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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bringing Back The Journeymen

Oct 14th, 2012

Responding to a personal charge in Shawn Gude's interesting if overly floral argument on how we might reach "full employment" and what that would actually mean for the American worker's relationship with management, Matt Yglesias writes:
Much as consistently applied full employment policies will achieve many liberatory aims without employing especially radical means, centrist elites ought to consider that matching workers with in-demand job skills really ought to be the kind of thing a market economy can do reasonably well. Rather than skills-mismatch explaining high unemployment, it's the absence of full employment that explains skills-mismatch. If you want workers to learn to do something, you try to teach them to do it and if necessary pay them more money. 
Long story short: Full employment policies are great and we ought to be demanding them from our macroeconomic stabilization policymakers rather than accepting excuses about how it's hard. 
When the U.S. was actually creating jobs in far greater abundance, it was due neither to a massive distribution of diplomas nor to the stimulative effects of public spending alone; it was because job growth was largely a product of on the job training.

Indeed, what has happened to the journeyman path? One of the repeated explanations offered by our elites in explaining the stagnant job numbers is that we just don't have a qualified workforce for as many as three million open positions. What's never discussed is the fact that the managers who cannot fill these positions always blame someone else for the situation.

Everyone knows that the current metrics in our tax code richly reward outsourcing and off-shoring. Recent attempts to reverse these policies were, of course, filibustered by the GOP. In part, this opposition might be because we simply have to sweeten the pot enough for the lobbyists to get other marching orders. If our central policy makers were proposing benefits even a fraction as attractive as those received by, oh say, our petrol giants, a movement towards fuller employment might have more traction.

The again, maybe not. Gude's arguments key off of a radical 2010 essay written by Micael Kalecki the implications of which demand that we ask whether or not America's private power brokers aren't perfectly happy with the way things are?

It's not necessarily that macroeconomic policy isn't addressing this, as Yglesias argues. It's an ugly truth but the general stagnancy in our labor force and the desperation it has spawned are regarded as plainly beneficial to management.

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