It is no secret that Minnesota's unemployment is too high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported unemployment of 5.8% in Minnesota for September 2012. That figure is only part of the story, however. If we include people working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job, and if we include people out of work who have not looked for work in the past four weeks, we get a rate of 11.9%. There are certainly other Minnesotans working full-time in jobs that pay less than a job they previously lost.
I believe that Minnesota's middle class can create demand for goods and services once they have the money to spend. Someone who is out of work, though, clearly is not going to be spending as much money. That is why we need to focus directly on getting Minnesotans back to work in good-paying jobs. We have to focus on the shorter-term goal of getting Minnesotans back to work first, then we can work on meaningful economic growth.
Unfortunately, my opponent, along with the last legislative majority, did not seem to understand this principle. My opponent hyped a "Jobs Bill," Senate File 1, whose contents were simply phased-in corporate tax breaks and relaxed environmental regulations. Just as one should not judge a book by its cover, one must not judge a bill by its title. Even if these provisions would have brought more businesses to the state — which is far from certain — nothing in that bill would have put Minnesotans back to work right away. Businesses hire when they calculate that they can make more money by hiring than by not hiring. It may be that a greater demand for a good or service requires more people to work for its delivery. Or, it may be that a business takes a calculated risk, expanding in a new direction. Right now, neither of these scenarios is happening enough, which is why we are not seeing the job growth that we need. Tax breaks and environmental permissiveness do nothing to solve these problems. Creating demand by putting people back to work is much better.
How are we supposed to put people back to work to create demand? After all, if demand is low, why would businesses hire? It turns out that, even though job growth is slow, there are job openings for skilled workers that are going unfilled. Where I work, we have had a software developer position open for months because we have not found anyone truly qualified. There are other openings around the state for jobs that pay well but require skills that are in short supply. I propose to find ways to move unemployed and underemployed workers into these jobs through short, focused training programs.
We already have programs in Minnesota that purport to accomplish this goal. One such program is Minnesota FastTRAC. It is possible that this program or other programs need enhancements or changes to be more available and more effective. Some characteristics of an ideal program include:
- Individual accountability for the person in the program
- Assistance in choosing a course of study in which the person is likely to succeed
- Wide availability, ideally through our Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system
- Partnerships with businesses to fill specific needs so that there is a good-paying job at the end of the program
- Short, focused training, since we need results as soon as possible
- Compatibility with current work and family obligations
- Supports such as child care for people in the program so that they have the best chance of success
In short, we need an approach that works quickly and is economical and effective. If we have programs that are not working, we need to end those programs and put the resources toward our immediate job training needs.
Certainly, this plan is not perfect. It can, however, be part of the solution to turn Minnesota's economy around and to get Minnesotans back to work in good-paying jobs.
My opponent's 122 authored or co-authored bills in the last regular session would not have put anyone back to work. He's had his chance; now, let's get to work on putting Minnesotans back to work. Elect me as your next State Senator, and I will make this brand of job growth a priority.
Catch the previous installment of this series at Top Five Reasons to Elect Andrew Brobston: #5: I Want to Be Senator for You, Not Me.