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Jobs for Those Who Lack College Degrees

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As I have stated many times here, the United States has to create dignified work for people who can’t or haven’t earned a college degree. It’s simply terrible policy to blithely claim that education will solve our problems because it completely ignores the fact that some people are simply not cut out for a college education. And that needs to be OK. Those people need jobs too. It used to be that you could not have a college degree and get a factory job that wouldn’t be too exciting but would pay you decently and had a good chance of being around a long time. But now we have committed to moving factories overseas and automating what is left in the U.S. This has created huge corporate profits but has left a whole generation of non-college educated young people without hope for the future.

The outlook for many high school graduates is more challenging, as Vynny Brown can attest. Now 20, he graduated two years ago from Waller High School in Texas, and has been working for nearly a year at Pappasito’s Cantina in Houston, part of a chain of Tex-Mex restaurants. He earns $7.25 an hour filling takeout orders or $2.13 an hour plus tips as a server, which rarely adds up to more than the minimum, he said. He would like to apply to be a manager, but those jobs require some college experience.

“That is something I don’t have,” said Mr. Brown, who says he cannot afford to go to college now. “It’s the biggest struggle I’ve had.”

Most young workers have the same problem as Mr. Brown. Only 10 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds have a college or advanced degree, according to a new study by the Economic Policy Institute, although many more of them will eventually graduate.

And for young high school graduates, the unemployment rate is disturbingly high: 17.8 percent. Add in those who are underemployed, either because they would like a full-time job but can only find part-time work, or they are so discouraged that they’ve given up actively searching, and the share jumps to more than 33 percent.

Younger workers have always had a tougher time finding a job than their older, more experienced counterparts. Even so, the economic recovery has progressed more slowly for young high school graduates than for those coming out of college.

“It’s improved since the recession, but it’s still pretty poor,” said Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, who noted the average hourly wage for high school graduates had declined since 2000 despite increases in the minimum wage in some places.

Ms. Gould is part of a growing chorus of economists, employers and educators who argue more effort needs to be put into improving job prospects for people without college degrees.

“Without question we have failed to pay attention to and invest in opportunities for young people who are not on a path to go to four years of college,” said Chauncy Lennon, the head of work force initiatives at JPMorgan Chase, which has started a $75 million program to design and deliver career-focused education in high schools and community colleges.

The elephant in the room in all these discussions is the end of manufacturing jobs. Policymakers, including the current president, simply have not devoted any meaningful resources to even think through these issues while at the same time intensely pressing for free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership to send even more American jobs overseas. One could theoretically have those free trade agreements and then robust economic programs for the working class, but of course that is not going to happen. These agreements send profits to the wealthy and leave the working class behind with nothing more than lessons to pull themselves up by their boostraps and go to college for programs which they may not be suited for and for which they take out tens of thousands of dollars in debt. This is not a series of policies that lead to long-term social and political stability.

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  • Murc

    It’s also worth noting that manufacturing jobs were only really dignified because we decided they were dignified.

    In terms of the skills required, someone who walked up to the line at nine a.m and drove the same three rivet into the same three places on the same piece of equipment as it moved on past them for eight hours is not exercising any more skill than a burger flipper. Indeed, they may be exercising less. But the guy with the rivet gun was a real ‘Murican worker, and the guy flipping burgers was an ambitionless loser.

    In my opinion, there has to be a big cultural push to get service workers to be regarded, culturally, the same way factory workers were and still are. (Although it’s worth noting that the factory work which remains does tend to be higher skill than once it was; robots can do our rivet-driving for us in many cases.)

    There are a lot of barriers to that, of course, one of them being that people are massively resistant to regarding those who serve them as being worthy of dignity and respect. Possibly because it would mean it wouldn’t be socially acceptable to abuse them anymore? I’ve done my share of time in the service industry at low levels and it seems like there are a lot of people who have a desperate, clawing need to be able to lord over someone, anyone. To an extent I feel bad for anyone with that sort of damage… but only to an extent.

    • It’s also worth noting that manufacturing jobs were only really dignified because we decided they were dignified.

      No question.

      • Uneekness

        This is the nut right here. At the end of the 19th century, factory/extraction labor was for the lowest of the low – immigrants, women and children – because they were the most powerless, most exploitable. It took generations of people organizing, getting the crap beat out of them, to finally move the needle on the idea that their labor was worth something. It was a LABOR movement, not a manufacturing labor movement, but manufacturing labor for all intents and purposes WAS labor. The service industry was both smaller and far more localized, much of it was individual family businesses. Plus, they benefited from herd immunity – as factory labor wages grew, so did the wages of the jobs that could be filled by a similarly-skilled group of workers.

        The idea that our economic and labor policy should focus on manufacturing jobs as a goal (and that these jobs are somehow of a better quality) leads inevitably to “nothing to be done” conclusions, because it has the problem backwards. The problem is not that the good-paying jobs are gone, the problem is that jobs aren’t good-paying. Given that the latest deals by the auto manufacturers start new workers in their factories at around $16/hr, it’s time to realize that the ownership class doesn’t EVER believe in paying middle class wages for ANY work. Let’s fight to make all labor worth a living instead.

    • LeeEsq

      I think that seeing factory work as dignified is less of a psychological leap than service work because even though less skills is involved. Factory work still is something of an outgrowth or form of the craft tradition in most people’s mind. If you squint you can see a factory workers as a type of artisan who makes things with his or her hands. The impermanence of a burger makes it mentally difficult for many people to see fast food workers this way. A related issue is that a much higher percentage of the population was engaged in factory work when we saw it as dignified than in low level service work. When you have more people doing something, there is going to be higher pressure for society to see it as dignified labor.

      • ASV

        Didn’t hurt that it was mostly work done by men, too.

        • Karen24

          This right here is the biggest and most important point. Factory work was always dull, dangerous, repetitive, and, well, horrible, but men did it and therefore it was Important and Dignified. Cooking and cleaning have permanent Girl Cooties so anyone who does those things for pay is clearly a pathetic loser.

          Let me give you a more contemporary example: people are always touting vocational classes in things like air conditioning or electrical work as good alternatives to college and to the disgusting and degrading “service economy.” The actual tasks that most electricians and A/C techs do, however, are installation and repair of equipment someone else builds, which is SERVICE WORK. A/C and electrical work are important and require a lot of skill* but the main reason they aren’t acknowledged as service jobs is that men do them.

          *Also, it takes several years of work and study and the ability to pass a six-hour math test to become a master electrician. It’s no different from obtaining a master’s degree except that there are not research papers involved, but the cognitive firepower required for the electrician job and to obtain most MA degrees is about the same: a lot.

          • twbb

            Too reductionist. Yes, there is a gendered dimension to the prestige afforded, but it does not explain all, or even most of the disdain for too many people for service workers. People still look down on A/C installers and electricians.

            “the cognitive firepower required for the electrician job and to obtain most MA degrees is about the same: a lot”

            Meh. The electrician job probably requires on average a lot more.

            • Lit3Bolt

              That’s probably a borgeious affectation that disdains any labor that makes someone sweat, whether from effort or being outdoors.

              Ironic considering you’ll see white collared workers being weekend warriors or running outside in the morning or evening, but from 9-5 at the office, you apparently have to appear as Patrick Bateman.

