Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Good Jobs Question

When Joe Biden assumes office, job #1 will be to get the coronavirus crisis under control. But job #2 will be returning the economy to full employment and basic health. It is fair to assume that, whatever stimulus is passed in the lame duck session, more will be likely be needed to complete the job in the first half of 2021.
On one level, simply spending more money will be helpful to shore up demand and keep distressed businesses and individuals afloat. As has been widely noted, there is no need to worry much about the effects of such spending on deficits and the debt, given the current state of interest rates and inflation. The bigger worry in fact would be to spend too little rather than too much.
Nevertheless, it is still desirable to target as much spending as possible on innovative programs to make the economy, when functioning normally, produce not just jobs, but good jobs. This will not happen naturally, as we can see from the recent experience of the recovery from the 2008-09 financial crisis.
This entails, as Dani Rodrik argues, both a greater supply of good, middle class jobs in the economy and workers with the requisite skills to fill those jobs. Rodrik believes government can play a key role with programs that coordinate worker training to the needs of employers and provide direct assistance to employers with infrastructure and business services, rather than open-ended investment subsidies. Such programs exist now and they are successful but are also very small scale. A massive boost in funding for these programs and encouragement of widespread state and local experimentation might have a very big payoff.
I think he's right. His article is well worth reading.

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