Neel Kashkari on the Jobs Situation in California

Neel Kashkari decided to highlight the bad jobs situation in California by putting “only $40 in my pocket (and no credit cards), a backpack, a change of clothes and a toothbrush,” traveling to Fresno (by Greyhound bus), and seeing whether he could find a job. Any job. It should not have been difficult; as Kashkari points out, “I am an able-bodied 41-year-old. Surely I could find some work.” As it turns out, he wasn’t able to find a single job in the one week during which he carried out his experiment. Not one.

Was this something of a publicity stunt that was designed to give Kashkari’s gubernatorial campaign a boost? Sure. Is “data” the plural of “anecdote”? Not at all. Could it be that part of the reason that Kashkari was not able to get a job the fact that he had to sleep out in the streets for six of the seven nights during which he tried his experiment, and because he only showered once during the week? Quite possibly. Nevertheless, it is more than a little shocking that Kashkari could not find one job during his experiment, despite doing just about everything within his power to get one–no matter how temporary that job may have been. Maybe, just maybe, the next time California governor Jerry Brown boasts of a “California Comeback!”, the rest of us should profess some skepticism about his claims.

Of course, it is worth noting that in his commentary on Kashkari’s op-ed, Brad DeLong makes it clear that the wouldn’t recognize Kashkari’s point if that point came along and slapped DeLong in the face:

But then comes the Republican boilerplate:

Failing schools that don’t prepare students for the skilled work force…. We have the power to tackle poverty if we implement smart, pro-growth economic policies, as many other states have done…. We have the policy ideas—improving education and reducing regulations to help create jobs—to rebuild the middle class and give every Californian, and every American, real economic opportunity.

Is Neel Kashkari really saying that his poor school preparation kept him from finding a job in Fresno last week?

Sigh. No, that is actually not what Kashkari is saying. What he is saying–and this would be obvious to anyone who actually read the piece carefully–is that while educated and able-bodied people like Kashkari are having trouble finding work (see the segment of Kashkari’s piece that discusses the highly educated former photographer who now feels lucky to have a job that allows him to serve coffee), it is even worse for people who lack Kashkari’s educational credentials, not to mention the rest of his sterling resume. As such, the education system in California does need to be improved so that Californians are better equipped to compete for jobs. I have absolutely no idea why this should be deemed a controversial point, although it am sure that for DeLong, any argument that might carry the slightest potential for making Republicans look bad is an argument worth making, no matter how low that argument’s actual chances of going over well with the rest of the population.

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