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Monday, April 17, 2017

Paul Krugman: Why Don’t All Jobs Matter?

"Why aren’t promises to save service jobs as much a staple of political posturing as promises to save mining and manufacturing jobs?":

Why Don’t All Jobs Matter?, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: President Trump is still promising to bring back coal jobs. But the underlying reasons for coal employment’s decline — automation, falling electricity demand, cheap natural gas, technological progress in wind and solar — won’t go away. ...
Why does public discussion of job loss focus so intensely on mining and manufacturing, while virtually ignoring the big declines in some service sectors ... in the face of internet competition...?
Overall, department stores employ a third fewer people now than they did in 2001. That’s half a million traditional jobs gone — about eighteen times as many jobs as were lost in coal mining over the same period. And retailing isn’t the only service industry that has been hit hard by changing technology. ...
So why aren’t promises to save service jobs as much a staple of political posturing as promises to save mining and manufacturing jobs?
One answer might be that mines and factories sometimes act as anchors of local economies, so that their closing can devastate a community... And there’s something to that...
A different ... reason ... involves the need for villains. Demagogues can tell coal miners that liberals took away their jobs with environmental regulations. They can tell industrial workers that their jobs were taken away by nasty foreigners. And they can promise to bring the jobs back by making America polluted again, by getting tough on trade, and so on. These are false promises, but they play well with some audiences.
By contrast, it’s really hard to blame either liberals or foreigners for, say, the decline of Sears. ...
Finally, it’s hard to escape the sense that manufacturing and especially mining get special consideration because ... their workers are a lot more likely to be male and significantly whiter...
While we can’t stop job losses from happening..., we can limit the human damage when they do happen. We can guarantee health care and adequate retirement income... We can provide aid to the newly unemployed. And we can act to keep the overall economy strong — which means doing things like investing in infrastructure and education, not cutting taxes on rich people and hoping the benefits trickle down.
I don’t want to sound unsympathetic to miners and industrial workers. Yes, their jobs matter. But all jobs matter. And while we can’t ensure that any particular job endures, we can and should ensure that a decent life endures even when a job doesn’t.

    Posted by on Monday, April 17, 2017 at 05:41 AM Permalink  Comments (185)


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