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Putting people on the Moon meant jobs on Earth

During President Lyndon Johnson’s second term (1965-1969,) the space program was booming. At almost four percent job growth, his administration exceeded any other presidential term since World War II, including President Jimmy Carter’s impressive 3.2% growth. These were high paying, skilled jobs that created a demand for workers that enticed many young people to choose engineering and scientific careers.

Herbert Hoover R 1929–1933 -5.41%
Franklin Roosevelt D 1933–1937 4.97%
Franklin Roosevelt D 1937–1941 2.53%
Franklin Roosevelt D 1941–1945 5.00%
Roosevelt/Truman D 1945–1949 1.61%
Harry Truman D 1949–1953 2.93%
Dwight Eisenhower R 1953–1957 1.34%
Dwight Eisenhower R 1957–1961 0.87%
Kennedy/Johnson D 1961–1965 2.64%
Lyndon Johnson D 1965–1969 3.90%
Richard Nixon R 1969–1973 2.23%
Nixon/Ford R 1973–1977 1.68%
Jimmy Carter D 1977–1981 3.21%
Ronald Reagan R 1981–1985 1.47%
Ronald Reagan R 1985–1989 2.80%
George H. W. Bush R 1989–1993 0.45%
Bill Clinton D 1993–1997 2.85%
Bill Clinton D 1997–2001 2.33%
George W. Bush R 2001–2005 0.02%
George W. Bush R 2005–2009 0.24%
Barack Obama D 2009–2013 0.23%
Barack Obama D 2013–2017 1.85%

CHART 1.0 – Job growth during Presidential Terms (1929-2017) Growth over 2.5% is in green. (DATA credit: Wikipedia)

Service jobs were a byproduct of the main engine driving the boom in the rapid expansion of the space program. Service jobs did not offer the wages or the excitement of the space program, but they did provide employment for those who lacked motivation to qualify and/or seek out better paying, higher skilled jobs.

And then we landed on the Moon.

After we had achieved the primary objective, people who didn’t understand what a large government project means to employment, began questioning the space program. Over time the naysayers effectively killed the program, leaving private business to reinvent what NASA had accomplished in the 1960’s (landing on the Moon) and the 1980’s (a reusable rocket system.)

Today, we are trying to sustain and expand a service industry that lacks the main component of job growth, namely, a major public project that creates high paying and highly skilled jobs. Since NASA wound down its Space Shuttle program, job growth has flat-lined.

Private business does not exist to create jobs. It exists to put money in the pockets of the executives and owners of the business. Creating jobs cuts into profit. Paying higher wages cuts into profit. Private business is never going to create significant job growth, nor improve wages and benefits for the worker.

If we want job growth and livable wages, it is the government that will do it, not private business.