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Saving the House: Grassroots to the Rescue

by: DocJess

Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 06:45:09 AM EDT

Yesterday, chatter started early in the morning with Mike Allen's Playbook that "highly placed Democratic operatives" were convinced the House is gone come November. This was repeated throughout the MSM during the day and evening. The "operatives" were never named.

In a few hours, the GDP numbers for second quarter are due to come out, and they're expected to be devastating. This on top of bad housing and consumables numbers earlier this week. So much for "recovery summer." Bad for the home team.

If the House is gone, what will the GOP do once John Boehner is Majority Leader? Will they try to fix the economy? Nope. Will they extend Tier 5 benefits? No. Will they actually try to make government smaller, as the teabag candidates are promising? Not a chance. What they'll do is to launch all sorts of investigations to punish Democrats, find new tax programs to soak the middle class while giving dollars on top of more dollars to the rich, and will work to stop anything of worth that the Senate or Administration might attempt to do. Finally, they'll endeavor to do anything they can to eviscerate even more of the Constitution than the Bushies had time to get to. 


Therefore, this is the time to get up and organize. Yes you. The people who don't knock doors and make phone calls - we need you.  Make it a point to call one person a day: or just 7 a week. Friends, family members, neighbors, your kids' friends' parents - tell them how important it is to not let the House go down. (And to vote for the correct Senate candidate, too.) You think that so little an effort won't matter, but it will. It's grassroots, and it will make a difference. Remind them that this economy is the FAULT of the Republicans, and doing the same thing and expecting the same result is the definition of both stupidity and insanity. Convince them to make that one phone call a day.

If we don't do this, not only will we lose the House, but we'll deserve to lose the House.

Before joining DCW in the spring of 2008, I used to send a morning email to about 600 people, which was passed to more people than that. I had started that in 2000. A lot of you reading this have been reading me for a decade. Over that time, I've asked you to contribute to various charities, to get out and vote, to get your kids registered, to join with local organizations and work to get people elected. Some pleas were heeded, and some fell flat. But if I can't get you to make a few phone calls, and you stay home on election day along with everyone else, then the teabaggers win.

I know you're discouraged. I know you're disappointed. Angry. Recently impoverished. Scared.

Get up, get out, and do it anyway.

Need a phone list, a local contact, a script, more information? Drop an email to the demconwatch email address in the left side bar. Put in your phone number if you want me to call you.

This is the little blonde girl saying: please, PLEASE, help me save my world. The stakes are too high to stay silent. And yes, we can.

Together we certainly can. 

DocJess :: Saving the House: Grassroots to the Rescue

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we will! i have been going round and round with some of my fellow dem activis (0.00 / 0)
and not quite activists, but involved fla progressives, try ing to get them to see that if we stand up and fight we can have a real dem in the senate from fla, not just a sometimes, if i feel like dem called charlie crist.

i will start hammering the same crew, to help make calls and GOTV in crucial House districts (mine is safe dem, but i can work in others!)

any list of the most at risk house seats so those of us in safe districts can focus our energy where it is needed?

House seats (0.00 / 0)
Use the House Forecast to find at risk seats.

[ Parent ]
It depends on where you live... (0.00 / 0)
You live in Florida, and the best thing you can do is support Kendrick Meek this year. With people who don't generally vote, or follow things until the last week, the sooner you get them on board the more likely they'll vote. One of the things you can do is to get a stack of both English and Spanish voter registration forms, a clipboard, and some pens and then make sure that wherever you go, people are registered. (That includes every waiter, supermarket checker, people on line, etc.)  Take their completed forms. Write down the names and phone numbers of the people who registered and call them a month later to make sure they received their card.

Enlist your neighbors: make sure they're going to vote. If you don't know your neighbors or don't walk your neighborhood, get a dog, and people will want to pet the dog, and you can steer the conversation. While you're at it, go to the dog park, you can register a lot of people there. Make sure your neighbors reach out to their families and friends.

Want to do more? Offer to the local high school that you'd like to come in and talk to the civics/American History/Social Studies classes about the Constitution and political process - kids talk to their parents....

We're about 70 days out, and the ads are starting on TV so people will start gearing up. Make the time to watch the local news at dinner time to see the ads and therefore know what lies need to be fought, so you can be prepared.

Local politics always works best. But I'll be putting up lists for people who live in pure red districts and can use their time more wisely.

Remember - 5 touches = 1 sure vote.

[ Parent ]
GDP (0.00 / 0)
Not to distract from the admirable point of this post, but the GDP numbers this morning were better than expected. In a surprise, "real personal consumption expenditures"--i.e. what people spend on stuff, corrected for inflation--was revised upward to a greater increase than in the first quarter...the consumer actually held up!

Of course, as expected, the overall number is a revision that lowers the initial estimate (although doesn't lower it as much as expected) and the 2nd quarter overall number is lower than the 1st quarter. Why? Two reasons: we imported more (which counts as a negative) and inventories were no longer being rebuilt.

Neither of those reasons are really negative signs for the recovery. Buying more imports is both a natural response to a stronger dollar and a sign that there's some life in the economy, and inventories are stuff sitting around not accomplishing anything.

While it's confusing to describe a revision to a previous quarter's data in comparison to expectations as "good" or "bad," we should feel a little better about the economy now than we did an hour ago.

