Half The Story – But Which Half?

Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor swung by Licking County to talk to some folks about some things near and dear to his heart. You remember John Husted. The same John Husted who as an elected representative was caught in a bizarre court case regarding being a representative of his district in Dayton all the while living with his family in a home in Upper Arlington; except that his “residence” in Dayton was unoccupied. Paying the water bill satisfied the courts that he was a lawful “resident.” Apologies for the digression but it was irresistible. No, John didn’t talk about affordable housing with the Newark Homeless Outreach at City Council. Nor did he speak about state initiatives to deal with methamphetamine abuse at a Newark Think Tank on Poverty meeting. No, Republican Lieutenant Governor (and wannabe future Governor) Husted’s heart embraced “Workforce development is the most important issue the state faces, Lt. Gov. John Husted told a Grow Licking County investor’s breakfast crowd Tuesday at The Granville Inn.” (Lt. Gov. Husted: Workforce development is Ohio’s most important issue Kent Mallet for the Newark Advocate, 4-2-19) Mallett is rather succinct: “”It is, by far, the most important issue we face,” Husted said. “Everywhere we go, this is the No. 1 issue. What we have to do is be a magnet for talent. The people, the communities, the states that get this right, will see greater prosperity. “Talent can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s someone who can pass a drug test and show up for work five days a week.” For others, he said, it could be someone with a doctoral degree. Adding to the challenge, he said, is the reality that more Ohioans will turn 65 years old than 18 years old during the next decade, dwindling the workforce further. Employers need mechanical engineers and electrical engineers, for example, Husted said.” Curious how the recent announcement of a new building to be constructed at OSUN COTC fits right in to that. Another digression, mea culpa. The next day the NY Times headlined “Short of Workers, U.S. Builders and Farmers Crave More Immigrants As a tight labor market raises costs, employers say the need for low-wage help can’t be met by the declining ranks of the native-born.” (Eduardo Porter, 4-3-19). Gasp! Significant numbers from the article: “The tightest labor market in more than half a century is finally lifting the wages of the least-skilled workers on the bottom rung of the labor force, bucking years of stagnation.” Not exactly mechanical or electrical engineers. “But to hear builders tell it, the rising cost of their crews reflects a demographic reality that could hamstring industries besides their own: Their labor force is shrinking. President Trump’s threat to close the Mexican border, a move that would cause damage to both economies, only adds to the pressure. Immigration — often illegal — has long acted as a supply line for low-skilled workers. Even before Mr. Trump ratcheted up border enforcement, economic growth in Mexico and the aging of the country’s population were reducing the flow of Mexican workers into the United States. The number of undocumented immigrants in America declined to 10.7 million at the end of 2017 from a peak of over 12 million at the height of the housing bubble in 2008, according to the Center for Migration Studies.” “The problem for builders is that the recovery in home building has outpaced the growth of the construction labor force. Housing starts have picked up to a pace of 1.2 million a month, more than twice as many as at their trough in April 2009. The number of nonsupervisory workers in residential construction, by contrast, has increased by only 40 percent since hitting bottom in 2011, to about 530,000.” “Were it not for immigrants, the labor crunch would be even more intense. In 2016, immigrants accounted for one in four construction workers, according to a study by Natalia Siniavskaia of the home builders’ association, up from about one in five in 2004. In some of the least-skilled jobs — like plastering, roofing and hanging drywall, for which workers rarely have more than a high school education — the share of immigrants hovers around half.” “For all the fears of robots taking over jobs, some economists are worrying about the broader economic fallout from a lack of low-skilled workers. And businesses across the economy are complaining that without immigration they will be left without a work force. “It is good for wages to go up, but if labor is at a point where employers can’t hire, it is reducing growth,” said Pia Orrenius, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “There’s also considerable wage pressure in small towns and cities that are depopulating, but that is a sign of distress, not of rising productivity.” The labor crunch is likely to persist for some time. The Pew Research Center projects very little growth in the working-age population over the next two decades. If the United States were to cut off the flow of new immigrants, Pew noted, its working population would shrink to 166 million in 2035 from 173 million in 2015.” Double Gasp! Work force development may be near and dear to Mr. Husted’s heart as the most important issue facing the state, but this is only half the story. In disguise, the Republican in Mr. Husted is promulgating a white power movement theme, since we don’t have to address what historically really made America great – immigrants. The vitriol, diatribes and lies (some just call it hate) directed at immigrants defies their underlying value to the country as well as Licking County. Velvet Ice Cream (poster child of Grow Licking County) was an immigrant contribution. “Many of the high school students who would replenish the pipeline of carpenters, plumbers and electricians are undocumented immigrants. “Half of the kids in the high school carpentry programs are DACA kids,” said Mr. Hoffmann, the Dallas builder, referring to a program that allows unauthorized minors to stay in the United States. “They are not documented, so we can’t work with them.”” (Porter, NY Times) “”You get what you reward,” Husted said. “Whatever society celebrates, it gets more of. I’ll do signing days at tech schools.”” (Mallett, Newark Advocate) Triple Gasp!

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