May 13, 2010

No Adult Left Behind

President George W. Bush had the 'No Child Left Behind Act'.  Now the New York Times is ruminating about employees who have been laid off and are not likely to get jobs again - ever.  That is certainly an issue.  The problem is the New York Times, very liberal solution to the problem.

The New York Times does raise some valid points.For starters;
For the last two years, the weak economy has provided an opportunity for employers to do what they would have done anyway: dismiss millions of people — like file clerks, ticket agents and autoworkers — who were displaced by technological advances and international trade.

The phasing out of these positions might have been accomplished through less painful means like attrition, buyouts or more incremental layoffs. But because of the recession, winter came early.
Of course in the NYT wastes no time in vilifying employers in the opening paragraphs.  The New York Times acknowledges that the trimming does lead to productivity gains.  They also point out that while there is significant lag, the jobs eventually come back.

But the NYT says this time it will be different.  It's more of the same "this is the worst ever" mentality that is the chicken and egg of a crisis panic.  This time the end really is near.  Does that start the panic or come from the panic?  Most likely it's a cycle of panic both things reinforcing each other. What makes the New York Times think that this 'crisis', this time, is any more special than any previous recession?  It's the same sort of clarion alarmism that is evident in the Global Warming hysteria. Employment returned after the Great Depression.  Times were far worse back then, luckily for the NYT, most people are too young to remember that and don't know their history well enough to call the paper on its hyperbole.

But the NYT is doing THIS for a reason.  They set up the crisis in order to suggest the solution.  The liberal solution.  They've lobbed up a volleyball for themselves to spike.  Here's the lob;
There is no easy policy solution for helping the people left behind. The usual unemployment measures — like jobless benefits and food stamps — can serve as temporary palliatives, but they cannot make workers’ skills relevant again.

And so the question is what kinds of policy responses can help workers like Ms. Norton who are falling further and further behind in the economic recovery, and are at risk of falling out of the middle class.
And here's the spike - oh wait, it hasn't come yet.  The series, The New Poor.  Is climbing towards a crescendo that will either be a call for a new government training program, or some other massive state intervention, or perhaps just serve as an excuse for President Obama's poor performance on jobs in the coming months and years as a result of a bunch of disastrous decisions already made.  The Times itself acknowledges the point on productivity.
After all, the office environment is more automated and digitized than ever. Bosses can handle their own calendars, travel arrangements and files through their own computers and ubiquitous BlackBerrys. In many offices, voice mail systems and doorbells — not receptionists — greet callers and visitors.
That has human consequences no doubt - often hard, often painful.  But the other way to look it is that human 'capital' that has been freed up can now be put to better use.  Pruning dead wood doesn't mean those who have been let go are useless, it means most often that the role is not optimizing the person's ability to contribute.  Those people left behind do need to be given an opportunity to get back into the labor force.  But where the NYT is going to take their eventual conclusion is likely going to be far different from the type of solution that conservatives will regard as smart or efficient.  Let's wait and see what they suggest.

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