Thursday, October 14, 2004

His answer just doesn't cut it
Last night when Bob Schieffer asked Bush what he'd say to a person who had lost his job to someone overseas, Bush answered:
I'd say, Bob, I've got policies to continue to grow our economy and create the jobs of the 21st century. And here's some help for you to go get an education. Here's some help for you to go to a community college.

We've expanded trade adjustment assistance. We want to help pay for you to gain the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century.

You know, there's a lot of talk about how to keep the economy growing. We talk about fiscal matters. But perhaps the best way to keep jobs here in America and to keep this economy growing is to make sure our education system works.

He digressed into No Child left Behind for a bit and finished with this:
No, education is how to help the person who's lost a job. Education is how to make sure we've got a workforce that's productive and competitive.

Got four more years, I've got more to do to continue to raise standards, to continue to reward teachers and school districts that are working, to emphasize math and science in the classrooms, to continue to expand Pell Grants to make sure that people have an opportunity to start their career with a college diploma.

And so the person you talked to, I say, here's some help, here's some trade adjustment assistance money for you to go a community college in your neighborhood, a community college which is providing the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century. And that's what I would say to that person.

Atrios points out how insulting this is. To a conservative, failure is always the result of a personal shortcoming. People lose their jobs because they are stupid or because they failed to maintain 21st century skills. But Bush's answer is not just insulting, it's also impractical and misses the point of what drives the changes in our economy.

When I dropped out of my doctoral program in history, it was because I had a huge and growing debt, my financial aid for the coming year had just been withdrawn, and, as far as I could tell, there were no jobs in my field. After mucking around for a few years, I stumbled into a good job in the computer industry. That lasted for three years and then the bottom fell out of the industry in 2001. I have not had a permanent job since then, though I have been lucky enough to have an unbroken series of contract jobs for the last two years.

"Contract work" is the polite euphemism that professionals use for temp labor. I'm paid better now than when I was an office temp, but otherwise it's just the same--no paid time off, no insurance, no retirement, and no job security.

What exactly am I supposed to study at the community college? I already have two college degrees. The Seattle area is one of the most advanced technical job markets in the country. I was right in the forefront of that market. The internet sector has collapsed to fraction of it's former self. The software industry is sending many of its jobs to Asia. Boeing has cut thousands of jobs, and though they recently hired some back, they promise to never be as large an employer here as they were in the past. Most customer support jobs are going to Asia. Construction is down. Bush's hostility to science is driving most of the cutting edge biotechnology to Europe. I'm too old to become a mercenary in one of his wars. Almost every major local industry has a glut of skilled and experienced workers in the region.

What are these 21st century skills that I'm supposed to be able to pick up in a few weeks at the community college? A working knowledge of conversational Hindi so I can follow the jobs to Madras? Bush's solution assumes that there are lots of good jobs out there that are going begging for a lack of skilled workers. What are those jobs? What are the these 21st century industries that creating jobs that stay in the states.

Bush doesn't have a clue what it's like to work for a living.

No comments: