PBS NewsHour, Making Sen$e, August 27, 2014
LISTEN TO ANY POLITICIAN and you’ll hear bold promises to create jobs. Along with most economists, they assume that jobs can save our middle class, and that given enough incentives, profit-seeking entrepreneurs will create them.
Leave aside the fact that creating millions of new jobs in a globalized, automated economy is a lot harder than it sounds. The deeper difficulty with the jobs panacea is that crappy jobs won’t sustain a large middle class — and most of the jobs we’re creating these days fit that description.
In the heyday of America’s middle class, jobs at IBM and General Motors were often jobs for life. Employers offered decent wages, health insurance, paid vacations and defined pensions. Nowadays, such jobs are rare. Workers are expendable — often they’re literally “temps” — and their benefits are shrinking. And that’s unlikely to change.
It’s also unlikely that the jobs of the future will pay more (adjusted for inflation) than today’s. In unionized industries like autos and airlines, two-tier contracts are now the norm. This means that younger workers get paid substantially less than older ones for doing the same work.
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