue -

There are really only three ways to get a good-paying job, and by the way, a job that is less likely to get cut in a recession. One way is to develop a necessary expertise that is in short supply. The problem there is that over time those niches get filled, look at what happened to IT. The second way is to be related or a really good friend to the owner of a successful business. The other 99.99% of us will move on. The last way is to continue your education.

Now, 'education' is a trite word, and I am not saying what we hear so often from job counselors, that getting a degree (or an advanced degree) will by itself mean a better career. I personally knew a couple guys with doctorates who could not hold long-term jobs at decent pay. I mean that we all have brains, which are meant to be used effectively at important tasks. In third grade that means book reports, at the Masters' level that means a defensible thesis, but in the real world of employment that means doing a bit of research and analysis on the community and environment you have, and making informed choices on your strategy and actions. I did not choose to earn my MBA because some Godmother in a glittering tutu promised I would be rich if I did, I chose that path on the basis of Houston's economy, the relative proportion of MBA-holders to significant positions in management in my industry, and after discussion on the issue with some people whose opinion I value. After my MBA, will take a few more courses and then sit for my CPA license exams, which decision was made in a similar manner. And as the years go by, I will further add coursework and continuing education to my resume in order to stay current not only in my field, but to be aware of business conditions where I live and work.

It is significant to consider now the effect of policy. For long-term meaningful employment, a person must have appropriate and continuing education, and they must be proactive in using their knowledge. This strategy not only makes the individual more valuable, it improves the company which hires that person, and as a whole the nation becomes more competitive in global commerce. It should be noted, however, that the government does not support this strategy, except at the level of lip service. If the government would like to really address unemployment and the nation's long-term interests, then there needs to be a 'stimulus' program which benefits education quality for working Americans who want better employment and those who will soon enter the workforce, rather than payoffs to Abortion clinics.


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Comments (9)

Oh contraire... unemploymen... (Below threshold)

Oh contraire... unemployment is not the primary cause (although it can be a secondary cause), it is a symptom. The real cause of the mess is fear: fear that jobs will be lost, that consumers and businesses won't spend, that banks won't lend, that the stock market and house prices will fall, etc. This fear is self-fulfilling: fearful consumers and businesses cut back, ensuring that we suffer the consequences and in turn generating another round of cuts and so on (not buying $4 lattes forces Starbucks to close stores and lay off workers which in turn generates another round of consumer and business cutbacks).

And while the government can't 'create' jobs, it can help by eliminating as much fear as possible and by having our elected officials talk up the economy (as McCain tried to do), rather than down (as the Democrats did during the election campaign, most notably Schumer's comments that brought down IndyMac).

Oh yes, Congress can. They ... (Below threshold)
Paddy:

Oh yes, Congress can. They will replace lost jobs in the private sector with government workers. The GNP will never recover.

I forgot to add that Congre... (Below threshold)

I forgot to add that Congress can also 'help' by lowering taxes (both increasing the amount of money people have to spend and making people more optimistic) and passing laws that reduce the compliance costs of business.

It really is to bad that yo... (Below threshold)

It really is to bad that you don't know anything about the Postal Service. If you had you might have taken a different approach to the problems of the Postal Service. It is not due to inefficiency or bloat rather it is due to Congress over the years forcing the Postal Service to pay for things that were never the responsiblity of the Postal Service under the reorganization act. Last year it was the only quasi-federal agency to pay or prefund the health benefits for future retirees and this year the have a 6 billion dollar obligation If Congress over the last 38 years had not mandated and directed the Postal Service in oh so mnay areas the cost of mailing a letter would be much cheaper. The constraints that have happered that agency would have forced many businesses to close up shop. They do not get any federal subsidies and the ones they are entitled too Congress doesn't fund in fact they are in arrears. I agree with the rest of you article but to start off with something that is incorrect detracts from your overall thesis.

KRS - "The constraints ... (Below threshold)
Marc:

KRS - "The constraints that have happered that agency would have forced many businesses to close up shop."

Excellent idea! Shut them down. Over a period of say, 5 years turn the whole thing over to FedEx and UPS.

Excellent idea! Sh... (Below threshold)
Excellent idea! Shut them down. Over a period of say, 5 years turn the whole thing over to FedEx and UPS.

All the feds have to do is to repeal the regulation that makes it a crime for anyone other than a USPS employee to remove mail from a mailbox. This will switch on the ingenuity of enterprenuers who will figure out ways they can get rich competing with government mail delivery.

OregonMuse - Fine idea OM.<... (Below threshold)
Marc:

OregonMuse - Fine idea OM.

I figure over the course of five years every US
Postal Service delivery vehicle and facility in the land can be repainted glorious UPS brown and FedEX Purple and Gray.

Democrats don't want people... (Below threshold)

Democrats don't want people to solve their own problems, they don't want people to work out the own agreements on salaries. They only want a favored few to be finanically successful. Wall street bonuses are "shameful" according to Obama. This is grand hypocrisy coming from someone who has made millions off of book deals. Is Rahm Immanuel shameful? He's a multi-millionaire. Oh...but these guys made their money honestly, and during the good times, so it's okay!
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