Some substantial fraction of Americans are unemployable in any for-profit private-sector enterprise that’s legal in the US. To put it another way, the private sector as it is today cannot provide jobs for more than a fraction of those who need them.
Learning exactly what fraction is unemployable would involve letting a bunch of people starve in the street, but in fact it would never come to that. They’d vote for politicians who would promise them jobs, and everyone else would vote for politicians who would stop the riots.
Certainly the government is to blame for much of this, and the short-sighted greed typified by junk bond leveraged buy-outs is responsible for some of the rest, along with technology, and chance.
Things need to change, but they cannot change quickly, and we don’t know exactly what to change anyway – central planning doesn’t work. Big fixes always break something else. We can’t fix things by taxing the corporations to redistribute the earnings that no longer go to unskilled American workers. That approach helped dig the present hole. We can’t teach everyone Calculus – trust me on this. We can’t give every student Bill Gates’s “world-class college preparatory education.” We can’t ship 20% of the US population to China or Indonesia.
This is the optimistic scenario.
It might help if we could lay off 50,000 local, state, and federal Deputy Assistants for Administrative Implementation. But really, those 50,000 paper-pushers would end up in prison, on welfare, or doing the same useless busywork in the private sector. Some think if push came to shove, and if circumstances just shoved hard enough, those people would buckle down and find productive employment pushing a weenie cart, or making artisanal yoghurt, or peddling suckbrooms door-to-door. That’s a fantasy.
The truth is when it comes to public policy we can’t do much of anything – though I bet if we reached across the aisle in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation we could make things worse. Really, as far as collective action goes, we just have to make it to next year, and then the year after that, and hope that incremental changes improve things. It’s worked before.