Blathering pols ignore economic shift - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Blathering pols ignore economic shift

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Mark J. Scarp is a contributing columnist for the Tribune. Reach him at

Posted: Sunday, November 4, 2012 9:30 am | Updated: 9:26 pm, Wed Nov 7, 2012.

As I have been teaching a college class each semester for almost five years now, from time to time I hear from former students, all of whom have graduated to seek employment in a difficult economy.

Some found work fairly quickly, others took a while and others are still looking – just like other job-seekers who aren’t recent graduates.

I just heard from one who found work in another state but was laid off in less than a year, and has spent more than a year since looking without success. She said she had been thinking about applying to graduate school but was waiting for the best time to do it, then realized there was really no such thing as a best time. She asked me for a letter of recommendation to go with her applications.

I’ll be writing that letter and hope the best for her. But I’m thinking about her and others back here in Arizona who are without jobs and are trying different paths to get them.

Last week the Tribune published a story from Capitol Media Services’ Howard Fischer quoting a state economic official saying that Arizona will see a net gain of 60,900 jobs in 2013, a 2.5 percent increase from 2012. Not bad, but our economy locally and nationally underwent more than just a job loss, because as jobs come back many are in different areas than the ones that existed before.

Which is why people like my former student are thinking about going back to school.

So what kinds of jobs will they be? Fischer’s story quotes the state director of economic analysis as saying many will be in health care as baby boomers age and the tourism field will do better as people have more money to spend on vacationing. And construction, once what many outside Arizona probably thought of as this state’s premier industry, is coming back, but, the director, Aruna Murthy, told Fischer, by the end of next year we’ll only have half the construction jobs we did in 2006.

This past week politicians have been making last-minute pitches for votes, many of them talking about how many jobs they will create if elected. When it isn’t election time, of course, they become limited-government types who say government can’t – and shouldn’t – create jobs. But we’re supposed to have forgotten that. Many of us must have, otherwise they wouldn’t try saying that stuff and hope to get away with it.

Governments don’t create private-sector jobs, although they can create rules and regulations that make jobs easier or harder to come about on their own.

We all remember throughout the 1990s being told that the 21st century is going to be different. It would be an age of technology as the 20th century was an age of industry. And yet we didn’t prepare as well for it as we should have. Maybe we didn’t think that conditions would change and needs would become so immediate only eight or nine years into the new century.

The technocrats were ready, of course, producing all kinds of high-tech devices we have snapped up at most any price and use. No doubt: As a society we love technology. We just don’t want to learn it.

Even if we do, retraining can be expensive, of course, and one forgoes income while getting that training. But regardless of who is elected Tuesday, from the White House to city halls, there’s been a shift coming for quite a while, one that we would have loved to have been more gradual, but greed and lack of a reasonable regulatory environment led to a financial collapse that accelerated that shift.

We’ve seen devastating effects on the middle class the last few years, and not enough attention has been paid to restoring it. The arguments are too philosophical because, well, the people doing most of the arguing want a seat in Congress or the Legislature first and to do something about these things second. Doing something involves saying unpopular things, and these last few weeks aren’t the time for politicians to say anything unpopular.

Next week the litany of finger-pointing commercials will be mercifully over and we will feel great relief. But that relief won’t last long, not if you think about how that now that our leaders have left our TV screens, that enjoyable silence you’ll be enjoying means they are instead settling into their comfortable new jobs. At that point they would rather that we not pay too much attention to them – and whether they actually are doing anything – until the next election.

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