For the last few months, Dean Baker has taken to referring to the “skills gap” in a unique way. If you read the Very Serious Commentators, you will doubtless have heard about the supposed skills gap. It is a form of apologia intended to justify high unemployment. The argument goes like this: people aren’t out of work because there is a lack of jobs; rather, they are out of work because they don’t have the skills necessary for the jobs that are available. And to bolster this, the commentator will find some employer who claims that, for example, he just can’t find manufacturing workers who can do trigonometry. What is almost never stated in such articles is that the example employer is only willing to pay slightly more than minimum wage for such skills.
Baker has been saying for a while there is a skills gap: the managers of these companies that can’t find qualified employees to hire don’t know basic economics which would tell them that if they want skilled employees, they need to pay them more money. He’s joking, of course. What’s really going on is that these employers are being disingenuous. Obviously, any employer would be able to sell more stuff if he could undercut the competition by paying less than the going rate for workers. Usually, it turns out that such employers are really just conservative ideologues trying to make a political point.
Today, Baker published a related article, It’s Hard to Find Good Help, Chicago Cubs Edition. It’s the kind of story that makes me boil over with rage, because we are talking about a baseball franchise. Major League Baseball has a Congressionally created monopoly—the only one in existence. And franchises are very profitable. But they still do everything they can to screw the American worker.
According to Talking Points Memo, Cubs Cut Workers’ Hours To Avoid Obamacare Mandate, Then Disaster Struck. The Cubs management didn’t want to have to provide healthcare for their grounds crew, so they cut back their hours to less than 30 per week so they wouldn’t have to. First: the Cubs don’t already provide healthcare for their grounds crew?! Second, that is the most petty thing I’ve heard this week. The disaster was that because the crew was under-staffed, the field got muddy and the Cubs ended getting a winning game overturned. So great! They totally deserve that.
But that’s not the best part of it. The best part of it has to do with the managerial skills gap I talked about at the beginning of this. Here’s Dean Baker:
This is entirely typical. My experience in the corporate world is that there is basically no correlation between success and competence. And many managers don’t get their information about government programs from objective sources but rather from people like Michael Savage. So it isn’t surprising in the least that the Cubs management got this wrong. They are as competent as they are kind.
Update (23 August 2014 3:45 pm)
Today, Dean Baker is back with another in his series, It’s Hard To Get Good Help: Trucking Industry Edition. He explains:
This pattern will exist pretty much anywhere people claim that employers can’t find workers. You know when it is for real because wages go up sharply. Something I should have noted above: during the Great Depression, conservatives made exactly the same claims, “Workers didn’t have the right skills!” But then we geared up for World War II and suddenly all those “unemployable” workers found jobs. The skills gap was a myth then and it is a myth now.