              • Brett

                Side-note, but that reminds me of the darkly amusing reason why the Jamestown colonists in the early 17th century mostly died for the first couple of years. They were all either rich guy adventurers who disdained typical agrarian/laborer manual labor, or their servants – whose status was sorted by how you avoided manual labor.

            • Brett

              It’s not all of it, but I think it is most of it (and what’s rest of it has to do with the work also being traditionally done by young people and minorities). Service Work has negative cultural connotations – you’re serving someone else, not “making something” like in manufacturing.

            • DrDick

              Being an auto mechanic requires at least as much intelligence as getting a BA.

          • Factory work was always dull, dangerous, repetitive, and, well, horrible, but men did it and therefore it was Important and Dignified.

            The history of women workers in textiles at the dawn of the industrial revolution is facinating:

            http://eh.net/encyclopedia/women-workers-in-the-british-industrial-revolution/

            The advent of new machinery changed the gender division of labor in textile production. Before the Industrial Revolution, women spun yarn using a spinning wheel (or occasionally a distaff and spindle). Men didn’t spin, and this division of labor made sense because women were trained to have more dexterity than men, and because men’s greater strength made them more valuable in other occupations. In contrast to spinning, handloom weaving was done by both sexes, but men outnumbered women. Men monopolized highly skilled preparation and finishing processes such as wool combing and cloth-dressing. With mechanization, the gender division of labor changed. Women used the spinning jenny and water frame, but mule spinning was almost exclusively a male occupation because it required more strength, and because the male mule-spinners actively opposed the employment of female mule-spinners. Women mule-spinners in Glasgow, and their employers, were the victims of violent attacks by male spinners trying to reduce the competition in their occupation.8 While they moved out of spinning, women seem to have increased their employment in weaving (both in handloom weaving and eventually in powerloom factories). Both sexes were employed as powerloom operators.

            While the highly skilled and highly paid task of mule-spinning was a male occupation, many women and girls were engaged in other tasks in textile factories. For example, the wet-spinning of flax, introduced in Leeds in 1825, employed mainly teenage girls. Girls often worked as assistants to mule-spinners, piecing together broken threads. In fact, females were a majority of the factory labor force. Table Two shows that 57 percent of factory workers were female, most of them under age 20. Women were widely employed in all the textile industries, and constituted the majority of workers in cotton, flax, and silk. Outside of textiles, women were employed in potteries and paper factories, but not in dye or glass manufacture. Of the women who worked in factories, 16 percent were under age 13, 51 percent were between the ages of 13 and 20, and 33 percent were age 21 and over. On average, girls earned the same wages as boys. Children’s wages rose from about 1s.6d. per week at age 7 to about 5s. per week at age 15. Beginning at age 16, and a large gap between male and female wages appeared. At age 30, women factory workers earned only one-third as much as men.

            • The Lowell Mill Girls are also interesting:

              The “Mill Girls” were female workers who came to work for the textile corporations in Lowell, Massachusetts, during the Industrial Revolution in the United States. The workers initially recruited by the corporations were daughters of propertied New England farmers, between the ages of 15 and 30. (There also could be “little girls” who worked there about the age of 13.) By 1840, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, the textile mills had recruited over 8,000 women, who came to make up nearly seventy-five percent of the mill workforce.

              • Here’s an interesting detail about the mill girls: they were mostly Yankess girls from farms around New England. Some of them earned enough money to pay off the mortgage on their fathers’ farms.

                That would have been a huge deal. A daughter/mother/great-grandmother as the “founder” who lifted the family into a higher socio-economic class.

          • EBT

            And the technician degrees (like my EET) aren’t worth the paper they are printed on as far as getting a job with it out of college. (At least in 2008)

          • so-in-so

            Around WWI, the main craft unions refused to represent female textile workers. The IWW was one of the few unions that supported them.

            Most of the “dignity of manufacturing jobs” idea may have come from labor union efforts, or a side-effect of depression era-WWII government ‘propaganda’, plus the post-war rise of such work to paying middle-class standards.

        • DAS

          Was it actually mostly done by men? My MIL was a factory worker: she worked on an auto assembly line*. However, I think you are onto something — quick, in your mind picture a “factory worker”. I betcha you are picturing a middle aged, white man (a la Archie Bunker). Now picture a “service worker”.

          As to the issue of permanence, chefs get respect even though the product they make is no more permanent than what a McDonald’s cook makes. I guess it may be that it’s a combination of making a fleeting “product” and a lack of skill that leads to the lack of respect, though …

          * hence she doesn’t drive American made cars, essentially because “I’d never drive a car built by someone like me”

      • JKTH

        A related issue is that a much higher percentage of the population was engaged in factory work when we saw it as dignified than in low level service work. When you have more people doing something, there is going to be higher pressure for society to see it as dignified labor.

        I think this is the bigger reason, also sort of related to the “Everyone on food stamps is a lazy moocher except me/some person close to me” reasoning.

    • njorl

      Nothing lends more dignity to a job than the knowledge that you could securely quit doing it and do something else.

    • I think we need to drop ‘burger flipper’ from the lexicon. There is no reason to demean anyone working at any job.

      • DrDick

        There is no reason to demean anyone working at any job.

        I would make an exception to that for people with an MBA.

    • Crusty

      I think there was some kind of pride and dignity in contributing to building something like a Ford car or a Gibson guitar, even if the work was boring, repetitive and dangerous. There was literally, something to show for your efforts that gave it a dignity that I think was a little more natural than us just deciding that it was dignified.

      • Murc

        The people who are crafting lattes have just as much to show for their efforts, tho.

        • Crusty

          I don’t think that’s the perception. I can make coffee in my house. I have a barrista do it for me because sometimes I leave the house but still want coffee.

          I can’t build a car in my house or by myself. A factory worker who operates one particular piece of equipment can’t build a car in his house either, but there’s a little more mystery to it and a little more respect.

        • L2P

          Yes, in theory, of course. But that’s not how we usually view things, and that leads to a disconnect.

          Having a part in making a tangible, durable, expensive thing is generally more rewarding than making a temporary, cheap, consumable thing. A carpenter who worked on a high-rise, for example, takes pride in pointing out the big building they helped build. A carpenter that knocks out cheap kitchen cabinets for tract homes doesn’t feel the same pride IMX. A cook flipping $1 burgers feels even less.

          That needs to change. Until it does, making lattes will always be less dignified (? looking for a good word) than making cars. I hope that higher minimum wages, and higher low-end wages in general, will help that out. If you can make a decent living doing something, it’s automatically dignified.

          • Uneekness

            These things are always just-so stories. Mass factory work has never been dignified or held in high regard. It was always done by the most exploitable – immigrents, women, children, those otherwise displaced. What dignity that was associated with labor was reserved for farm work (idealized, but still) and craft-guild level activities. THe dignity that manufacturing and extraction labor acquired came excusively from wages – once the labor movement successfully raised the wages of the work, it’s power to provide for a decent living gave it the dignity we now see. If being a barista meant you could earn a middle class income, there would be plenty of “dignity” associated with it, too.

        • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

          The people who are crafting lattes have just as much to show for their efforts, tho.

          As the kids say: LOL, just LOL.
          There is no world where anyone thinks of a latte on the same level as … well, anything manufactured.

          • Murc

            And those people are wrong.

