Atrios posted this clip today and I decided to listen to it instead of relying on the summary. It’s somewhat out of context – it sounds like Bloomberg is in the middle of giving a short history of work, starting with farming, moving to the industrial revolution, and ending with the information age. His point was that most of the work done today requires a lot more skill than farming 300 years ago.
This is just bog-standard business conference stuff. Does he sound a little condescending? Yeah. Is this going to sink his battleship? Probably not.
Just as pure political strategy, I think attacking stuff like this for being “out of touch” is a political mistake. If you get this riff into context, Bloomberg probably has some solution that may or may not work to address the legitimate issue of what to do about an economy where a lot of people are locked out due to lack of technical skills. My guess is that his solution was unworkable, but he’s identifying a problem that resonates in “the heartland” — high tech skills and high tech jobs are few and far between in rural areas.
Frankly, the answer to this problem that is sometimes given by “moderate” Democrats’ – turning miners or assembly line workers into coders or network engineers – is just as vacuous as most of the conversations at business conferences. I spent a lot of time in “the heartland” last year, and the only “coder” I saw was when I looked into the mirror, because there are essentially no coding jobs in rural areas. What I did see was two paramedics in their late 50’s or early 60’s, men who had other jobs prior to retraining, who were now working in the only technical field in most rural areas, medicine. There were also a lot of nurses and aides, and home health care workers. Those home health care workers worked for agencies charging what, for that rural area, is a lot of money (like $25-35/hr), but I doubt that the aides saw a fraction of that. I also saw closed down nursing homes, and families struggling to take care of their elderly parents and grandparents at home when they really should have been in an assisted living facility or a nursing home.
A solution that really could help these rural areas is a huge infusion of money into Medicaid (which pays for most nursing home care, in the end), more assistance to pay for home health aides, and adding a requirement that aides and paraprofessionals be paid a much better wage. Then, retraining programs could be for medical jobs that actually exist in rural America, not IT jobs that exist in New York. But if you stand in front of a bunch of unemployed farmers or factory workers and tell them that, they’ll think you’re trying to sell them crappy jobs, because, today, those jobs don’t pay shit, and they’ve seen a lot of those jobs leave town.
The information economy is real, but so is the healthcare economy. The biggest employer in a lot of small towns is the hospital and/or nursing home — if they’re lucky enough to still have one or both of those facilities. That’s the reality in the heartland. Maybe Democrats could start addressing that if they want to win over a few voters in those places.
There’s plenty of other stuff that Bloomberg is terrible on – just attack him on that.