2.10.2013

It's the JOBS, Stupid!

So we've often heard the refrain - "Its the Economy, Stupidthanks to Mr. Carville and the Clinton campaign in the early nineties. It was powerful stuff given the success of the campaign and the now revisionist history that colors Clinton's presidency in the rosy tinge of the last great era of prosperity in America. It was so powerful and catchy you could apply the slogan to almost anything. Need to prove the value of fat, out of shape pitchers in baseball? - refer to playoffs - "It's the PITCHING, Stupid". Need to communicate to your wife why breakfast no longer has that zing? - grab some pork belly - "It's the BACON, Stupid". Need help finding a chick who's DTF? - download the app - "It's TINDER, Stupid." So when the latest talking heads took to the stage for the presidential debates, the slogan seemed too obvious - "It's the JOBS, Stupid!"

What do Tinder and EA Madden's book have in common? Isn't it OBVIOUS.

So obvious someone wrote a book on it. And so obvious we now seem to take it as a point of fact. It goes something like this. . . "We just need to innovate and lower the corporate tax rate so we can create more jobs. My plan will get America back to work." As if innovation (which did, by the way, exist in our lexicon prior to the year 2000), lower taxes and good intentions while make a difference. 

But what if it isn't about the jobs. . . . moron? What if all this job talk is just a Red Herring for the economy/society as a whole? Here's why it isn't just about jobs, number of jobs etc. 

THE LABOR MARKET IS OVERSUPPLIED - (an education problem)
Nobody talks about how absurd it is to expect there to be an ever increasing number of white collar jobs out there. Since all the blue collar ones are happily passed down to illegals or recent immigrants, we all seem to want to be lawyers, doctors, financial analysts accountants, insert boring high paying profession here. Do we really need more salesmen, lawyers, architects? Hell I am an architect and I think there are too many of us. If we could prove our value as justifying an ever increasing need in this country I'd say great. But we can't sadly. 
While there might be modest gains in the number of jobs is these sought after professions, let's not forget factories institutions of higher education don't care. As long as generations of suckers will attend your graduate program, you need not worry whether your growing admissions metrics don't mirror a shrinking demand for the professionals you're educating. Upward mobility has finally bit us all in our khaki and pant suit-clad butts. 

INNOVATION - (a technology problem)
What? Innovation isn't the holy grail of job creation? Ironically we think that if our economy innovates, we create more jobs and open new doors we never knew existed. But for every nerdy software engineer who get 6 figures our of school from Google or Facebook, there is an accountant whose whole profession is being undercut by TurboTax. There are absolutely winners and losers when economies change course but I'm dubious that companies like Zynga bring about a net gain in jobs or anything else for that matter. 

If Zynga is an example of "innovating" to create "jobs", I want no part.

THERE IS ONLY SO MUCH TO GO AROUND - (a consumer finance and macroeconomics problem).
The first thing I learned when getting a real job out of college years ago was that I had become a consumerist target before even getting my first paycheck. Seriously, when you file a W2 does every blood sucking email marketer receive your address from the Fed? As soon as you start earning money, our economy is deftly plotting of ever more ways for you to part with it. Of course if you are dumb enough to open a credit card, you might just spend more than you have and find yourself in fine shape when you get laid off months later. 
I'm only pointing out this odd chicken and egg relationship we have in America between the economy, jobs and disposable income. So much of the system is predicated on advertising, emotional spending and an unending fountain of money that when one thing goes, they all go. Americans SHOULDN'T be spending now that the economy is limping back to life but they will, we will. We'll think that that creates jobs. I mean that extra $300 I got from the Bush tax cuts a few years ago really worked out. But let's get real about who our market is when we create new jobs. If they're jobs that help an online retailer sell someone their 38th pair of shoes then we have a problem. Sorry Zappos, I love your plans for Vegas from an urban design standpoint but just saying. . . 


So its not about the jobs its about recognizing that we can't have it all and that 3-5% growth is a thing of the past. We might need to fix these other things rather than crow about how the unemployment rate dropped .2% last month. And I didn't even touch on how China, India and any other country without bloated pension programs will continue to kick our ass over the next few decades.
    

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