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      From Saez, Chetty, et al So, unless you think that genetic potential is that unequally distributed (and can explain eras where this chart did not apply, as in the post-WWII decades), you can pretty much forget “meritocracy.” Meritocracy is just a way of saying “we test for the things the middle and upper class has […]
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Monday: Structural unemployment is a lie

It’s bullshit.

For those of you scratching your heads, it’s the idea that the reason so many people are unemployed is because they don’t have the right skills, education and technological training or they’re located in the wrong places in the country.

I can only imagine the titans of industry at the job junkets where they go to speak to former presidents and cabinet members, whining about how if they could only find more graduates in STEM fields, they wouldn’t have to send all this work overseas or import so many H1-B visa workers.  Woe is they, crocodile tears, wringing of hands.  It’s just pathetic.

And it’s a lie.  It’s the biggest lie in the country these days.  Lie, lie, lie.

Paul Krugman doesn’t believe it and has been writing about it for the past couple of weeks.  He thinks unemployment is a problem caused by lack of demand.  But even that doesn’t tell the whole story.  In the STEM fields, unemployment is a deliberate, calculated, psychopathic and destructive strategy for reducing costs at the expense of the research industry and consumer health.  It’s just a way of extracting wealth.  There’s no demand problem.  There are more than enough projects to keep every scientist alive busy for the rest of their lives.  And there certainly is no shortage of people suffering from diseases.

And now, here comes Zachary Karabell in Newsweek who disagrees and says that we have a structural unemployment problem and who has apparently not been following Pharmageddon:

Distressingly, this framing of the debate limits so many options. You can view the waves buffeting society as structural and long-term and then argue for cogent government action—and yes, spending—that acknowledges and addresses that reality. But where can that view be found in the current policy framework? You could argue for aggressive government action to manage a generational shift, to seek productive employment for the unemployed à la the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s. After all, if we are going to spend tens of billions a year on unemployment benefits, and if those benefits make people feel simultaneously helpless and worthless, why not spend the same money allowing those people some gainful use of what skills they have? And if there truly is a generation lost in the transition, then we owe that generation a solid net—but we do not owe that to the generation now emerging. Instead, they deserve the opportunities to acquire the skills and training that they will need in a post-manufacturing world as surely as those farmers in 1900 needed new skills in a 20th-century manufacturing world.

Ok, he’s got the first part right.  We need a WPA program for unemployed scientists so we can use the skills we already have.

But he totally fails when he ignores the reason for the generational shift (greedy bankers and shareholders) and says that we need more skills and training.  We have hundreds of thousands of people who are plenty skilled and trained in science and technology who can’t find jobs or can find jobs and are willing to move, or have moved and find themselves laid off again.

What we really need is a leader who is determined to put his or her foot down with the finance guys and has a vision of the future of American recovery where we use the people we already have.  Otherwise, when the finance guys have done drinking the milkshake of pharma and come to the realization that they need American researchers just like the good old days, there won’t be *any* STEM workers because the next generation won’t be caught dead in a lab in a dead end job and no job security.  Then structural unemployment will have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

STEM students aren’t stupid, you know.  Well, not anymore they’re not.

***************************

For those of you who haven’t been following the saga of Trustus Pharmaceuticals, here’s a recap of the chocolate cookie of the apocalypse:

First, the bad news that the company is going with throttle up on the alpha12 project:

Second, the sign of the endtimes for the alpha12 project- the project polo shirts (I’ve been there but on our case, it was shirts and color changing coffee mugs with comic book character graphics and ads that would have made Don Draper proud.  And that compound looks very familiar, probably a HTS screening hit I threw out.):

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Paul Krugman getting the Townhall via the AV equipment

Poor Paul. He sounds disgusted and disappointed with Obama. It turns out that Obama wasn’t just an aspirational candidate, he had aspirations of his own:

OK, here’s an unprofessional speculation: maybe it’s personal. Maybe the president just doesn’t like the kind of people who tell him counterintuitive things, who say that the government is not like a family, that it’s not right for the government to tighten its belt when Americans are tightening theirs, that unemployment is not caused by lack of the right skills. Certainly just about all the people who might have tried to make that argument have left the administration or are leaving soon.

And what’s left, I’m afraid, are the Very Serious People. It looks as if those are the people the president feels comfortable with. And that, of course, is a tragedy.

Tragic, yes, but not unpredictable. When the serious people viciously humiliated Hillary and boosted Obama over the fence gleefully, the signs were all there that something wicked this way came. And here it is!

From where is sit, structural unemployment is not the problem. I had more than enough to do at work right up to the very last day. And yet my department was left in shreds and the overseas site that was forced to accept our projects was very concerned that they couldn’t take on any new work either. So, why did my company and other pharmaceuticals shed so many highly educated people in the last couple of years? My unemployed colleagues and I think it all has to do with money. The biotechs and pharmas all want experienced people, that much is clear. But they don’t want to pay for that expertise.

And then there is the AV Townhall phenomenon. There was a time when CEOs would try to make an effort to deliver annual town hall meetings on site. Oh, sure, if the headquarters were in another state, then you’d get the satellite version. But now, CEOs just do it from the corporate headquarters even if that building is half a mile up the road. The AV personnel usually can’t get the sound just right and the hands on people and sciencey types sit in cafeterias on hard little chairs, straining to hear whether the head honcho said he was or wasn’t going to close the site.

The heads of companies frequently do not understand the nature of the companies they run. Sometimes, they have been ketchup kings and are taking on biological systems without the slightest inkling that biological systems are extraordinarily complex and “the help” in the labs are probably the hardest working employees they have. But when shareholders must be appeased, productivity quantified (we are done in by biology despite our best efforts) and costs cut, the CEO does not come down from his perch while the lab rats are still on campus. He waits until he thinks they have all gone home for the day. And those of us still chained to our gels or can’t pry our hand from our mouse hear the whomp-whomp-whomp of the helicopter touching down two buildings over. That’s never a good sign. Why not take a tour of the buildings when there are still people around to show you what’s going? Why all the subterfuge?

They don’t want to face us. Maybe if they don’t see us, we won’t be real. We’re just numbers on a spreadsheet, not the guy who knows their zillion dollar compound information system like the back of his hand or girl who just solved the structure of their next cancer target. Or maybe they’re just more comfortable with their own kind. They’ve spent years one upping each other with meaningless business degrees, outdoing each other with kissing up to the guy two rungs higher up the ladder and spending countless hours looking swave, deboner and sweatless on the golf course. These are their peeps. Their circle of friends and acquaintances is not diverse. They don’t know how the other half lives because it doesn’t get them anywhere.

But that only means that they don’t have all the information they need to operate efficiently and optimally. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Well, for now it doesn’t. But their values have a nasty habit of trickling down on the rest of us. Nowadays, it’s not what you know and how much experience you have that will get you a job, it’s who you know and what pedigree you have. When the best and brightest end up looking wistfully at the presently employed like Jude Fawley’s at the stone facades of Christminster, it’s a waste of the talent that made this country vital.

Obama takes us back to the days before September 1928. The rich are rich, the poor gamble with what little they have. It’s Change! alright. The question for Paul is what is he going to do about it. Is he going to throw up his hands now and then give Obama his support in November or will he call for a new player while there is still time to save this game?

That’s what sets the columnists apart from the really serious people.