Job loss

By From page A5 | February 21, 2014


I had to take an economics class at Sacramento State to get a biology degree in the early 1960s. I really did not understand or care much about the subject, but I was a fairly strong student in sciences and I applied a fair effort to the class. I still claim no expertise in economics, but I remember the strangest thing that the professor said. He claimed that in the future, the U.S. economy would be service-based instead of manufacturing-based. My thought at the time was how could that possibly work? Were we all supposed to work at service jobs like waitress, store clerk, doctor, nurse, teacher, etc? Where would the money come from to pay for services if no one made anything of tangible value?

I wish I had understood economics. That professor was absolutely right and his prediction has been realized. Coming from a family that worked in building, manufacturing, etc., I had no problems with my son becoming a machinist. I should have been worried, because he is one of the people whose jobs can be done more cheaply in other countries. He works making replacement joints, hip, etc., for people, and, right now, consumers of those products definitely honor the “Made in the USA” label.

As a retired teacher living in a small town, I have the pleasure of meeting former students around town. Recently I met one but I was not so pleased to hear his story. He was working, hard, as he did as my student, but he was using his body, not his mind. He recognized me and asked if I ever thought he would be doing the job he was. My surprise was based on the abilities and effort I remembered from him as a student.

He explained that he had more than one bachelor’s degree, and had spent several years with an American company, working up the ladder. Then he was told that his job could be done more cheaply in India and he was laid off. This is a young man who did everything that our society asked of him, who was intelligent and hard-working, but he did not understand economics.

If I were still teaching I would add a little economics to my science. I think the easiest way to direct young people now is to encourage them to work at whatever level in a job that has to stay in the USA. Service jobs do not necessarily mean low paying, they just are one type of employment that cannot leave here. Telephone linemen, mechanic, teacher, therapist, entertainer, artist, surgeon, you can add others. I asked my former student, hard-working and funny, if he had considered teaching.


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