The fake skills shortage

You may wonder if it was always this way, that it was the job of the taxpayers to provide job-ready employees for the sainted job creators. Let me tell you a little story.

Way back during the reign of King Ronald, the king was giving speeches about how necessary it was for public schools to concentrate on delivering job-ready graduates instead of filling their heads with all that music and arts nonsense. And lo, it came to pass. Local school districts bought all kinds of business equipment so the king’s wish could be fulfilled.

Let me translate. There was a massive transfer of wealth at the taxpayers’ expense so the schools could provide the same training that businesses used to pay for, back when they still invested in their workers. I don’t remember anyone questioning this at the time. It was all: Go, team! America’s future!

But I was just old enough to remember when it was different, and I wondered why no one objected. When a company would interview you (to see if you were smart enough to do the job) and offer you a position, for which they would train you. Even for jobs like computer programming!

But during Reagan, it got twisted all around and turned into one big shell game. Not only were you supposed to present yourself as already trained, you had to guess which jobs would have openings! Now, every time there’s a recession, we’re told there’s a “skills mismatch” and that Americans have to train “for the jobs of the future.” (No one ever seems to accurately predict what those jobs might be.)

And here’s the other hole un this philosophy: Not everyone is smart enough to do a high-skilled job. So those people should curl up in the corner and die the slow death of starvation wages? Uh, I don’t think so.

Paul Krugman on the alleged skills shortage:

Kudos to Adam Davidson for some much-needed mythbusting about the supposed skills shortage holding the US economy back. Whenever you see some business person quoted complaining about how he or she can’t find workers with the necessary skills, ask what wage they’re offering. Almost always, it turns out that what said business person really wants is highly (and expensively) educated workers at a manual-labor wage. No wonder they come up short.

And this dovetails perfectly with one of the key arguments against the claim that much of our unemployment is “structural”, due to a mismatch between skills and labor demand.

If that were true, you should see soaring wages for those workers who do have the right skills; in fact, with rare exceptions you don’t.

So what you really want to ask is why American businesses don’t feel that it’s worth their while to pay enough to attract the workers they say they need.

Um, because our political system is so badly distorted that working people have no real champions? And that employers are so greedy, they’re cutting off their noses to spite their faces?

One Response to The fake skills shortage

  1. imhotep November 26, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Why hire real people when robots don’t demand a paycheck and they’ll work around the clock? Productivity has continued to increase even though unemployment is high and wages are in decline. Or maybe it’s because unemployment is high and wages are in decline? Increasing productivity equals increasing profits for the Capitalist (owner of the means of production). Those profits are now being invested on Wall Street at an average return of 4.6%. Rather than being used to build new factories and purchase new machinery that would employ real people. The Capitalist economic model is working very well for the 1%. The wealth inequality gap continues to widen. “The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.” That is exactly how the Capitalist economic model was set up to operate. So…if you support Capitalism, quit your bellyaching.

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