Friday, February 13, 2009

Just a Thought

I was thinking about the Stimulus bill today as I was coming into work and thinking that it's proposals are probably so far out of touch with economic necessity that it will not only fail, but fail miserably. The package, from what I have seen and read, consists primarily of tasks for manual labor, much like the jobs programs under the auspices of FDR during the Depression.

The problem being, the people I know who have lost their jobs because of the economic crunch are all white-collar workers. I'm sure this is reflective of my social circles and networks, but nevertheless these are real people who lost real jobs: college-educated 20- and 30-somethings (and some older too) who work in journalism, IT, finance, or other cubicle-type environments. They are not exactly your "salt-of-the-earth" types who can make an easy transition to ditch-digging or construction.

Now while it may sound like I'm making excuses here, think about it. The people of the fattest, laziest country on Earth suddenly expected to perform heavy and difficult labor with no experience, training, or muscle memory capabilities to do so. This isn't the days of the early 20th century where most of the jobs lost were labor-intensive manufacturing, shipping, or any other number of services now obsolete from technological improvements. Many of today's factory workers are simply plug-in, put-on, stamp it jobs. The heavy lifting is often done mechanically and the major job obstacle is tedium.

Sure, it might do a lot of younger people good to get in shape from outdoor work (although, its not like tough labor jobs disappeared--we just gave them to immigrants). But what about the 50 year old father of 4 trying to get his kids through college and still have enough to retire? He's got a bad back--digging a ditch is not in his future. The 45 year old mother who used to be a clerk? Are we just going to give her a shovel and say "have at it"? This bill seems to be targeted on ideas of nearly a century ago, taking little account into how much has changed since then--not least of which is mass employment of women. It does little good for us to create a bunch of heavy labor jobs with a limited supply of heavy laborers.

Again, this is basically me thinking out loud--or on screen, rather--and I have no data to support any grand hypothesis. But this is a troubling notion and, since it appears we're going to do this, I would be interested to see data that shows the supply and demand ratio for the jobs "created."

1 comment:

Libby said...

Oh god, I can just see it - the stimulus bill creates manual labor jobs, which brings a new influx of low-skilled Mexican labor (unless of course "buy American" applies to labor as well). The rest of the stimulus bill will be spent building a big-ass fence (which the immigrants will still manage to penetrate within 48 hours of its construction).