Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's call for long-term vision in dealing with the economy shows, again, the chairman's wisdom.
Some vote-seeking politicians with short-term vision lament that outsourcing, or hiring people overseas, has replaced a few jobs in America.
Greenspan takes issue with their view that the government should ban or greatly restrict out-sourcing.
When the United States restricts global competition, other countries invariably retaliate. After the United States enacted steep tariffs to protect domestic jobs during the recession of 1930, for example, American markets dried up overseas and the entire world plunged into the Great Depression.
What would be gained by preserving some "call center" positions if, as a consequence, high-paid Honda and Toyota automakers shed jobs in this country?
There is no jobs crisis, or at least none bad enough to justify panicking. The unemployment rate is 5.6 percent, the historical average, and Greenspan insists a recovering economy soon will begin creating jobs at a brisk pace. It makes sense to stay the course.
As Greenspan himself put it: "What has made the American economy great is that we allow ourselves to be exposed to more competition than virtually anyone else in the world. That has forced Americans to hone their skills in a way that promoted technological innovation and raised living standards."
The best way to preserve jobs would be to improve education, so there is less temptation to outsource.
A 1995 study showed that American students scored high in math and science while in the fourth grade but, by the 12th grade, their test scores were below the international average. Also, a 2002 survey found that six times as many students graduate from Asian colleges with degrees in science and engineering as Americans.
"Companies not only are locating facilities in Asia to take advantage of the surplus of skilled graduates," The Washington Times reports, "they are enticing Asian
graduates to come to the United States to take jobs that they can't find qualified candidates to fill here."
Not all jobs should be preserved. Cars caused unemployment among blacksmiths, for example, but few people seriously think cars should be banned. A continuing effort is needed to retrain workers whose jobs have become obsolete, however, and that might require putting more resources into community colleges.
The path to economic strength isn't to try skewing the system to accommodate weaknesses, knowing that hasn't worked in the past. Rather, it's to eliminate those weaknesses.
Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville - March 20
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