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Reihan Salam: ‘There is good job creation and there is bad job creation’

This week Need to Know is launch a new series: “American Voices,” featuring a group of essayists with many different points of view. To begin, we hear from Reihan Salam, author of The National Review’s domestic policy blog “The Agenda,” and co-author of the book “Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.” Salam explains why he believes more competition is the key to turning our economy around.

“Because unemployment is so stubbornly high, we tend to think that job creation should be our highest priority. But there is good job creation and there is bad job creation,” Salam says. “By growing our most competitive sectors, we’ll make all Americans better off.”

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  • Verhag3

    Health and education are not like other commodities.  Their primary goal is a healthy, well-educated population, not profit.  When you say they are not competitive, are you suggesting their complete privatization? 

  • gb

    Have not heard such an absurd idea! 

    I agree with Verhag3 and add: are you suggesting we put patients on an assembly line for one doctor or one nurse to deliver their medicine, or better yet, a machine to pop one in the mouth of each? What about job losses in manufacturing as productivity increases with technological change and trade competition? You can achieve high productivity growth with job losses. Salam serves the usual fare in a mindless manner.  Stop worshipping on the altar of competition!

  • jj

    Why not offshore healthcare like manufacturing an iphone?  Better yet, no child wants to grow up to be a General Practitioner anymore, with all the student loans, mediocre salary, and bureaucracy. Let us take a lesson from corporate America and hire undocumented workers for family practice.  They only do the jobs Americans won’t. Healthcare needs reform, but Salam’s argument is absurd.

  • Catherine

    I hadn’t heard of Reihan Salam and went looking for his biography.  He has quite the impressive CV and is moreover an interesting figure in his own right.

    That said, I have almost limitless contempt for the muddled and apparently context-free approach he takes to improving the job environment in the United States.  His video essay is promoted as advocacy of competition within the private sector as the ultimate engine of job growth, but he never really forms a coherent argument, as he chooses two areas, health care and public education, which fill basic societal needs but cannot fit neatly within the corporate model.  No one wants a sweet little deal on chemotherapy or to see the school district hire the teacher willing to accept the lowest salary.

    And I might also add that corporations don’t exist in an environment of pure competition either (Government contracts and state tax breaks, anyone?).

    Far from creating dialogue or providing useful suggestions, Salam’s segment excited nothing but annoyance and despair — annoyance that he was given a platform by Need to Know and despair because he just doesn’t seem to get how his fellow Americans live, what their fears are, and how desperately we need to stop measuring everything by whether it makes a profit for the shareholders and start thinking about what sort of a society we want to build.

  • G Carter

    “…we need to stop measuring everything by whether it makes a profit for the shareholders
    and start thinking about what sort of a society we want to build”.  That is exactly the point.  Earlier in the program a Minister from the German Government indicated that unemployment is not just a problem for business, but a problem for society as a whole.  Salam’s perspective (competition would improve productivity in health care and education; much the same as it has in manufacturing) reflects the myopic view that the invisible hand trumps any need for a cohesive society.  Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have a vision of society as a collection of “rugged individuals” who are rightfully entitled to manipulate and dominate the masses. 

  • Frank Yi

    ok listen.  education and health care are NOT the reasons we are in a deficit crisis.  These areas are not causing us problems.  Our deficit problems are from defense, and old people entitlement benefits. Now where do our problems come from?  The job losses come from a combo of a bunch of things, but mainly, MBA’s chasing quarterly profits (effeciency can only get you so far.  and also most hilariously the most efficient cost cutting measure is firing people)  and technology replacing people.  The reason these cuts are made is because these companies are COMPETING with each other to win in the global marketplace.  But salam, i thought you said competition was good for business.  Well my friend,  competition IS good for business (PROFITS)  but not good for employees.

  • Frank Yi

    I also got to add this here.  My favorite cost cutting measure HAS to be..  When the biggest tech corporation decides to cut costs they fire their Full Time employees.  Then they put the jobs up for bid on a contract.  A subcontractor wins the bid, then they hire the old Full timers back, but they pay them 1/2, reduced quality benefits.  WHY??  cause some mba thought it was a good way to boost the quarterly profit.  what a jerk.

  • jan

    Translation:  Your doctor should spend less time reviewing your symtoms and test results than they do now before deciding the appropriate treatment because its cheaper. 

    Actually, what he appears to be trying to set up is either more automation, computerization or offshoring jobs; something that is more easily understood when you look him up and find only republican party top hierarchy on his resume, current and past.  It would appear that he hooked up with “the right people” somewhere along the line.  I found him on the research staff of the Council of Foreign Relations (republican), writing articles for The New Republic, The American Scene, policy advisor for e21 or economics 21, which if you go to their website leadership page, has William Kristol and a couple of Bush II-era people heading it and Bush II-era people staffing it.

