One of my responsibilities at my job is to supervise our collection of Network Operators. This is an entry-level position that monitors our systems and servers, performs certain technical tasks and interacts with client requests. It pays $10/hr, is part-time and has no benefits. It's a fairly high-turnover position, as people graduate from college or find jobs more in line with their career goals, so I have to interview pretty often.
Over the last year I've interviewed several people with well over a decade of experience in IT. They can code, they can build networks, they can configure switches, they can put together a virtual HA environment with their eyes closed. They're going for a part-time, $10/hr job becase A)$10/hr is better than $0/hr, and they're hoping it will turn into something more down the road. They need to work, they want to work. They have, to quote Timothy Geithner, "the skills they need to re-enter the 21st-century economy." They built the 21st century economy. But there are no jobs.
Here is a graph illustrating the situation we're in:
It's not a skills gap. There are no jobs.
A few days ago the WaPo ran an article about a new initiative from President Obama and Congressional Democrats that focuses on creating manufacturing jobs in this country.
It was the first good economic news I've read in a long time.
The USA cannot maintain a healthy economy unless products are made here. The middle class cannot exist unless manufacturing jobs are plentiful. A healthy middle class cannot be sustained by a so-called 'service economy,' because jobs in the fast food and landscaping industries are never going to pay enough.
Manufacturing - and the trades such as plumbing, HVAC, sheet metal, etc - is what built the American middle class. It allows people to learn a skill without having to go to college first. It means that someone with 'just' a high school degree can have a career that will support his or her family at a dignified level and a retirement that can be enjoyed with grandchildren, perhaps great-grandchildren.
We should not expect everyone to go to college and get a bachelor's or master's degree. Nor should this society act as if those who have earned those degrees are deserving of anything more out of life than those who haven't. You can take every workers' comp scammer, every lazy bum, every 'welfare queen,' lump them all together and still you'd see that 99.99% of Americans simply want an honest day's wage for an honest day's work.
That doesn't mean working a fast food counter or in a call center. There's nothing wrong with those types of jobs as long as we're not trying to rest the world's largest economy on top of them.
Corporations should be free to open their factories wherever they want. But they should also know that this freedom includes the freedom to accept the consequences. There should be a penalty for taking jobs away from Americans. Factories that supply goods for the US market should be subject to inspections to make sure that they are not sending unsafe, even life-threatening, goods over here - and the factory owners need to bear the cost of that. This is not unreasonable; what is unreasonable is to expect American consumers to just deal with it when their stores are full of items tainted with toxic chemicals, when their food is produced in utter filth.
Imports should be subject to tariffs. Yup, that's called a trade war. The thing is, implementing a comprehensive system of tariffs wouldn't start a trade war, because that war is already started. It is being waged ruthlessly. On one side are multinational corporations, wealthy individuals and certain governments that not only view economics as a zero-sum game, they want it to be a zero-sum game with them on top. The other side is comprised of you and me and the billions of people on this planet who are being systematically screwed over by corporations and the politicians they employ.
Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have made news recently because they're trying to get fellow billionaires to sign pledges to give away their money. That's great. But as long as the Warren Buffets and Bill Gates of this world - and Tim Geithners and Larry Summers - think that being a responsible businessman is to find the cheapest, least regulated labor market to manufacture goods and that the only thing standing in the way of millions of unemployed Americans and good jobs is the lack of a DeVry computer technician degree, their good intentions, even their good actions, aren't worth a bucket of warm spit.
We don't need to train Americans, we simply need to put them to work. And the only way to do that is to rein in the corporations, to recognize what really makes an economy healthy and to set about doing what's right for the most people for the longest time. If the wealthy want an even bigger slice of pie, then they should be forced to make the pie bigger.