Here in the last module of this series, I’ll spell out my beliefs on the issues of jobs, foreign policy, energy policies, American exceptionalism, and then wrap it up. If you ahve arrived here directly from a search on key words or tags, please, please, do both of us a favor and jump back to part one to read the set-up and foundation for this series. Without reading that, some of this may nor make any sense to you. Of course depending on your political orientation some of this may be preaching to the choir or set your teeth on edge but that is because I am not a party partisan, but a truly independent who thinks the country is more important than a party or its narrowly defined and self-serving platform.
Anyway, lets get this last part underway…
The most commonly trotted out reason for lack of employment is a mismatch between the needs of the employer and the skill sets of the potential employees. This convenient perspective is, amazingly, attractive to the ideologies from both the left and the right, though they see very different solutions to it.
The Atlantic (Spt 8, 20120) however offered a different view.
Dig deeper into what employers say, though, and the skills mismatch gets complicated. A 2011 employer survey from the Manufacturing Institute found that the top skill deficiency among manufacturing workers was “inadequate problem-solving skills.” No. 3 on the list was “inadequate basic employability skills (attendance timeliness, work ethic, etc.).” In the 2012 Manpower survey, 26% of employers complained about the lack of such “soft skills.” If the American workforce doesn’t show up on time or think outside the box, that may be a problem — but probably not one solved by more math, science, and technical training, the go-to remedies.
The Manpower survey also suggests another possibility. When firms were asked why they have difficulty hiring, 55% picked “lack of available applicants,” but essentially the same percentage, 54%, said candidates are “looking for more pay than is offered” (many more than the 40% selecting lack of “hard” skill). This is an important reminder that the labor market is a market. The U.S. conversation revolves around whether workers have the right skills. Whether firms are willing to pay enough to compensate workers for having acquired those skills is rarely mentioned. When firms post job openings at a certain wage and no one comes forward, we call this a skills mismatch. In a different universe, we might call it a pay mismatch.
This is, in my opinion, a product of the entitled, parasitical culture we are now raising. No one is willing to, as once was a cliché, start in the mail room and work their way up. They expect, not just want but expect, to come out of school and into the boardroom. And schools compound the problem by implying that is what should happen.
But it doesn’t end there. The Atlantic article continues…
In a new book, University of Pennsylvania business professor Peter Cappelli offers a different take, arguing that a big part of the reason American firms feel as if they can’t find qualified workers is because of overly restrictive hiring practices. Based on interviews with personnel managers and others, he describes procedures that screen out anyone without precisely the right academic qualifications, job descriptions that include so many different roles that finding one person to fill the slot is practically impossible, and employers who aren’t willing to hire people without specific past job titles, even if those people are otherwise experienced enough for the job.
That last paragraph points to a huge problem: the rise of “credentialism” that has accompanied the rise of importance of the HR department in businesses. Back “in-the-day” operations people in the areas where workers were needed would interview candidates and were able to know, pretty quickly, if they had the knowledge and skills to tackle the jobs independent of any degrees or other credentials. But as HR rose to prominence, the HR people themselves had no clue so increasingly turned to reliance on paperwork to provide the imprimatur they needed.
The result is that lots of ready and willing individuals who actually could do the job, are failing the credential screening. And the opposite happens as well; overly credentialed individuals are also turned away without thought to their situations or willingness, especially in this economy, to do the job.
Even if the operations people knew the new hires would leave if and when the economy turned around, they also knew that were getting good workers with terrific “soft skills” that, while they were there, might be more productive than a “perfect” fit as determined by credentials. I have been hired as an independent contractor/consultant to produce work for high pay and temporarily fill positions that would NOT have been offered me because my credentials did not match those determined by HR to be dispositive. What I had was a portfolio of work to look at showing I could indeed do the work and which I could show directly to the manager doing the outsourcing. But as an applicant for a job I would never have passed the initial screening through HR.
These are not problems the government can solve. They are problems of culture, parenting, schooling, and business practices and not amenable to governmental oversight. What IS subject to governmental restraints however is overall business productivity and the ability of government not to try to directly influence or create productivity, which it cannot do if it wanted to, but to stand back to allow the people who CAN increase productivity through management skills and creativity, to do their jobs and be rewarded for them. Business, per se, is not the enemy here, it is, in many ways, the solution and government can only effect them negatively through direct action and interference.
Government regulations can – operative word, “can” – provide safeguards to protect potential victims of corporate abuse. But, in typical governmental manner, a little control leads quickly to the desire for more control and quickly the regulations initially serving a good protective service become restrictive to productivity and the flexibility a business needs to survive and prosper. The problems stem from the fact that politicians, especially professional politicians, have never had a real job not run a real business. To solve that we need to return to the founders’ concepts of citizen legislators who were willing, for a very limited time, to come to Washington to help the government decide policies based on real-world knowledge and experience.