    So…  If you want to walk into a room and talk to a doctor in China or India over a computer monitor after registering yourself in at a computer monitor in the lobby and have an automated machine pop out a bottle of pills or be given a prescription to self inject, cheer him on loudly.  Otherwise, I suggest all thumbs down on this one. 

  • jan

    It will be vaguely interesting to see who you have after this person.  If I wanted to hear stuff (I’m being polite and resisting the urge to call it garbage) like this I could watch FOX. 

  • Marc Rosenwasser

    Jan: Like the rest of us, I’m sure you are intellectually challenged by hearing points of view that are not identical to your own. Next week and in the weeks beyond, you will be hearing from a diverse group of essayists with differing points of view. The idea is to get the richest mix of voices that illustrate how diverse we are – in every sense. The segment, “American Voices,” and the show are also meant to provoke a discussion online each week. Hope you will stick around to watch and participate.
    Marc Rosenwasser
    Executive Producer, “Need to Know”

  • jan

    Mr. Salam’s essay/piece is your idea of an intellectual discussion?   

    I can’t wait till Mr. Moyers is back on air even though it won’t be on pbs. 

  • jan

    Basically what he did was package a bunch of opinions behind one single fact, the number of people working in the healthcare field and uses it to indict and convict.  Coincidentally he also includes education in his factless opinion at the same time that the Heritage Foundation and AEI has issued a rather ridiculous statement that our teachers are earning 52% more than what they should be.    The link in Time magazine case you need it.


  • jan

    What the heck. 
    In for a penny, in for a pound. 

    What’s wrong with the essay/presentation.  Mr. Salam presents himself as knowledgeable,
    maybe even an expert.  I couldn’t find
    anything that indicated extra knowledge or expertise in healthcare.   To the contrary, based on what he said I didn’t
    think he knew much about the healthcare industry at all.  Looking at his online credits he appears to
    be a would-be rising star in the republican party.

    He says jobs in other sectors are declining except
    healthcare and implies that healthcare jobs need to be cut at a time of high
    unemployment.  Does this indicate he
    thinks our current unemployment rate is not high enough?  With about ¼ of the nation’s children at risk
    for hunger, doesn’t he see that higher unemployment will only exacerbate that

    He quotes his one fact, 16.4 million the number of
    healthcare workers employed, and interprets that to mean the number of
    healthcare workers need to be cut.  He is
    ignoring the fact that the number of elderly needing healthcare is about to
    rise a lot and that most of us think the few minutes we spend actually talking
    to a physician is already inadequate.

    What I took away from his segment was a lack of
    knowledge of the subject and a poorly thought out presentation. 


  • Performs

    After reading the comments, I can only cheer the brilliance and ability to see through the ignorance, arrogance and greed that lie behind Salam’s discourse. There is an enlightenment taking place in the world, and my eloquent brothers and sisters in this small forum are shining examples.

  • gb

    In the name of presenting differing points of view you have picked an opinion that is pure ideology. That is the problem here. I’d welcome an opinion that can be backed by evidence or simple logic. This is pathetic! 

  • cb

    Mr. Raihan fails to make a coherent argument. In order to
    make the argument coherent first he needs to specify how he measures input and output
    in health care and education, and at least try to convince his audience that they
    are meaningful metrics. Second, he needs to state how to make health services
    and education more competitive. He only mentions technological improvements
    that made manufacturing more competitive. Is that all it takes to make an
    industry more competitive? (And does he really believe that the health care
    industry failed to adopt technological innovations?) Three, the parallels he
    draws between manufacturing and health services/education are also fallacious
    because these “commodities” are very different in terms of satisfaction of
    individual and social needs. Competitive markets, in which people vote with
    dollars, “may” produce the “right” number of cars efficiently but they under-produce
    education and health care, which have spill-over effects from individuals to
    the society. (My neighbor’s new flat screen TV does not affect my well-being
    but whether he gets the flu shot does). Mr. Raihan’s essay does not demonstrate
    any understanding of the health system, education, or how competition works.


    Finally, Mr. Raihan notes “By
    growing our most competitive sectors, we’ll make all Americans better off.” That makes me anticipate a discussion of identification of these sectors and means of growing them. But the rest of the essay is a diatribe on lack of competitiveness of health
    care and education. How do these pieces fit together?


    I welcome hearing diverse
    opinions but not lazy doctrinal repetitions.

