President Obama wants to make restoring (upward) economic mobility to Americans the number one priority for the remainder of his term in office. He offers a rationale for the government to step in and make it happen. No doubt there are things the government can do, and some of them may even be things the government should do.
The current worldwide winner-take-all vacuuming of the planet’s economic growth over the past 40 years has indeed enriched the wealthiest while wages for the rest of us have stagnated. The cause is simple: technology enabled economic globalization to surge so that wages are equalizing, and since there are many more people worldwide making low wages than there are Americans making higher wages, wages for Americans are equalizing down. But the technology was not the internet – it didn’t exist forty years ago. The technology was containerized shipping. It drove the cost of shipping down so low that it became cheaper to have manufacturing done overseas. The computers that came later just made the accounting easier and faster.
In effect, the jobs that used to pay a decent wage to people without a college education were engineered out of the US economy. Now product and process engineers need to get together to design those types of jobs back in. It’s not just what gets made, it’s how it’s made, who makes it, and what abilities they need to have. It’s one thing to train people for jobs, it’s another to design jobs for people to do, in the same way that we design products for people to use. I’m not talking about government make-work. I’m talking about designing the middle class back into the economy.
Entrepreneurs, designers, engineers and investors, I leave it as a challenge in social responsibility to you all.