UNDERAPPRECIATED & OVER REGULATED?

March 12, 2019 at 5:00 am

A grim assessment from the Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass. The possible causes and potential solutions.

Aired on March 11, 2019. 

Transcript Print

>>> THE SHOCKING RESULTS OF THE
2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
SEEMED TO HAVE AWAKENED AT LEAST
SOME WITHIN AMERICA'S RULING
ELITE TO THE PROFOUND ECONOMIC
AND SOCIAL CRISES BLIGHTING MUCH
OF THE NATION.
BUT HOW DID IT COME TO THIS AND
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
IN HIS NEW BOOK, "THE ONCE AND
FUTURE WORKER," AUTHOR OREN CASS
ARGUES THAT DECADES OF BAD
POLICY HAVE SACRIFICED THE
AMERICAN WORKERS IN THE ENDLESS
PURSUIT OF RISING CONSUMPTION.
AND SAID THE NOVEL SETS A FOCUS
THAT IS THE WORK THAT IS CAPABLE
OF SUPPORTING STRONG FAMILIES
AND COMMUNITIES.
OREN CASS RIGHT NOW.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US
TODAY.
>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.
>> TELL US, WHAT IS ITS
FUNDAMENTAL ARGUMENT?
>> SURE.
THE BOOK IS ABOUT WORK AT THE
END OF THE DAY.
AND IT'S ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF
WORK, NOT JUST INDIVIDUALS, BUT
ALSO TO THEIR FAMILIES AND THEIR
COMMUNITIES.
AND THEN TO THINKING ABOUT WHERE
DOES WORK COME FROM?
I MEAN ULTIMATELY, WORK OCCURS
WITHIN THE LABOR MARKET, WHICH
IS THIS SORT OF BORING SOUNDING
ECONOMIC CONCEPT.
BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY, IT'S
THE PART OF OUR ECONOMY THAT
DETERMINES HOW MANY JOBS WE
HAVE, WHERE ARE THEY.
>> WHAT DO THEY PAY.
>> WHAT DO THEY PAY.
AND THE POLICIES THAT WE CHOOSE
HAVE HUGE INFLUENCE ON WHAT
HAPPENS IN THE LABOR MARKET.
UNFORTUNATELY, REALLY GOING BACK
TO THE 1960s, WE HAVEN'T CHOSEN
POLICIES THAT PAID ANY ATTENTION
TO THE LABOR MARKET.
WE HAD THIS IDEA THAT AS LONG AS
THE ECONOMIC PIE WAS GROWING, AS
LONG AS EVERYBODY COULD CONSUME
MORE, WE'D ALL BE HAPPY.
AND IN A SENSE, IT WORKED.
CONSUMPTION DOES KEEP GOING UP
FOR EVERYBODY.
BUT IF YOU DO THAT IN A WAY THAT
IGNORES THE LABOR MARKET, THAT
DOESN'T PAY ATTENTION TO WHO'S
WORKING AND WHETHER THEY CAN
SUPPORT FAMILY AND COMMUNITIES,
YOU CAN END UP WITH BOTH RISING
CONSUMPTION, AND AT THE SAME
TIME, REALLY BAD OUTCOMES FOR A
LOT OF FOLKS IN SOCIETY.
AND I THINK THAT'S WHAT WE'RE
SEEING.
>> AND YOU CALL THIS FOCUS ON
CONSUMPTION ECONOMIC PIETIES.
AND YOU CALL WHAT YOUR PROPOSING
PRODUCTIVE PLURALISM.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
WHAT YOU'RE PROPOSING,
PRODUCTIVE PLURALISM AND THE
ECONOMIC PIETIES?
>> SURE.
SO ECONOMIC PIETY COMES TO THIS
IDEA OF THE ECONOMIC PIE WHICH
WE'RE REALLY USED TO SORT OF
HEARING AT THIS POINT.
ALMOST EVERY PRESIDENT,
DEMOCRAT, REPUBLICAN, HAS USED
THE TERM.
"THE WALL STREET JOURNAL" AND
"NEW YORK TIMES" WERE BOTH
EDITORIALIALIZE USING THE TERM.
WELL TAKE FOR GRANTED OH, YEAH,
IF THE ECONOMY IS THIS THING AND
