Thursday, July 9, 2009

Profound Lessons

"Job retraining is also ineffective without job creation, a point made by several economists who have long cautioned against placing too much stock in it."

Michael Luo, "Job Retraining May Fall Short of High Hopes," The New York Times, July 5, 2009.

One of the profound lessons of the past twenty years is that people should be trained for jobs that exist.Too often employment and training has been served up as a palliative to economic dislocation and structural change. Early on the campaign trail, President Barack Obama railed against this kind of training. Yet the administration is now serving up more training than jobs.

There's a lot to be said for skilling up during this economic downturn -- adult education, community college, etc. Reading, math, computer sciences, etc. will certainly be basic skills in demand in the longer run. But consumers of any kind of shorter-term, technical training should demand from trainers an honest assessment of the job market at the outset. Then make a decision about whether it is worth it.

"Back in Washington, senior Democrats were nervously contemplating whether additional government stimulus spending may be needed to pull the nation out of the worst recession since the 1930s."

Lori Montgomery, "Power of Stimulus Slow to Take Hold: Rising Joblessness Blunts President's Plan for Recovery," The Washington Post, July 8, 2009.

I would suggest two things: 1) get the current stimulus money out on the street as fast as you can; and 2) fashion a WPA kind of works program that creates jobs fast and takes on important public work. For WPA to work, we need a national administrative framework that can act fast while knowing how to work locally. And we need a Harry Hopkins type who can get things done. How many jobs did he get off the ground in six months?

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