            • LosGatosCA

              You are most certainly correct.

    • LosGatosCA

      They were also valued more highly because of the result – experience with service is fleeting. The half life on very good meal is pretty short.

      Union manufacturing for durable goods and for the MIIC armaments have a more respected and lengthy life. Standing on the deck of a carrier even 40 years after launch is pretty impressive even inspirational, as an example.

      That said I think the number 1 challenge for society is to rethink income distribution and the vehicles for accomplishing it. There’s too much leverage in too few society respected jobs going forward. The winners get everything – high income, health care insurance, etc and the non-winners get nothing.

      As mfg employment follows ag employment down to minuscule portions of the population this needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Secular stagnation, wealth/income inequality, increasing mortality for some – these appear to be all interrelated.

    • Linnaeus

      A relevant take on the issue from Ben Casselman at FiveThirtyEight:

      But this much is clear: For all of the glow that surrounds manufacturing jobs in political rhetoric, there is nothing inherently special about them. Some pay well; others don’t. They are not immune from the forces that have led to slow wage growth in other sectors of the economy. When politicians pledge to protect manufacturing jobs, they really mean a certain kind of job: well-paid, long-lasting, with opportunities for advancement. Those aren’t qualities associated with working on a factory floor; they’re qualities associated with being a member of a union.

      • Joseph Slater

        Yeah, I was going to cite that too. “Manufacturing” was higher-prestige because, at least when it was unionized, it was relatively decent-paying work. In terms of building tangible things in the artisan sense, that was more true of certain types of construction work. Being a riveter in an auto plant was, as noted above, a horrible, mind-numbing job with pretty much literally zero craft or artisan aspects(those who haven’t read Ben Hamper’s “Rivet Head” should). But for a few decades jobs like that could support a middle class lifestyle, or something pretty close to it. That’s what made that work desirable and in some ways “respectable” (although there were always right-wing union-haters bashing on auto workers making, in their view, too much money).

      • Brett

        That was a good piece. He makes the especially good point that sans unions, manufacturing jobs aren’t much better than service jobs – they get about a dollar more per hour than similarly educated workers in the service sector, and have a median wage that’s below the national median wage.

    • DrDick

      I think that the big differences are in how they are treated by the bosses, as you note, and how much they are paid. There is a big difference between the wages of an auto worker and a fry cook. Both of those contribute greatly to the dignity of work.

      • Joseph Slater

        Right, and nothing has a bigger effect on how factory workers “are treated by the bosses” than unionization, with its just cause discipline and discharge provisions (among others).

        • DrDick

          Actually, both of those are a direct result of unions. Workers only have power when they stand together.

          • Joseph Slater

            Um, yeah, I thought the wages part was obvious.

            • galanx

              I used to work in a brewery- and everyone knows how long beer lasts. Yet the people working there were quite proud of their work, even to the point of claiming the mass-produced slop they were making was superior to the mass-produced slop the other guys were making.

              They were union jobs with good wages and great condtions for factory work. Of course the compamies could afford to pay them because the three Canadian beer companies had essentially a government liquor-board controlled monopoly and could charge whatever they could get away with.

  • Jeff R.

    A side issue:

    He earns $7.25 an hour filling takeout orders or $2.13 an hour plus tips as a server, which rarely adds up to more than the minimum, he said.

    Tipped employees must get at least $7.25. If $2.13 plus tips doesn’t make it, the employer has to top it off.

    • Murc

      This is true, but it introduces an ancillary problem, which is that demanding your top-off is very likely to get you fired, and you are very likely to not be able to effectively respond to that.

    • MPAVictoria

      “Tipped employees must get at least $7.25. If $2.13 plus tips doesn’t make it, the employer has to top it off.”

      I have never met anyone who actually recieved the top off though. Not one person.

      • addicted44

        It may be the law, but I’ve never seen it implemented.

      • ThrottleJockey

        If he’s a server at Pappasitto’s I guarantee you he makes well over the minimum. In fact if he didn’t average $13-$16 an hour there as a waiter I’d be shocked.

        He might be making a little bit too much money even. A friend’s daughter recently graduated high school. She had received a volleyball scholarships to the local Junior College. She’s wanted to be a cop for some time and I thought that would be a nice springboard for her to join the local force. I asked her last week when did her summer workouts for volleyball start and she told me she had decided not to go. Said she wanted to make some money. See she had made a $150 in tips one night the previous week and now that she was out of high school wanted to buy a new (not used) car. Her parents have come a long way and made a number of sacrifices for her and her siblings (her mother is am illegal immigrant) but I worry that she’ll just screw around like I’ve seen too many young people do at that age… In fact I just recently learned that another young latina I know who recently graduated high school and wanted to be a cop but spent two years working to afford to buy a car (brand new Altima, $500 a month, plus $250 a month insurance) just got knocked up.

        • MPAVictoria

          “I know who recently graduated high school and wanted to be a cop but spent two years working to afford to buy a car (brand new Altima, $500 a month, plus $250 a month insurance) just got knocked up.”

          Just want to point out how sexist this is.

          Cheers

          • ThrottleJockey

            There’s nothing sexist about pointing out that someone is forking out a relative fortune in car note and insurance. And there’s certainly nothing sexist about pointing out that someone is knocked up… Hell she’s an ambitious girl I feel quite sorry for her.

            • DrS

              I can’t even today

        • Denverite

          If he’s a server at Pappasitto’s I guarantee you he makes well over the minimum. In fact if he didn’t average $13-$16 an hour there as a waiter I’d be shocked.

          The issue with waitstaff is that, yeah, when the restaurant is busy and you’re turning over five tables an hour, you’re making $30+ an hour. But then there’s the hour-and-a-half you have to stay afterward to clean up your station (at $2 an hour). And there’s the Sunday shift where you are waiting on two tables an hour, and they’re church tables so no one’s drinking, and you’re making like $9 an hour (and you still have to clean up your station for $3 afterwards). Or the lunch shift where you basically have to carve out four hours in the middle of the day to wait on eight non-drinking tables.

          • ThrottleJockey

            You don’t have to tell me, I’ve waited tables. I was a decidedly average waiter I am decidedly average Olive Garden and I averaged $13 an hour. Beyond that I’ve known a number of Pappasito’s servers and they were both much better than than me and work at a restaurant with much higher price points. A lot of waiters would kill to work at Pappasito’s.

          • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

            But then there’s the hour-and-a-half you have to stay afterward to clean up your station (at $2 an hour). And there’s the Sunday shift where you are waiting on two tables an hour, and they’re church tables so no one’s drinking, and you’re making like $9 an hour (and you still have to clean up your station for $3 afterwards). Or the lunch shift where you basically have to carve out four hours in the middle of the day to wait on eight non-drinking tables.

            Yesterday it was door-to-door sales, today it is waiting tables. Is this blog just a laundry list of all the horrible jobs I had back in the day?

        • Murc

          He might be making a little bit too much money even.

          If he’s only making 13-16 an hour then definitionally, he is not.

          Also unless you have a history of cracking up multiple vehicles, three grand a year for auto insurance is nuts, highway robbery.