IF IT KEEPS GETTING BIGGER, WE
ALL GET A BIGGER SLICE, AND
THAT'S TERRIFIC.
TO STRETCH THE METAPHOR MUCH TOO
FAR, THAT IGNORES WHO IS BAKING
THE PAR.
AS LONG AS YOU ARE GETTING A BIG
ENOUGH SLICE, WHO DOESN'T LIKE
PIE THIS WE'RE ALL GOING TO BE
VERY HAPPY.
THE IDEA BEHIND PRODUCTIVE
PLURALISM IS TO SAY LOOK,
ECONOMIC GROWTH IN A GROWING PIE
IS HUGELY IMPORTANT.
RISING CONSUMPTION AND LIVING
STANDARDS IS A GREAT THING, BUT
IT'S NOT THE END ALL, BE ALL.
THE ACTUAL CORE FOUNDATIONAL
THING WE NEED TO BE FOCUSING ON
IS MORE ABOUT PRODUCTION THAN
ABOUT CONSUMPTION.
>> AND YOU SAY THAT'S THE IDEA
THAT'S KIND OF DEVELOPED OVER
THE LAST HALF CENTURY.
>> THAT'S RIGHT.
I THINK YOU SEE IT EMERGING
REALLY IN THE 1960s THERE IS A
LOT OF INTERESTING ECONOMIC
TRENDS, THE GDP IS HOW WE
MEASURE THINGS CULTURALLY TO
THIS IDEA THAT EVERYONE'S AN
INDIVIDUAL WHO IS TRYING TO MAKE
THEMSELVES HAPPY.
AND IF WE HAVE MORE STUFF, WE'LL
BE HAPPIER.
FOR A VERY LONG TIME, THERE WAS
A MUCH MORRE ROBUST SENSE OF WHT
WE WERE TRYING TO ACHIEVE AS A
SOCIETY THAT WAS NOT JUST ABOUT
CONSUMPTION.
AND IT WAS REALLY THE GREAT
DEPRESSION, I THINK, AND THE
SO-CALLED KEYNESIAN EFFORTS TO
GET OUT OF THE DEPRESSION, THIS
IDEA THAT WE NEED TO ESSENTIALLY
USE GOVERNMENT SPENDING TO SPUR
THE ECONOMY.
THAT'S WHEN WE STARTED SAYING,
WELL, LET'S MEASURE GDP, AND
THAT'S WHAT WE MEASURE.
AND THEN THE OTHER REALLY
CRITICAL FACTOR WAS WORLD WAR
II, WHICH CAME RIGHT AFTER.
WHEN YOU'RE IN A WORLD WAR, GDP,
WHO CAN MAKE THE MOST STUFF THE
FASTEST, THAT'S PRETTY
IMPORTANT.
>> BUT HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO
THOSE WHO WOULD MAKE THE
ARGUMENT AND HAVE ALREADY MADE
THE ARGUMENT THAT, LOOK, THE
SYSTEM ECONOMIC PIETY HAS
CREATED SO MUCH WEALTH FOR THIS
COUNTRY THAT EVEN THE POOREST
AMONG US HAVE GOODS AND SERVICES
THAT THE WEALTHIEST LESS THAN A
CENTURY AGO COULD ONLY DREAM OF.
AND IF YOU MONKEY AROUND WITH
THAT, WITH THE GOAL OF EXPANDING
THE PIE, YOU'RE JUST GOING TO
MAKE EVERYONE POORER IN THE LONG
RUN?
>> I THINK THERE ARE TWO THINGS
I WOULD SAY.
ONE IS WE NEED TO BE CAREFUL HOW
WE DEFINE WHETHER EVERYONE IS
REALLY BETTER OFF.
THE FACT THAT YOU CAN GET A
BIGGER FLAT SCREEN TV THAN YOU
USED TO BE ABLE TO GET IS NICE,
BUT IF YOU'RE LIVING IN A
COMMUNITY THAT IS SEEING THE
JOBS DISAPPEAR, IF YOUR OWN KIDS
HAVE LESS OPPORTUNITY, IF YOU
SEE YOUR HEALTH AND THE HEALTH
OF THOSE AROUND YOU DECLINING,
THAT'S NOT CANCELED OUT BY THE
BIGGER TV.
WE'VE SEEN NOW REALLY GOING BACK
SEVERAL DECADES IT TURNS OUT
DECLINING HEALTH, FOR INSTANCE,
PARTICULARLY AMONG LESS EDUCATED
PREDOMINANTLY WHITE AMERICANS.
>> DECLINNG LIFE SPANS.
>> NATIONWIDE WE'VE NOW SEEN
LIFE SPANS DECLINING THREE
STRAIGHT YEARS.
GIVE US A SENSE OF HOW
EXTRAORDINARY THAT IS, THE LAST
TIME THAT HAPPENED WAS 100 YEARS
AGO.
AND IT TOOK WORLD WAR I AND A
GLOBAL FOOD PANDEMIC.
