Our board member Mark Lange is a former presidential speech writer, and in fact wrote the George H.W. Bush’s 1991 state of the union address. In today’s Christian Science Monitor, he writes about last night’s speech in an article entitled Obama and the myth of job creation.
Here are some highlights of Mark’s article:
Redefine our idea of a “job.” The labor market already has, ever since the employment “contract” began to change forever back in the 1980s. Particularly for white collar workers – disproportionately affected in this recession – the prospect of contract work and free agency has never been easier. And by doing something of value, the résumé expands and the long grind (and potentially paralyzing shame) of joblessness is eased.
Re-tool, quickly and regularly. Small businesses looking to expand are finding more independent contractors for Web design, programming, marketing, videography, and similar work. Focus on areas of employment in healthcare and education, where there’s growth.
Reconsider unemployment benefits. Rather than make unemployment insurance an all-benefits-for-no-work proposition (which discourages any work and earnings at all), states should apply the same kind of incentive that worked with the Earned Income Tax Credit – as beneficiaries earn a little more, they receive a little less in benefits, but their net take-home is higher.
Welcome free trade. For seven decades, America’s economic and political leadership has told the rest of the world to open up trade. They did – and we and the global economy prospered. The irony of our closing down trade now makes no sense. It’s our responsibility to mitigate the negative consequences of global trade for the vulnerable (that’s something government can be good at). But to drive living standards up, we need more and freer trade, not less.
Recognize immigration for the competitive advantage it is. Our great secret, relative to Europe and much of Asia, has always been our ability to assimilate and engage the most ambitious people from around the world. This applies as much to the PhD student here from Asia or India as it does to the guy with the leaf-blower. We need to find better ways to enlist them here, not erect paper walls of visa requirements.
Innovation is no abstraction. In fact, all innovation is local – it applies to the payables clerk who comes up with a more readable spreadsheet, or the line manufacturing employee who tweaks and improves a machining process. There’s nothing exotic about “knowledge work” – we all work with our brains. Some of us use them to run our mouths. Others, our hands – on paint brushes, keyboards, school chalk, machine tools – but we all use our brains. And we can all use them better, starting tomorrow.
The economy and unemployment remain burning issues for most of us as this recession marches on worldwide. What do you think about the role of the government vs. the role of individuals and organizations in creating new jobs?