The factory assembly-line jobs that were the mainstay of the middle class have been either shipped out or are being performed by dedicated machines/robots. Designing, building and maintaining robots is beyond a high school education, and a liberal arts degree is no help. This new “middle class” territory requires very specific education and training; if not at least a master’s degree as the passport — a giant leap from a high school diploma.
Transistors, computers and the Y2K fiasco have not had the broad impact of the First and Second Industrial Revolutions. Convenient and entertaining apps for a cellphone do not compare with the labor force to build a major highway system (in Eisenhower administration) or the talent pool escalation required for a trip to the moon (in Kennedy administration) or weapons system race to win the Cold War (during the Reagan administration). There has been a major redefinition what a “middle-class job” is and what is required to get one.
Meeting someone who’s been out of work for a long time with no prospects tugs at one’s conscience. Newt Gingrich made a cogent observation — 99 weeks of unemployment compensation is also enough time to get an associate degree. However, where and in what? That support structure wasn’t in place in 2007, and I’m not sure it’s there now!
The best prognostications for the Third Industrial Revolution are a combination of biotech, nanotech and robots. In the meantime, delaying the XL pipeline and totally rejecting coal doesn’t add alternative interim jobs and sends the wrong message. Like nuclear fusion and the cure for cancer, utopia is always ten years away. Suspending interim progress means we won’t have the wherewithal to make the Third Industrial Revolution happen once engineering and technology catches up with the scientific promises.