>> WHAT ABOUT WHEN PEOPLE SAY
LOOK, STATISTICS SHOW IF YOU
HAVE A COLLEGE DEGREE YOU WILL
TEND TO EARN BETTER INCOME THAN
IF YOU DON'T.
SO INSTEAD OF SHAPING THE LABOR
MARKET OR THE POLICIES TO FIT
THE EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE OF
THE STRUGGLING AMERICANS, WHY
DON'T WE RISE THEM UP IN
EDUCATION BY FREE COLLEGE, FOR
EXAMPLE, OR BY REEDUCATING
WORKERS WHO HAVE LOST THEIR
INDUSTRIES?
WHY NOT?
>> THAT TRADE-OFF YOU JUST
DESCRIBED IS EXACTLY THE RIGHT
ONE TO ASK ABOUT.
ARE WE GOING TO SAY ALL RIGHT,
WE BETTER GEAR OUR ECONOMY AND
SCOTTY TO THE PEOPLE WE HAVE, OR
DO WE NEED TO FIND A WAY TO GEAR
THE PEOPLE WE HAVE TO THIS IDEA
OF THE ECONOMY IN SOCIETY?
AND IT'S NICE AND COMFORTING AND
REQUIRES NO TRADE-OFFS FORBE
ANYB IF
WE LEAVE OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM
COULD TRANSFORM EVERYBODY INTO
PEOPLE WHO GET AHEAD.
WE HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO DO THAT
AND NO EVIDENCE THAT WE CAN.
IF YOU LOOK AT THE K THROUGH 12,
WE HAVE DOUBLED WHAT WE SPENDER
PUPIL OVER THE PAST 40 YEARS.
TEST SCORES HAVEN'T MOVED.
IF YOU LOOK UP INTO HIGHER
EDUCATION, CERTAINLY WE ARE
PUSHING MORE PEOPLE IN, BUT THE
SHARE THAT ARE ACTUALLY
COMPLETING A BACHELORS ISN'T
MOVING VERY MUCH AT ALL.
IN FACT, MOST AMERICANS DON'T
EARN EVEN A COMMUNITY COLLEGE
DEGREE.
EVEN THOSE WHO EARN A COLLEGE
DEGREE, MORE THAN A THIRD END UP
IN JOBS THAT DON'T REQUIRE A
DEGREE.
>> WE'RE ALMOST OUT OF TIME.
WE BASICALLY JUST TOUCHED ON
EDUCATION.
GIVE ME ANOTHER ONE THAT IS
CRITICAL FOR US TO MOVE AWAY
FROM THIS ECONOMIC PIETY INTO
WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING AT.
>> SURE.
I THINK WHEN WE TALK ABOUT TRADE
AND IMMIGRATION AND THE WAY WE
APPROACH GLOBALIZATION, WE HAVE
TO LOOK AT IT WITH A MUCH MORE
CRITICAL EYE.
IN THEORY GLOBALIZATION CAN BE A
WONDERFUL FORCE.
MORE TRADE, MORE IMMIGRATION CAN
BE VERY GOOD FOR THE ECONOMY.
BUT IF YOU THINK IN TERMS OF
WORKERS INSTEAD OF IN TERMS OF
CONSUMERS, YOU REALIZE IT'S NOT
AUTOMATICALLY A GOOD THING.
THAT BALANCE REALLY MATTERS.
IF WE'RE GOING TO DO MORE TRADE
WITH OTHER COUNTRIES, WE NEED TO
BE MAKING MORE THINGS FOR THE
WORLD, NOT HAVE THE WORLD MAKE
MORE THINGS FOR US.
IF WE'RE GOING TO BE HAVING HIGH
LEVELS OF IMMIGRATION, IT NEEDS
TO BE THE KIND OF IMMIGRATION
THAT COMES TO THE PARTS OF THE
LABOR MARKET THAT HAS SHORTAGES
OF WORKERS, AND NOT -- IF WE
BELIEVE ONE OF OUR BIG PROBLEMS
IS RELATIVELY TOO MANY LESS
SKILLED WORKERS IN THE LABOR
MARKET, AN IMMIGRATION SYSTEM
THAT ENCOURAGES MORE LESS
SKILLED WORKERS INTO THE LABOR
MARKET IS PUSHING IN THE WRONG
DIRECTION.
>> OKAY.
WELL JUST SCRATCHED THE SURFACE
OF WHAT YOU COVER IN YOUR BOOK.
IT'S A FASCINATING BOOK, "THE
ONCE AND FUTURE WORKER."
OREN, THANK YOU SO MUCH.
>> THANK YOU.
IT WAS A GREAT CONVERSATION.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019