January 20, 2004

In Praise of Romney/The new economy

I just heard a report on NPR about how the Disney corporation has recently laid off several thousand employees who had worked in their traditional animation departments. Disney is making the shift to computer animation which requires far fewer employees. Once the artist masters the computer interface he is off and running, however there is a host of other tasks associated with animation that are no longer necessary when making the transition from traditional animation to computer animation. The report cited the positions of the clean up artists and the ink and color people as no longer needed.

What's happening in this industry I’m sure reflects a larger trend in most industries. The idea of doing more with less. If a company can maintain and even increase its productivity while requiring less personal it doesn’t require four years of business school to agree that such a situation makes good business sense.

These days companies are learning that we live in a leaner economy, which requires and end to unnecessary expenses and inefficient use of personnel.

This concept was championed by and is still being implemented by Governor Mitt Romney. In his recent state of the state address Romney proposed merging Massachusetts Highway Department with the Mass Turnpike Authority. This is the kind of thinking that is required to do more with less. Rather than simply raising taxes when the state runs out of money, I for one would prefer the kind of restructuring that does away with unnecessary jobs. By implication Romney pointed out that these two highways related agencies essentially perform the same tasks. When combined I'm sure a host of administrative jobs will literally become redundant.

As a former employee of the MDC I have seen first hand just how wasteful government agencies can be. As a park ranger in Hull my little contingent worked very hard which made it all the more frustrating when I learned that MDC employees based in Quincy would routinely inflate their hours to the point were one employee was busted when someone noticed that he had put in to be paid for 27 hours on one given calendar date. I guess he forgot that there is only a possible 24 hours to available to work in one given calendar date, oops. Now just imagine what else goes on within the various government agencies.

And yes, these kinds of restructuring efforts will result in a net loss of overall jobs. So we face a net loss in overall jobs in the public and private sector due to this streamlining of the economy. The economy itself is changing. It is becoming less imperative to have tens of thousands of factory floor workers and countless administrative staff.

In the end, it is rather short sighted to point to the number of overall jobs only as the primary indication of the state of the economy. The situation is more complicated than it was in the past when perhaps the number of jobs was paramount. I for one am insulted when certain politicians, by harping on this issue of jobs imply that the public is incapable of understanding that the economy itself maybe changing and despite robust and positive economic indicators (e.g. productivity) we may never get these jobs back because companies are learning they can do more with less.

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