Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Two Noteworthy Articles

I have had these two articles queued up to share for a while and just haven't gotten around to sharing them but they are too good not to bring to your attention.

The first is from the New York Times (see, I read stuff from the left!) and deals with a relatively unknown side-effect of the now almost ubiquitous antidepressent medications: once you start on them it is hard to stop. The article title says it all Many People Taking Antidepressants Discover They Cannot Quit. Some of the statistics are pretty staggering and it often seems as if the cure is worse than the disease and what it says about our society is troubling:

Antidepressants are not harmless; they commonly cause emotional numbing, sexual problems like a lack of desire or erectile dysfunction and weight gain. Long-term users report in interviews a creeping unease that is hard to measure: Daily pill-popping leaves them doubting their own resilience, they say.

“We’ve come to a place, at least in the West, where it seems every other person is depressed and on medication,” said Edward Shorter, a historian of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. “You do have to wonder what that says about our culture.”

Something has happened in our culture that people are so depressed and anxious. This has been going on for some time but it shows no signs of letting up. That is a bigger topic for a different day.

I have more personal experience with this problem than I would like and I can attest that the toll it takes on you physically and mentally is almost worse than not taking anything at all. This is a disturbing article but the sort of thing journalists should be investigating instead of worrying about strippers and fake news about Russian collusion.

The second article is about something near and dear to my heart, the need for skilled tradespeople. It is from the Wall Street Journal so you may have a paywall issue but I can open it using Opera, my preferred browser, and I hear you can often circumvent the paywall by opening it in a private/incognito tab. The article looks at the worker shortage in the Midwest and especially in Iowa: Iowa’s Employment Problem: Too Many Jobs, Not Enough People. Here in Indiana I know that manufacturers and skilled trades businesses are desperate for people with the right skills, that are not on drugs and that will actually show up to work. In most places of the country I respond to the complaints of open jobs with the fact that we are subsidizing people to not show up to work but in the Midwest that is only part of the problem:

If every unemployed person in the Midwest was placed into an open job, there would still be more than 180,000 unfilled positions, according to the most recent Labor Department data. The 12-state region is the only area of the country where job openings outnumber out-of-work job seekers.

So getting people off of unemployment is a good step but not the total solution. The bigger issue is that the Midwest has seen an outflow of workers, over a million people in this decade alone:

The Midwest has seen an outflow of people. A net 1.3 million people living in the Midwest in 2010 had left by the middle of last year, according to census data.

That makes it hard to fill jobs. The problem is two-fold. First, Americans are just not having enough children. Culturally we need to get back to a place where having a family and raising kids is seen as something noble and worthwhile. The WSJ and people like Bill Kristol would be happy to replace Americans with immigrants who depress wages but that is not a long-term solution, just a short-term band-aid to boost profits. The other problem is that we do subsidize workers to stay out of the workforce. I can understand why it might be more appealing to live on welfare and/or unemployment somewhere warm like California instead of working hard in a less appealing climate like Iowa but there is no reason to have people paid to sit on the sidelines when there are millions of good paying jobs sitting unfilled right now. Americans used to be a very mobile workforce but why move when you can get paid to stay where you are and not work?

It will take a little time but stop paying people to stay unemployed and start encouraging people to have children and the labor shortage in places like Iowa will solve itself.

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