          • ThrottleJockey

            You grew up relatively well off, no? So you’re probably unfamiliar with the phenomenon I’m talking about. There are a lot of working class and poor kids who have good minds and get potential and great work ethic. So first thing they do if they get a job after High School and because they have good work ethic and they’re good kids they do well. They might make $15,000 to $20,000, which is a lot if you’re staying at home for free and eating mom’s cooking. Life is good. But fast forward five years when you’re 23 and want to start a family and suddenly $20,000 a year ain’t very much cuz you ain’t living with Mama and Daddy no more.

            That phenomenon was the principal pattern in my neighborhood and family. It was more common than not. Foregoing the opportunity cost of a full-time job in order to go to College is pretty dog gone hard for working-class kids.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Let’s see McKayla had 3 speeding tickets in 9 months for speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. And she was 20 years old. And she’s Latina. And this was her own personal policy not her parents.

            Need I say more?

            • Rob in CT

              Oh yeah, that’ll do it all right. Also, too: credit score (not just bad credit: having little credit history is “bad”).

              Hell, did she not lose her license? 100+ mph in even a 65 zone is reckless driving, no? The one time I got clocked at 85+ in a 55 zone (30+ mph over) the cop was nice and explained that he went with a second, lower reading to spare me an automatic suspension.

              And three times in less than a year? There must’ve been a suspension in there.

            • LosGatosCA

              Slow down?

              Literally and figuratively?

        • Jim in Baltimore

          Yeah, if only there were a way to make all of those lying, gold-plated waiter ‘fess up.

        • DrS

          He might be making a little bit too much money even.

          Yeah, just look at Richie Rich, pulling down 26k full time.

          Ass.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Screw you. You probably grew up to privileged to know what the fuck I’m talking about. But $26K a year at that age seems like a million for a working class kidliving at home. Problem is you’re short changing your future.

            • J. Otto Pohl

              Hell $26K a year would be great now. It is doubtful I will ever earn that much.

              • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

                Are you actually a real person who exists somewhere on this earth, or are you just a creation of the posters on this blog who want to convince everybody that us academics are grossly underpaid?

                • J. Otto Pohl

                  I exist. Come to Accra. I’ll show you around.

                  https://ugh.academia.edu/OttoPohl

                • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

                  I started my career oversees as well. But in a different corner than where you are. I’ve actually never been to Africa, maybe I will take you up on your offer.

            • DrS

              TJ, as always, you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

              • ThrottleJockey

                I’ll be sure to tell my 3 older siblings and an umpteen number of cousins that their lives are made up.

                Aren’t you an economist by trade? You don’t recognize the power of opportunity costs to dissuade kids from delaying gratification? For an upper middle class kids 4-8 years of being a broke college kid is no big deal, hell we romanticize the hell out of it. But for a poor kid it means being poor for 22 – 26 years instead of “just” 18 years.

                • DrS

                  I’ll be sure to tell my 3 older siblings and an umpteen number of cousins that their lives are made up.

                  That’ll go great with the bullshit story you’ve made up about me.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Are you or aren’t you an economist? And if you grew up working class or less I can’t believe you didn’t know bright hard working kids you who got suckered by the fools gold of a $20K job at 18–but then regretted having no education at 25.

                  Who at 18yo wouldn’t want $20K and a life without homework, term papers, and finals? Hell that describes Bill Gates to a T!

                • DrS

                  I have a degree in Econ, but I am not an economist by profession. Yeah, I know plenty of people who fell into that trap.

                  For some reason, unlike yours, my reaction to them isn’t “Well, sucks for you. Should have planned better.”

                • ThrottleJockey

                  I said I feel sorry for them. This is the majority of my family we’re talking about. When I said he “probably makes a little bit too much” that was an observation of human nature, not me saying we should actually cut his wages.

      • Chuchundra

        Most people don’t know the law so they don’t know to ask for it.

        Plus, if you can’t pull at least six dollars an hour in tips averaged over the week you’re working in a really, really shitty restaurant.

        • DrS

          And if you don’t think that employers discourage, even in “soft” ways, employees asking for this difference, I’ve got a bridge to sell.

      • L2P

        It’s not the tips, it’s usually the tip sharing. It’s almost impossible not to get minimum wage from tips. That’s 5x$10 bills per hour at 15%. But after you hand out to the chef and the busboys and so on, it can be under.

  • Pat

    Infrastructure jobs may be able to fill this hole in the short-term. Building bridges, roads and high-speed railways will need workers. Pushing green energy development in the US was supposed to create manufacturing jobs. How well it worked I do not know.

    To bring manufacturing back, we need a couple of conditions. First, there needs to be a reason why doing it overseas is a bad idea. Maybe if China seizes some US-owned factories, corporate might recognize that keeping your property in the US where there is rule of law is safer. Second, the tax laws have to be adjusted to promote US jobs. Without tax reform, the jobs are never coming back.

    • Murc

      Why do they need to come back, tho?

      There are plenty of jobs in this country still. They’re just not manufacturing ones. Why not work towards “your Starbucks barista has just as good a job now as her grandfather the assembly-line worker had in 1955?”

      • Crusty

        My local starbucks has a handful of employees. A factory could have
        hundreds or thousands. That is why they need to come back.

        • Murc

          This is an argument that there just straight up aren’t enough jobs, which I don’t think is well-supported.

          It’s also an argument that manufacturing by nature employs more people than service, which, again, I don’t think is well-supported.

          • Derelict

            There are plenty of jobs. I know people who are working at two, three, and even four jobs! Of course, those jobs are all part-time minimum wage no benefits no future. But they have plenty of them!

          • Crusty

            There aren’t enough jobs that allow the non-college educated to work steadily, with dignity and without threat of being replaced by three teenagers.

            As for manufacturing employing more people generally than service, I think the idea is that service, by itself, is not sufficient to employ everyone. We’re not moving towards more butlers. Let’s say a high end service provider like a doctor hires a maid, a butler and a cook. He gets money from patients (insurers, the gov’t), pays it out to them, they buy stuff and services. If the stuff they buy goes into Chinese pockets, money is being drained out of the circle and larger and larger numbers of people will not be able to afford stuff or services.

            • Murc

              There aren’t enough jobs that allow the non-college educated to work steadily, with dignity and without threat of being replaced by three teenagers.

              Except that there are few, if any, non-college requiring jobs that inherently have those qualities. Jobs have those qualities because we as a society decide to confer them upon certain jobs and not on others.

              • Crusty

                If the only jobs left are service jobs, we will get to the point of having two classes, the upper class, and the class waiting on them. I don’t know how we can just decide that they are of equal dignity. For one thing, the upper class won’t allow it.

                • Murc

                  If the only jobs left are service jobs, we will get to the point of having two classes, the upper class, and the class waiting on them.

                  … you mean, literally the way it’s always been?

                  Those manufacturing jobs involve no less waiting upon the upper class than any other job in which you preform work, for wages, for a boss.

                • Crusty

                  If you think that a guy working in a car factory sees himself and is seen by society just the same as a guy who shines shoes for a living, well, there’s no point in discussing this any further.

                • Murc

                  If you think that a guy working in a car factory sees himself and is seen by society just the same as a guy who shines shoes for a living, well, there’s no point in discussing this any further.

                  I said no such thing.

                • Crusty

                  This is what you said:

                  “Those manufacturing jobs involve no less waiting upon the upper class than any other job in which you preform work, for wages, for a boss.”

