Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Too productive for their own good 

Mort Zuckerman puts the productivity question starkly:
Productivity has grown right through the downturn and into the incipient recovery. A 1 percent increase in productivity eliminates the need for about 1.3 million jobs. Of the 2.7 million jobs lost over the past three years, a million were lost within 90 days after 9/11, and only 300,000 resulted from outsourcing. In 1990, America had 169,000 steelworkers. Eleven years later, that number had been cut nearly in half--but those workers produced 17 percent more steel. The long-term trend for manufacturing employment has been downhill for at least 25 years, and it won't be going back up again. This is true not only for America but for the world's 20 largest economies. We lost 11 percent of our manufacturing jobs; the Japanese lost 15 percent; Brazil lost 20 percent. Even China lost 15 percent. Why? Higher productivity.
Zuckerman argues that this was an opportunity missed by John Kerry. Question raised: Is it possible that an economic policy could increase productivity too much for its own electoral chances? If we could get away from Memogate, Swiftees and the rest, this would make a fascinating topic.