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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/5/11

Why are so many Americans unemployed and underemployed? And what could we do about it?

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Some folks say it's our moral obligation to spend as much as possible on the goods and services that are produced in the US.   Why?   Because the more we spend on that stuff, the more jobs that are going to be created, producing the stuff.   There are now 7 million fewer jobs in the US than there were before the recession started.   Somehow we gotta bring back those 7 million jobs.   Is the only solution to this problem to successfully encourage more people to consume more stuff -- specifically more in the way of American made stuff?


Here are some alternatives.


Were it not for Republican and blue dog Democrat opposition to greatly increased amounts of infrastructure spending, we could certainly increase the number of available jobs greatly by implementing a massive infrastructure repair and rebuilding program.   For that matter, we could also implement the construction of entirely new, and hopefully green-oriented, infrastructure -- stuff like a new energy grid and huge new arrays of electricity-generating wind-turbines and solar energy collectors.


We could of course also increase the number of jobs by cutting the length of the workweek by some significant amount, and/or by some combination of lowering the retirement age, increasing the length of (paid) maternity and paternity leave and paid vacations.   But of course the owners of businesses would be up in arms by any movement in any of these directions.   Why?   Because they want to continue hogging all the benefits from our nation's growing productivity, and don't want to share any of those benefits with workers, no how, no way.  


We could also increase the number of available jobs by greatly increasing the size and length of unemployment benefits.   Then, providing it wasn't that difficult for any given individual to transition from work to compensated unemployment, far more people would occasionally chose the unemployment option for as much as a year or two at a time, thereby making their former jobs available to someone else.  


In a bit more detail, here are the main and most practical alternatives to greater consumption as the primary means of generating more jobs:


Reducing the length of the work day, week, month and/or year, just like in France and some other countries.  


Increasing the length of paid vacations, maternity/paternity leaves, just like in Sweden and some countries in South America.  


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Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've (more...)

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