Without doubt, the quality of life for most Americans is eroding.
We are living through the fifth year of the worst recession that most living Americans have ever experienced. The National Bureau of Economic Research
declared it over in June 2009. But a recovery in which workers continue to lose
jobs, families lose homes and young people lose hope is no recovery at all.
Although Massachusetts’ 6.3% unemployment rate is well below the national average, we are at 9% in Bristol County. And a lot of us are hurting.
As a teacher and an academic advisor, I meet people on a daily basis who have spent a lifetime building skills that no one is buying anymore; or who would take any job, if it were offered to them; or whose farm is on the brink, burdened by overregulation that is inappropriate to its small scale. For example, regulations for large scale, industrial farmers are also mandated against our small local farmers.
While such regulations are appropriate for the large farming conglomerates, they are not so for a small farmer who does not have the wherewithal to institute the
necessary strategies, equipment and capital layout that the large firms can
handle. An individual farm that has 40 chickens cannot even be compared, let
alone compete against, one who has 400,000.
Why overburden our small farmers with such unfair red tape and inappropriately scaled regulations?
A March 2012 analysis on our state economy, written by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, states that there are 920,339 Massachusetts residents who face severe labor underutilization problems. This number of fellow citizens constitutes those who are unemployed, underemployed, hidden unemployed and mal–employed (i.e., those employed persons holding jobs in occupations that do not utilize their occupational skills, training, or education).
In other words, the Great Recession has led to record numbers of US and Massachusetts workers having “high worker dislocation massive increases in open unemployment, underemployment, and hidden unemployment, and record high mean durations of unemployment.” Also, many of our young college graduates find it challenging, if not outright difficult, to obtain employment, especially in the traditional college labor market.
Regarding the pool of underutilized labor and the numbers of available job postings / job vacancies demonstrates “major labor surpluses are the norm not labor market shortages.” Job deficits are our number one labor market problem.
Here’s what was discovered in 2011: “there were at least 9 underutilized workers in Massachusetts for every job posting in recent months and quite likely 14-15 for every actual available job vacancy. For the state’s blue-collar workers, the ratios varied from 11-1 to as high as 31-1 representing massive labor surpluses.”
The present level of labor surplus in our nation is among the worst in the entire post-World War II era.
The obvious answer: we need to create jobs.
Many of the elements that we need to revitalize our local economy are already in place. We have educational institutions, training organizations and career counselors. Entrepreneurial centers can support people who want to start enterprises. Labor force and business analysts can track economic trends and identify growth opportunities. Existing businesses and chambers of commerce
have relevant insights, needs, and knowledge. Banks and other financial
institutions have ample funds that could support new and existing enterprises,
but lending activity remains low. My campaign supports expanding credit unions
and keeping more local money staying local.
Although you and I support many of these programs with the taxes
we pay, we are not getting their full benefit for at least two reasons. They do
not coordinate with each other sufficiently to create a whole that is much more
productive than the sum of its parts. In today’s economy, such coordination is
essential. Nor do we get the same benefit from many of these programs that
those living in highly urbanized areas receive. The programs don’t operate
here, or they don’t understand and connect with our local economy.
As your State Representative, I would make economic development my
mission. For example, we could do in Massachusetts what is being done in North
Dakota. Create a state bank that would save hundreds of millions of dollars in
debt from bonds. It would have as central to its mission, To deliver quality,
sound financial services that promote agriculture, commerce and industry in the
Commonwealth. It would operate as an economic development bank.
Such a bank is involved with two types of lending: direct lending and participation loans. It can focus, for instance, on the following three areas:
- The purchase or acquisition of bank stock or the formation of a bank holding company.
- The acquisition or refinancing of farm real estate by qualified individuals.
- Assistance with post secondary educational costs (i.e., student loans).
I would not only pursue legislative solutions. As I said, much of
what we need is in place. I would forcefully advocate for the effective
extension of existing services to Bristol County. And I would use my office to
bring educational and training institutions, businesses, innovation centers,
career centers, and government programs into more effective coordination.
In future posts, I’ll discuss what agricultural reforms we can make to revitalize our farm economy. I’ll suggest actions that can help distressed homeowners and give a boost to the real estate sector. And I’ll tell you how we can pay for everything that I propose.
I am running for office because we need more independent leaders with vision who can collaborate with others to restore strength in our communities.
A. Keith Carreiro is a candidate to be the Massachusetts State Representative from Rehoboth, Seekonk, Precincts 4 and 5 of Swansea, and Precincts 1 and 2 of Norton. Keith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.