My guest today is David Gewirtz, author of How to Save Jobs , as well as Where Have all the Emails Gone? Welcome back to OpEdNews, David. I understand that you're going to be making a television appearance very soon. Can you tell us about it?
Sure. I'm on a History Channel special that airs tomorrow night [Wednesday, December 1] called The President's Book of Secrets. I haven't seen it yet, so I can't tell you about the entire program, but it's on the History Channel, so it's bound to be interesting.
My role was discussing a wide variety of aspects of presidential communications, particularly email, Internet, and social-related. Like I said, I don't know what made it into the program, but after it airs, I can certainly elaborate on any details you're curious about.
The premise of the program is a look into the secret aspects of the Presidency. The producers interviewed many fascinating characters from previous administrations and it looks like there will be some fascinating insights to be had from the program.
Considering that this interview will take a few days at least, we'll be able to talk after the program has aired. In the meantime, can you fill us in on what you've been up to since we last spoke in April of 2009?
Well, I've been writing for CNN and CBS Interactive's ZDNet Government blog, spent a good part of 2009 and early 2010 finishing How To Save Jobs, which became a detailed exploration of the factors that have changed our world over the last 20 years. It seems like a strange subject for a techie, but the more I looked into the "what got us here" question, the more I got curious. I built some interesting computer models, and really was able to see just how substantially different many of our economic factors are -- primarily because China and India have entered the economic world in force.
Other than that, well, I've been programming some interesting systems. I launched an experimental "AI Editor" which watches the news and categorizes information. Its first use was TrackYourCandidate.com, which tracks news on a candidate-by-candidate basis. The code is still very experimental, but it allows us to follow news by looking at each individual, so if you wanted to see a dossier of Nancy Pelosi coverage, say, you could. I'm looking at using this technology to track other hotspots, like disasters and policy conflicts, but the code is still a little while "in progress" for that, now.
Then, well, we took the work of the White House email book and the jobs book and decided we needed to start a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy group to really give these issues some thought. So we set up the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute with a variety of initiatives. It just recently became a full-fledged 501c3, so we're looking at how we (me and the other board members) can make a difference going into the future.
I did a whole swath of media interviews about online safety, the jobs and our economic challenges, the dark side of social networking, and other activities, all as part of USSPI's outreach programs. I also have been doing some national security stuff, advising homeland security professionals on countering cyberterrorism and dealing with cyberwarfare, but there's not much about that I can say publicly other than most of the government computing professionals I've met are exceptionally, exceptionally smart.
And, of course, there's my day job. I still edit online magazines about email and technology for ZATZ.
Good times. Good times!
Whoa! You have been busy. Let's talk first about what you discovered when you examined what's happened to our jobs and what we can do about it.
So, obviously I spent about 150 pages on that, but let's get pretty clear on the basics. Fundamentally, two extremely large countries decided they wanted to enter the 21st century. It's important to note that up until at least the 1970s, but really until the early 1990s, China and India were not active world-stage participants, particularly in labor. But their focus changed, especially as both sets of leaders realized that they had to modernize to feed all their people.
There's a challenging balance between the staggering number of people in China and India (some 2.5 billion or so) and how little most people make there. As a consequence, there's a virtually unlimited labor force of people who are smart, want to be educated, and are willing to put up with conditions no American would tolerate, for a fraction of the income. One example: middle class in China is about $2/day. We pay -- just for insurance -- about $2 an hour for a single employee's health insurance. And that doesn't count what we pay for a married employee, or his or her salary.
The other factor that contributed greatly is the Internet, which collapsed distances and lets us all communicate at light speed.
Okay. So, it looks like no contest on the labor front from a purely dollars and cents perspective. Especially, if I can hire people who can provide service, use the phone and Internet and not even inhabit the same continent that my business does. So, is that it? Is that the end of the story? Are we doomed because there are always people or peoples who will work for less?
No, not at all. But we do have to re-think some of our policies and strategies. America's employment policies are very much large-enterprise weighted. That means that when we look at adding millions of jobs, the first thing our leaders think about is how to get the big employers to hire more. The problem is that our big employers can't absorb all the people who need jobs.