The initial MSM headlines this morning are negative, but I'm guessing that changes by the end of the day. It looks to me like they had stories ready to go when the numbers were released, and they aren't yet reacting to the information that, while revised downward, they are considerably better than expected.

Again Scott? (0.00 / 0)
You and I read the same numbers....but WOW are our interpretations diametrically opposed!

Revised second-quarter US GDP (gross domestic product) figures released this morning by the Commerce Department show the economy grew at a much weaker than expected pace in the second quarter of 2010.

The nation's output of goods and services rose at an annual rate of only 1.6% in the quarter ended June 30. That's a significant drop from the 3.7% annual rate of GDP growth in the first quarter.

The bulk of the GDP increase for the quarter came from increased government spending at all levels and nonresidential building construction. Personal consumption also rose, but so did imports, which are a subtraction from the GDP.

From the Feds:

The deceleration in real GDP in the second quarter primarily reflected a sharp acceleration in imports and a sharp deceleration in private inventory investment that were partly offset by an upturn in residential fixed investment, an acceleration in nonresidential fixed investment, an upturn in state and local government spending, and an acceleration in federal government spending.

Increased imports are NOT GOOD -- not only do they increase our trade deficit, but it means fewer American jobs. Further, the big arena is the government spending -- you could refer to your "Read This" post of yesterday...it was the stimulus funds.

No matter how you look at it, things TANKED second quarter.

I see no good news here.  

[ Parent ]
The numbers (0.00 / 0)
Well, here's one of the fundamental differences in how we're looking at things. To me, imports are not bad, at least in our current predicament. A healthier world economy is good for us. It doesn't mean fewer American jobs--not with the way that economies have become interdependent now. For one thing, there's a lot more jobs--not all of which are low-paying--involved in distribution, retail, and support than in manufacturing. If we're buying more German cars, Japanese electronics, or Chinese appliances that still means people will have work transporting, marketing, selling, insuring, servicing, and teaching people how to use them.

I've been saying for a while that this is going to be the kind of recovery that we haven't seen for a long time, because it's going to be the rest of the world that pulls us out of it, rather than the other way around.

As far as the relative components, let's lay the figures out:

Residential housing +27.2% (1st quarter: -12.3%)
Equipment and software +24.9% (1Q: +20.4%)
Exports +9.1% (1Q: +11.4%)
Federal spending/investment +9.1% (1Q: +1.8%)
Personal consumption +2.0% (1Q: +1.9%)
State/local +1.2% (1Q: -3.8%)
Inventories: +0.6% (1Q: +2.6%)
Nonresidential building +0.4% (1Q: -17.8%)
Imports +32.4% (1Q: +11.2%) (Note that imports are counted as a negative)

So yes, the stimulus is in there. And one giant chunk was housing, which is also stimulus related because of the tax credit, and which will fall off a cliff in the third quarter.

But equipment and software is undergoing a screamingly rapid recovery, which was accelerating in the 2nd quarter. And in a surprise, personal consumption held up, although it's at an admittedly tepid pace. Exports continued to grow at a rate that would be associated with a rapid recovery, although slightly more slowly than in the first quarter.

Imports were a huge drag, and is responsible for a heck of a lot of the drop in the headline number.

Most of this we knew before the numbers came out this morning. But we didn't know that personal consumption held up; forecasts were for the rate of increase to slow significantly. And the headline number was better than forecast as well.

Now the third quarter--the one we're in--is a different matter. The recovery has stalled, and we don't know yet whether it will tip over into a double-dip, remain anemic, or reaccelerate in September. So I don't want to paint things as rosier than they are.

But they do look a bit better now than they did three hours ago.

[ Parent ]
The Jobs Thing.... (0.00 / 0)
I think this is our fundamental difference, and has been over the totality of the recession. I believe there is NOTHING more important than getting the unemployment rate down to 5% with actual paying jobs with benefits.

As for that huge equipment and software expenditure listing -- most of that was spent on equipment that needed to be replaced in 2008/2009 but which the companies could not afford. Much of the equipment does not cause any additional hiring, and in many cases causes additional layoffs. You won't see it continue much longer.

As for software -- I was involved in the second quarter in a software project. It was supposed to be a software that had all sorts of patient-information-safety protections, replaced a lot of manual programs that allowed for better access to patient medical and financial data, quicker claim filing, all sorts of good things. The software itself was very expensive to the hospital. All of us involved in the installation, implementation, roll-out and training related to it were assured of all the great benefits. It's two months after the project ended and fully 80% of the support staff at the hospital related to financial services and customer support affected by this software package have been laid off. To afford the software, not only were people laid off, but the entire IT department (save 2 people) was outsourced. Over time, it means that claims will be quicker, but if there is an error, it will take much longer to fix because a patient can no longer call in and talk to someone, they can only leave a message or talk to the automated system. If a patient order is improperly coded, it will be much easier for them to get the wrong medication or surgical procedure. But hell, per the numbers, what a GREAT investment.

And as for that personal consumption number -- think iPad and Android. Two HUGE sellers. As were video games: as people spend less on entertainment at venues, they pay for more at home.