To work, if the regulation is actually a well thought out and proper regulation, it must be applied equally and cronies of the regulators cannot be allowed to “opt out” in order to curry favor and money for elections.
To solve that we need not only term limits but also major limits on the post-service benefits awarded to public “servants” that make them, understandable, anxious to remain in office. Senators, Representatives, and Presidents are important, but individually are no more important than teachers and as teachers do for a career, should be willing to serve their country for a few years at the same pay scale.
Legislators who freshly come from the world of business, workers and leaders alike, would be far more likely to understand the issues and pass or remove laws to increase production and their own career when they are shortly forced back into the private sector.
If history has shown us anything it is that Presidents are shaped by geopolitical events but do not themselves shape the events nor are they in any way in control of their happenings or their effects. In this arena Presidents are but rarely able to be other than completely reactive. Avowals of actions and approaches to the world’s situations are, and must be, scrapped in a heartbeat when reality comes knocking on their door. Only in rare instances has a President’s statements of purpose and plan survived the interaction with geopolitical reality.
So here, their campaign promises and statements even of passionately held beliefs, are of virtually no value in forecasting what will really happen during their term in office. Often it is those utterly unexpected world events that, in retrospect, define a presidency far more than their stated intentions. So here I think we are better off looking to their core character and see their beliefs not from the standpoint of what they will initiate, but rather, how they will react when the other players on the world’s stage go off the rails.
Even there we are admittedly on shaky grounds since most of us are quite ignorant of the totality of realities surrounding world players and events. What drives them to act? What limits them and us to act? What are the impact and influence of local and regional geography and history? What do the actors on this wide stage believe about each other whether true or not? What are the likely ripple effects of made and lost connections between nation-states is information few of us are in a position to know or even evaluate in an informed way.
The only data left open to us, and even that is not always predictive, is the character and avowed positions of the candidates going through a process well known for its hyperbole and cavalier attachment to the truth. If, however, we can look back over that candidate’s life, review those individuals and the events and people in their lives that influenced them, what their record of actions and writings reveals vis-à-vis what they would like to have happen, we can perhaps come close to being able to predict their responses even if we can never do so with infallibility.
My personal belief is that it is, in too many cases, the unintentional consequences of our foreign meddling that has created so much discord. Therefore I believe we should stop it all cold turkey. For one year, there should be an absolute moratorium on all foreign aid with that money being applied to domestic issues where we really need them. Then, after other countries have seen the value of our aid based on the sudden loss of it, even if it is just to feed the corrupted coffers of the local tyrant, we can now review it and determine future aid, if any, based on what truly best serves our own long term interests.
But not a penny should go to countries that openly or clandestinely work against our interests or support terror groups that do it as surrogates. We should not be in the business of facilitating and perpetuating tyranny and we don’t have to.
Some say we need to do that to guarantee energy supplies. But I beg to differ as noted below. If we make sure we truly have a military that no other nation-state or player in the world could attack without the very real likelihood of near instant destruction, we need worry about nothing but rebuilding our own country. If a Nation-State understood clearly that any proxy action would be deemed an action by them directly and receive the same cataclysmic response, it would make the world a safer place. For all of the talk of martyrdom, the ego-ridden leadership actually wants OTHERS to be martyrs for them, not the other way around.
We should be happy and open to legitimate trade. An enlightened mercantile country depends on other successful places with which to trade. If other places wish to hack their own people into spaghetti out of pure evil, that is none of our business unless and until they put a toe over the line. And then, without warning or hesitation, we should cut those toes off and then go home.
What a can of political worms we have allowed this topic to become. With righteous self flagellation we have crippled our own ability to be free of all foreign influence and dependence… and basically we have done it for no discernable reward.
We have within the territorial limits of our country, more petroleum reserves than in all of the middle east but we are simply sitting on it. I could understand that as a short sighted bit of self interest (let them run out before tapping into our own) but that totally ignores the problems of international politics if they DO completely run out and we have the goodies the whole world wants and needs. Talk about setting us up to become an isolated target. Whoa.
So here is what I would propose.
1. I would create an energy commission that included top scientists in the energy field, energy producers, manufacturers of goods that require energy for power and for constituent parts, along with environmental scientists. And to that commission I would issue the following charge and back it, as much as possible, with funds but mostly try to appeal to their ethics and interests as Americans. I would expect them to work within the business structures from which they come and would not set up a new bureaucracy to run it.
2. I would, just as JFK did for aerospace, set a target for the creation of alternative energy to replace all but component needs of fossil fuels and at a rate equal or lower to that of fossil fuels within 20 years.
3. Exploration and extraction of all types of fossil fuels within our territorial borders would commence with a goal of being completely free of the need for so much as an ounce of oil from any foreign country in 5 years.
