Again with the jobs, jobs, jobs

What does “jobs, jobs, jobs” really mean?

From the local chattering class, to state media, to everyone still running for office, the phrase, most often attributed to the Iron Range’s own Gov. Rudy Perpich, is the 2010 election Pledge of Allegiance. Those of us on the Range have heard “jobs, jobs, jobs” often before, recited occasionally by local officials and developers in lieu of complete paragraphs.

The issue rises again in the Mesabi Daily News gubernatorial endorsement of former Sen. Mark Dayton a week ago. To paraphrase, Dayton is for jobs, jobs, jobs, while Matt Entenza and Margaret Anderson Kelliher took some minor procedural vote against a change to the Mesabi Nugget project in 2005, therefore proving — to the MDN — that while these candidates might be for jobs, they’re not for jobs, jobs, jobs. I think this is a short-sighted view of these candidates’ records and the solution to the Iron Range’s real problems.

Mesabi Nugget is great. I don’t wish those jobs away, but those jobs took massive public funding to create, are roughly similar to the “free” jobs we get from U.S. Steel and Cliffs and subject to all the same inevitable market pressures. In other words, this will all be forgotten the next time steel prices drop again and hundreds of Range miners once again rejoin the unemployment rolls. Not to be negative, but this will happen again within 10 years, and then the whole works will restart, drop and restart again and again until one day it doesn’t. Meantime, we should all be bracing ourselves for a tough report from this year’s U.S. Census and an existential state budget crisis. Bellowing jobs, jobs, jobs means as much as being for “freedom” or “the American Way.” It’s emotional, and means whatever you want it to mean, or the opposite of that.

Hold on, now. I must again remind you that I’ve been a great dispenser of the jobs, jobs, jobs mantra, particularly back in my editorial writing days. I’m a fan of the late Gov. Perpich, but so often those who crib from his mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs” fail to realize that his policies included investment not just in specific projects, but also in vital infrastructure like public education and a functional, flexible public safety net. This was the prevailing policy in the years I was a young child. And as a young adult I used to think that “a good job” was all a person needed to succeed. Mostly, that’s true, but a good job is hard to find, and one good job no longer guarantees a career.

I’m now tracking toward a belief that a person needs the ability to generate his or her own economic output commiserate with his or her talents — i.e. education, critical thinking and proper understanding of risk and reward. A portion of that output is then harnessed to fund the institutions supporting society at large. That’s right, Ayn Rand, I said it. We need both the efforts of individuals and the compounding power of a strong social and economic system. That’s the mother’s milk that made America great, and could again. I’d repeat it three times, a la “jobs, jobs, jobs,” but that would be too much, wouldn’t it?

Jobs, jobs, jobs will pour down like manna from heaven when we get smart, smart, smart. Anyway, this whole post is a tangent that I extracted from a long analysis post dissecting the state of the DFL Primary that I have slated for Monday, which is Primary Election Eve. Stay tuned.

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