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G-7 Job Summit

March 23, 1994

The job summit is another exercise in futility and casuistry (March 15). The leaders of the G-7 are crying in their soup about the high unemployment in their respective, heretofore affluent democracies, and yet put in place mechanisms and incentives in the name of free trade and global competition that tend to make unemployment and underemployment a structural and long-term, rather than cyclical, phenomenon.

The blame is often placed on the victims of unemployment: They are not sufficiently trained, lack of basic skills, too expensive, too much regulation, too much taxation, etc. It is difficult to swallow the "lack of training" story when you hear that IBM, Apple, GM, and dozens more Fortune 500 companies lay off hundreds of thousands of workers, most of them highly skilled and college graduates. Does our government propose to retrain them to flip hamburgers?

In this country we have created tax incentives to destroy jobs. Every announcement of a downsizing, merger, restructuring is inevitably followed by a statement of how many workers will be let go, and of how much it is going to cost and impact profits for the period: hundreds of millions, billions in some cases. Read: The taxpayer is going to subsidize the layoffs by sheltering corporate profits. Which, of course, is a double hit since the taxpayer is also paying for unemployment compensation and all the other programs designed by government to fix the problem. A problem that, by its own policies, the government had a major role in creating.


La Jolla

In Detroit, President Clinton called on the world's leading industrial democracies to embrace the technological changes that are shaking their economies.

Whether embraced or not, there are growing concerns that the improvement in technology leads to layoffs.

The industrial nations must admit that unemployment, whether 6% or 16%, is inevitable when advanced technologies cause substantial reductions in employment. They must move beyond President Clinton's symbolism and carefully crafted rhetoric about future benefits generated by technological changes. They must provide jobs for the jobless.


North Hollywood

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