4. Environmental scientists would work WITH energy producers so that the extraction and transportation procedures had a minimal effect on the environment and at such time as we could cut back because of viable alternative energy sources coming on line, those sources of fossil fuels could be capped and their remaining reservoirs saved with the areas brought back to a natural state as much as possible.
5. Manufacturers of vehicles of all types would be required to work together with engineers and scientists to work toward a goal of maximum elimination of vehicle created pollutants in 15 years at a cost that did not significantly increase the cost of the vehicles nor increase pollution during the manufacturing process just to eliminate it on the back end. It requires a certain amount of energy to move a given mass with given aerodynamics at a given velocity. There is no escaping that. The goal is to make that required energy total as efficient and as clean as possible.
6. Manufacturers of products using petroleum by-products, such as plastic and other synthetic materials would be tasked with maximizing the production of materials not relying on petroleum products in 20 years.
I believe if we did that we would see a panicked OPEC drop prices immediately anyway but we should remain dedicated to the end goal and never waver from it.
There was a time when Americans were indeed exceptional. There was a fire in their bellies that drove them to create an incredibly positive and powerful nation-state out of a virtual wilderness. We granted more patents and made more scientific discoveries than any other place on the planet. We were the ones to explore the depths of the oceans and walk on the moon. We created an economy that was the model and guide for the rest of the world. We became, finally, the only remaining superpower. In spite of the scars and occasional lapses into ill conceived or downright evil actions, the sum total of our actions added up to something uniquely positive and powerful that was a beacon for the world. The operative word here is, “was” and that is as inexcusable as it is tragic.
To a very large degree Americans and America were able to become exceptional because as a people we believed that we were. As our rivals reached but fell short, again, it was to in some part because THEY did NOT believe it for themselves. Both the winners and losers were the product of self-fulfilling prophesies about themselves. It had nothing to do with national rhetoric or propaganda, but about individuals’ inner feelings for themselves and the collective of themselves they called their country.
But with that exceptional stand comes exceptional responsibilities. As the political and philosophical winds changed, we grew increasingly unable to meet those responsibilities and now, fulfilling our own growing feeling about ourselves, our once great exceptional qualities are evaporating. And we are causing it ourselves. We are capable, as a people, of great good or great evil. The direction will depend on our feelings about ourselves and our place in the world.
If we return to seeing ourselves as a beacon to the world, exemplified by the Statue of Libery, we have a potential for great good. If we slip into seeing ourselves as simply a great power with the world at out feet we are capable of great evil. But when we devolve into seeing ourselves as being, individually and collectively, as just like any other country including countries where stone-age savagery is the norm, where women are killed for thinking and bettering themselves, where major contributions are bribery, corruption, and ego-driven machisimo, then we will fade into a distant memory and be of no value to others or to ourselves.
I see that dark place as, under liberal leadership, where now we are headed. I am opposed to it. When we reach a point where we are afraid to or unable to identify and reject evil wherever we see it, a state I see us approaching, then we are truly lost.
So, there you have it. A summation of my beliefs on many of the topics that I think may be at play in this coming election. Those beliefs will find opponents in ALL of the current parties involved. I claim none of them to house my personal belief structure. Unfortunately, I am left, as I have been for some time now, forcing my vote to go for the least abhorrent to me; not someone I am confident in, believe in completely, or even mostly. What remains is the lesser, even though not by much, of two bad choices. Adding to the confusion is the reality that one of those choices offers a well known and consistent political philosophy that I do oppose almost in its entirety but the other is a far greater unknown since he seems to have vacillated on so many issues depending on the needs of the moment. I trust the former but to do things I will really despise. I do not trust the latter at all, but that leaves room for a potential surprise to the good side so that is how I will vote. But it leaves me sad to think how far we have fallen as a country when these are the choices trotted out for us.
There is nothing exceptional about either in terms of the direction America in its glory was headed. But, in my view, one will gleefully and purposefully lead us to ruin so he can transform us into his own vision. I cannot support that because I do not support the vision. The other may simply buy us some time to find the people we really need, but I would rather, as a country, tread water than slip under the surface being pulled down by the sharks of a world view that will destroy us and what little is left of our spirit.
How the Hell did we ever reach such a point? The answer is that too many of us got wrapped up in our own worlds and took our eyes off of the bigger ball that was the country and its directions. Promised goodies and freebies or selective help to un-level the playing fields in our favors we fell prey to crony capitalism and with it an opening to destroy capitalism altogether and gave rise to the parasitical generation of takers and users. At its base it is not a political problem but an ethical and moral one.
We were told by the founders that the form of government they gave us would only work under a highly moral and ethical citizenry. And as they predicted, when that based lost its way, the government, the government OF those people, has lost its way too.