With the national unemployment rate reported at 8.3% and states like California, Oregon, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Michigan in the 10%+ category, are we moving beyond the realm of recession? If history tells us anything, during the great Depression, the national unemployment rate in 1930 climbed from 3.2 to 8.7 percent. By 1931, the unemployment rate went to 15.9% and by 1933, it rose to 24.9%.
The better news for us is that many of the safety nets in the securities and banking industry were installed as a result of the earlier depression. It is important to say that statistics lag behind reality so it is likely we will see poorer employment and GNP numbers before they go the other way. The one thing that is for sure is that job creation should be our number one priority and those jobs should be in the sectors that enhance human and structural infrastructure, reduce oil dependency, and reduce our carbon footprint.
Regardless of the economy of today, the bigger picture tells us that we need to change our business models to reflect the state of the world as it is and as it will be. Stabilizing banks and the auto industry without a thought of where the economy should go is short-sighted. With all of our taxes being gambled, the least that the government should do is demand that the money be utilized in the development of the next economic engines, e.g., electric or other alternative fuel vehicles, mass transportation, wind and solar power and improvements to the electric grids.
Money should also be invested in a nationally-networked health care system to which everyone has access. As long as health costs are keeping businesses at all levels from investing in research and development, job creation will be difficult to sustain.
Also, we need to move away from and "us and them" mentality when it comes to jobs. I have long been a supporter of unions, but I recognize that perhaps more could be done for the quality of life for workers of this country if liveable wage legislation were the tool for getting there. Then the time spent by management and workers could be focused on developing needed high quality products and services.
Finally education needs retuning. As long as we don't acknowledge that public education has a multi-purposed agenda: to have a highly literate, skilled workforce, to blend cultures to develop equity, and to form social tolerance through shared experience. However, what is lost in the picture is that schools of today must be more focused on the task of fundamental education at the lower levels and vocational preparation at the higher levels. Ultimately local school boards and workforce/economic planners should be engaged to have curricula that stress the practical as well as the intellectual needs of its community.
In these topsy-turvy times, we can choose to see our future as one where the sky is falling or we can see it as things are looking up. The one thing that is certain is that the rules of the game are changing and we need to look forward for the answers and we need everyone to pull in the same direction.