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.

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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.

Bye Bye Blago
House GOP holds the line; unanimously votes against "stimulus" bill