  • Jwalsh031160

    Dear Need to Know,


                In response
    to your American Voices guest Reihan Salam who thinks there should be more
    competition in the medical field with new upstarts in the medical profession.
    Having doctors and care givers who can pump out more patients than their
    predecessors, increase productivity, yea man get them patients up and running
    like a good NASCAR mechanic. Well I didn’t see any indication that he has any competent
    knowledge of health care provision, which should highlight his expertise in
    diagnosing the business essentials of the medical profession (a profession he
    apparently knows little nothing about).

                There seems
    to me to be plenty of competition in the medical field, and I see the raise in
    the number of providers of medical treatment, from therapists and nurses, as an
    improvement of the quality of service. Sometimes more is better, less can be
    deadly, and these businesses possibly know more than he about how many
    employees to enlist for the tasks at hand.

                The idea
    that we have no choice but to go to a professional (who is qualified by virtue
    of their credentials) and pay top dollar is an unfair assessment. Perhaps he
    has never seen one of the many health care facilities that offer reduced rates
    based on income.

                I find it
    wildly funny that his assessment of the increased number of jobs in the medical
    profession is an indicator of a need for competition. Well let’s see the baby
    boomers born 1946 turn 54 in 2000 about the age when we start to need more
    medical care. Every day more of those boomers get older and older, hum maybe
    it’s something to do with “supply and demand”. Oh no couldn’t be that more
    patients require more care providers. No they need to work more efficiently,
    hell when doctors schedule 10 people to come in per hour, so they can see you
    to assess you care needs and see you for 10 or 12 minutes to discuss your
    problems, they need a temporal shifting devise so they can see you and the
    other 9 patients, we should remember there is only 60 minutes in an hour not
    100 to 120, so either he’s never seen a doctor before or he’s just spewing
    political dogma. Oh by the way how are we to get that competition? Through deregulation
    I bet, and to what end? Deregulation will increase the number of jobs in the
    medical profession that will compete with the older un-modernized facilities,
    that will put them out of business because of their refusal to upgrade to the
    newest latest equipment, reducing the large number of healthcare employees (an
    apparent blight on society) in the short term, in the long term saves money.
    Are you trying to make sense of this? I can’t. it makes no sense. Who compares manufacturing
    and retail to service related businesses? Doctors and therapists don’t have
    inventory or build things, and though they’re like mechanics we are not like
    cars. Nough said.


  • Jwalsh031160

    I find the platform given to your guest to be thought provoking, but mostly provoking. As many of your viewers have stated. It is good to know the differing points of others, however let us hope for more thought out essays in the future. Where the guest makes more of an attempt to foster their opinion with some kind of well FACTS that support their positions. It would be nice to in this case hear what his solution was. He left us with only our imaginations of what a political dogmoid (new word I just fashioned) might imagine. Perhaps it would be as an earlier commenter wrote, Health care via your PC, with an optional USB anal probe. I think he should have been told to complete his thoughts so we could either find new respect for his opposing view or properly rip him a new one for whatever he proposed. I do expect excellence from PBS and did enjoy most of the show. Of all things when we speak to educate and influence others we should have facts or some evidence  to back up our words.
    PS I watch FOX news as well, sometimes I can’t stop laughing. Obviously we do need diversity in what we are listening to, so we can be sure to make an informed decision. Oh yeah I watch the Daily Show with Jon Stewart as well.

  • Brent Nielsen

    Just agree with almost all that has been said in your post and the rest.  As I listen to him, and others that pitch the “competition” meme in healthcare, I know he has never had to engage the healthcare system in any meaningful way for himself or someone close to him.

  • Nhtongues

    Healthcare can not be commoditized like soap or milk. We can’t expect, or even wish, for the Wall-Mart-tization of healthcare. It is a basic human need that requires a societal solution that makes it available to all. As far as Mr. Salam’s opinionating – I found it week, uninformed, and completely unsubstantiated with either examples or suggestions as to how his new competitive healthcare model would actually work and be better than what we currently have.  If NTK wants to offer diverse opinions, at least make sure they are worth airing and are something that I truly need to know.

  • Jeff

    Salam didn’t do the basic research for his claim. What part of the health care sector is expanding? I’d lay odds that it is the claim processors that are getting hired. How many insurance companies does each doctor have to deal with? Each has a differenct way of doing business which makes the entire system dysfunctional and inefficient. Travel 50 miles and a whole different set of insurance companies comes into play. Fix that with a single payer system and the costs go down quickly. Competition? Salam wants more of the same dysfunction, hardly a solution.