Hard Truth on Jobs

Some losses will be forever.

Even though the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed employment rose by 200,000 in December, it’s no reason for Obama to jump with joy. Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf has acknowledged that it is “completely impossible” to prove that President Obama’s stimulus programs created economic growth or jobs.

We know Obama promised to focus on jobs. Since his election he has spoken incessantly about all the jobs he says he has created or saved. Yet not only has the administration’s record been meager at best, “labor market conditions remain disappointing,” the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis declared recently. “The average duration of employment remains at a historical high and the employment rate is projected to remain above 7.8 percent until 2013. Economists are concerned that the U. S. economy is mired in another jobless recovery,” the bank warned.

In his current makeover, Obama has cast himself as the warrior for the middle class. “After struggling to find a winning message,” as The Hill report put in on Dec. 29, Obama has revved up his role as defender of the middle class.

MIT economics professor David Autor, who examined U.S. employment opportunities at length, however, found that U.S. employment growth “has polarized into relatively high skill, high wage jobs and low skill, low wage jobs, while middle skill routine jobs have diminished. Some routine jobs, such as administrative and operative positions have been replaced by computer automations. Other routine [middle class] jobs such as bill processing and manufacturing positions have been moved overseas to take advantage of lower wages. The Great Recession accelerated this trend: employment in middle skill and middle wage occupations declined[.]”

So, as warrior for the middle class, no matter what kind of war paint he wears, Obama can’t place these middle class workers in jobs if the work is not there.

One of Obama’s enthusiastic support groups in 2008 was the young vote. This group has declined by 46 percent, reported Bloomberg.com Dec. 15. It quoted from a poll by the Institute of Politics at Harvard University showing “an overall lack of enthusiasm” today among young voters, compared to the last election. No wonder.

A few years ago, for example, Cody Preston, 25, was gainfully employed in Portland, OR, married and settled in an apartment with his wife, a Wall Street Journal story reported. When the recession hit and the housing market collapsed, he lost his job. He and his wife separated. “I wasn’t living –just surviving,” he was quoted as saying.

Yale Economist Lisa Kahn found that college grads entering the job market in economic downturns experience a large, negative, persistent effect to their lifetime opportunities. The disadvantage persists even 15 years after graduation, she said. Obama’s eagerness to have all young people go to college hasn’t worked out for many, as this author can attest to. My oldest granddaughter, with top grades, and my stepson with an MBA are still looking for work after more than a year. That’s not unusual.

CNN Money reported Jan. 6 that many doctors across the U.S. are living with an embarrassing secret. They’re going broke. This includes not only family physicians but also cardiologists and oncologists. Many are quitting their practice altogether. About half the doctors in the country are in private practice. So, a cash crunch—often brought on by ObamaCare demands—steals a vital health source from many communities. Dr. William Pentz, 47, a cardiologist in Philadelphia, for example, said he and his partners had to “tap into their personal assets to make their payroll.” Pentz said recent “steep cuts in Medicare reimbursement for cardiovascular services...have taken a substantial toll on revenue.”

One of the superfluity of regulations tucked in the ObamaCare law was a new tax on medical devices--ranging from imaging machines to tongue depressors. Although the tax will be collected beginning next year, it already is having an effect on job loss. Stryker Corp., whose products include artificial knees and hips, has announced it would have to fire about 1,000 of its employees because of the tax.

Under reasonable assumptions, the tax could result in job losses in excess of 43,000 and employment compensation losses in excess of $3.5 billion, according to a study conducted by AdvaMed, an industry trade association. Earlier, a manufacturer of surgical instruments, Covidin Plc, said it would let go 200 workers in the U.S. and move its production to Mexico and Costa Rica to escape the new tax.

Other medical device companies have made similar announcements, according to a Bloomberg.com story Jan. 2. Medical device companies employ more than 400,000 Americans. The United States is a net exporter of medical devices.

Even though the tax on medical devices won’t be levied until next year, it is certainly having an impact.

While the Democrats can glow with optimism at the 200,000 employment increase in December, the economy is still staggering from the roughly 9 million jobs lost since the beginning of the Great Recession. Moreover, many lost jobs sadly will never come back.

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