                  And to that I say that people building cars do not see themselves that way. Rather, they seem themselves as making something for someone else to buy in a way that a shoe shine guy or a home health aid wiping an invalid’s ass does not. If you don’t recognize the difference, then like I said, there’s no point in discussing it any further.

                • Hmmm…there is a difference between “waiting on” your supervisor in the factory and “waiting on” a customer.

                  Perhaps it’s a privacy thing. Your line supervisor can lord over you in the factory, but then your shift ends, and your interactions with the society around you are as an equal. As opposed to your job itself involving interacting with the society around you in terms of “Yes, sir,” “Sorry, ma’am,” “Thank you very much, sir.”

                  Just spit-balling here; I have as sense of what Crusty is talking about, but I can’t really put my finger on it.

                • Crusty

                  @Joe From Lowell, you’ve helped me think of another way to explain what I’m getting at. I recall an episode of NYPD Blue where some jerk said something to detective Sipowicz like, “I’m a taxpayer, I pay your salary” or maybe it was something like, “you are just the lackey of corrupt politicians” and he responded by saying, “I work for the city of NY.” If you said to someone who worked in a Ford plant, you just wait on your boss, hand and foot, he could respond, with pride, no, I make cars for the American people and the world. But if your job was literally to wait on your boss hand and foot, and someone said to you, you just wait on your boss hand and foot, well, there’s no response.

                  On Downton Abbey, there were people like Carson, Bates and Anna who did serve the lord of the manor with dignity and pride, but they were still demeaned on a larger level, living in the servant’s quarters and basically told society has chosen you to help the lord of the manor dress, and society has chosen others to be waited upon by the likes of you and enjoy horse riding, fox hunting, etc.

                • Murc

                  “Those manufacturing jobs involve no less waiting upon the upper class than any other job in which you preform work, for wages, for a boss.”

                  And to that I say that people building cars do not see themselves that way

                  I see nothing in what you said that contradicts, in any way, what I said.

              • Linnaeus

                This is the Richard Florida view on jobs – one problem that I have with him, though, is that he doesn’t really say all that much about how we get to “improving” service jobs so that they are socially and culturally equivalent to manufacturing work.

                • BigHank53

                  If waiters got paid the same as UAW members, that would go a long way, wouldn’t it?

                • Linnaeus

                  It would, although it seems that no one really wants to do that.

                • Brett

                  Same way manufacturing jobs became sort of respectable. If they pay enough so that people can make a living off of it, then it will change cultural perceptions about the work.

              • galanx

                Uh, a cop is a service job. So is a firefighter, a paramedic, a florist, a nurse, a physiotherapist, an auto mechanic, a plumber, a lawyer and a doctor. Surprisingly, the main factor deciding who has how much dignity depends on how much they get paid.

                Some agricultural services (including landscaping and horticulture)
                Hotels and other places of lodging
                Personal services (including dry cleaning, tax preparation, and hair cutting)
                Business services (including temporary agencies and business software developers)
                Automotive services
                Miscellaneous repairs
                Motion pictures
                Amusements and recreation
                Healthcare
                Legal services
                Private education
                Social services
                Museums, zoos, and botanical gardens
                Membership organizations (including houses of worship and clubs)
                Engineering and management services (including consulting)
                Other miscellaneous services

                If you mean “badly-paid jobs where you provide personal sevices to an individual” then you may have a point.

            • J. Otto Pohl

              This is exactly how Ghana’s economy works or rather doesn’t work. All the goods including most food is imported and the only source of money to buy the consumer goods are public servants paid by the government with money borrowed with interest from abroad.

              • sonamib

                Doesn’t Ghana export oil? With the exception of Norway, all oil-exporting countries have pretty fucked economies.

                • Hold on now: the US is an oil-exporting company and…uh…never mind, carry on.

                • J. Otto Pohl

                  Ghana has some small offshore oil production and most of the revenue goes directly to foreigners. It is far less important than Gold mostly owned by White South Africans and Canadians or cocao mostly mortgaged for the next few years to European banks. Most of Ghana’s foreign exchange comes from raw cacoa exports.

                  http://jpohl.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-quick-overview-of-ghanas-chief.html

                • sonamib

                  @joe

                  I meant net exporter of oil. Has the US become a net exporter since the fracking boom? That’s pretty amazing, and it would help me understand the slump in oil prices.

                  If you compare the US’s economy to the EU’s, well… let’s say that half of the EU’s population lives in countries where the unemployment rate is in the double digits. The US economy is really not doing bad if you compare it to its peers.

                • J. Otto Pohl

                  Ghana has to import most of its gasoline and other processed petroleum because there are no refineries here. So it is like cacao. Cheap crude exported, most of it going directly into European and US pockets, and then much more expensive refined products imported, draining precious foreign exchange.

                • I don’t think we’re a net exporter yet.

                • Hogan

                  the US is an oil-exporting company

                  Oh shit, they got to you too?!

        • Brett

          There are a lot more Starbucks than factories.

          • J. Otto Pohl

            There is a correlation where there are Starbucks and where there are factories. See this map. But, note that Africa and Central Asia which are respectively unindustrialized and deindustrialized areas have no Starbucks. Other places without Starbucks are also generally unindustrialized such as Laos and Paraguay.

            http://qz.com/208457/a-cartographic-guide-to-starbucks-global-domination/

    • Anna in PDX

      What specific tax reforms are you calling for?

      • Pat

        IIRC there were changes in the tax code, implemented in 2001 when Bush pushed through his cuts, that provided a tax write-off for companies that moved jobs overseas. That write-off accelerated a process that had already been in motion, of the loss of American manufacturing jobs.

        Obviously the horse is out of the stable with respect to that particular change – if it’s returned to where it was decades ago the jobs aren’t coming back. Nonetheless, the tax code is where the federal government has a lot of leeway to influence what business does. They could set up a big-assed carrot, for example: money brought to the US from overseas to build factories or fund start-ups on American soil could get some kind of special status, provided certain conditions are met. This isn’t my field of expertise, but I do know that tinkering with the tax code was one of Bill Clinton’s favorite ways to affect business behavior.

        That’s one reason why I anticipate a big push for tax reform if Clinton rides a wave into the White House.

      • Brett

        You could pass a law offering tax incentives for manufacturing production here in the US – with the stipulation that if they move the factory and production elsewhere within a certain period of time short of having net negative revenue from it, they have to pay back the tax incentive/credit amount plus maybe a penalty.

        Hell, you could just have the state straight-up charter manufacturing concerns, and then privatize them later. Not sure if that would run afoul of any treaties, though – it might if the factory company exports its products.

        • so-in-so

          Or “simply” tax companies (or shareholders) highly when they sell in the U.S. goods manufactured outside the U.S.? Note the scare quotes since I doubt that it is simple at all, but combined “punishing” U.S. companies that manufacture outside the U.S. and those profiting from such companies (so the company doesn’t re-headquarter elsewhere).

          I think it is often Eric’s point that the “problem” isn’t lack of jobs, it is capital mobility.

    • Are you suggesting China doesn’t operate under the rule of law? By contrast you are saying that the US does? How is it different to have your factory seized by China than to have your factory seized by the US? (by eminent domain or drug enforcement related forfeiture, or any of the other ways it could happen.) You may not like the laws in China, but they do have them.

      • L2P

        ???

