Paul Krugman: The Skills Zombie - NYTimes.com: "One of the most frustrating aspects of economic debate... has been the preference of influential people for stories about our troubles that sound serious as opposed to those that actually are serious.
The reality... our economy is depressed because there isn’t enough spending... we need... something, almost anything, that increases total spending. But policymakers and pundits want to hear about tough decisions and hard choices, and they just recoil from any suggestion that terrible problems might have easy answers. The most destructive example is, of course, the deficit obsession.... Rhe same kind of policy machismo was an important reason so many people who really, really should have known better supported the Iraq war.... This new EPI report is a useful reminder of the extent to which another doctrine that sounds serious retains a grip on discourse — namely, the notion that we have big problems because our work force lacks essential skills. This is very much a zombie doctrine.... The Boston Consulting Group... the only hints of a skills shortage it found were in unglamorous skilled blue-collar work... [in] only five of the nation’s 50 largest manufacturing centers (Baton Rouge, Charlotte, Miami, San Antonio, and Wichita) appear to have significant or severe skills gaps. Occupations in shortest supply are welders, machinists, and industrial-machinery mechanics. Some readers may recall that when we finally had a really clear-cut example of a skill so much in demand that wages were soaring, the skill was … operating a sewing machine.... Yet the skills story just keeps showing up in supposedly informed discussion. Again, I think that this is because it sounds like the kind of thing serious people should say.