In the third quarter, I'll show up as "personal expenditure" spender. $15,000 worth. That's what it cost to fix the snow damage on my house. This winter, in the northeast and mid-Atlantic there were huge snow damage claims and flooding claims. It's homeowners that write those checks to the stores and contractors for goods and services. My contractor has told me that they are incredibly busy on these "small" jobs - about 99% due to weather damage. Hopefully non-sustainable as we're hoping for fewer storms this winter.

And as for the third quarter -- my belief is the best possible is a double-dip. The other choice being worse.

And it breaks my heart that a guy like candidate Obama who stayed on message every day for two years isn't yelling "JOBS, JOBS, JOBS" every day. It's the only thing he can do to help keep the Hill.....

[ Parent ]
doc, you are pretty smart, but... (0.00 / 0)
most economists are not expecting a double dip, only a slowing in growth, which frustrating to watch, but is still an upward trend, look for the parabola to begin to speed up the recovery as it snow balls, we came in sharp, then flattened up going downward, had a little bump, due to stimulus and inventory restock, but are basically in a flat but slightly upward curve now, as the underpinnings of the fiscal policy of the last 18 months begins to shore up markets and confidence, personal consumption will continue to grow and then job growth has to follow, then more personal spending as the fear goes out of the market, i am betting about 2014 inflation will be our biggest problem, but until then, i think we are in for a year or two of painfully slow growth, not a double dip, and i think if you read most of the folks who know a lot more about economics, you will find they generally agree with this projection.


[ Parent ]
The economists have been consistently WRONG... (0.00 / 0)
Really wrong. Except the contrarians, who are NOT in agreement with the mainstream economists.

Look at the stimulus program: the idea was that implementation would take unemployment down, and instead, it has gone up, and shows no signs of moving downward. Without jobs, there is no structural underpinning to allow for actual growth.

Look at housing: with the $8,000/$6,500 tax credits, there were sales, but still prices went downward in some markets, and stayed stable or barely rose in those areas less affected by the bubble. One in ten homeowners is in danger of facing foreclosure over the next year. About a third of houses sold (more in markets like Phoenix and Vegas and large swaths of California) are distressed (short sales or foreclosures) which has a negative affect on overall prices.

I'm just going to keep saying it: jobs, jobs, jobs. No matter how you couch "growth" until the unemployment rate, ESPECIALLY U6 comes down, it's all specious.

And this isn't a matter of "smart" -- this is a matter of wait and see. If come January, unemployment is still up (or higher than now), it won't be a double dip, it will be a full blown depression.  

[ Parent ]
Employment recovery IS occurring...but slowly (0.00 / 0)
Look at the stimulus program: the idea was that implementation would take unemployment down, and instead, it has gone up, and shows no signs of moving downward. Without jobs, there is no structural underpinning to allow for actual growth.

The much maligned forecast that Romer made in 2009 suggested that with the stimulus plan unemployment would go up, although that it would stay under 8% (of course, to be fair, that was under the original stimulus plan, which was reduced somewhat in the legislative process). The Romer forecast showed a peak in the third quarter of 2009 and then a very gradual decrease through the end of 2011, followed by a somewhat more rapid decrease. The decrease from the peak through the end of 2011 would only total about one and a half percentage points.

So what actually happened? The peak occurred near the start of the fourth quarter of 2009, pretty much when Romer forecast it would, although the level was more than two points higher. From there it has dropped half a point, which is quite close to what Romer forecast for the drop. It is just not true that it has shown no signs of moving downward.

As for U-6, it has also dropped. The peak of 17.4% was in October 2009, and it is now at 16.5%, meaning it is dropping in step with the headline number.

Much as its painful to climb slowly out of so deep a hole, except for the severity of the freefall in early 2009 the recovery has gone pretty much according to Administration forecasts.

I don't know whether Upland is right or you're right about the future. We're in a pause right now, and what happens from here is not clear to me. But at least up through this point we've been recovering in a fairly typical fashion, including in terms of employment.

[ Parent ]
Key word (0.00 / 0)

But you don't so much fast growth that it causes inflation or other problems. I remember from 2009 that this Administration said that the recovery was going to be slow, and that a slower recovery would mean a more sustainable recovery.

I still expected a bigger "reset" of the overall picture. Salaries and Benefits could not be maintained at the pace they were going. That along with the manipulated Stock Market and the false Housing Markets that both popped, there are more segments to recover than in a normal recession.

The problem is that politicians like to "play" to numbers and the public polls instead of telling it like it is. The media has distorted things to gin up controversy, because controversy gives them increased viewership and profits.

Politicians need to be pushing a Buy American To Help America Recover platform instead of blaming other politicians for the mess the Country was in. And that is something that many grass root folks could get behind. The USA is still the #1 manufacturing/producing country in the world, but many folks don't know that. China is getting close though.

[ Parent ]
Specious -- (0.00 / 0)
To look at unemployment is not to look at what the administration or the professional economists said, but to look at two different things:

1. Employment rate recovery relative to other recessions and,
2. The possibility of EVER approaching full employment again.

So, here http://www.miseryindex.us/urby... is a look at historical unemployment rates. The full rate for 2009 was 9.26, less than this month's 9.5. (They use a variety of sources). It's from the misery index.

Here's another chart to play with: http://www.tradingeconomics.co...

