The job-generation debate detracts attention from the truly vital issues.
"There's a lot of comfort in being around similarly disturbed people."
-- Robert Iverson, founder and CEO of Kiwi International Airlines, on why he started a business in an industry in which most companies are losing money
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In recent months the public debate about job generation has sunk to the level of a Lite Beer commercial, only not as funny or as entertaining. Instead of aging jocks, we have rival special interests, grinding their axes in the business pages of the New York Times and other metro dailies, using ill-informed journalists to make the case that big is best or small is beautiful or some equally trivial notion. (One noteworthy exception is the Wall Street Journal; see the excerpt [ [Article link]].)
It would be one thing if the debaters were genuinely interested in expanding our knowledge of the job-generation process, but apparently they're not. They are simply pushing their respective ideological agendas. From a public-policy standpoint, does it matter whether small companies are responsible for 61% or 79% of net new jobs? And why would you want to write off many of those jobs as inferior, low-paying, unstable, whatever -- unless, of course, you were making a case for the importance of labor unions (which are presumably responsible for the great pay, wonderful benefits, and terrific job security offered by large companies)? On the other hand, how could anyone contend that big companies contribute nothing to the economy? How could anyone, that is, except professional small-business advocates?
The real problem with all this blather is that it distracts us from the truly important issues related to job generation. For example:
· How should we deal with the growing numbers of people who can't get jobs at all, regardless of who creates them?
· Is regulation making it so difficult to manage people and so dangerous to fire them that employers will go to increasing lengths not to hire in the first place?
· What is the appropriate role of business, government, and the educational system in preparing future generations for a workplace that will make demands many young people will have great trouble meeting?
When we debate about jobs, those are the types of issues we should be talking about. It's time to move on.
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Saturday, July 16, 1994
Mark your calendars, and watch your wallets. On this date, the Americans with Disabilities Act expands its coverage from businesses with 25 or more employees to those employing 15 people or more.
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In May I wrote about a proposal to create the first national museum of entrepreneurship, in Denver. Unfortunately, the museum proposal was rejected. The space will be used instead for a restaurant. So it goes.
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Before & After
"Men. Blue suits. Coffee."
-- Jamila Hubbard, 18, on the image of business she had growing up in Fremont, Calif.
"Fun. Interesting. I'm beginning to realize how much I like money. And that I've got what it takes to earn it."
-- Jamila Hubbard, on the image of business she has now, after being named a winner of a business-plan competition for teen women and meeting some of the nation's leading female business owners