        China doesn’t have anything like the 5th Amendment. China can take anything it wants at any time, for nothing. They don’t b/c of politics, but they can whenever they want.

        In the US, if the government takes a factory it has to compensate the owner it’s FMV. That’s why it rarely happens in the US.

    • Rob in CT

      Devaluing the dollar somewhat might help. Not as much as I’d like, as it would hurt us in other ways, but some.

      We can’t run a ~3% of GDP trade deficit in perpetuity (to be fair, the last couple of years have been closer to 2%).

      • J. Otto Pohl

        It would help me a lot.

        • Pat

          Well, there’s that.

          • Rob in CT

            I’m sold.

      • Brett

        That would definitely help, or at least it would help final-product exports. Anything that requires imported components might be in trouble, though.

  • Unemployed_Northeastern

    Not to mention that if *everyone* has a college degree, 1) bachelor’s degree-level jobs will experience plummeting wages and 2) employers will just require an advanced degree or some sort.

    Oh, and it is no coincidence that the loudest voice for creating a nation overbrimming with college graduates and that we currently have a college graduate shortage is a foundation called Lumina that was cocreated and entirely funded by Sallie Mae. Their actual mission statement is to get 60% of American adults to have college degrees or “degree equivalents” by 2025. And since they use their >$1.5 billion endowment to fund pro-college studies in think tanks left, right, and center, everyone is on board.

    • Murc

      Their actual mission statement is to get 60% of American adults to have college degrees or “degree equivalents” by 2025.

      Well, I mean… in this context, it’s part of a grift, but in isolation I find nothing disagreeable with this ambition.

      The fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans have a high school diploma these days massively reduces the signalling and earning power of that credential compared to the days when the formal education of most people stopped at grade six or grade eight, but we don’t typically characterize that as a bad thing. People are more educated now and that’s good!

      • Unemployed_Northeastern

        In the abstract, I would love for everyone to have a college education. But yeah, this is part of a grift, and as you note, when/if 60% of Americans have college degrees, salaries will adjust downwards accordingly – a major issue since college tuition only travels in the opposite direction.

      • Colin Day

        Yes, but people don’t have debts from grades 7-12.

        • Murc

          Which is an excellent argument for public post-secondary education.

      • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

        Well, I mean… in this context, it’s part of a grift, but in isolation I find nothing disagreeable with this ambition.

        Two points of disagreement: 1. Going to college means that people are putting off having a family, that has consequences. 2. Some people aren’t cut out for college, encouraging them to wast time and money on the experience is just wrong.

        • Murc

          Going to college means that people are putting off having a family, that has consequences.

          Yes, delaying starting a family until you’re in your early 20s is going to be the ruin of society.

          Some people aren’t cut out for college, encouraging them to wast time and money on the experience is just wrong.

          Bear in mind I also think college should be free.

          • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

            Yes, delaying starting a family until you’re in your early 20s is going to be the ruin of society.

            Because no advanced countries have a birth rate below the replacement rate. And it matters not where that replacement generation comes from.

            Bear in mind I also think college should be free.

            Also bear in mind that it is currently nowhere near free.

    • LeeEsq

      The “not everybody needs to go to college” group isn’t exactly trustworthy either. Most of them tend to be right libertarians who assume that everybody has entrepreneurial talent and drive on their own rather than just an ordinary work drive. There isn’t anyway you can reasonably get employers to stop requiring bachelor degrees for jobs that don’t really require it either.

      • yet_another_lawyer

        If the job market tightens up and there aren’t many college grads to go around, then I imagine employers will discover rather quickly that their receptionist does not, in fact, require a four year degree.

        • Unemployed_Northeastern

          This happens at all levels of education. How much of what associates have traditionally done is now accomplished by real estate agents, compliance departments, paralegals, accountants, temporary attorneys, overseas attorneys, software, etc. ad nauseum?

      • Unemployed_Northeastern

        I don’t disagree with that. Both sides have unpalatable agendas. I am all for everyone getting as much education as she or he can bear – we sorely need it – but at the same time, we need some way to rein in the cost of college. And make sure we don’t hand student lending back to the private lenders who quite literally view students as securities. And don’t get me started on the “Oh, STEM shortage!” nonsense.

      • twbb

        “Most of them tend to be right libertarians who assume that everybody has entrepreneurial talent and drive on their own rather than just an ordinary work drive.”

        I’m very far from libertarian and I absolutely don’t think that everyone, or even most people, need to go to college. Most people don’t enjoy it, don’t really gain anything from it, and would be happier and more fulfilled if they were able to get relatively fulfilling, decent paying jobs right out of high school.

        • Karen24

          You prefer ignorance?

          • Thirtyish

            Most people are more comfortable with it (unfortunately). I don’t say that to negate Erik’s point in the OP, though.

          • Philip

            A lot of college educations leave you plenty ignorant, though.

            • twbb

              Exactly.

    • DrDick

      Agreed. There is no reason why most people should have any college education and the increasing numbers of college graduates has led to a bachelors degree now being required for jobs previously held by high school graduates. Not everyone has the same goals or skills. I have the greatest respect for anybody in the skilled trades, all of which require more knowledge, intelligence, and skill than an MBA.

  • JustRuss

    It’s simply terrible policy to blithely claim that education will solve our problems because it completely ignores the fact that some people are simply not cut out for a college education.

    More importantly, there are many jobs that have to get done that don’t require a college degree. But because there’s a surplus of people able to do those jobs, we pay them crap. Even if we make college free and mandatory, burgers will need to be flipped, ditches to be dug, etc. Someone has to do those jobs, and they’ shouldn’t need to rely on food stamps to get by.

  • yet_another_lawyer

    Yeah– as I’ve noted here before, “you need a college degree to get a good job, therefore everybody should get a college degree” is a classic case of solving the wrong problem. Not everybody wants to or is cognitively capable of getting a college degree and that’s okay.

  • J. Otto Pohl

    At one time the idea was that except for a small remnant in agriculture that most working age men in the world would eventually either work in factories or offices. That was never a realistic scenerio. But, by concentrating almost all industry in North America, Europe, the USSR, and Japan for many decades it was possible for a minority of the world’s population. But, it should have been foreseen once China and India started industrializing not to mention the rest of Asia that it was unsustainable.

    • LosGatosCA

      The scenario you outline was workable for a period of time.

      It’s not being sustained at this point. Without qualification.

      Capitalism has to be rethought to realize that mass extermination by neglect is not the desirable answer to ‘we can produce everything the world needs but we can’t share the wealth with the 90% of the people who don’ t work in mfg, ag, technology, or financial markets.’

      Because that’s where we are headed right now.

  • LWA

    There is also the issue of job prerequisite inflation, stemming from an unwillingness to provide on the job training.
    How many jobs actually need a 4 year college education?
    For example, in my field of architecture only a very small percentage of the people employed actually benefit from having an architectural degree. Almost all of the skills that practicing architects perform can easily be taught on the job.

    But there is a permanent surplus of architects, and it’s a buyers market. So firms demand college degrees from people who never do any task more demanding than simple drawing.

    I believe the surplus of labor is the root issue, and it’s only getting worse.

    • ArchTeryx

      Got it in one.

