Election year is a favorite time to lament slow job growth. The vast majority of voters are at the mercy of the job market and rightfully expect their elected officials to foster a thriving economy in which they can find and maintain gainful employment. In fact, new poll data says that today’s bleak employment outlook will be the biggest campaign issue going into the midterm elections. With one of their own in the White House, Democrats are getting most of the blame. But in reality the problems run much deeper.
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have been ineffective at helping workers develop skills to meet the demands of the new job market. Republicans in particular have made it harder for people to stay in the game by threatening unemployment assistance and a reasonable minimum wage. They’re also derailing the debate by falsely claiming that immigration hurts employment opportunities. The vast majority of workers from other countries are not taking jobs away from anyone. They’re doing work that most Americans aren’t willing to do. What we need are new jobs in skilled sectors, such as engineering and high-tech. New technologies offer huge opportunities but demand incentives. In other urgent areas, like education, health care and infrastructure, the government can step up as a powerful employer itself.