"The idea that education, job training, health, housing and nutrition programs are social luxuries, to be indulged in if and when the American economy is strong enough to afford them, stands the true relationship on its head. It is precisely because these programs have not been properly conceived and adequately funded that the work force is now stymied." - Robert Reich, The Next American Frontier, 1983
Reich was Bill Clinton's Secretary of Labor. He must have been very frustrated. Clinton talked about investing in "human capital" - free job training - when he ran in 92, and that was the last we heard of it. You don't get free job training from a conservative southern Democrat who is beholden to the money men.
"Insecurity born of the fear of sudden, arbitrary, and unanticipated loss - whether of job, home or health - does not inspire people to new productive feats. To the contrary, insecurities like these discourage risk taking and constrain adaptability." - Reich
I don't think Reich took into account, 19 years ago, that our rulers would simply write off manufacturing, farm it out to other countries, and make services the center of our economy. Service jobs, mostly low paid, are 80 percent of U.S. employment. Manufacturing jobs peaked in the 70s and have been declining ever since. The "deindustrialization" of America.
Reich assumed that U.S. manufacturing would have to change to be competitive, become more specialized, flexible, human. Instead it has been disappearing.
The U.S. is suffering from over-production, as it did in the 1920s. We can only absorb so much stuff - unless you want to extend affluence to the working class, which those in power do not want to do. It is, apparently, the principle of the thing. The middle and upper classes need someone to feel superior to.
Market saturation, automation and cheaper wages in other countries mean that many of us are no longer needed. In that lovely English term, we are "redundant." Reich believes in vocational training, but I'm not sure the "good" jobs are there to train people for.
Reich writes about "human capital" and the need to develop it, but I haven't seen that on the ground. What I've seen is that business wants people to do routine low-level work. A computer programmer I know tells me that if he lost his present job he would have difficulty finding another. We do have a shortage of nurses, but that's because hospitals laid them off and drove them out of the profession. Now they discover that nurses are essential after all. Who knew?
In fact, those who run this country treat their "human capital" with contempt, as if we were poor white trash. Flexibility has been attained not through training, but by turning workers into temps.
Instead of union living wage manufacturing jobs, working-class people are employed providing services to the middle and upper classes, at low wages. We are told that the "market" decides, and we should feel lucky to have these jobs.
But now some of these service jobs are being exported or taken by immigrants. Customer service call centers are being set up in India, with workers who speak English without an accent and use fake American names on the phone. Recent immigrants from Mexico, speaking English so poorly they're hard to understand, are working at the local McDonalds.