President's Note, December 2023

Written by John Seager, President and CEO | Published: December 11, 2023

Projections of slower U.S. population growth and an aging society provoke needless dire warnings. A recent New York Times article, “America’s Semiconductor Boom Faces a Challenge: Not Enough Workers,” cited a looming shortfall of nearly 400,000 engineers and skilled technicians.

One side effect of recent worker shortages has been higher wages in certain skill areas. To my mind, this can be a good thing—though not everyone agrees. The Wall Street Journal recently quoted a leading construction executive bemoaning higher wages for carpenters. Near as I can tell, it isn’t carpenters who are landing their helicopters on megayachts. We’re not going to fall off some economic cliff by paying people an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work.

There is still the question of where the U.S. is going to find skilled workers needed in tomorrow’s world. The answer: right here at home. We have 11 million children trapped in poverty, giving us the highest rate of child poverty of any developed nation—more than twice that of Canada.

Child poverty costs our economy more than $1 trillion annually. According to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, that’s far more than the combined value of data processing, internet publishing, and the manufacturing of computers and electronics.

Children lifted out of poverty tend to gain the education that enables them to have decent economic lives. As adults, they themselves postpone childbearing and have far fewer children.

A vicious cycle can be transformed into a virtuous cycle in our overcrowded world. We know what to do, so let’s stop gnashing our teeth. Instead, the U.S. can lead the way to a better, safer, less-crowded future for all Earth’s inhabitants.

A Legacy of Kindness

My good friend and our former Board Chair John Lazarus always thought about the needs of others. The sadness of his death at 77 is leavened by memories of countless good deeds. John was truly generous with his time and resources from ZPG’s earliest days to the present, and did much to advance the cause of higher education and public libraries. His unfailingly good-natured devotion to family, friends, good causes, and his Australian Shepherds exemplified a life well lived.