Our nation is going through a period of record low unemployment rates. Unemployment in July was 3.9 percent nationwide and 4.8 percent in Mississippi.
Although only a few states had higher unemployment rates than Mississippi, by historical standards, Mississippi has never experienced such a low level of unemployment in its entire history.
Even better, for the first time since the Great Recession, total employment is actually going up. Compared to a year ago, we have 10,000 new jobs.
I am reminded of columns I wrote in the 1990s when NAFTA was passed. Textile plants were shutting down like crazy. People believed that without protectionism our unemployment would skyrocket. But it didn’t happen. The market responded. People found other jobs.
Labor force disruption is a byproduct of progress. As the pace of progress quickens, the pace of job destruction will quicken as well.
Nobody likes to lose a job. It’s stressful, but it’s the cost of a higher standard of living.
In the last 30 years world poverty has declined from 40 percent to 10 percent. This is the greatest progress in the history of mankind. And it’s only going to get better. Per capita income has steadily advanced.
Some of this global progress has come at the expense of the United States. We were king of the hill and now dozens of countries are advanced and can compete. It was a self pipe dream to think the United States could be extraordinarily rich and the rest of the world poor.
But as other nations develop, their labor costs go up and American industry begins to be competitive again. The worst is over.
When my children are my age, the world will be a much better place, if we don’t blow ourselves up.
When I was in first grade, I had to do a drill in which I ducked under my desk and put my hands behind my neck to protect myself from a nuclear blast. Right. Like that was going to protect me from vaporization. Even at age six, I saw through that.
My entire generation grew up with accepting the notion that at any moment the entire world could be blown to smithereens. Surely there are some personal and cultural scars.
The other great fear was overpopulation and starvation. That didn’t pan out either. Turns out as nations develop their birthrate drops like a rock. Europe, America and China are not reproducing fast enough to replace those dying.
Now we have global warming as the big bugaboo. No doubt there is something to this and it should be a concern. But I don’t believe it’s the end of the world. Last year, twice as much wind and solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil fuels. At that rate, we will be done with fossil fuels in about 25 years, if need be.
Fear seems to be part of our nature. My friend Billy Neville gave me a prayer book titled, “Stay Calm and Trust God.” One of the main concepts is that the end of faith becomes the start of fear.
“Stay calm” was the motto of the English when Nazi annihilation seemed inevitable. Miraculously, it was not. The world survived the Nazi horror and has not seen another world war since.
Certainly, God has charged humans with stewardship of his magnificent creation. I would never advocate irresponsibility. But physics has shown the very essence of our universe is fine-tuned to 10 to the power of about 500. That would be one followed by 500 zeros. If any of the main forces of the universe were off by even one of those zeros, the entire universe would collapse. Given that, a degree of trust and faith in God seems warranted.
As I tell my friends, if I thought humans were really the masters of their fate I too would be terrified for the future.
Which brings me back to unemployment. Mississippi has led the nation in bribing big companies to locate here. Perhaps all those dead last demographic stats have given Mississippians an inferiority complex. We don’t think our state or our people are good enough to compete on our own.
Over the years, I have written many columns arguing against these sweetheart deals for big corporations. Not only are they unfair to smaller employers, they distort the free flow of capital and lower our standard of living. It is corporate welfare.
Apparently some folks listened. We have not had a secret rushed corporate welfare special legislative session in years. And lo and behold, look what’s happened. Record low unemployment for Mississippi.
It’s not rocket science. The free market works better than corporate welfare. Free people left alone do better than government graft and corruption.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has been preaching this sermon for many years. If elected lieutenant governor, he has promised to end the mega-corporate sweetheart deals. Good for him.
Hosemann did a survey of 5,000 businesses about what they needed most to grow. Government handouts were way down on the list. A skilled workforce was by far the most important. Good schools and infrastructure was high on the list as well.
Businesses estimated that half the time, they can only find qualified employees in zero to three months, and it takes between three months to a year or longer to fill positions about 50 percent of the time.
When you subsidize special companies, they can use the subsidy money to steal skilled employees from unsubsidized companies. The net result distorts the labor market and hurts the economy.
Of course, these big subsidy announcements came with all kinds of studies to justify the hundreds of millions in corporate welfare. I have seen the studies. I have asked the hard questions. The studies are a joke. They’re just make believe to justify what is, in essence, a political decision. Every politician want to be seen as “creating jobs.” It’s pandering, plain and simple.
The only person capable of creating a job is you. When individuals develop the skill set to make them valuable in the labor force, they create jobs. Government cannot do it for you.
The government can do something. It provides the basic infrastructure such as roads, laws, safety and schools. As we progress, we are finding the free market can do even some of these things better. The main thing the government needs to do is get out of the way and let free people better themselves with a minimum of artificial constraints.
Fortunately, Mississippi seems to be making some progress in this regard.