President Obama’s top “outside’ adviser,” Service Employees International Union (SEIU) boss Andy Stern (king of the White House frequent-visitor list), will likely suggest collective bargaining agreements under ever-looming strike threats, increased compartmentalization of job responsibilities, higher wages, sweeter benefits, longer breaks, and the like. These measures would indeed reduce per-worker productivity, averting the crisis.
But let’s not put all of our hopes for slashing productivity on organized labor.
If the union model doesn’t git ‘er done, all the president has to do is figure out how to make business people think more like academics. His university experience would lead him to believe that the more navel-gazing you do, the more you get paid, and the more secure your job becomes. Perhaps the average American worker needs the lure of tenure to take his shoulder off the wheel, allowing him to focus on thinking great thoughts and sharing them in low-circulation journals. This would force companies to hire more people to do the actual work.
In his Lehigh County speech, President Obama credited universities and government with creating the great middle class after World War II. He also called community colleges “America’s most under-appreciated asset.”
He said nothing about the ever-escalating cost of a college degree — a product so expensive that only 27% of Americans own one.
And while health care has advanced by leaps and bounds, producing results that 20 years ago would have been classified as miracles, higher education offers no comparable progress. Some would argue that its quality has declined. (Exhibit A: the academics who staff the Obama White House.)
The president did not lambaste greedy academics for the “funny business” that has made a college degree the exclusive province of the wealthy, the brilliant, and the highly-leveraged — those who borrow their way through, hoping for sufficient future income to repay tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.
So the president, a college professor who has never run a business or even worked in the private sector, now believes he can accelerate employment growth by decreasing worker productivity through executive fiat, or perhaps through another 2,000-page piece of legislation.
Only a man with no private-sector experience (or one who’s intentionally trying to bring the United States to her knees) could speak like this:
PRES. OBAMA: Now, it’s typical that it takes time for job growth to catch up with economic growth. And it’s typical that it takes a little more time to come out of a recession when it comes to hiring. But Americans who’ve been desperately looking for work for months — some of them maybe for a year or longer — they can’t wait. And we won’t wait. We need to do everything we can, right now, to get our businesses hiring again so that our friends and our neighbors can go back to work. (Applause.) [emphasis added]
Our “chief academic officer” and his faculty (formerly called cabinet), who are 93 percent free of private-sector taint, ignore economic realities and natural business cycles. They think that if they just pull the correct lever on the giant Econom-o-tron machine at the White House — pushing new requirements onto employers and saddling taxpayers with more debt — the job market will react favorably with no unintended consequences.
In this worldview, if economic reality says that job recovery lags behind other prosperity measures, all the president needs to do is crank up the employment potentiometer, thus forcing the invisible hand of capitalism, against its will, to produce more jobs.
Oddly enough, the federal Econom-o-tron does have one rheostat that, if dialed back, would actually accelerate employment growth soon. Permanent cuts to corporate and personal income taxes free up investment cash, which private firms can use to ramp up employment. More cash in the pockets of individuals and their companies also spurs buying, and thus pushes demand for goods and services, again boosting employment.
Mr. President, the U.S. does not have a crisis of high productivity.
If you want to accelerate jobs growth, follow a basic rule of aerodynamics: to increase speed, decrease drag.