Hold your nose and close your eyes: it looks like we’re going over the fiscal cliff. But the fight Congress is having with President Obama is a bit of a short-term distraction. The deals being discussed in Washington will do little to address the country’s real long-term economic crisis: rebuilding the US work force.
Almost every credible economist is rightly concerned about the nation’s debt problem, but they also tell us we can’t cut our way to solvency. And instead of cutting funding to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, we should be planning for the efficiency and solvency of these popular and much-needed programs.
The real problem is the shrinking growth of revenue. And nowhere was it more evident than shopping at your nearest mall over the holidays. If you walked through any major store and looked at where the item was made, you would have struggled to find anything made by US workers. Dishware, linens, clothing, furniture, televisions, small and large appliances — the majority of it is produced by low-wage workers in China, Thailand, Vietnam, India, and Pakistan.
Thirty to 40 years ago, most products were made by US workers earning a living wage. To say the situation has changed dramatically is an understatement. The devastating impact manufacturing job losses have had here in our own community is obvious.
Even though training in technology offers new and displaced US workers some opportunity for employment, it doesn’t begin to solve the problem. Technology often replaces workers while it simultaneously increases productivity.
Though it’s great theater, it’s likely that Obama and Congress will spend much of the next year wrestling for political opportunism. That should come as no surprise; this is the most unproductive Congress in decades.
Meanwhile, most cities in the US are trying to figure out how to pay for plugging pot holes, while China just tested its high-speed rail system. India is producing engineers, mathematicians, chemists, and physicists by the ton, while many American students are getting priced out of an affordable education.
Ignoring the American work force is the real fiscal cliff.