Workforce issues demand bipartisan solutions

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Steve Corbin, guest columnist

There are several problems confronting America’s workforce. For many, the problems are uncomfortable to discuss.

Despite a dramatic improvement in the unemployment rate from our 2007-2009 recession, due to chronic unemployment and public assistance dependence, our labor force participation rate still is low. A number of other problems, including lack of effective worker training and expensive child care, are preventing many Americans from getting in and staying in the workforce.

Startup companies are responsible for nearly all new net job growth in the United States. But, for the first time in modern history, more start-ups are dying than being born. The risk of a new business venture, cash flow uncertainty and making loan payments and government regulation keep many people away from even trying to start a business.

According to 1,000 Republicans, 1,000 Democrats and 1,000 No Party independents (Cohen Research Group, March, 2016), people of different political preferences offer four ideas to improve our workforce development.

First, 82 percent of Americans want people who are receiving public assistance, if capable, “actively” look for employment. Tightening welfare requirements could help overcome the “welfare cliff” that currently discourages people from working or accepting better-paying jobs.

The second idea is also supported by 82 percent of American citizens: require long-term unemployed people to participate in a re-employment or vocational training program that provides the skills necessary to become employable.

Mandating that current and previously incarcerated individuals who can’t find a job participate in a skill-based vocational-technical education training program is supported by 87 percent Democrats, 73 percent independents and 69 percent Republicans.

Finally, knowing that dual working partners and single head of household workers are a fact of life, making child care more affordable by enhancing Early Head Start and other early childhood education programs is supported by 79 percent of the public.

Turning our attention to entrepreneurship, the other economic issue of this column, we know we are in trouble when it is easier to start a business in 48 other countries (e.g., Kazakhstan, Belarus, Romania, Portugal, Panama, etc.) than the United States. Business start-ups have steadily declined in the USA over the past 30 years. The critical threshold occurred in 2008 when the “death rate” of new businesses exceeded the “birthrate.”

Americans of all political stripes agree three entrepreneurship-based actions should take place. First, over two-thirds of citizens want the federal government’s business, consumer and industry research databank to be made readily available for budding entrepreneurs.

Small businesses have a 36 percent higher cost of adhering to regulatory compliance than larger businesses. Four out of every five citizens feel the federal government should develop a regulatory road map website that would enable entrepreneurs to view all regulations that may affect their business.

Finally, 72 percent of Americans feel the Community Reinvestment Act, which provides incentives for banks to meet the credit needs of people in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, should provide more funding to startup businesses.

Citizens should apprise their state and federally elected officials (and respective candidates for office) of these four workforce development and three entrepreneurship solutions. And, since the solutions are supported by virtually all Democrats, Republicans and independents, “We the People” should insist politicians become an active bipartisan problem-solver versus behaving as an isolationist.

• Steve Corbin, emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa, is one of 12 District Leaders in Iowa for the non-partisan and not-for-profit group No Labels. More information: Comments:

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