I keep pointing out that real incomes for over 80% of the American economy peaked 15 years ago, and Conservatives keep pretending it's because people with stagnant to falling incomes are lazy slugs who just want everything given to them.
Just so we don't blow by that too quickly, Conservatives believe 80% of Americans are lazy slugs who deserve economic hardship.
The justification of that is an alleged "skills gap." Apparently 80% of Americans aren't skilled enough to function in today's economy. I shouldn't have to point out that's a ridiculous concept, but unfortunately that's not the case. The wealthy elites work really hard to sell this concept, and what they work to sell is difficult to kill. As with so many other damaging economic concepts the facts simply don't support a skills gap...it's just another excuse to depress incomes for hard working Americans.
Think about what we would expect to find if there really were a skills shortage. Above all, we should see workers with the right skills doing well, while only those without those skills are doing badly. We don’t.
Yes, workers with a lot of formal education have lower unemployment than those with less, but that’s always true, in good times and bad. The crucial point is that unemployment remains much higher among workers at all education levels than it was before the financial crisis. The same is true across occupations: workers in every major category are doing worse than they were in 2007.
Some employers do complain that they’re finding it hard to find workers with the skills they need. But show us the money: If employers are really crying out for certain skills, they should be willing to offer higher wages to attract workers with those skills. In reality, however, it’s very hard to find groups of workers getting big wage increases, and the cases you can find don’t fit the conventional wisdom at all. It’s good, for example, that workers who know how to operate a sewing machine are seeing significant raises in wages, but I very much doubt that these are the skills people who make a lot of noise about the alleged gap have in mind.
And it’s not just the evidence on unemployment and wages that refutes the skills-gap story. Careful surveys of employers — like those recently conducted by researchers at both M.I.T. and the Boston Consulting Group — similarly find, as the consulting group declared, that “worries of a skills gap crisis are overblown.”
The one piece of evidence you might cite in favor of the skills-gap story is the sharp rise in long-term unemployment, which could be evidence that many workers don’t have what employers want. But it isn’t. At this point, we know a lot about the long-term unemployed, and they’re pretty much indistinguishable in skills from laid-off workers who quickly find new jobs. So what’s their problem? It’s the very fact of being out of work, which makes employers unwilling even to look at their qualifications.
The alleged "skills gap" simply doesn't exist. Even if it DID exist it could be readily fixed if not for the destructive devotion to short-termism which so damages American business. If you need workers with specialized skills TRAIN THEM. Generations of American business did exactly that. Part of the reason Australia and Northern Europe have fundamentally more sound business environments is their continued use of apprenticeship programs and other means of employee development. It only makes sense. If a company really NEEDS a particular skill they are hurting themselves if they insist on operating without those skills. Either they're actually capable of finding employees with the needed skills or they're damaging their company by not training someone to do the work.
Any way you look at it, then, the skills gap is a mirage. There's no evidence of a wage inflation ANYWHERE in the economy except for executives who game the system by appointing their own compensation committees and Wall Streeters who extract ever increasing rents from the rest of the economy. To whatever minor extent a skills gap might exist within a given company they have the means to easily fix the issue.
One more excuse for economic inequality bites the dust. It's time for no policy to move America forward.