We live in a time of rapid technological change that is devastating old industries and opening up great opportunities for new. Across many fields, including farm fields, we’re in a time reminiscent of when the Ford Model T destroyed the horse buggy industry.
Republicans and weak Democrats want to subsidize the horse buggy industry where all the good jobs have been, and do whatever they can to keep out the newfangled car industry, which is where all the good jobs will be. It’s a very short-sighted way of looking at it, and will result in a lot of pain for workers and businesses in Southwestern Indiana.
I know what I’m talking about because I worked in one of the horse buggy-like industries for most of my adult life. The internet decimated jobs in print publishing. For over 10 years I experienced round after round of layoffs. It is stressful working like that, and it really hurts to see your colleagues lose their jobs. When they finally come for you, it’s more a feeling of relief than anything.
People in the coal industry, to take just one local example, are feeling that stress now. Clean energy is cheaper and in a capitalist society such as ours, cheaper is going to win. The government can waste our tax money and keep big coal coughing along with subsidies for awhile, but the writing is on the wall. The energy companies sure as hell aren’t going to subsidize coal. They don’t want higher costs of doing business. They want profit. And who among us wants higher energy bills?
So the choice is, do we profit from these technological advances, or do we go down with the horse buggy factory?
I say we profit from these technological advances. Staying with energy as an example, how many jobs can we create by putting solar panels on every house and business? And how much could we really profit by bringing clean energy related manufacturing to the district, which would include scientists, engineers, and plenty of white collar and office jobs, as well as the trades?
That’s what we need to be doing. Like I said above, I’ve lived through the death throes of a once thriving industry. But when print publishing was dying, there were no pandering politicians making false promises to save us. And lest you are not inclined to shed tears for journalists and technical folk, print publishing was largely a blue collar vocation. Small business, too. Remember all those film developing kiosk’s? That business is gone.
Not only was no one trying to save us, none of us were crying to be saved. Pandering politicians like to blather on about subsidizing failing businesses and job retraining programs that rarely, if ever, work – but what people really need is a thriving job market with jobs that pay decent wages and provide decent benefits. I suspect the coal miners understand that as well as the print shop people did.
Just as the workers in the horse buggy factory understood it before us.
The horse buggy factory workers went on to get better jobs in the auto plants where for generations workers earned a solid middle class existence.
We’ve got to make sure today’s coal miners, and others affected by technological change have similar opportunities. Because at the end of the day, opportunity is what people really want. Not government handouts.