Joel Kotkin has a sobering story about what has happened to the working class in Great Britain and poses the question as to whether it is a portent of what is to come on this side of the pond.  Kotkin, finds that in the former industrial center of Europe, where the industry left some time ago, there is a very high rate of perpetual unemployment, alcoholism and lack of mobility.  Disturbing too, is that the emphasis on job creation in Tony Blair’s “cool Britannia” resulted in job creation at the very top – hedge fund managers and the like, and at the very bottom – the latter of which are being filled by immigrants (primarily Islamists from Pakistan).

This has brought back a consistent nagging thought I have had about the direction of our country.  As we have de-industrialized, there are swaths of urban landscape (see my write-up on “Feral Houses” ) left desolate with a population of union dependent blue-collar workers that have nowhere to go.  My father, a retired diplomat and economist, has said for years that we cannot have an economy based solely on fast food workers and computer programmers.  Being the typical prodigal son, I pooh-poohed that notion, but I am coming around to believing that he is absolutely right.

The current administration’s idea of creating legions of “green jobs,” isn’t working out so well either.  Obama’s Spanish model has turned out to be a complete bust and when you stack the facts against the myths for our country, it’s not too good a picture.  In the words of Tolstoy, “what then must we do?”

In the “if I were King for a day” department, I believe this is the direction we need to head:

1. Direct Federal spending to the creation of real jobs.  We have aching needs in infrastructure repair, replacement and expansion.  For every $1 Billion spent in infrastructure construction, it is estimated by the Urban Land Institute, that 25-28,000 jobs are created.

2. Direct Federal and State policy towards the retention of strategic manufacturing capacity on our shores.  We should protect the ability to make the planes, rockets, tanks, ships and other hardware necessary to protect ourselves and the sane world.

3. Re-assess our trading relationships.  I am a HUGE advocate of free trade in theory, but we have drifted far from that in our relationship with countries like China that manipulate currency exchange and restrict imports.  We are in a symbiotic relationship with them, so even though they own huge amounts of our debt, they need us as badly as we need them.

4. Re-evaluate our educational priorities.  Since World War II, we have stressed, encouraged and facilitated a massive effort to get everyone a college degree.  Did it ever occur to us that perhaps what is needed is a broad range of educations including a robust trade school program?

5. Stimulate, educate and encourage entrepreneurship!  American ingenuity has been our hallmark since our founding.  Let’s get the engine of small business cranked up again – note to Msrs. Obama et al: that “boot on the neck of BP” you spoke about, is actually on OUR necks, please be so kind as to remove it.

The goal of these measures is to create a wider bandwidth of job creation and avoid the very real threat of perpetual unemployment.  We can’t all work for Google and no one wants to work for Goldman Sachs anymore, but it’s time to tend to the needs of the great middle, the true engine of our economic republic, lest we end up like “fail Britannia.”

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