IS THE AMERICAN WORKER UNDER SEIGE?

January 10, 2020 at 5:00 am

A grim assessment of the American worker from the Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass. He discusses the possible causes and potential solutions.

Aired on January 9, 2020. 

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>>> THE SHOCKING RESULTS OF THE
2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
SEEMED TO HAVE AWAKEN AT LEAST
SOME IN AMERICA'S RULING ELITE
TO THE PROFOUND ECONOMIC AND
SOCIAL CRISES BLIGHTING MUCH OF
THE NATION.
HOW DID IT COME TO THIS AND WHAT
CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
IN HIS BOOK "THE ONCE AND FUTURE
WORKER, AUTHOR OREN CASS ARGUES
THAT BAD PUBLIC POLICY
SACRIFICED THE AMERICAN WORKER
IN THE ENDLESS PURSUIT OF
CONSUMPTION AND SETS A NOVEL SET
OF FOCUS ON THE KIND OF WORK
CAPABLE OF SUPPORTING STRONG
FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES.
THANK YOU FOR JOINS US NOW.
THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY.
>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.
>> MY INTRODUCTION DOESN'T DO
JUSTICE TO YOUR BOOK.
WHAT IS THE FUNDAMENTAL
ARGUMENT?
>> THE BOOK IS ABOUT WORK AT THE
END OF THE DAY, AND THE
IMPORTANCE OF WORK, NOT JUST
INDIVIDUALS BUT TO THEIR
FAMILIES AND COMMUNITY, AND 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 IS 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 AN IDEA AS LONG AS THE
ECONOMIC PIE WAS GROWING, AS
LONG AS EVERYBODY COULD CONSUME
MORE WE ALL WOULD BE HAPPY.
IN A SENSE IT WORKED.
CONSUMPTION DOES KEEP GOING UP
FOR EVERYBODY, BUT IF YOU DO IT
IN A WAY THAT IGNORES THE LABOR
MARKET, THAT DOESN'T PAY
ATTENTION TO WHO IS WORKING AND
WHETHER THEY CAN SUPPORT
FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES, YOU
CAN END UP WITH BOTH RISING
CONSUMPTION AND STATEMENT REALLY
BAD OUTCOMES FOR A LOT OF FOLKS
IN SOCIETY.
I THINK THAT'S WHAT WE'RE
SEEING.
>> AND YOU CALL THIS FOCUS ON
CONSUMPTION ECONOMIC PIETIES,
RIGHT?
>> UH-HUH.
>> YOU CALL WHAT YOU ARE
PROPOSING PRODUCTIVE PLURALISM.
COULD YOU ELABORATE ON THIS A
LITTLE BIT?
>> ECONOMIC PIETY COMES TO THE
IDEA OF THE ECONOMIC PIE WHICH
WE ARE ALL USED TO HEARING AT
THIS POINT.
ALMOST EVERY PRESIDENT,
DEMOCRAT, REPUBLICAN, HAS USED
THE TERM.
"WALL STREET JOURNAL" AND "THE
NEW YORK TIMES" WILL
EDITORIALIZE USING THE TERM.
WE SORT OF TAKE FOR GRANTED, OH,
YEAH, IT IS LIKE 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 TOO FAR
IT IGNORES WHO IS BAKING THE
PIE.
AS LONG AS YOU GET A BIG ENOUGH
SLICE, IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO IS
BAKING THE PIE.
WE ALL WILL BE HAPPY.
THE IDEA IS TO SAY, HEY, A
GROWING PIE IS HUGELY IMPORTANT.
RISING CONSUMPTION AND LIVING
STANDARDS IS A GREAT THING BUT
IT IS NOT THE END ALL, BE ALL.
THE CORE THING WE NEED TO FOCUS
ON IS ABOUT PRODUCTION THAN
CONSUMPTION.
>> YOU SAY THAT'S THE IDEA THAT
CENTURY?
>> THAT'S RIGHT.
I THINK YOU SEE IT EMERGING
REALLY IN THE 1960s.
THERE ARE A LOT OF INTERESTING
ECONOMIC TRENDS THAT PUSHED US
TO OUR OBSESSION WITH GDP, HOW
WE MEASURE THINGS CULTURALLY
WITH THE IDEA THAT EVERYONE IS
AN INDIVIDUAL WHO IS TRYING TO
MAKE THEMSELVES HAPPY AND IF WE
HAVE MORE STUFF WE WILL BE
HAPPIER.
FOR A LONG TIME THERE WAS A
ROBUST SENSE OF WHAT WE WERE
TRYING TO ACHIEVE AS A SOCIETY
THAT WAS NOT JUST ABOUT
CONSUMPTION.
IT WAS REALLY THE GREAT
