President Obama goes before the nation Thursday night to deliver the jobs-creation speech
he should have given in in February 2009. It will almost surely be the wrong solution.
Two years ago, he talked about stimulus and creating new green-energy jobs and how the unemployment rate would be below 8 percent, oh, pretty soon. Stimulus was great if you're a road-construction worker. Green-energy jobs growth has failed spectacularly and unemployment is north of 9 percent.
The president and his advisers, then and now, are looking at the economic crisis we're in through the wrong lens. Green jobs mirage
The answer is not how the government can create jobs because it's proved lousy at this time and again. New York Times columnist David Brooks laid this out pretty clearly
in a piece this week. Think Solyndra, which went bankrupt last month
after getting a half-billion-dollar government-guaranteed loan.
Another low light: A $59 million effort to train people for green jobs in California produced only 719 job placements, Brooks wrote, quoting a Times feature story
The task is how to lay a foundation for businesses to create jobs, because that's what businesses do. And by definition and experience this means small business. In our industry, that means startups.
Entrepreneur and author Henry Nothhaft wrote pointedly on this
for the Wall Street Journal.
All of American job growth comes from small businesses, so Obama's appointing General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to chair a jobs council is the wrong approach, Notthaft wrote.Technology, not jobs
The right solution is to focus on technology (the nurturing of) not on "jobs." Technology changes quicken with each passing year; policymakers simply can't keep up. Nurture technology and its roiling, exciting startup culture, and the jobs will come.
Electronics is both creator and destroyer. It creates excellent, high-paying, highly challenging jobs. It can create wealth.
But it can also destroy its spawn and it can destroy jobs. Sunil Sharan, former head of the Green Grid initiative, points out that smart meter technology will replace 28,000 jobs
. I think, but many will disagree, that that's a great thing. How many jobs has Google replaced? Millions? Maybe. Some day smart meters will be replaced by an app powered by your phone or some other personal electronic device.
Those people left jobless by technology disintermediation don't shrivel up and die. They do what they have to do: go back to school for more education, re-market themselves, or learn software programming, etc. It's what humans do. More often than not, the new jobs are challenging and reinvigorating, more so than walking from house to house writing down electricity-usage figures.Embrace destruction
It is creative destruction. Without it, we'd still be living in log cabins, riding horses, walking to the creek to fetch the water and doing what bears do in the woods. Those images are only bucolic through our lens of modernity and technological advancement. Back in the day, people wanted desperately to move on, people wanted to embrace the fruits of technology (the Industrial Revolution) to improve their standard of living.
I think people with ambition, ideas and the innovator's optimism are the answer. Enable them and you light a forest fire of innovation. Stifle them and, well... that's where we are right now.
What do you think?