Thursday, January 22, 2009

The third Reich* post of the year

Here's what administration economic advisor Robert Reich thinks should and should not be done with Federal stimulus pork:

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.

It's a two-fer: lots of new jobs, and investments in the nation's future productivity.

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.

People can be trained relatively quickly for these sorts of jobs, as well as many infrastructure j0bs generated by the stimulus -- installing new pipes for water and sewage systems, repairing and upgrading equipment, basic construction -- but contractors have to be nudged both to provide the training and to do the hiring.

I'd suggest that all contracts entered into with stimulus funds require contractors to provide at least 20 percent of jobs to the long-term unemployed and to people with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. And at least 2 percent of project funds should be allocated to such training. In addition, advantage should be taken of buildings trades apprenticeships -- wich must be fully available to women and minorities.

For the record, I think Robert Reich is a Statist and not a racist, though there are certainly people who will accuse him of such.

They miss the point.

What Reich proposes is a brand new piece of social engineering masquerading as an economic stimulus program.

Under the Reich proposal it is no longer good enough for an employer who wants to do business with the Federal government to be color-blind and provide legitimate equal opportunity to the best-qualified applicants to do the job. Instead, the Reich proposal would force employers to collect and use data on (a) how long a person has been out of work and (b) how far below the poverty line an applicant might be. Notice--this is a stick and not a carrot approach. You don't get rewards for hiring poor, out-of-work people, you get penalized if you don't, even if you follow all existing Equal Opportunity rules.

I suspect this is one of those cases wherein my liberal and progressive friends will find nothing wrong with preserving a certain percentage of the stimulus jobs for the long-term unemployed and/or very poor. They will argue that only government can reverse years of race, class, and gender prejudice to give those disfranchised Americans a needed leg up.

What they miss, diregard or perhaps applaud, I think, is that such a program extends far beyond the constitutional reach of the Federal government by allowing the State to redefine the primary purpose of private employment as meeting specific social and political agendas rather than to allow equal opportunity competition for jobs to drive a profit-making enterprise.

In other words, Reich is no longer advocating management capitalism, but socialized employment in private industry on a national scale.

*Reich posted this comment on January 9; it is the third item he has posted on his blog since December 31, 2008. It is therefore the third Reich post of 2009.

1 comment:

Waldo said...

Godwin's Law rears up in the most unexpected places.