Friday, March 20, 2009

Both/And

"But in terms of the American psyche--and a household's balance sheet--we're rediscovering the job as the most valuable asset a person can have."

Barbara Kiviat, "#1 Jobs Are the New Assets," Time, March 23, 2009.

Let me confess upfront that I'm a firm believer in both jobs and assets. You need both, in addition to good benefits and work supports. But it does give me a certain amount of pleasure to see this new attention to jobs as the foundation and lifeline, the dividend paid over and over on human capital.

The asset-building world grew by leaps and bounds starting in the 1990s -- and the focus on new products and instruments was reinforced by market trends in home prices and the stock market. How do low-income families get a piece of the action, we asked? The most attention to jobs came out of welfare reform, which mandated that you had to have one.

Today's economy makes everyone more conscious about keeping their jobs. It's the stream of income that supports day-to-day living and savings. That why the stimulus/recovery is framed in terms of jobs. Community college enrollments are up because people want to build skills for the next round of jobs.

Of course, weathering today's economic storm is a lot easier if you have some assets built up. Even if they have taken a hit, savings provide a cushion and some working capital for figuring out the labor market and what's next.

So, we need jobs and assets.

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