Monday, September 05, 2011
It is ironic that on the day the US celebrates labor, the challenge for the economy is that there is not enough of it. Economists disagree whether the lack of jobs is cyclical or structural -- that is, the temporary result of economic distress or a change in industry such that jobs are lost permanently. I'm no economist, but it certainly seems that much of the problem is structural. Go into any store and look at goods on the shelves. They are made elsewhere than the US. We can inveigh against cheap foreign labor or we can learn to compete in industries we can defend. Business has made the decision that US policy hasn't. American industry has moved out of the US into faster-growing, lower-cost economies -- and well they should. What US jobs remain are in support of factories in Mexico, India, Vietnam and China. But where does that leave the US worker? It is a wrenching question. If the US could communicate a consistent policy position that business could accept, there might be hope. But, so far there have been fits and starts leading to nothing. The President's speech on jobs already is being discounted by commentators as too little and too late. Those of us who have jobs empathize with those who don't but we are powerless to help them.