The Irony of Government Playing the Role of Job Trainer
(AP Photo/LM Otero)
The Irony of Government Playing the Role of Job Trainer
(AP Photo/LM Otero)
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I loved watching CNN’s “Crossfire” back in the day.  The verbal jousting reminded me of “Siskel & Ebert” debating the latest movies when I was a kid. 

Shortly after 9/11, they had Democratic strategist Peter Fenn on to spar with then-RNC Communications Director Cliff May.  The topic was economic “stimulus” legislation, and Fenn was pushing for “job training.”

Activists have always wanted government to play a central role in this.  The San Antonio Express-News is part of that chorus, recently urging “patience” with the city’s latest effort, dubbed “Train for Jobs” (TfJ). 

The Alamo City version in the age of the coronavirus suffers from the usual pitfalls, and some misconceptions, all under the false pretense that “COVID-19 brought San Antonio’s economy to a standstill.”

This narrative is universal, but it’s also highly debatable.  Truth is, we’ll never know for sure the extent to which it was responsible. 

Organizations were putting out (more) hand sanitizer.  CEOs were wiping down door handles.  People were making adjustments.  It’s arguably more accurate to say that the primitive government lockdowns sent society into a tailspin. 

Whenever we hear of Wall Street gyrating after a new variant appears, it’s not the virus they’re reacting to.  Like most everyone else, investors know they mutate, especially as we bolster our immune systems, update vaccines, etc. 

What is more difficult to predict is the collective wisdom, to put it charitably, of elected officeholders.  Their reaction to the coronavirus, at every level, regardless of political party, is merely the latest example of what slows us down, if not bring things to a grinding halt. 

And the media doesn’t help when it relays only part of the story.

Imploring San Antonians to “be patient” with “the city’s workforce efforts,” the Express-News asks us to “consider the cost of the status quo — unemployment.” 

“The job training was launched,” they remind us, “in spring 2020, when 140,000 city residents found themselves out of work.  It’s a different job market today.“ 

Indeed it is, but they don’t elaborate. 

The employment situation in San Antonio is a fraction off where it was before the government shutdowns.  As the Express-News concedes, “only 888” of the climb back can be attributed to the federally-funded TfJ program.  What could account for the rest?

Actual job creators.  The current “ecosystem,” including the pre-existing educational infrastructure, seems to be working pretty OK.  

Nevertheless, despite these lackluster returns, San Antonio mayor Ron Nirenberg led a campaign convincing three-quarters of voters to commit a portion of sales tax revenue to the “Ready to Work” initiative, a continuation of the TfJ. 

Why?  Do they believe employers and schools to be inadequate?  Was it to redirect more taxpayer money to the latter?  That will only will add fuel to the tuition-inflation fire.

Was it a means to push government dependence i.e. “wraparound services”?  Or was it simply a quest for a ‘political victory’? 

Before voters are asked to approve more government action, or indebtedness as with the looming bond election, they would benefit from knowing the whole picture. 

It also might be helpful to know why, for example, the city “was slow to set up it (sic) internal structure” for the TfJ. 

Government is under little threat of going out of business.  Therefore, it lacks the incentive that drives the rivals (postal delivery, education, book stores) that do appear: the profit motive.  It faces less pressure to deliver a quality good or service in a timely manner.

So wanting is the government product, that its competitors have found a way to do so, at acceptable prices, even as their customers continue to be taxed to finance the public options. 

And the politicians and bureaucrats in charge know it.  So do their cronies.    

Rather than promote superior private alternatives, these folks have every motivation to convince voters to pay a ‘tiny’ fraction more in taxes for another government program. 

The only skill they need is putting the right words together to weave an alluring tale of guaranteed goodies on the other side of the voting booth.  Whip some excitement into the masses.

Kinda like the media. 

Christopher E. Baecker manages fixed assets at Pioneer Energy Services, teaches economics at Northwest Vista College, is a board member of the Institute for Objective Policy Assessment, policy director at InfuseSA, a member of the San Antonio Business & Economics Society, and is a former candidate for San Antonio city council.  He can be reached via email or Facebook

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