Gingrich, former House speaker, visits P&Q Roundtable

By |  June 27, 2022
MACC Tech is a two-year program designed to provide students with basic knowledge of aggregate production, asphalt and concrete production, and construction equipment and techniques. Photo: iStock.com/1715d1db_3

Newt Gingrich encouraged companies to revisit their work-from-home rules amid the ongoing labor shortage. Photo: iStock.com/1715d1db_3

On the labor front, Gingrich points to several factors compounding the struggle of finding workers. Age, the propensity of people to work from home, changes to the welfare system and increased labor costs have all affected the workforce, he says.

“We have fewer young people [coming] into the workforce,” Gingrich says. “You’re seeing more people over 65 continue working, partially because they’re healthy and they don’t want to get bored, and partially because, with inflation, their retirement income isn’t nearly what they thought it would be.”

While the pandemic drove many employees to work from home and grow accustomed to that environment, Gingrich encourages companies to reevaluate their work-from-home rules. And while some companies push employees to come back into the office, they may have to make the choice of allowing employees to work from home or losing them to somewhere that will.

“Elon Musk said; ‘If you want to work at Tesla, show up, and if you want to work from home, find a new job,’” Gingrich says. “IBM used to have a rule that said: ‘Everybody has to work, but not here.’ If you’re in a labor shortage environment, it’s a lot trickier.”

Gingrich says change to the welfare system under the Biden administration is another source of hiring challenges.

“This administration has reversed all the things we did when I was speaker to tie welfare to work,” he says. “They’ve really, dramatically increased the incentive to be dependent to avoid work. I think that’s been a big factor that you have to look at.”

Finally, Gingrich says labor mobility is much more prevalent than in past decades.

“When you have shortages, that drives up the price of labor and people realize that there are other jobs they can go get,” he says. “You have a lot more labor mobility than you would normally have.

“We live in an era where the world of my parents – where you would work for the same company your whole life, you had a pension with that company [and] that company was your world – is mostly gone,” Gingrich adds. “I think people come and go much easier than they did 30 or 40 years ago.”

Fuel quality issues, including dirt, can ultimately result in fuel system failure. Photo: iStock.com/ZFFoto

Gingrich expects fuel prices to remain high as long as President Biden is in office. Photo: iStock.com/ZFFoto

Energy

Alternative energy such as solar power is nothing new to Gingrich. When he won a seat in the House in 1978, then-President Jimmy Carter talked about solar power the way Biden does now, Gingrich says.

While solar power specifically is much more prevalent now, Gingrich questions the feasibility of widespread electric car use and asks where electricity would come from.

“If you’re anti-nuclear, anti-coal and anti-natural gas, where are you going get the electricity,” Gingrich says. “You’re not going to get it from solar, wind and tide, because they’re not reliable or productive enough. California this summer is almost certainly going to have brownouts and blackouts, because the electric system is not prepared to handle the number of additional electric cars, plus air conditioning and manufacturing. I think it’s going to become a real crisis.”

In the short term, Gingrich says diesel fuel is going to remain expensive. Those high costs, he says, will be felt throughout the entire economy.

“[It’s] not only the truck that brings the supplies to your members, it’s the truck that then takes those supplies to the store,” Gingrich says. “Every grocery store is dependent on diesel trucks, and so that price feeds through. Diesel pricing actually is probably more important to the economy than gasoline prices, although gasoline prices are more important to politics.”

Gingrich calls the Biden administration’s stance on pipelines a “total disaster” and a contributor to the high gas prices.

“Pipelines are far and away the least dangerous, least expensive way to move oil and gas,” he says. “To force North Dakota oil [onto] rails, it may be to Warren Buffett’s advantage because he owns the railroad, but it’s to the disadvantage of the country.

“This is an administration which can’t solve its gasoline and oil pricing problem, because they’re so deeply ideologically opposed to producing more gas and oil,” Gingrich adds. “My guess is you’re going to have high gas prices as long as Biden is in the White House.”

Made in America

Gingrich is hopeful the U.S. can become gas and oil independent like it was under the Trump administration.

“We were the largest [oil and gas] producer in the world,” Gingrich says. “We were actually beginning to export [and] we could easily have competed with Russia with liquefied natural gas, as opposed to their pipeline. That was the right direction.”

Even as the U.S. begins to insource manufacturing products such as computer chips, Gingrich says the nation’s reliance on other countries is a hinderance.

“When you realize 70 percent of the world’s chips are made in Taiwan, that’s a level of vulnerability that we should never accept in terms of national security,” he says. “I do think there are steps a new Congress will take to begin moving us back toward a focus on American manufacturing and enriching the American economy.

The first step in boosting American-made manufacturing is to level the playing field with China, Gingrich says.

“We have to focus on creating a playing field in which the Chinese can’t cheat,” he says. “I can’t for the life of me understand why Biden would have dropped the tariffs on Chinese solar equipment. What it does is it gives them a real shot at destroying the American industry, when we should be going in the opposite direction.

“One of the lessons of this entire COVID experience ought to be in dealing with the Chinese: You don’t want [them] to have control of an entire industry, because you don’t want to be reliant on them in a crisis,” Gingrich adds.

Jack Kopanski

About the Author:

Jack Kopanski is the Managing Editor of Pit & Quarry and Editor-in-Chief of Portable Plants. Kopanski can be reached at 216-706-3756 or jkopanski@northcoastmedia.net.

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