      The “reserve army of the unemployed” is the root of nearly every labor evil. Any time there’s a surplus of labor in a field, you get “purple squirrel” prerequisite inflation, torrents of fake job listings (the job already went to someone with the right connections, but HR requires it be listed anyway), falling wages, and increasingly hostile demands (ever-longer hours at ever-shrinking pay).

      The moment that there’s a labor shortage, nearly 100% of the bullshit reverses itself, sometimes virtually overnight.

      The trouble is, employers work their hardest to make sure there is NEVER a labor shortage, and we’ve only had such a very, very few times in our history. The 50s was one such time. The late 90s is another. And those brief labor shortages were quickly crushed by recessions.

      So short of half our population dying (ala the Black Plague) the solution is to force a more level playing field with organization, i.e. unions, and strong pro-labor legal protections. There’s some promising movements toward these in the service industries.

      • NewishLawyer

        But do you also have to level the playing field by creating X amount of any profession? How do you institute hard caps on the number of people studying any field? How do you force the kid who really wants to study bio or dance to study business or accounting or computer science?

        This goes against our notions of democracy, choice, and autonomy. I was once talking about the starving artist phenonmenon with someone from Finland. He said what Finland does is just have hard requirements for the people who want to study acting and all the employers require a conservatory education. Hence there are very few actors in Finland who are making most of their money in waiting tables and bartending.

        Lots of countries still engage in hard tracking to make sure that there is not a labor glut. I don’t know how you get Americans to accept hard tracking.

      • NewishLawyer

        Also not necessarily, the restaurant scene in SF is losing people because of the tech boom. A lot of restaurants are complaining that they can’t find good hosts because the hosts can make 85,000 being a receptionist at a tech company.

        The restaurants don’t have the money to pay hosts 85,000 a year.

        • JL

          85k? Really? I know that government contracting pays less than some tech jobs, but when I worked in industry, I only had one job, out of four, that paid me that much as an actual techie. And I went back for a PhD in 2012, so this wasn’t that long ago.

          • Philip

            Keep in mind that the starting salary for a programmer fresh out of college at the top tech companies is, depending on the company, between 100 and 120k/year. (The exception is Amazon, who last I heard were in the 90-95k range, because of course it is). So for companies paying competitive salaries, 85k isn’t as much as a “actual techie.”

            • so-in-so

              “Top companies” I suppose, but it isn’t anything like that for the average techie right out of school. How many receptionists does the typical “top company” have?

              Another area of change, the old fashioned “secretary” doing typing and filing for various offices. Now everyone has a computer and get’s to do that work themselves.

              • Philip

                I think San Francisco is unusual in that the small startups here often have such floods of venture capital money that their pay is also really high.

        • Brett

          I don’t consider that a bad thing, though. It might mean that restaurants have to change their set-up, but that’s okay.

      • NewishLawyer

        Another interesting argument I saw was that the push to put more Baby Boomers in college had two underlying reasons:

        1. Keep them out of the Vietnam War via student deferments; and

        2. Keep them out of the labor market so wages remained high. The recession/labor glut of the early and mid 70s was because that was the point when it became impossible to keep the boomers out of the job market.

        • LeeEsq

          I’m pretty sure that the government did not want to keep boomers out of the Vietnam War and most of the massive expansion occurred at public universities and community colleges. The real reason why higher education expanded after World War II was simple. America was the wealthiest country in the world and the post-War American economy and the Cold War required many more Americans with technical know how and other forms of education suited for the high tech and white collar economy. We could also afford to have more young people in college because of our wealth.

  • Denverite

    I love me some Pappasito’s. There’s a Pappadeux’s in the burbs here that I’ll occasionally take the kids to so they can get alligator (tastes like chicken).

    • Thirtyish

      Heh heh. I remember that place from back in my days in Colorado. I ate there once as part of a company dinner. My supervisor at the time ordered alligator to share with the table, and I refused to try it (meat is the one arena in life where I am not adventurous at all), although I’ll admit that from where I was sitting it smelled pretty good.

      • Denverite

        It’s part of a chain of restaurants owned by a Greek family in Texas (the Pappas). Pappasitos has excellent Tex-Mex, or at least it did 20 years ago. Pappadeaux’s has good-but-not-great cajunish seafood. Ironically, I’ve been told that there is only one Pappas Greek restaurant. It’s right by offices in Houston that I go to occasionally; it’s pretty good too.

        Eating alligator confirms that it’s genetically much closer to birds than it is to lizards and snakes and the like. You really wouldn’t be able to tell it wasn’t poultry if you didn’t know.

        • ThrottleJockey

          I love Pappadeaux’ bread pudding. About 3000 calories but damn is it good. Also their catfish. So fresh it tastes like its still swimming!

          Don’t even get me started on their crawdads!

        • Thirtyish

          Eating alligator confirms that it’s genetically much closer to birds than it is to lizards and snakes and the like. You really wouldn’t be able to tell it wasn’t poultry if you didn’t know.

          That does sound like a cool thing to experience in a gustatory fashion. Unfortunately, I speak as someone who considers dark meat of chicken unpleasantly gamy, so I will take your word for that aspect of alligator.

        • Just_Dropping_By

          Hmmm. I was once in a position to eat alligator regularly and never thought it resembled poultry. I always thought the closest taste/texture comparison was a really dense, medium-well tuna steak.

        • twbb

          Alligator always tasted like especially greasy turkey to me.

  • NewishLawyer

    I think LWA has it right. We have a surplus of labor for almost every field and not enough jobs because of automation and technological advancement. This is true in manufacturing and it is true in law where partners don’t need a ton of associates to look up case law in the library and write memos or sit in a warehouse going through conference rooms.

    The only people who are immune so far are those in fields that seem to have a hard learning curve like engineering and programming or where the companies only recruit from the elite of the elite. Some of my law school classmates tried to learn coding when their legal careers were not taking off. Only one managed to do so successfully and I imagine this was because he was a bio major as an undergrad, not an arts and humanities major.

    I think the issue is we want to live in a society that is wealthier than it is. Many people do not want to give their children a depressing reality of being relentlessly practical. But relentless practicality might still be the best choice for economic success/comfort.

  • Cash & Cable

    I recently read the book “Reskilling America,” which addressed the decline of American vocational training, the “green shoots” of efforts at high schools and community colleges, and the contrasting system of apprenticeship and vocational training in Germany.

    There’s probably nothing in there that would be news to a specialist, but as a general-interest reader I appreciated its accessibility and examples of different programs in places like Queens, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and South Carolina.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    Secret words in American politics:

    Domestically: Deindustrialization

    Foreign affairs: Empire

    I don’t expect the duck to fall anytime soon.

