The reaction was as predictable as it was unenlightening.
On Dec. 28, President-elect Donald Trump claimed that 8,000 new jobs were coming to America because of “the spirit and the hope” his election had sparked.
Trump’s supporters rushed to praise the real estate developer and reality TV show star. “Are you getting tired of all this winning yet?” several people Tweeted.
The business mogul’s detractors, meanwhile, lambasted his willingness to take credit for business moves that appear to have been planned months before he won the presidency. “For eight years, I watched liberals give Obama credit… for economic successes having nothing to do with any of his policies,” RedState’s Jay Caruso wrote. “It’s just as bad seeing Trump supporters, and Donald Trump himself, take credit.”
As usual, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle. And, as is all-too-often the case these days, the bigger picture is being completely ignored as partisans seek to score political points.
If these jobs do come to fruition, thousands of people will have an opportunity to get to work. That’s great. And to the extent that Trump has had a hand in making that happen, it’s nothing to shrug at.
But it’s also just a drop in the bucket. President Barack Obama’s supporters will tell you that 15 million jobs have been created during his presidency. His detractors will tell you that the number is closer to 10 million. Even the more conservative figure, though, equates to an average of about 100,000 new jobs per month during Obama’s presidency.
And that’s a credit to Obama, but not a particularly unique one. That’s because job creation isn’t unusual. Private sector job creation has grown by the millions under every president since Franklin Roosevelt except for George W. Bush. And total job creation grew under Bush, too. If every president took credit for every company that added jobs — and every media organization covered the matter as Trump’s claims were covered last month — we’d have time to talk about very little else.
The question we should be grappling with today (and indeed, the question that may have led to Trump’s victory) is whether the average American is actually able to get one of those jobs — and whether those jobs will convey the sort of salary, benefits and satisfaction that would lead someone to conclude a job is “a good job.”
After all, for most workers real wages have been stagnant for decades. In about the same time period, the number of Americans who say they like their jobs has fallen sharply. Meanwhile, many workers stay put in jobs that don’t pay well and don’t give them satisfaction because they have a hard time envisioning a better path.
The antidote to all of this: Education and training. The more workers have, the less likely they are to feel stuck in a job they don’t like. Indeed, the more likely they are to be able to say they have “a good job.”
As president, Trump is almost assuredly going to spend a lot of time talking about the jobs that have been created under his watch. Responding with Pavlovian partisan bickering won’t help us understand the world American workers are truly living in.
So, do we really want to make America great? (Or greater?) If so, we must make access to education and training a priority.
The “good jobs” will follow.