The United States of Home Health Aides

Trump 'bringing back the jobs'...
Image from a pro-Trump forum depicting the candidate "bringing back the jobs."

Binyamin Applebaum at the New York Times Magazine on nostalgia for post-war manufacturing in American politics:

Manufacturing retains its powerful hold on the American imagination...From an economic perspective, however, there can be no revival of American manufacturing, because there has been no collapse. Because of automation, there are far fewer jobs in factories. But the value of stuff made in America reached a record high in the first quarter of 2016, even after adjusting for inflation. The present moment, in other words, is the most productive in the nation’s history...

Politicians of all persuasions have tried to turn back time through a wide range of programs best summarized as “throwing money at factory owners.”...This myopic focus on factory jobs distracts from another, simpler way to help working Americans: Improve the conditions of the work they actually do. Fast-food servers scrape by on minimum wage; contract workers are denied benefits; child-care providers have no paid leave to spend with their own children.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 64,000 steelworkers in America last year, and 820,000 home health aides — more than double the population of Pittsburgh. Next year, there will be fewer steelworkers and still more home health aides, as baby boomers fade into old age. Soon, we will be living in the United States of Home Health Aides, yet the candidates keep talking about steelworkers. Many home health aides live close to the poverty line: Average annual wages were just $22,870 last year. If both parties are willing to meddle with the marketplace in order to help one sector, why not do the same for jobs that currently exist?