Robert Reich is off to a good start.
As one of the new President’s economic advisors, this Clintonista re-tread has managed to annoy any number of people in a blatantly racist exchange with that ethically challenged hate-whitey legislator, the (dis)Hon. Charlie Rangel (who has one foot in jail even now):
If you go over to Reich’s blog, you’ll find the same ideas in a post from January 8, where even the post title minces no words about his plan:
The Stimulus: How to Create Jobs Without Them All Going to Skilled Professionals and White Male Construction Workers
The stimulus plan will create jobs repairing and upgrading the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, levees, water and sewage system, public-transit systems, electricity grid, and schools. And it will kick-start alternative, non-fossil based sources of energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and so on); new health-care information systems; and universal broadband Internet access.
Look at that list, folks. Those are feats of engineering and technology requiring education, experienice, skill and creativity. But never mind; such obstacles are of no moment to Mr. Reich. His job is to create a new War on Poverty — never mind that the poverty was caused by crooks and liars — and use the poor as the stuffing in his new “stimulus” package.
But if there aren’t enough skilled professionals to do the jobs involving new technologies, the stimulus will just increase the wages of the professionals who already have the right skills rather than generate many new jobs in these fields. And if construction jobs go mainly to white males who already dominate the construction trades, many people who need jobs the most — women, minorities, and the poor and long-term unemployed — will be shut out.
What to do? There’s no easy solution to either dilemma. But there’s no reason to think about “green jobs” as simply high-tech. Many low-income and low-skilled workers — women as well as men — could be put directly to work providing homes and businesses with more efficient and renewable heating, lighting, cooling, and refrigeration systems; installing solar panels and efficient photovoltaic systems; rehabilitating and renovating old properties, and improving recycling systems. “Green Jobs Corps” teams could be trained to evaluate and advise homeowners and businesses on these and other means of conserving energy.
Somehow, the idea of the “long-term unemployed” being given these jobs does not generate confidence in the finished product. All of those tasks require training, apprenticeship, and a solid work ethic. These qualities are not in great evidence among the “long-term unemployed”. Nor does Mr. Reich present any evidence that such people would show up for the jobs to begin with. Who wants to work out in the cold, or cramped in small spaces installing cooling and refrigeration systems?
What does “White Boy” Reich know about it, beyond his spin-out of academic fairy tales?
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Please do go over and read the three hundred or so comments that readers left for Obama’s economic advisor to ponder. There are some real straight shooters there, and you’ll enjoy the debates among people more knowledgeable about this than the two people lobbing stale ideas to one another on that execrable video.
I cherry-picked a few of my favorites, but there are many more worth your time.
Here’s one, from a fellow named “dasht”:
That is a horrible idea. You underestimate both the skill levels of many of the jobs you mention and the incompetence of a bureaucratic process to efficiently allocate such jobs according to a quota. The idea is central planning at its stereotyped worst. You’ll wind up imposing billions of dollars in new transaction costs (to assure “conformance”) and achieve an outcome with little resemblance to what you hope for.
You have to “change” (that’s the talking point word, right) the notion of control here – you have to change governments role. You’re trying to fine tune old, fanciful, unrealistic imagined roles: regulating employment quotas and planning training priorities. It’s never worked once and it won’t start working now. Government has to fix this with a very different *kind* of intervention.
The only way I know to help is bottom up – grass roots – neighborhood by neighborhood, zip code by zip code. Think of what an idealized philanthropic capitalist would do if he or she “adopted” some region as a pet project. They’d find ways and means to get around and meet the community, identify the influencers and leaders, and develop development plans in consultation with those folks. It’s the *personal relationships* not the demographic memberships that determine the health and robustness of trade.
Here’s an example of “stimulus that would really make a good difference” and fits my grass-roots approach:
Robert, go down to SW Oakland or, for that matter, SW Berkeley. Walk around and puzzle out what people’s day-to-day lifestyles and home economics is like. One thing you should notice is the lack of quality, affordable, accessible retail groceries – pretty basic, right?
A good government stimulus (in the Oakland case, not Berkeley) would be to incent some investors to go solve that problem: build a good retail food supply there, creating local and construction jobs on the way. A basic structural need. Capitalists won’t do it on their own because the difficulties of making a going concern of it are sufficient that the investors’ ROI will be unimpressive but there’s a social interest in having our best business professionals design and evangelize that going concern anyway – so a little stimulus can help there.
I don’t think you go down to where poverty is dense and say “Hey, folks, how about you all line up – poorest to east poor – and we’ll set you to work pounding nails for $gazillion solar projects. Some of you will turn into door to door salesmen for insulation and home solar.” That would be a bad joke.
You go down into each of those regions and you meet people and you say “What businesses does *this* place need?” and then you problem solve to make going concerns of those.
And another commenter, Steve, asks:
Seriously, Dr. Reich – and I think this question deserves an answer – why discriminate with regard to race and gender at all? Why not just aim these jobs at ALL people who have had a hard time breaking into the job market – no matter what their race or creed?
Then, there is one by “Spencer”, who asks in disbelief:
“And if construction jobs go mainly to white males who already dominate the construction trades”
What?????? Where I live there ARE NO WHITE MALES in construction. THEY ARE **ALL** ILLEGAL ALIENS.
This is the kind of liberal nonsense that assures me there is no hope for this country with democrats in charge (not that it was any better with republicans). Those who do not live in the real world are proposing policy to adversely affect the lives of those that do.
“.. the stimulus will just increase the wages of the professionals who already have the right skills …”
Skilled professionals have worked their tails off and EARNED the right to their jobs. It is government corruption, corporate greed and the middle class dabbling in the stock market hoping to get rich off the sleaziness of transnationals betraying their fellow Americans that has caused even them to lose jobs. Republicans are evil – democrats are blind to reality. But we already know that.
We have ivory tower government and professors pontificating on the labor market with a view that is the EXACT OPPOSITE of reality and the US Chamber of Commerce suing the government because they refuse to validate the citizenship of their “employees”.
Normally a big fan, I’m disappointed in you, Dr. Reich, that you would pull both the race card AND the class warfare card all in one article!
Yes, indeed, Dr. Reich, you have been far too long asleep in the ivory tower in Berkeley. You will not gain the respect of your interlocutors if you continue to draw these castles in the air.
I suggest you either keep these thoughts in Washington where they belong or close down your blog to comments so that people are no longer able to expose the threadbare ideas that make up your economic wardrobe.
And come to think of it, if we’re going to exclude white men, what are you doing up there palavering when it could be a woman or an ethnic minority spouting ideas? Integrity demands that you cede seat and voice to a woman or a some other worthy. Certainly a white man has no business taking up room when so many of the long-term unemployed could use your benefits package. Certainly they would bring some fresh new insights to the job.
You have painted yourself into a corner, sir. Try climbing out the window…
Hat tip: Gaia