Harry Reid thinks Nevada’s Democratic caucus will play a bigger role in the presidential race next year than it has in the past. He’s “going to be as neutral as I can be” until after the caucus. He said “this is is an era when we shouldn’t discount anyone” so Pete Buttigieg “is in the running.” And he’s been in close contact with Joe Biden, who announced his candidacy Thursday.
“I certainly didn’t discourage him” from getting into the race, Reid said, “and that’s an understatement.”
Reid’s conference call Thursday with reporters was ostensibly scheduled to discuss issues surrounding working people and the economy, ahead of this weekend’s SEIU/CAP candidate forum on the subject.
The call was pretty light on economics.
But there was a lot of politics.
One reporter on the call sort of took the situation meta, more or less asking Reid if there should be more discussion of economics in politics. “I don’t know that you can ever have enough,” Reid said, gamely.
And then the discussion returned to politics.
Answering the few questions he got about economy, Reid reiterated his belief in the need to address the so-called skills gap — the latter being the focus of an op-ed Reid and John Boenher by-lined this week in conjunction with their appearance at the MGM Public Policy Institute’s inaugural event.
Reid also more than once lamented the decline of organized labor, a subject which took the inevitable political turn when another reporter on the call asked if the multitude of candidates might help organized labor have more clout in the primaries.
Yes, Reid said.
“One reason the American workforce is not as strong and as vibrant as it should be,” Reid added, “is because of the constant denigrating by the Chamber of Commerce and by others of organized labor.” On the bright side, the minimum wage is being raised “all over the country,” including Nevada, Reid said.
Nevada lawmakers are considering legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 by 2023 — a notably less aggressive increase than some of those that can be found, as Reid put it, “all over the country.” Asked if he is in close contact with legislators, Reid said he is “not butting in.”
Meanwhile, one questioner reminded Reid that many economists dismiss the “skills gap” narrative as a myth, and that an argument could be made that the more urgent problem are low-wages and poor working conditions in jobs the economy already has, and that additional training isn’t going to address the problems of workers in those jobs, so don’t those jobs need to be the focus of this week’s forum? (Regular readers can probably guess who asked that).
Reid, who has an office and some untitled position at MGM Resorts, responded by … talking about how great it is that people can start out in an entry-level service sector job and move up to better jobs.
That is great. When it happens. But the increasingly common employment reality of the 21st century is people working multiple jobs with fractured schedules and little prospect for advancement within industries that view the American workforce as largely disposable.
His remarks about organized labor excepted, one hopes — and strongly assumes — Reid’s pre-forum discussion in a call with reporters Thursday does not reflect the emphasis that will be taken by presidential candidates this weekend.
The “skills gap” (how come everybody expects the public to pay for training a company’s workers to use the robot arm anyway; why can’t companies train their own workers?) should not, repeat not, be a serious subject at the forum. Candidates would do much better to focus on reversing the private sector’s deliberate creation of a precariat — a subject, candidly, about which neither Reid nor, for that matter, Biden, seems to know a whole lot.