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Where Have All the Jobs Gone? -

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Politically, as union power declined, the concerns of Democratic policy makers shifted from working-class issues like jobs and toward the concerns of upper-income constituents, like inflation, taxes and budget balancing.

Economically, a number of trends have created persistent, upward pressure on the jobless rate. Since 2000 — the last time the market was at full employment — productivity is up about 30 percent, while employment has been flat. And that’s not just because of the recession; the same pattern prevailed during the 2000s expansion.

One explanation may be that capital investment has become, to put it politely, more “labor saving.” Yes, this process has been going on forever, but robotics and other ways of automating tasks may be accelerating it.

Second, our large and persistent trade deficits have exported too much demand. There’s nothing wrong, and a lot right, with increased global trade. The problem comes when it stays out of balance for so long, as it has in America, with trade deficits averaging 5 percent of G.D.P. in the 2000s, compared with 1 percent in the 1990s. That’s millions of net jobs lost.

Third, a growing number of economists believe that our very high levels of inequality are not just whacking the incomes of the “have-nots” but are slowing job growth as well. Part of this works through the demand channel: with so much spending power in the hands of so few, consumer demand is becoming bifurcated. Walmart will do well on one end, Neiman Marcus on the other, with too little in between. Another part works through misallocation: too much economic activity devoted to “innovative” finance and too little to sectors more germane to middle-class jobs and incomes.

What would it take to reverse these trends? For one thing, in the near term, do no harm. Austerity, including sequestration, is the economic version of medieval leeching. The Federal Reserve continues to apply high doses of monetary stimulus, and that’s supporting low interest rates, which in turn are linked to the improving housing market. But it can’t do it alone, and Congress is counteracting such tailwinds with fiscal headwinds.

We also need a significant, permanent program to absorb excess labor (an explicit part of the Humphrey-Hawkins law). We should consider restarting and rescaling a subsidized jobs program from the 2009 Recovery Act that, though relatively small, made jobs possible for hundreds of thousands of workers.

And we have to reassess our manufacturing policy, including reducing the trade deficit. That means both reshaping our dollar policy — going after competitors who suppress their currencies’ value to get an edge on net exports — and public investments in areas where clean energy intersects with production.

Finally, financial deregulation has become the enemy of full employment: it funnels capital to unproductive parts of the economy, and plays a key role in the “shampoo cycle” of bubble, bust, repeat. Less volatile capital markets mean fewer shocks to the job market.

We haven't had full employment since 2000? Damn.

What took our jobs?

1. More efficiency and better use of technology.

2. Years of trade deficits.

3. Consumers having less money to buy things is a vicious cycle.

Austerity and sequestration are not what I voted for. How can I vote out the people who are pushing those policies?

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