Published on: September 15, 2016
This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.
Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
One of the things we like to talk about here on MNB is the importance of facing reality. You have to do battle with the competition you have, not the competition you'd like to have. You can't be in denial about how things actually are ... because if you don't deal with reality, it sort of means that you're hunting for sharks and you don't have a big enough boat. (See Jaws chapter in "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies.")
I was thinking about this the other day when I saw a Reuters story about how a new US Department of Labor report revealed that there were 5.2 million jobs available in the United States last July ... which was said to be the highest level of job availability since these specific numbers started being tracked back in 2000.
Let me repeat that: There are more jobs available in the US right now than at any time in the last 16 years.
Now, I want to be clear about something. I understand that there is a lot of debate, much of it driven by politics, about the unemployment rate and the under-employment rate, and the strength and/or weakness of the US economy. It is a presidential election year, and so the debate is at a fevered pitch, made only more cacophonous by the existence of social media and 24-hour cable news, and quite frankly, I don't want to get into that part of the argument. (I'm a reasonable guy who believes in intelligent discussion, contextual thinking, nuanced judgements and equitable compromise. Clearly, I have no voting lane in this election and no place in the national debate.)
But I do want to focus on that available jobs number, and on something that one expert quoted in the Reuters story said - that when you compare the available jobs number to the number of companies laying people off (for reasons that sometimes have to do with business weakness and sometimes have to do with higher productivity through technology, among other things), what we have in this country is "one of the biggest mismatches between skills and lack of qualified help available in the nation's history."
Let's think about that mismatch. Essentially, it seems to me, the problem is that we have a lot of computer programming jobs available, and a lot of coal miners out of work. (Yes, I know I'm using a broad brush here. Stick with me for a minute.)
I'm speaking here as an interested taxpayer. Wouldn't it make sense to open a bunch of computer programming schools in coal mining communities and say to the people there who are out of work, "Hey, we're going to make it possible for you to go to school for almost no money, and we're going to do our best to help you position yourselves for the economy we're going to have, not the economy in which you grew up?" I'd be willing to see some of my tax dollars applied to that effort.
If those folks who are desperate for work and to rebuild their lives were willing to grab that opportunity, it would mean that they'd eventually land jobs that actually exist, would pay more taxes, would be able to spend more on groceries and clothing and cars and houses and educations for their children. It would expand the tax base, not just tax the existing base. And the really cool thing is, for many of the new economy jobs, they wouldn't even have to leave their communities ... little Silicon Valleys might sprout up all over the place, which would create business opportunities for supermarkets and coffee shops and all sorts of other retail.
Again, I know that I'm painting with a broad brush. The differences between available jobs and available people is not always as stark as the difference between computer programming and coal mining. But there's got to be ways to deal with reality that focus on common goals and values, as opposed to the things - some important and some not so much - that separate us.
To me, it is about building a big enough boat. The sharks are circling, and the more we are in denial, the more likely it is that we're going to get eaten.
There's that line from Craig Ostbo that I'm fond of quoting: "You're either at the table, or you're on the menu." I know what I prefer.
That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: