01.30.2014 0

What the heck do we have schools for?

obama-state-of-the-unionBy Robert Romano

“I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.”

That was President Barack Obama in his 2014 State of the Union Address promising that after 12 years of public education and perhaps another four years or so of college, Americans still struggling to find work can go back for yet more job training.

What the heck do we have schools for?

Is the problem with high, long-term unemployment that individuals are unqualified for the jobs that are available?

Or that there just are not enough jobs?

The answer might lay in the same speech, in which Obama pled for another $17 billion of long-term unemployment benefits — which would allow the jobless to collect benefits for up to a year and a half instead of the traditional six months.

That alone tells us what he thinks about current labor market conditions, which is to say he anticipates folks will not find jobs regardless of their qualifications. Otherwise, why would they need welfare?

Besides that, his plan to “redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training” apparently is nothing more than a $100 million essay contest, or something. It’s a grant program for institutions that in the end will not help very many people to find jobs.

His promised review of existing training programs — of which we already spend roughly $7.4 billion a year on according to the National Skills Coalition atop the the tens of billions more for primary education and college — is just a sop to those who feel hopeless in today’s job market.

And perhaps they should be hopeless.

Since 2008, the civilian non-institutional population has jumped by 11.9 million, yet the civilian labor force has only increased by 1.1 million, according to annual figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This drop in labor force participation — that is, those working or looking for work — with the participation rate dropping from almost 66 percent throughout 2008 to its current level of 62.8 percent, the lowest it’s been since 1978.

If the labor force participation rate had held steady at its 2008 level, unemployment would be 11.2 percent instead of the current reported rate of 6.7 percent.

That’s more than 6.7 million people who should either be working or looking for work, but are not.

Many of them already have college degrees or some level of college. Most have high school diplomas.

Yet, according to Obama, the education they received was somehow not sufficient as the jobs available today have dramatically changed in the skills required in just five years.

Which is more believable, that 6.7 million people have given up looking for work because there are no jobs to be found, or because they were unqualified for any job?

To be certain, since the end of 2008, three particular hard hit sectors were construction, which has shed 868,000 jobs, manufacturing, which has lost 823,000, and financial activities, which dropped 148,000.

The initial losses in those sectors were even worse, meaning that they are slowly recovering. However, they have come nowhere near their pre-recession levels yet, let alone begun adding net jobs.

Until they do, there is little reason to believe spending another $7 billion or so on job retraining, or a full $17 billion on long-term unemployment welfare for another year will do anything to get the economy growing robustly again.

To dramatically turn the situation around, measures should be taken to dramatically reduce the cost of doing business in America. The corporate tax could be eliminated, the harsh regulatory environment from the EPA rolled back, the dollar strengthened to bring capital back into the U.S., and government borrowing cut significantly to stop diverting resources away from the private sector.

We heard none of that from Obama on Tuesday. And judging by the totality of his administration we never will. Meaning those 6.7 million who have given up looking for work might have to wait until at least 2017 for any hope.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government. 

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