Let’s Talk Jobs

Trump’s top line numbers on jobs and the economy look fabulous. First glances can be deceiving. With that in mind let’s explore.

I have one foot firmly planted in the old time politics of kitchen table issues with another in the more scientific camp of modern political science. When it comes to jobs I am firmly ensconced in a chair at the kitchen table. However, we may need the science of thirty second sound bites to make voters aware of where they personally stand.

One of the many flaws with the method we use to calculate the unemployment rate is that in it all jobs are considered to be equal. In the real world we know that is far from the truth. In the working class the first question a parent often asks their child who is beaming with the news that they just got a job is: Does it have benefits? Many of today’s jobs don’t. How much it pays is also another significant factor. A minimum wage job and a $20+ an hour job are worlds apart.

I come from a working class background in what is today called the Rust Belt. Largely we lived in three bedroom, one bathroom homes. The fathers with what we considered the good jobs worked in the auto plants or steel mills. Their unions made certain that they earned a decent living wage and benefits so that they could care for their families while the mothers were able to largely be stay at home moms. Our neighborhoods were safe and our public schools adequate and often a bit better than that. Our states built world class, affordable state university systems and in the cases where they missed being world class (at the flagship campuses) they didn’t miss by much. Even if dad couldn’t take advantage of the GI Bill of Rights when he came home from World War II his kids had a real shot at doing better than he did. Much of the above is the story of my life and I count myself fortunate to be among the baby boomers. (White privilege didn’t hurt any either.)

Those factory jobs are gone and going as well as the unions that kept the compensation package adequate to support that lifestyle. For those just a bit younger than me who are still in the workforce and followed their fathers into the plants and mills they are now forced to settle for no benefit $15 per hour jobs; and too often those are the “lucky” ones.

President Obama brought us out of George W. Bush’s Great Recession. I was among the many on the left who criticized the recovery for being too slow and leaving too many behind, but nonetheless it had the “ship headed in the right direction”. Thus far Trump has managed not to change the direction so his top line numbers look a bit better than Obama’s. This has largely been accomplished by moves that have almost exclusively benefited the people already at the top. My question is what is happening at your or your kids’ kitchen table?

The news just broke a few hours ago that Ford is furloughing 7,000 workers (10% of its salaried staff). Where are those people going to find jobs with equal or superior  compensation packages? The answer in almost all cases is: they won’t. They may well find a job but it won’t pay the same bills. Will they have to also add a part-time job? (That will boost the total employment figure.) How about their wife having to go to work? (Another job added to the jobs total.) You have to ask yourself: Where are they and America better off? If the “extra jobs” aren’t forthcoming does that mean one or more of their kids have to drop out of college? Sans a college education what are an American youngster’s job prospects in 2019?

Especially to those I left behind in the Rust Belt when I moved south about 20 years ago; before you decide to take a second ride on the Trump Train in 2020 sit down at your kitchen table and honestly answer the question of whether your personal economy is better under Trump.

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