Point of both is that while we don't know what the rate is for 2010 yet, it will likely annualize to HIGHER than 2009.  Any single month of economic stats doesn't count for anything much, especially the current and most previous month as they often get revised.

And that's U3.

U6 is likely higher than the stats indicate. (Yes, I know, that's all we have.) Higher because of the methodology used to calculate it.

So on to point 2: in prior recessions, jobs came BACK. There were layoffs, and then people were called back, or found other jobs. Now, a lot of the jobs are GONE in a way that they haven't been since the buggy makers lost their jobs to that horseless carriage deal. There was some permanent job loss in the first Reagan recession due to losses in manufacturing, but that was on the tip of the iceberg of off-shoring, a term that didn't actually exist in the early 1980's. What occurred after the 80's was the growth of tech. Partially a bubble, for sure, but nonetheless a job creator.

The job losses in this recession are NOT coming back, which means that unless and until there is a new field that didn't exist before, or a huge growth in some area that is unexpected. An example is those education dollars that are supposed to bring the tens of thousands of laid off teachers back? NOT going to happen. First, the funds won't be released until at least October. Second, as per the article in my dead tree edition of USA Today, most school districts are holding the money for next year (which is legit) to prevent even more layoffs.

We're off-shoring everything possible. The largest private employer in the country is Wal-Mart, and they just appealed the class action suit to the Supremes. If Wal-Mart loses, they will have to pay billions (with a b) since the suit relates to underpaying women, and covers a class going back to all female employees who worked there in 1998 (or 1999, I can't remember). While I believe that they'll be found culpable, AGAIN, the cost will be huge in terms of the costs they'll charge for goods to be able to pay the judgement. Wal-Mart is where a lot of people shop because that's what they can afford. What happens if they can't even afford the Wal-Mart? What does it say that they employ so many more people than any manufacturer?

A lot of the "jobs" that are keeping the unemployment rate from rising are part time, or more than part time but less than full time, often pay less than people were making at their prior jobs, and often lack benefits. If someone is say, a lawyer or a college professor or an engineer who is laid off and gets a full time job at the Wal-Mart the effect on the unemployment rate is good, but sucks for the person and for the economy as that person can't buy earning $14,400/year what he could at $80,000/year.

Scott, you think the numbers are dropping, but the statistical trend lines aren't really looking that way....but as I said earlier, time will tell.  

[ Parent ]
well, way back in 1984, one of my favorite philosophers said: (0.00 / 0)
Now Main Street's whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain't nobody
Wants to come down here no more
They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys
And they ain't coming back to your hometown
Your hometown
Your hometown
Your hometown

folks said it everytime when have a bad recession, and in a sense , they are always right, but in another, they are always wrong.

look at the months out and job creation of the 10 worst recessions/depressions, and one will find there are flat spots like this in most of them about this point. new jobs will be created, things are getting better, almost just because they arent getting worse.

if we get to 7% unemployment, we will be in a roaring recovery.  

[ Parent ]
Bruce... (0.00 / 0)
I'm going with Allentown -- which is NEVER coming back....and it's too bad.

See #9 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

[ Parent ]
Billy... (0.00 / 0)
Well we're waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found
For the promises our teachers gave
If we worked hard
If we behaved

So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never really helped us at all
No they never taught us what was real
Iron or coke,
Chromium steel.

And we're waiting here in Allentown.
But they've taken all the coal from the ground
And the union people crawled away...

Some cities, like Pittsburgh, come back. Others, like Buffalo, don't.

Part of the difference, I think, is understanding that industries do go away, and that it's necessary to try to figure out how to move forward.

In the Great Depression, we went through that, but it was the family farm that went away, and many of the children of farmers became those unionized suburbanites working in factories that we think of from the 50's.

In the 80's, we went through that, and it was those unionized manufacturing jobs that went away, and we became a service and information economy. Many of the children of the factory workers went to Wall Street or real estate or dot coms.

Now, it's those jobs that are going away. Construction is hurting more, but it will come back some day. But real estate agents? With people doing so much on the web, we don't need as many of them anymore. Ditto brokers. Remember travel agents? Those are the jobs that are never coming back.

And what will the next generation move to? I'm not positive, but if I had to say I'd guess it's the micro-business. The line farmer to factory worker to broker is a story of skilled jobs that don't require capital or much traditional education. Nowadays that's the personal trainer, or the fashion consultant, or the the business consultant. As unions made factory hell jobs into good jobs, I suspect that we may find a way to provide some reasonable safety net to these entrepreneurs.

Of course, there are still family farms, and there are still factory workers, and there are still real estate agents. And it will be good when, for instance, green industries provide some manufacturing jobs. But that's not where the job base is, and not where it's been for years. We have to figure out how to move forward, and to do it without destroying people in the process. Otherwise, the whole country will be Allentown.

[ Parent ]
Yup on Billy, Nope on Farmers (0.00 / 0)
I own all the albums, but once again was failed by detail name memory.

HOWEVER -- factory workers didn't become real estate brokers. And factory workers of a generation ago can't necessarily become the factory workers of today.

And personal trainers, fashion and business consultants do not an economy make.

We are agreed that the whole country could end up Allentown. It's why we need a true industrial policy: jobs that most people can do that jigsaw together and create other jobs. I believe we know how, we just lack the political will to implement.

