Pols Needs to Find Jobs

April 1, 2004
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We've all seen one of those horrible movies where the American travels abroad to a place where English isn't spoken. The American tries to communicate with a local, who can't understand him, and the tourist reacts by speaking louder. After repeated failed exchanges, the American turns away in frustration, muttering that everyone should speak English.

Speaking the same message over and over, louder each time, seems to be the method of choice for politicians this election year. Despite the data, and there is plenty of it, from groups such as the U.S. Commerce Department, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Conference Board, the Association for Manufacturing Technology, the American Machine Tool Distributors' Association, the Precision Metalforming Association and others, Democrats and perennial spoiler Ralph Nader seem intent on continuing to increase their volume that the economy is in the tank.

The real issue Democrats are hammering on is jobs-specifically, manufacturing jobs. Every ad I have seen or heard makes the claim that the candidate can restore manufacturing jobs that have left the United States. Such claims excite the candidate's audiences. But such promises sell the voters short. The problem is that such jobs are not coming back-at least not all of them.

A recent report from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) said the U.S. factory sector should generate about 250,000 jobs during 2004. NAM President Jerry Jasinowski says that it's doubtful that half of the estimated 2.8 million lost manufacturing jobs will return anytime soon.

I'll go a step further. I doubt they will ever return to manufacturing. A recent report from the Institute for Supply Management seems to bear out the idea that factory productivity is continuing to increase, for the ninth straight month, despite a limited hiring of workers.

While I am picking on the Democrats, primarily because they are the ones looking to gain power from those who have it, the Republicans aren't without blame. The Republicans, who recently discovered we have a manufacturing sector in our economy, keep insisting that a "jobless recovery" is acceptable. While this might satisfy investors and economists, it does not satisfy the thousands of voting Americans who have lost, or know someone who has lost, their jobs during this recovery.

Instead of focusing on restoring the same old jobs, which manufacturing has proven it can do without and still make a recovery, Democrats and Republicans should focus their efforts on ideas for putting people back to work in the other four-fifths of the job sectors that make up our economy. Political strategists might say such a strategy isn't as sexy as decrying jobs moving overseas. However, the campaigns will end one day, and unless the winners have learned the "language" of true job creation, instead of simply "speaking louder," frustration will continue on the part of the voters, those unemployed voters who placed their trust in them.

Do you have ideas for either party to use? Does either party have an "edge" on restoring jobs? Let me know at williamst@bnpmedia.com.

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