The country is suffering as a result of continued high unemployment, growing inequality, and the loss of trillions of dollars of wealth that has left the huge baby boom cohorts unprepared for retirement. In this situation what does the NYT put on its oped page? A piece by Todd and Victoria Buchholz complaining that young people increasing think that luck is the main determinant of economic outcomes in the United States.
It is understandable that young people would see luck as the main determinant of outcomes, since it clearly is not qualifications. Anyone want to argue that the people who sent the economy into the toilet were the most talented folks available for the job?
But much of the rest of the piece also makes no sense. The Buchholzes complain that 18-year-olds are much less likely to have a drivers license today than 30 years ago. This is taken as a reduced impulse to mobility.
That could be the case, but the more likely explanation is the increased restrictions that states are placing on young drivers. Did the Buchholzes not know about these restrictions or did they just choose to ignore them because they didn't fit their story?
They also complain that people are less likely to move across state lines. Again, if they had done their homework they would know that interstate moves always drop in a downturn. It is not surprising that in a downturn as bad as the current one, there would be a big falloff in mobility.
After all, there is no point in moving if there is nowhere to go. In other downturns there were areas of solid growth even as the rest of the nation was slumping. For example, in the 1981-82 recession, many people could look to the oil boom in Texas as a source of employment.
Where would someone go for a job today? The Buchholzes suggest North Dakota with its 3.3 percent unemployment rate.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Dakota currently has roughly 400,000 jobs. If the number of jobs increased by 10 percent (a huge rise), it could absorb less than 0.4 percent of the unemployed workers in the country.
Perhaps unemployed workers don't drop everything and rush to North Dakota because they have a better understanding of economics and arithmetic than the Buchholzes. Their likelihood of getting a good paying job in North Dakota is in fact very low. If the Buchholzes did their homework before writing a column for the NYT, they would know this.
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