Archive for February, 2021

The Future of Work

Posted by leetabas

Winter 2021

COVID-19 has accelerated some trends. One is the move away from in-person purchases, favoring delivery. I don’t like it; I try to buy from stores as much as I can, but it is pretty clear that the future of retail is bleak, particularly for neighborhood stores.  Another trend is that the disparity between the haves and the have nots, which has widened. People working in foodservice and retail, lower paid occupations, are out of work, while lawyers, doctors, and techs may work remotely. Wealthy people benefitted from a buoyant stock market increasing the wealth gap.

Congress addressed the real problems of unemployed and low income Americans by passing the CARES act.   The CARES act provided “Economic Impact Payments” of $1,200 for adults earning up to $99,000 per year, and an additional $600 weekly for adults earning less than $75,000 per year.  These payments and recent newer rounds have kept our economy going, and helped people in need stay afloat. The Biden administration proposes similar further programs.

This sounds a lot like a Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI), although no one is calling it that.  When stated in that way, some might think of able- bodied people sitting around watching TV and drinking all day.  But GMI has been advocated by many prominent economists, including James Tobin, Paul Samuelson, and John Kenneth Galbraith. The cost can be funded by additional taxes, elimination of other social programs such as unemployment, or simply printing money.  The CARES act was funded by printing money. Money from the CARES act, or other GMI-like programs stimulates the economy, as the people receiving it spend that money for necessities.

It was always my belief that when jobs were lost, such as retail jobs, other jobs are created.  The US Bureau of Labor Statistics states occupations that will be growing the most 2019-2029.  They are in no particular order: nurses, wind turbine techs, solar installers, statisticians, fast food workers and cooks, software developers, occupational and physical therapists, health and medical aides and technicians, information technology, numerically controlled tool operators, massage therapists.

We know which professions are the higher earners in the above.  Paraphrasing my old Samuelson economics textbook, if someone is the best waiter and also the best software developer in town, they should spend their time developing software, because it pays the best.  Higher paying jobs require TRAINING.  I hope that we will see the Biden administration propose a program where ambitious people without the advantages can afford training so that they can take steps up the earnings ladder.

We’ve got lots of challenges.  Health care spending consumes too much of our Gross Domestic Product. Lines of cars idling are warming the planet and creating erratic weather.  The green economy is here, not because it is subsidized, but because it makes economic sense.  There will be new, well-paying jobs, but people will need training.  I believe the government has a role to play in this.  It is reminiscent of the new deal following the 1929 crash and depression providing jobs. This time it should be providing training for jobs.


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