To the editor:
Well, they have done it: The current stampede of candidates for “public service” at every level has headed for the easy one, the lowest common denominator, the unimpeachable and undeniable slogan. It makes a serviceable weapon, when used to club the opposition. It is non-offensive, and can be seen as “common sense.” It is sensitive to the deepest need of the community. And it makes a good defensive shield, as well.
Unfortunately, it is also too easy, too diaphanous, and too easy to use as a justification for later errors and ultimately self-serving policy-making. San Marcos makes a wonderful test laboratory for the best — and in recent times, the worst— use of the “more and better jobs” battle cry.
Since I am presenting an opinion, and being long accustomed to the role of lightning rod, I offer some bona fides, by way of explaining how and why I came to my point of view. Some are forgiven for saying I am just another blowhard in the hurricane of civic life. Debaters are welcome, even encouraged. I am not in the discussion for me or my own interests, the main ones of which are factual truth and an abiding belief in the social contract which is/was our defining value.
At Southwest Texas State, I took a teacher certification, with graduate work in counseling and guidance, emphasis vocational. In teaching, I spent some years in occupational education — the degree program for “adult, non-traditional students.” My job included teaching, counseling, and degree evaluation and planning. Our guiding star was U.S. Department of Labor’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles, our official catalog of “things people do.” The object was to meld a person’s tested abilities and interests, proven skills, prior formal education, job experience and training, in order to set and maximize future educational and professional goals. These could be capped with an internship and validated with an undergraduate diploma. We were helping adults to “re-tool” or “reinvent” mid-career, first and most often for military types.
Ensuing years found me, among other things, at the dais of San Marcos City Council for 12 years. During this time, a part of my duty was to serve on the Rural Capital Workforce Development board (now with a spiffier name, but still the same), which was nationally honored in WDC for its “Outstanding Excellence” among such boards. As a community service, I served on and chaired the Gary Job Corps Community Relations Council, also for years. So, too, the Capital Area Council of Governments. Likewise the local economic development council and the San Marcos Corridor Business Incubator. I attended the birth of the Greater Austin/San Antonio Corridor Council, and remained active. Good enough?
All that said, most of those who are clamoring for “jobs at any cost” are just blowing smoke, intentionally or not. They are easy dupes for any cockamamie scheme, project, initiative, etc. that comes to the waterhole to feed on suckers. And, for the most part, they are bound to disappoint. Most have not the ongoing research, nor the factual basis, which must underlie this most serious of economic policy issues. They have little or no picture of regional, state, national or any other scale of the status quo, the trends, the proven results of past efforts, the relationship and tension between what we have — our resources — and what we want — apparently and inevitably, “higher-pay, higher-skill jobs.” Most can’t decide whether growth fuels jobs or jobs fuel growth, so they confuse the two and wobble in limbo. They throw stuff at the wall just to see what sticks. This is the notably ineffective “shotgun approach.” Both expensive and disappointing every time, the assumption that “If we get enough lead in the air, we’re bound to hit something.” Do these folks think the identical discussion is not going on in every hamlet and village, all in competition with us? Wake up time!
My plea here is that we probe beneath the slogan and the polite Wiffle-ball questions to find what the candidates know, not just that they will vote for and support anything with a “jobs” label on it. That is how we got where we are. And it will keep us there. Still suffering, still divided by education, ethnicity and income. Still dragged down by crime and dependency. Still like the Lost Tribes, wandering in the desert and crying for “jobs, the key to prosperity and peace.” Still funding residential development and retail stores and tourist traps. Still wiling to lie down for ACC’s tax empire. Still dumbing down education to make the brass ring easier to catch, even for the disinterested. And still whining.