Thursday, June 1, 2017

Preserve Economic Time Value, Not "Guaranteed Jobs"

In response to a proposal to address job creation from the Center for American Progress (HT Marginal Revolution), Adam Ozimek notes that "Guaranteeing Everyone a Job is Harder Than it Sounds". He writes:
The plan lists several jobs that apparently are a good fit for the currently non-working and also in high demand: home care workers to aid the aged and disabled, affordable child care, teacher's aides and EMTs. So the basic plan, if I understand it correctly, is that the federal government will pay for jobs for people to work in the public or private sector, and the government will pay for training as needed.
Crowd out is obviously a big problem here. Will the employers being paid to create these "guaranteed jobs" actually create new jobs or just replace existing ones? Or perhaps they will "create new jobs" that were going to be created anyway...The incentive to crowd out is strong for local government especially. The CAP piece justifies the demand by pointing out that many local governments are "cash strapped".
There are delicate equilibrium balance issues at stake. Consider also, the fact local governments have already scaled back hiring out of necessity, in response to existing local pension obligations. Again, we are faced with what could be considered a"mature" general equilibrium which does not have room for all comers on the same sets of terms. The basic template of this equilibrium for economic participation has many interconnected features, which presently lack the flexibility to respond to major shifts in existing resource capacity.

It has proven difficult to discuss new economic possibilities, in part because economic access in general needs better framing. Alas, for populations to maintain the social cohesion that was (largely) possible in the twentieth century, we need continual efforts to improve the production and consumption potential of our non tradable sectors. This, instead of ever more calls for income gains which can only stretch so far, when basic resource flow patterns have long since been committed.

When economies were primarily based on expanding tradable sector output, the drumbeat for ever more income gains perhaps made more sense. But once economies become increasingly focused on time based services, everything about the basic structure of output begins to change. Ultimately, that also translates into less of the traditional output which once meant broad wage gains. An important aspect of this historically recent development, is the fact not everyone can productively engage, on today's government/private sector dictated terms.

Yesterday's middle class was built on strong tradable sector output. If that prosperity is to be continued, most aspects of output potential for non tradable sector activity, will need close examination. Meanwhile, the recent article from the Center of American Progress ("Toward a Marshall Plan for America: Rebuilding Our Towns, Cities and the Middle Class"), almost feels as though an audible sigh and wish, that people who didn't complete their college degrees (such as myself, though I didn't vote for Trump), didn't have these problems to begin with. The authors wrote:
The truth is, progressives should be as concerned about the declining fortunes of those who do not go to college as any other group. Not because they are disrupting politics - though they are - but because they are our brothers and sisters too.
Once, long ago when Obama was voted into office, I wrote letters to him, detailing the plight of rural America. There was no response. Sometimes I wonder, had I finished the college degrees I so wanted, would I be a progressive, today? The answer really isn't important. But degrees would have meant having the option of city life in these later years, and progressive friends as well.

We need to preserve economic time value for all concerned, instead of trying to guarantee jobs to the ones who have been left behind. Fortunately, even though jobs are a cost, it is not necessary to define all costs on what have become expensive technocratic terms. Once we step outside the weak tea of "make work" and artificial service roles, we can remember the concerted efforts people have always been willing to assume - either because those work efforts are perceived as necessary, desirable, or possibly, both.

Both constructs suggest a world of worthwhile work, which because there is a lack of suitable framing for economic time value, ends up defined as not feasible or possibly just "unimportant". Yet understanding the difference between personally initiated versus externally mandated work, is important, for time value to gain economic legimitacy. People want to be responsible for themselves and for others, in ways that matter at a personal level. Why not approach a revitalized economy on these terms?

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