  • mcarson

    There are so many opportunities for small scale manufacturing jobs. I remember the story of a director of a low income housing project who began using tenants to make replacement doors for the building. He got tired of “angry boyfriends kicking in front doors” when a couple had an argument and the guy decided to come back home after a walk to cool off. He called them “boyfriend proof doors”. Since they weren’t the cheap steel hollow core doors they lasted forever. He also used tenants to landscape, staff an onsite child care, paint & repair empty apartments. All of these people ended up with some part time or full time income, over time the place saved money & it gave people a resume entry.
    This used to be common in all sorts of fields. San Francisco has always made its own ladders for the fire department, originally by older firefighters who weren’t up to all the harder jobs in the department. It was a last 10 years on the job program. Their ladders cost more, but they are much lighter, can be repaired in house and are trusted by the firefighters because they know nobody is going to cut corners and endanger their lives.
    In each of these situations you replace a minimum wage factory job with a job where you know the people you are working for, and you are providing a higher quality product at a price that often saves money in the long run, and is competitive in the short run.
    In each of these situations the person with the most experience using the product is making decisions about how much quality and durability matter. In the doors example, the manager said the doors cost more, but since he isn’t buying new ones all the time he saves the costs of replacement and the cost of installation.
    In Japan they can’t imagine building cars without working with their parts suppliers, Toyota will send top designers to shops to make suggestions on improvements in exchange for half the savings realized, giving the shop design expertise they could never afford on their own. Here there is little chance of that happening.
    Most of these stupid off shoring decisions are made by people employed as cost cutters by top management, looking for a savings of under 25 cents on a $20 item. Walmart persuaded a box fan manufacturing outfit to relocate overseas on the basis of such a savings, refusing to buy the product unless they did.
    The government encourages this by arranging and paying for the sort of trade shows that introduce manufacturers to Mexican factory owners to negotiate a move, completely overlooking the loss in tax income that comes from losing US jobs.

  • manual

    Thank you. This is a huge problem liberals have. There is only a certainly level of demand for highly educated jobs. Making everyone a lawyer, doctor, engineer does not mean we will have need for them.

    The BLS puts out a useful forecast of future jobs. The vast majority of growth is in home health aides, fast food and so forth. These are growing jobs. We need to make them good jobs.

    Educating everyone in America for jobs that will not be open is not helpful.

    • Karen24

      It is important to note that “educating people for jobs that don’t require specific degree” is not at all the same thing as “not sending most of us to college.” We need to ensure that waiters and home health aides make a decent living in decent conditions, and also that studying, say, Latin or art history is within reach of anyone who wants to study those subjects without incurring unpayable levels of debt. It’s okay to be a home health aide, and it’s really great if a person could have that job and still learn about Plato.

      • manual

        Sure. But there is an naive overemphasis that if everyone just studied latin they, too, will get a great, high-paying jobs. But there isnt that much demand for those jobs.

        Yes, everyone should have access to equal educational opportunities. But anyone who thinks we can educate away poverty does not understand how our labor market works. Liberals love focusng on education, and that great. But if they arent doing anything to make the home health aides life better they are not accomplishing much.

      • so-in-so

        If a majority had “middle-class” jobs by the old standards, AND we kicked the money-changers, err, rentiers, out of education, then people could afford to study Latin or Art history either before entering the job market (without the onerous debt trail) or part time alongside their day jobs. It is the double wammy of poor paying jobs (also, requiring lots of unpaid overtime or multiple jobs) plus the cost of education that means few can study something just because they want to without looking over the horizon at what the field pays and how many openings it has.

      • LeeEsq

        You know it is possible in theory to have health aids and other service workers that can also still learn Plato but there are some problems. One is that many people really do not like abstract knowledge and learning and if given the opportunity to avoid it they will. This includes many very intelligent people engaged in high level jobs like surgeon, diplomat, or CEO of a major corporation as well as lower level jobs. The other problem is that it seems psychologically true that once you educate a person to a certain level, they don’t want to do a certain type of job because they view it bellow them. Many out of work PhDs could go to work at high school or middle school as teachers but a lot of them don’t really want to for a variety of reasons, some of them practical like licensing but many of them simply because it is seen beneath them. Teaching bellow college level also makes it harder to do original research in the science or the humanities.

        • LosGatosCA

          To a non-academic that doesn’t sound like a status issue per se.

          These folks may want a job where research is a substantial part of it. K-12 teaching jobs are not those jobs. Therefore they don’t want them.

          Of course, if there is an oversupply of researchers in your chosen field what do you do?

          I would say, what other jobs require research that I would be interested in doing? since teaching may seem like a necessary but not primary part of the ideal job for them.

        • Linnaeus

          Many out of work PhDs could go to work at high school or middle school as teachers but a lot of them don’t really want to for a variety of reasons, some of them practical like licensing but many of them simply because it is seen beneath them.

          It’s not as easy for Ph.D.s to get into secondary school teaching as you may think. If you’re trying to get hired by public schools, having a Ph.D. usually puts you at the top of the pay scale, and most districts won’t pay that for an entry-level teacher. Those that might pay that generally don’t have a teacher shortage, and so they can pick less expensive teachers anyway.

          That leaves private schools, but there aren’t a lot of those openings, either.

      • Joshua

        I don’t think there was ever a time when anyone outside the upper middle class and upper class was able to go to college to study art history. Most factory workers were not college educated and that was just fine. Nowadays especially thanks to the internet anyone who wants to learn about Plato can learn about Plato in a way they couldn’t before.

        College is a signaling device for employers these days. That’s it, really. The idea that one needs a college degree to manage a Pappasito’s is really silly – a couple of courses of business administration at the local CC should more than suffice. But Pappasito’s wants people who apply themselves for years at college.

  • Mike in DC

    I have seen the suggestion, often from conservatives, that jobs requiring vocational or technical training are a worthy alternative to degree-required positions. To an extent, this is true, but it is also likely true that there’s a finite market for plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics and so forth. Pushing more people into voc/tech schools is likely to have an effect similar to the IT worker glut 15 years ago.

    • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

      My brother is an electrician. He makes an absurd amount of money. The only reason he isn’t a “charismatic billionaire and presidential frontrunner” is because he can’t find enough other electricians to hire. I know nothing of the plumbing and auto mechanic markets, but being an electrician truly is a license to print money, and it won’t end soon.

      • Mike in DC

        Right. But if there were a glut of electricians in the field, pay would drop and unemployment would increase.

        • Cash & Cable

          That’s why you create a diverse array of vocational programs, including of focusing on just one or two fields.

        • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

          But if there were a glut of electricians in the field

          Good luck trying to create a glut of electricians. Everyone has known for decades that electricians make good money, and it doesn’t even require a four year degree to get the title. But here we are, today, with a dearth of electricians.

          • Mike in DC

            Well, I would suggest that perhaps many people who otherwise would be electricians wind up becoming electrical engineers instead

            • manual

              Why?

              Do we need more electrical engineers? Is there a dearth of electrical engineers? Or do you just think being an engineer is a better vocation because it has a more white-collar hue?

              Hell, an electrician probably makes more money.

  • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

    But now we have committed to moving factories overseas

    I agree wholeheartedly with this statement, but I wish people like you could see why insourcing is just as bad as outsourcing.

  • jimpharo

    The elephant in the room in all these discussions is the end of manufacturing jobs.

    The elephant in the room is that the moneyed interest intends an immiserated population utterly dependent on them for even their daily bread. The notion that a regular person would have any sort of ability to resist their demands is anathema. If we wanted to provide people with meaningful and dignified work, it’s no secret or mystery as to how to implement that. The challenge is overcoming the power of those who have a different point of view…

  • There is also the fact that factory workers were becoming two to three orders of magnitude more productive in the early 20th century. This was a combination of increased capital investment and better management that raised the total factor productivity. There’s nothing quite as dignifying to labor as a big boost in output.

    Now, of course, that big boost has worked its way through the system, so we need another, better excuse to pay people more.

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