DEPRESSION I THINK AND THE
SO-CALLED KENSIAN EFFORTS TO GET
OUT OF THE DEPRESSION.
THE IDEA WE USE GOVERNMENT
SPENDING TO SPUR THE ECONOMY.
WE STARTED SAYING LET'S MEASURE
GDP, AND THAT'S WHAT WE MEASURE.
THE CRITICAL FACTOR IS WORLD WAR
II WHICH CAME RIGHT AFTER.
WHEN YOU ARE IN A WORLD WAR,
GDP, WHO CAN MAKE THE MOST STUFF
THE FASTEST, THAT'S IMPORTANT.
>> THAT'S A GOOD WAY.
BUT HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THOSE
WHO WOULD MAKE THE ARGUMENT AND
HAVE MADE THE ARGUMENT THAT,
LOOK, THIS SYSTEM, THE 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
BUY, YOU ARE 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
BETTER OFF.
THE FACT YOU CAN GET A BIGGER
FLAT SCREEN TV THAN YOU USED TO
BE ABLE TO GET IS NICE, BUT IF
YOU ARE 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 CANCELLED OUT BY THE
BIGGER TV.
YOU KNOW, WE'VE SEEN NOW REALLY
GOING BACK SEVERAL DECADES IT
TURNS OUT DECLINING HEALTH, FOR
INSTANCE, PARTICULARLY AMONG
LESS-EDUCATED PREDOMINANTLY
WHITE AMERICANS.
>> DECLINING LIFE SPANS.
>> NATIONWIDE WE HAVE SEEN LIFE
SPANS DECLINING THREE STRAIGHT
YEARS.
TO GIVE YOU A SENSE OF HOW
EXTRAORDINARY IT IS, THE LAST
TIME IT HAPPENED WAS 100 YEARS
AGO AND IT TOOK WORLD WAR I AND
A GLOBAL FOOD PANDEMIC.
>> STATISTICS SAY IF YOU HAD A
BETTER INCOME, SO WHY DON'T WE
RISE THEM UP IN EDUCATION BY
FREE COLLEGE FOR EXAMPLE OR BY
REEDUCATING WORKERS THAT LOST
THEIR INDUSTRY.
>> WE'RE NOT.
THAT TRADE-OFF YOU JUST
DESCRIBED IS THE RIGHT ONE TO
ASK ABOUT.
ARE WE GOING TO SAY, ALL RIGHT.
WE BETTER GEAR OUR ECONOMY AND
SOCIETY TO THE PEOPLE WE HAVE OR
DO WE NEED TO FIND A WAY TO GEAR
THE PEOPLE WE HAVE TO THE IDEA
OF ECONOMY IN SOCIETY.
IT IS NICE AND COMFORTING AND
REQUIRES NO TRADE-OFFS FOR
ANYBODY IF WE BELIEVE OUR
EDUCATION SYSTEM COULD JUST
TRANSFORM EVERYBODY INTO THE
KIND OF PEOPLE WHO ARE GETTING
AHEAD.
THE REALITY IS WE HAVE NO IDEA
HOW TO DO THAT AND NO EVIDENCE
THAT WE CAN.
IF YOU LOOK AT THE K-12 SYSTEM,
WE'VE ESSENTIALLY DOUBLED WHAT
WE SPEND PER PUPIL OVER THE LAST
40 YEARS, TEST SCORES HAVEN'T
MOVED.
IN YOU LOOK INTO HIGHER
EDUCATION, CERTAINLY WE ARE
PUSHING MORE PEOPLE IN, BUT THE
SHARE ACTUALLY COMPLETING A
BACHELORS IS NOT MOVING MUCH AT
ALL.
IN FACT, MOST AMERICANS DON'T
STILL EARN A COMMUNITY COLLEGE
DEGREE.
EVEN THOSE WHO EARN A COLLEGE
DEGREE DON'T END UP IN A JOB
THAT REQUIRES A DEGREE.
>> WE ARE ALMOST OUT OF TIME.
YOU HAVE SO MANY POLICY
PROPOSALS.
YOU BASICALLY JUST TOUCHED ODE
INDICATION.
GIVE ME ANOTHER ONE THAT IS
CRITICAL FOR US TO MOVE AWAY
FROM THE ECONOMIC PIETY INTO
WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING AT.
>> SURE.
I THINK WHEN WE TALK ABOUT TRADE
AND IMMIGRATION AND THE WAY THAT
WE APPROACH GLOBALIZATION WE
HAVE TO LOOK AT IT WITH A MUCH
MORE CRITICAL EYE.
I THINK 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 IS NOT
AUTOMATICALLY A GOOD THING, THAT
BALANCE ACTUALLY REALLY MATTERS.
IF WE'RE GOING TO DO MORE TRADE
WITH OTHER COUNTRIES, WE NEED TO
BE MAKING MORE THINGS FOR THE
WORLD, NOT JUST 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.
>> WE JUST SCRATCHED THE SURFACE
OF WHAT YOU COVER IN YOUR BOOK.
IT IS A FASCINATING BOOK, "THE
ONCE AND FUTURE WORKER, A VISION
FOR THE RENEWAL OF WORK IN
AMERICA."
WARREN, THANK YOU FOR JOINING
ME.
>> THANK YOU.

Funders

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