job loss - COMMENTARY: THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW The Myth of...

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COMMENTARY: THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW The Myth of Middle-Class Job Loss By STEPHEN J. ROSE October 24, 2007; Page A21 Economic change is a messy process. New technologies open up many opportunities for those prepared to take advantage of them. At the same time, old firms and their workers are displaced and forced to start over. In 1900, for example, 40% of the U.S. work force was involved in agriculture. Today, that figure is less than 2%, and no serious observer would argue that we are worse off as a result of this transformation. Yet many of today's most prominent politicians and pundits are making an updated version of precisely this argument. They claim that the decline in the number of manufacturing jobs has led to the replacement of good middle-class jobs by low-skill, low-pay "hamburger-flipping" service jobs. This kind of populist dogma is bad politics and even worse economics. The assertion that the American middle-class is disappearing along with manufacturing jobs is, put simply, based on an outdated view of how the economy operates, and is empirically wrong. Nonetheless, the view that the economy has failed the middle class is widespread. The outsourcing of jobs to low-wage countries is, of course, the latest culprit. Polemicists from all sides find it irresistible to blame expanding trade for middle-class decline. But how widespread a problem is outsourcing, exactly? It is certainly true that many jobs in manufacturing clothing, steel, metal products and automobiles have gone overseas. Plant closures not only devastate the workers who are displaced, but they have also undermined the vitality of whole communities in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, to name just a few places. But while such communities are a clear sign of the decline in some sectors of the economy, there has been strong employment growth in many other sectors. In research just published by the Progressive Policy Institute, I show that incomes and employment have grown by substantial amounts in
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This note was uploaded on 02/19/2011 for the course AGEC 217 taught by Professor Deboer during the Fall '08 term at Purdue University.

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job loss - COMMENTARY: THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW The Myth of...

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