President Trump can win reelection but lighting a path for the unemployed, young people and minorities to decent jobs is critical.
When the states shut down their economies, governors expected the crisis to be brief and jobs to return — especially with federal aid for businesses, enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus checks to support consumer spending.
Sadly, too many small businesses have permanently shuttered and big enterprises like American Airlines, AMC and Brooks Brothers are succumbing to competitive pressures that have been building for years. When the vaccine arrives, the U.S. economy will be substantially smaller and with millions unemployed or sitting on the sidelines discouraged.
Cities are losing their allure. Zooming makes remote work easier, and big-city mayors refuse or are unable to keep demonstrations for social justice from turning into violence and anarchy. The number of workers and residents in Manhattan and other urban centers will be fewer each day next year than in 2019.
Restaurants, stores and other services that cater to commuters and residents will follow patrons to the suburbs. Cities that raised taxes, imposed congestion fees and let public transportation decline will lose a lot of sales taxes, transit fares and even students.
Suburban homes will feature more offices, but class and racial divisions will harden.
For now, distance schooling is crude, challenges student attention spans and stresses parents, but that’s because it’s all been done in a panic. If schools learn — like universities — to harness high quality media into engaging formats, children may prefer learning at home a few days a week.
That’s great for parents in professional positions who can work remotely. But for the struggling working class, facing fewer opportunities in cities, lower wages and are less able to help children with schoolwork, it will remain terribly unattractive.
All this will create enormous conflict between low-income parents who want schools open for breakfast and lunch five days a week, and those who might prefer leaner schedules — it’s going to divide over economic and racial lines.
It’s easy enough to provide subsidized high-speed Internet connections for every household, as we did telephones in the 20th century, but legislating higher wages and unions, as the Black Lives Matter movement demands and Joe Biden would appease, would raise prices and destroy as many jobs as lives it improves.
Middle-class professionals will purchase more delivered meals and groceries, render jobless public-facing service workers and further segregate society. It’s quite easy for middle-class, college-educated suburban women to support BLM in chat rooms and at churches when they work from home and don’t see minorities, as meals and children’s clothes are delivered by DoorDash and Amazon.
Reshoring factories will spread beyond face masks and prescription drugs. For example, Nokia’s and Ericsson’s production in China are becoming hostage to the Huawei confrontation and looking to move supply chains to safer locations.
This movement, however, won’t reawaken labor-intensive production lines and moribund unions like Joe Biden’s protectionist platform promises. Instead, reshoring and the shift to distance learning, working and collaboration will create plenty of new jobs in technology spaces.
Too often those jobs are not where recent high school graduates and the unemployed live, and beefing up local community-college programs — the centerpiece of Mr. Biden’s response — won’t put aspiring workers in the right places with the right skills.
Mr. Trump should send legislation to Congress to build out the Department of Labor apprenticeship program, and challenge big businesses that say they support BLM but can’t find enough qualified minority candidates to create new apprenticeship programs.
Generally, those pay $15 an hour and after two years of training result in jobs that pay better than the average new college graduate earns. However, currently students need to live near a program to enroll.
Mr. Trump should propose loans for transportation and housing for new enrollees to relocate for expanded industry programs for the careers they aspire. If the student lands a job, he is off the hook, but if he drops out, the student, bank and sponsoring firm each must repay one-third of the loan.
Washington is Brigadoon: It reawakens every two years for politicians to campaign on the same tired ideas. Republicans preach tax cuts and deregulation, and Democrats soak the rich and more government spending, but at least one player is focused like a laser.
• Peter Morici, @pmorici1, is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.
Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.