Friday, January 30, 2009

Economic Stimulus, or They Took Our Jobs!

President Obama has promised to "save or create 3 million jobs" over the next couple of years. The plan, as I understand it, is to spend a heck of a lot of money in an FDR-esque infrastructure refurbishment. I have no problem with that, and it's obvious our infrastructure needs work. When bridges collapse in the most powerful nation in the world, it's just plain embarrassing.

Rush Limbaugh has published his take on the stimulus, and I agree with much of what he says. Take the percentage of people who voted for McCain (46%) and the percentage of people who voted for Obama (54%), and divide the stimulus accordingly. The 54% portion goes to Obama's plan. The 46% portion goes to Reaganomic-supply side endeavors. We get to scientifically determine which has a better effect on the economy, while giving the appearance of making progress in the recessed economy. I like that plan.

However, what are the specifics? I read the Limbuagh show notes and his Wall Street Journal article. They speak of the high cost of doing business in America, and that businesses are taxed to the point of inoperability in this country. That doesn't make sense to me. Here's my proposal: Ask every American company that has outsourced operations to foreign countries how much money they save by running their plant outside the USA. If they bring those jobs back to the US, they get a tax cut equal to the difference in operations costs. Example: if employees make 35 cents per hour in Madagascar, and that job would pay $35 here, then that company gets $35.65 per employee in tax credit. They'll have to rebuild derelict factories, but that's infrastructure that will, in itself, provide more work for Americans.

Since many of the talking heads are talking about reducing the capital gains tax, I think this proposal would meet their approval.

The government can take steps to ameliorate the economic and employment problem in this country, however, it's up to the citizens to take advantage of it. I've seen a lot of evidence pointing to people who don't want to work. Children of baby boomers, in particular, are among the worst offenders. I myself am a member of that demographic. I remember learning in school that all I needed for success was a college degree, and the world would open up for me.

It's not true. When everyone has a degree, no one stands out. Therefore, a person must find other ways to attract the attention of employers. Having a previous job, any job, fills this need. Back to the Baby Boomers' progeny: We've got pride, misplaced or otherwise, that prevents us from taking the unglamorous jobs, or the perfect job at an imperfect salary. We, as a whole, would rather live with our parents for a few more years while pursuing that perfect job, or pursuing a post-graduate degree. That attitude needs to change.

My first job out of college was for a retail printing and shipping store. I was surrounded by complacent slackers with no desire for upward mobility. I had a midlife crisis of sorts--I was pissed off at myself for not being able to achieve better, and angry at the economy (even in 2006) that prevented me from finding a job in my field. I slacked of at the job I had, putting my livelihood in danger. My manager saw this, took me aside, and gave me this advice:

"This is where you work. It's not where you wanted to be at this point in your life, but it IS where you are now. Do well here, and something will eventually come up. Jobs will open up in other fields. Management positions may open up here. The better you do, WHEREVER YOU ARE, the easier the path will be to take you where you want to go."

I took it to heart. I used the company's education assistance program to get a second degree (in a growth industry-computers). I went from third shift production to second shift production manager. I went from second shift production manager to running the store by myself on weekends. Then, a job opened up in my field, and I took the position. I wouldn't have been able to do it had I not taken that job. Had I held out for a better job on the get-go, I wouldn't have been in that ideal position when opportunity came knocking.

Americans' attitudes about work need to change. No job is meaningless, and while different jobs may pay drastically different salaries, the line on a resume is always worth more than the paycheck. Even if President Obama does manage to create 3 million jobs, at this point I'm wondering who would take them?