First, we need to reform the tax code so that it is no longer a benefit for companies to outsource. I know that sounds reactionary and protectionist, but the bottom line is that people need THINGS not most services. Take the personal trainer you mentioned. Unless your trainer is strictly the boot camp, to use a trainer, you'll need bands and mats and weights and machines: all of which need to be manufactured. Further, you can use the 'stuff' without a trainer. If someone is seriously injured, they certainly need a physical therapist to help re-learn how to use a limb, or a prosthetic limb, or re-set brain function. BUT - "personal trainers" are a luxury item. Wal-Mart workers, for example, can't afford the $75/hour. The bottom line is that we need to MAKE THINGS.

Things that people need, boring things. Toilet paper and tampons and sheets and towels and underwear and blue jeans. Drinking glasses and eye glasses. Things people use every day and don't think twice about. Things that people need to buy over and over.

Second, we need to pump up our educational system. In terms of academics, we are an abject failure. I heard recently that compared to other countries, our math scores are dead last. And we cannot do ANYTHING without math. Those factory jobs are no longer putting the top on an aerosol can, it's being able to work computer programs.

Further, it's not just pure academics, but vocational programs. We need plumbers and electricians and carpenters and auto mechanics.

Third, we need to learn to respect work again. That is, we need to cease putting sports and entertainment ahead of actual work.  

[ Parent ]
"Things" (0.00 / 0)
I feel about "making things" somewhat as you do about owning houses. The "solidness" of making things is a made-up 1950's value. In the transition from the farm to the factory, factory work was initially looked down upon. It wasn't "connected to the land," you worked for someone else, and you didn't see a project through start to finish. But the views of society adjusted.

Take the things that people "need." First of all, we can make those very efficiently now. Whether they're made in China using cheap labor or here or in Japan using cheap robots, it's easy to make enough stuff for everyone now, just as it's easy to grow enough food for everyone. (The fact that there are still people who go hungry is a scandal, but it's not due to lack of production!) But the stuff we think we need now was a luxury, or even silly, a few generations ago. Sheets and towels and underwear and blue jeans and drinking glasses? How many of each does the typical person own now, compared to fifty years ago? And then we have "designer" versions of each of those things, which lots and lots of people buy. Too much of a necessity is as much a luxury as anything, and if we all bought only what we needed, there would be very little need for anyone--anywhere in the world--to "make things."

Economies where people don't work haven't been successful; people seem to need to have something to do. So any economy now has to be built on luxuries--perhaps luxuries that come to be seen as necessities. Those luxuries can be things, like TV's and bottled water and mcmansions and designer jeans and extra pairs of underwear and boutique soap and cell phones. But they can also be services of various kinds.

The advantage of services is that they don't have the dire environmental and geopolitical consequences of things. All those drinking glasses and jeans take energy and raw materials to produce, and more energy to transport. If we keep scrambling to make more and more items which wear out or go out of fashion then we'll "take all the coal from the ground."

I've been thinking for a while about putting together a post showing what "good jobs" are in the US nowadays, using BLS statistics. Hopefully at some point I'll get around to it, but the short version is that the bulk of good jobs are now service oriented in some way and also require considerable education--RN's and schoolteachers are in far more demand than guys who work the assembly line.

[ Parent ]
I need an example - (0.00 / 0)
What economy where people don't work has been successful?

As for things -- perhaps I shouldn't have put "drinking glasses" on the list -- but the rest of the list (Toilet paper and tampons and sheets and towels and underwear and blue jeans and eye glasses) ARE things that people use every day, and that are either disposable or need replacing on a regular basis.

A lot of necessary things that people buy are not an issue of style or fashion, but necessity. For example, many diabetics need multiple pairs of glasses based on changing vision needs on a daily basis. Many other people need new lenses every year. Children normally need new clothes and shoes every year because they outgrow them. I bought a new set of glasses yesterday, which you will not consider a necessity, because it would be nice (I thought) that if there were 6 people here, they could all drink out of matching glasses, none of which sport the Evil Grimace....and my glasses (or what were left of them) were about 25 years old.

It doesn't mean that things get thrown out: my old glasses, for example, will be used for plant cuttings and as tealight holders. Clothes can be handed down or donated. Eye glasses can also be used by other people (there's a big program for that. http://charityguide.org/volunt...

The difference between your perspective and mine is that I believe that the most important thing is to manufacture/produce those goods HERE so that people have jobs and therefore money to buy them.

You can post on the best jobs, but the biggest issues are: first, the 6 people who exist for each open position, and second, the fact that most Americans cannot qualify for a lot of the jobs on the BLS list as they require all sorts of education and skill levels that most Americans do not possess. There need to be jobs for the millions of Americans who will never be able to qualify for the high-tech, well-educated jobs.

Finally, China. There is a real problem coming with them. They own much of our foreign debt, plus they produce goods that are substandard (think lead poisoning, other toxins, fake medications, etc.).

[ Parent ]
If everyone in the US lived like you... (0.00 / 0)
...there would be even less demand for things than there is. At one point I know you calculated your carbon footprint, and for an American it was tiny. We want people to donate clothes, use old glasses for tealight holders instead of buying them, use cloth napkins instead of paper, take mass transit instead of buying a second car, and all the rest. But of course if we succeed in doing that, we also decrease the demand for things.

