Well, Joe didn’t go to elementary school, because his family needed him to work in the mills so they could make ends meet. He never learned to read or write, so his wife signed his papers for him. Just a century ago there were plenty of kids like Shoeless Joe.
These days kids in South Carolina go to school, while many of their parents work in the BMW plant instead of the textile mill. More than 110,000 people in the state work for foreign employers. These jobs pay well, too. The federal government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis says the earnings of persons employed in South Carolina increased 5.7 percent from 2004 to 2005.
The Organization for International Investment, a business association, calculates that “U.S. subsidiaries of companies headquartered abroad support 5.1 million American jobs, with an annual payroll of close to $336 billion.” But you can’t attract these “in-sourced” jobs if you try to seal our economy in amber and protect every existing job, as so many presidential candidates seem to want to do. Should we have started subsidizing horse-and-buggy makers when cars were invented?
Look at Europe, where countries such as France have tried to protect every existing job by making it almost impossible to fire an employee, no matter how poorly he performs. As a result, companies are reluctant to hire new people, so the country suffers from high unemployment (8.3 percent in the third quarter of this year). And unemployment is even higher among younger people, those who ought to be the workers of the future. One in five people under 25 can’t find a job.
History is a terrific tool. We should learn from it and make sure we keep moving forward with optimism.
Ignore the fearmongers on the campaign trail. It’s impossible to freeze an economy without freezing new people out. Life in the United States is better today than it’s ever been, and it’ll be better still next month, next year and in decades to come.