Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Democrats' Plan For Workers Falls Short

The party needs bolder ideas to help struggling Americans.


By The Editors
The Bloomberg View
July 26, 2017

Democrats unveiled what they are calling "A Better Deal" for American workers on Monday, but it might more accurately be called "A Modest Deal." Which is to say, it features some sensible ideas that don't go nearly far enough.

The proposal calls for a doubling of federal funding for apprenticeship programs, a new tax credit for businesses that invest in worker training, and closer partnerships between community colleges and employers to ensure that more students leave school with marketable skills.

All these ideas have merits and limitations. The Democrats' plan for apprenticeships matches the worthy yet vague one that the White House has already proposed. Tax credits give companies an incentive to develop the skills of their employees, rather than replace them, but there's no guarantee they'll choose that option.

The U.S. should place greater emphasis on career-based learning, but an even bigger challenge is to get community college students to stay in school long enough to earn a credential. The former leader of the party -- who just happened to be president as well -- had some appealing ideas on how to help students with jobs or families stay on track.

What's missing from this deal is a vision for how to help workers withstand the upheavals caused by trade, technology and automation. Skills that are in demand today will be obsolete a decade from now. The focus should be on giving workers opportunities to pursue training and education throughout their careers, not just when they start.

A more ambitious agenda might include an innovative proposal to offer "wage insurance" to formerly unemployed workers who take a job that pays them less than what they were previously paid -- which would encourage more workers to consider working in new industries at lower salaries. Another interesting idea would provide federal retraining loans to all American adults, which workers could use to cover education costs for the duration of their working lives.

The Democratic skills-promotion proposals do have the virtue of being attractive to some Republicans. But they're not ambitious enough to make a meaningful difference. American workers don't just need a better deal; they need a bolder one.


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