I'm quite certain that making the stuff we need won't support very many jobs, even if we weren't importing from the rest of the world; "yankee ingenuity" has just made us too good at it. We could intentionally use outdated methods that require more people and close off most trade with the rest of the world, but that makes us a kind of national version of the Amish lifestyle. (Sure, maybe we chose a different moment of history to freeze at, but the idea is the same.)

As for education, you're quite right that it's increasingly necessary. But "millions of Americans who will never be able to qualify for the high-tech, well-educated jobs"? Why should we just accept that? We have done very well relative to the rest of the world in creating a culture where going back to school is accepted, whether you're 30 or 60. There's still age discrimination, and it needs to be fought vigorously, but it's less than in almost any other country.

So, two questions arise:

1) Is it easier to create programs that get people the skills they need to fill the jobs that are in demand, or is it easier to create jobs programs that generate the jobs that fit the skills they have?

2) Which of the above routes is more desirable for the people involved and for the nation?

[ Parent ]
OUCH!!! (0.00 / 0)
In my own defense, I've been buying A LOT of things lately. Having a small carbon footprint does not mean that fewer things get bought, it means that there is money to buy other things.

As for your questions, I believe that the answer is to first accept that different people have different skill sets. Some outgoing people are great at sales, but would shrivel if they had to code 12 hours a day. You teach, which takes not only the smarts to truly understand a subject area, but to be able to successfully impart that knowledge. Some people struggle to be able to work a cash register, or stock shelves or do other jobs that other people would consider boring.

There are a lot of failing training programs right now. For example, one in Ohio trains displaced factory workers to drive semi-trucks. Problem? No trucking jobs. Part of the issue HAS to be training programs for jobs that exist.

But the larger issue is what kinds of jobs to create. You mentioned the other day that you think Obama could be the environmental president. And green jobs are a possibility.

One suggestion for that is one Eliot Spitzer made in the spring of 2009. He proposed that the government spend (then) stimulus funds on an infrastructure that would support electric re-fueling stations throughout the US. That would pair with tax credits for people buying electric cars, and installing plug-ins for their cars in their garages/carports. That would employ, initially, surveyors, engineers, cartographers, electricians and technicians. Once operational, the stations could be leased to private industry to run. At the same time, car companies would be encouraged to make pure electric cars.

Another option which would employ a lot of people would be to pass legislation (or enact by Executive Order) rules that prohibit HOAs from denying residents from installing solar heating panels. Already in places where there are state tax credits and local programs to allow neighborhoods to buy in bulk, more and more people are installing solar. This creates manufacturing and installation jobs. These numbers would go up a lot if HOA residents could install solar.

Then, there is actual education. We need to make it a priority by spending on Head Start-like programs to get kids ready for school, increase funding for school lunches and breakfasts so kids don't have to study hungry, improve the programs at teachers' colleges so graduates really know their stuff, allow for career-changers to more easily teach (especially math and science at the middle and high school levels) the subjects they know, and get back to basics in the lower grades.

Finally, there is health care. This is a growth industry with jobs at all levels of education and ability from people who code insurance forms and clean rooms and serve meals through administrators, patient care counselors, and doctors. (And everything in between and sideways.) Hospitals, clinics, insurance companies, pharma are not hiring the way they did a few years ago because payments are falling (for everything but insurance premiums) -- there are a number of ways to change this equation.

But we also need to manufacture. We need to BUILD things -- cars, tanks, airplanes, ships.....someone has to build those things, in addition to all the little things - and if someone is going to do it, it should be us. If we don't, two things happen. First, we end up in a generation or two completely dependent on other countries for everything we need. And we're an ocean away from most "other countries". Second, it's difficult to trade services for goods, and our trade deficit becomes worse than imaginable. What will it mean if we eventually go to war with China, and we lack the ability to build armaments and supplies, being instead dependent on China to provide them to us?

Good points (0.00 / 0)
I agree with everything in your comment, which since I like to nit-pick is saying something! :)

Your last paragraph is particularly important.

So what's been getting my goat lately?

There's a tendency in American politics, both left and right, to lionize the factory worker as the American ideal. The right in particular beats up on a lot of professions, including public school teachers and lawyers. But there's a bit of that in, for example, Ed Schultz as well.

What factory workers do is very important, and the jobs are generally (in the US) good jobs. The recovery of GM has been miraculous, and I was flat out wrong in opposing that bail out.

But I think we're kidding ourselves to think it's even remotely possible that most people, or even most people without a college degree, will end up with a job like that. The US builds more than ever in its history, but does it with fewer people. It's not that manufacturing has dried up--although some industries, like textiles, are largely gone, we dominate in others. But manufacturing jobs have gone, and while it's true that many of them have gone overseas, even if we decided to be entirely self-sufficient most of those jobs wouldn't come back, because we can do so much more with so much less than we used to.

