I rarely read op-eds from The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel because as a rule I find it such an unpleasant experience and, well, life is only so long. However, I deviated from my typical practice to look at this op-ed in the Washington Post and immediately came up with a question. Here’s her statement:
Corporations continue to ship good jobs abroad, while the few jobs created at home are disproportionately in the lowest wage sectors.
There appears to be evidence that this is the case. Unfortunately, the report cited has a problem. It’s comparing apples to oranges. Sectors with low median wages and low wage jobs are not synonymous. You can’t derive the wages being paid by new jobs based on the median wage in the sector. The jobs could be paying the highest wages in the sector or the lowest. There’s just no way to tell using sector as a benchmark.
Let me give an example. Median wages are higher in the healthcare sector are higher than in most other sectors of the economy and over the period of the last decade the healthcare sector has seen substantial job growth. Is this a good or bad thing from the standpoint of good paying jobs? The answer is there’s no way to tell based on this information alone. If all of the jobs are for cardiac surgeons, it’s a good thing. If all of the jobs are for bedpan emptiers, it’s a bad thing.
But here’s my question. Let’s assume that the jobs that are being created are mostly low wage jobs, as suggested by Ms. vanden Heuvel. How do you reconcile that with the assertion that the way out of our fix is more education. Will that result in a Field of Dreams outcome (if you build it they will come) or will it just result in the best educated bedpan emptiers and fast food order takers in the world?
I can’t figure it out.