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12.04.2008:... Economics and Educating the Public...
You've done a lot of press conferences, and I think you've done a great job, but I've always felt like something's been missing.
You're missing the opportunity to add "Economics Education for everyone in the country who needs it," and the chance to explain how it affects them and get them on your side.
America has one of the highest "productivity" levels in the world.
But what does that really mean, and what does that mean to "Joe Six-Pack" that nobody ever taught him in high school?
It means that, if productivity is high, fewer people are needed to create the same output of goods or services.
That may be clear to you and me, but to many people, what it means is "higher unemployment."
A blogger recently espoused the idea of essentially returning the US to an agrarian economy... "closer to the earth, lower pollution, less cars, travel, electrical generation needs..." and on and on...
What was missing in their "thought process" was the concept that, in creating an "It's A Wonderful Life" scenario, the real people involved would also be giving up virtually all of their free time to reach those "goals."
Now, maybe that would be a good thing, but I don't have the physical capacity to farm the ten or twenty acres of green-grocer crops, plus the hogs and cows and so on, I'd need to feed even my family of two on a year-round, sustainable basis.
And I remember some statistic that, while maybe 75 years ago, something like two-thirds of the US population was required to feed the total population, that number today is down in the 1-5% range. The number should be easy to verify, but the point is: farm productivity is immensely higher and the result is: a lot of farmers aren't needed any more.
Good News or bad news? And what does Joe Six-Pack think is the "right solution" and why?
It takes fewer workers to build a car. Lower costs for labor, wages, insurance, etc., and cars can have lots more safety built in at a lower price and hence, cost to the consumer.
If the goal becomes "full employment" there are two basic ways to achieve the goal: lower productivity or develop new industries with new jobs.
The US could be the "brain center" for the world, creating the best new technologies, industries and jobs. The industries could be exported, with us as the world's best consultants for making that kind of progress happen. Helping the entire world build the most efficient solar farms, water purification plants, and so on.
Or we can whine about how jobs keep "getting lost" because they're not needed as productivity goes up and other countries' people are willing to do the same work for lower pay. Raise the bridge or lower the river? Lower productivity and build trade barriers or create new industries for everyone?
No-brainer? Apparently not for Joe Six-Pack.
You have the opportunity to include educational items like this in every "fireside chat" or news conference, if you do it right. Just a few words that underscore the real, tangible benefits of NAFTA [or is opposition to it religious issue for you... a belief unfounded on facts, as it is for so many of the "Joes" out here?]. Emphasize how productivity helps raise standards of living and that we must create new jobs to replace the ones no longer needed.
Make it the "buggy whip history" part of your talks.