Sunday, September 21, 2008

Backyard Coalition

"McCain only offers women education and training."

A Barack Obama political ad about equal pay for women. September 2008

This phrase wouldn't have gotten my attention except I heard it twice; and then I remembered I similar Obama ad earlier this year about the offshoring of jobs and dislocated workers.

What bothered me was the snarling dismissal of "education and training." Admittedly, education and training is not enough on its own to deal with big structural economic changes or gender or racial labor market inequalities. And it is true that Republicans have been throwing "job training" at big labor market problems for years, while drastically cutting education and training budgets.

Such dismissals have become standard fare from many progressives who dismiss skills, skill shortages, or education fixes. Their focus is on the institutional explanations of wage and income inequality and the propensity of our economy for creating bad jobs. The answer,of course, is "high road" economic development strategies, not that much has been accomplished in this regard.

My sense is that a national jobs strategy has to combine creating good jobs, relevant education and skills enhancement for family-supporting careers, and a safety net that supports all workers. It's simple: we need all three.

I know it's just an ad, but maybe Obama should build a "change coalition" that brings together these jobs strategies and their advocates -- who happen to agree on most everything else.

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