So when we think about what we should be doing about jobs, we shouldn't think that green manufacturing, for instance, is going to make much of a dent  in the real problem. Green manufacturing is good for its own sake, including for reasons like those you give in the last paragraph, and we should be pursuing it. But it's a little like saying that it's important that we pursue molecular genetics in order to better understand and treat diseases. It's true, and we should certainly be doing what we can to train people for that field, but we shouldn't imagine that we're going to do much about unemployment that way. Yes, my example is more extreme. There are several million people whose skills would be appropriate for green manufacturing, and it will be a great boon to them. But on its own, it won't come anywhere close to solving the problem.

And I know that you're not saying that it will. But listening to some politicians and pundits, it's easy to get that impression.

I'd like to see our society place higher prestige on those jobs that are crucial for our future, are plentiful, and have decent pay and benefits, such as RN's and schoolteachers. Is it coincidence that those fields tend to be more associated with women than factory work? I'm not positive, but I suspect gender stereotypes do play a role. I really wish more 20-year old guys would think about becoming a nurse, or a teacher, or a social worker, or a therapist. Otherwise we're heading toward a ridiculous world in which men still get paid more than women for the same work, but that men are more likely to be unemployed (already true) and more likely to be working in low-paying low-benefits jobs.

Wow--that was quite a ramble! :)

[ Parent ]
Nice to find some common ground (0.00 / 0)
You say:

There's a tendency in American politics, both left and right, to lionize the factory worker as the American ideal. The right in particular beats up on a lot of professions, including public school teachers and lawyers.

And there is truth to the fact that it gets said, but there is a REASON factory jobs were so important, and could be again. It goes back to the very first conversation you and I ever had -- check your emails from 2008 -- about "intelligence". Most people cannot be good schoolteachers and even fewer can get through law school and pass the bar. Even though a lot of factory jobs are now high tech, not all are. People need to physically move goods, for example, and there are not yet robotic drivers. Some semi-conductor manufacturing requires a very steady hand and good eyesight, and since robots can't see the flaws the humans do, they are still human jobs. MANY more people can be taught to do these jobs than schoolteachers, lawyers, actuaries, biomedical engineers, etc, etc. Factory jobs are still good jobs for people with a high school education, and perhaps a couple years at a vo-tech school.

For a lot of jobs, you need college. Even if you don't LEARN anything in college, the sheepskin is the union card in a lot of industries. A lot of people CANNOT do college. Some can't hack the work, some can't afford it, some are just not geared for it. What kinds of jobs are there for them? Construction if they're physically strong enough - otherwise, mostly factory work. Or, so it USED TO be. You can say that these folks can do distribution and warehousing, but that depends on there being goods available for that. If they're foreign goods, most of the work is done overseas.

More later, but my doorbell is ringing....

[ Parent ]
Continuing our epic debate :) (0.00 / 0)
Yes, this does go back to our original conversation. But there's also a common ground there:

A lot of people CANNOT do college. Some can't hack the work, some can't afford it, some are just not geared for it.

It's true that many cannot afford college. We've made it so that someone from a poor family can in theory go to college, but in practice it's different. Very commonly, college-age children are expected to help support the family; perhaps monetarily, but more often through things like child care, elder care, helping with the family business, etc.. Someone who is spending 20 hours per week babysitting a young sibling is unlikely to make it through college. Likewise, debts and obligations can be a barrier to returning students. If you already have to pay $400 per month just to make the minimum payments on your credit cards, it's going to be tough. And for all students, there's the specter of being massively in debt once you do graduate.

But those are exactly the kinds of things government can change.

To quote the President:

I'm absolutely committed to making sure that here in America, nobody is denied a college education, nobody is denied a chance to pursue their dreams, nobody is denied a chance to make the most of their lives just because they can't afford it. We are a better country than that, and we need to act like we're a better country than that.

As for "not geared for college," the phrase my colleagues use is "not ready for college." Often those people are ready later in their lives. In fact, I wish we had the convention in this country that people not go straight from high school into college. A few years in the "real world" would help people understand and benefit from the college experience much better.

"Can't hack the work?" I'll avoid the philosophical discussion we had two years ago and concede that there are some in this category. But how many? 48% of native-born asian-Americans get a bachelor's degree, but only 14% of latinos. That may have to do with preparation, and it may have to do with social and cultural issues. But if 48% of asian-Americans can hack it, then it's certain that at least half of all Americans can. ("Race" has no genetic basis. Differences between races, therefore, are always due to social, cultural, and life-situation factors and not to inherent differences between people.)

So suppose we work on affordability, encourage college attendance at a time of life when the individual is ready, and narrow the shortfall observed in completion observed in whites, blacks, and latinos? Then there would be many fewer people who would need to have manufacturing jobs, our current base would probably be sufficient, and structural unemployment would drop.

I think we've both identified the same serious issue that needs to be addressed. The difference is that you think it's easier to change our nation's economic mix, and I think it's easier to change our nation's mix of skills so that we're better adapted to the economy we've got. We both think that both routes should be pursued, but you emphasize the first, and I emphasize the second. Or have I mischaracterized what you're saying?

[ Parent ]
Ach! On different lines again.. (0.00 / 0)
I don't think everyone SHOULD go to college.

You don't need a college education to be (in no particular order) a: carpenter, plumber, construction worker, factory worker, electrician, artist, writer, musician, actor, sports person, auto mechanic, steward/stewardess, fireman, policeman, sanitation worker, dog walker, hairdresser, personal trainer, jewelery designer, retail worker, waiter/waitress, chef, caterer, baker, hospitality worker, administrative assistant, receptionist, medical coder, farmer, photographer, realtor, dancer, hacker, etc. etc....

Not everyone needs or wants a college education.  

[ Parent ]
Neither do I! (0.00 / 0)
I most definitely DON'T think everyone should go to college. No way. In fact, I'd rather fewer 18 year olds went to college.

But we have two different gaps, and closing one would close the other. One is the gap between demand in jobs that require a college degree and those that don't. The other is the gap between those who would and should go to college in a perfect world and those who don't. The latter is obvious and huge when we look at statistics by ethnicity and gender. When the rate for native-born asian-Americans is more than three times that of native-born latinos, there are three choices: too many asian-Americans are going, too few latinos are going, or it's desirable to have racial differences that stark. I think we'd both reject the third possibility. So should fewer asian-Americans be going to college? Maybe, but I doubt it. That leaves the conclusion that more latinos should be getting bachelor's degrees.

By the way, 30% of native-born whites get bachelor's degrees, and 16% of native-born blacks. Do you think those rates are too high?

Here's another set of stats, courtesy of the Census Bureau: in 2003, there were 8 million people working in production (their label for manufacturing); 7% of them had bachelor's degrees. There were 25 million working in "professional and related occupations"; 68% had bachelor's degrees.

So there are more than three times as many jobs in the professions, which largely require bachelor's degrees, as in manufacturing, which largely doesn't, but there are nearly three times as many people who don't have bachelor's degrees as do. Is there any wonder there's a problem with structural unemployment?

There's a problem, and there's a solution, and it doesn't involve everyone going to college. It just means removing the barriers, both financial and cultural, to doing so.

The President again:

Now, when I talk about education, people say, well, you know what, right now we're going through this tough time.  We've emerged from the worst recession since the Great Depression.  So, Mr. President, you should only focus on jobs, on economic issues. And what I've tried to explain to people -- I said this at the National Urban League the other week -- education is an economic issue.  Education is the economic issue of our time.  

[ Parent ]
Blaming the Victims (0.00 / 0)
I'm going to start here:

So there are more than three times as many jobs in the professions, which largely require bachelor's degrees, as in manufacturing, which largely doesn't, but there are nearly three times as many people who don't have bachelor's degrees as do. Is there any wonder there's a problem with structural unemployment?

There's a puzzle piece missing. When the Census Bureau hired in the spring, there were so many people with advanced degrees who applied and who were unemployed that the majority of people (in non-Spanish speaking areas) had advanced degrees. Here in the Philadelphia area, according to the people who kept the stats, they hired NO ONE who lacked a bachelor's degree, and 50% of those hired had at least a masters. The question is NOT that people lack college degrees and therefore don't have jobs, but why there are not enough jobs for those WITH college degrees AND for those without degrees.  

Your overall point relates to racial and ethnic differences relative to college attendance rates. That's a sociological argument and not a political one.

It is never politically correct to talk about the trait of intelligence relative to genetics. Unlike skin colour, eye colour, height, carried disease traits, we're not ALLOWED to talk about it.

Nor are we allowed to talk about the homelife of kids relative to homework, and a belief about education. We're not allowed to talk about how well Asians do on standardized tests, and regular tests and relate it to the standards their parents set for them. We are not allowed to talk about how certain discussions in certain societies say that being educated is wrong, and "against what we believe in."

We are never allowed to point out that when children see their parents read, they read. NOT when their parents read to them, but when they walk into the living room and see mom and dad sitting in a chair engrossed in a book.

So much politically incorrect.  

[ Parent ]
Politically incorrect? (0.00 / 0)
Perhaps "only Nixon can go to China."

Barack Obama on homelife of kids relative to homework:

We have to have our parents take their jobs seriously, and particularly African-American fathers who all too often are absent from the home, have not encouraged the kind of, you know, nurturing of our children that they need. As somebody who grew up without a father, I know how important that is. The schools can't do it all by themselves. Parents have to parent.

And I've said this all across the country when I talk to parents about education, government has to fulfill its obligations to fund education, but parents have to do their job too. We've got to turn off the TV set, we've got to put away the video game, and we have to tell our children that session not a passive activity, you have to be actively engaged in it. If we encourage that attitude and our community is enforcing it, I have no doubt we can compete with anybody in the world.

On socioeconomic groups that think education is bad:

I'm going to insist that we've got decent funding, enough teachers, and computers in the classroom, but unless you turn off the television set and get over a certain anti-intellectualism that I think pervades some low-income communities, our children are not going to achieve.

As for race and standardized tests, one study had some interesting preliminary results.

And heck, the President hired Larry Summers to run his economic team. Whatever you may think of him, he does not have a history of being "politically correct" when it comes to discussing these issues. (n.b.--a flurry of research came out following his comments at Harvard which fairly conclusively demonstrated his supposition was wrong.)

A debate related to the one we're having showed up on CNBC last week, and took a rather surprising turn toward the end:

People are talking about these things, including the President. As with other "hot-button" issues, we need to have serious conversations about these issues, politically correct or otherwise.

[ Parent ]
Scott - Please read this re: Manufacturing (0.00 / 0)

It has the facts and figures....

[ Parent ]




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