How to Put America Back to Work
by Jean SmilingCoyote
("Uncle Sam" picture by James Montgomery Flagg, in the public domain; words put in his mouth by Jean SmilingCoyote)
Long-Term Unemployment Must be Ended First
It is more urgent to end long-term unemployment than it is to increase the total number of jobs in America. If unemployment were distributed equally, everyone in the workforce would be unemployed for only the percentage of each year corresponding to the official unemployment rate. We could tolerate this financially. Most importantly, the economy would be better off for all.
There are three ways this country can do this.
First, irresistible incentives must be offered to employers to hire, first, unemployed people who've run out of unemployment compensation, those whose benefits are less than the minimum wage, employed people whose pay amounts to less than full-time pay at minimum wage, people whose income is too low to make ends meet (which nowadays includes any existing car and home Internet service as well as a home), and college graduates who haven't been allowed to do a job yet requiring their education. The determination date for a person's status in one or more of these categories cannot be later than the day such legislation is signed. These incentives cannot be received until after the employee has at least a full year of full-time pay in his regular benefit year used to calculate unemployment compensation, and has given his written approval. People eligible for employment help with these incentives when the legislation is signed must be taken care of before those becoming eligible later.
Second, job-sharing groups must be formed which include unemployed people, so that all will rotate in and out of the jobs and all will be furloughed for an equal span of time.
Third, a new WPA must be created. Harry Hopkins, creator of the original WPA, "believed that the work provided by the WPA should match the skills of the unemployed." [click here This must be done now. People know the variety of things they can do, and don't want to earn a living by featherbedding. People whose skills are fully employed contribute the most to the economy. Involuntary underemployment (a negative output gap for an individual) increases the unjust concentration of wealth and income.
Creating New Jobs
If we're going to clear the market as fast as possible of unemployed Americans, the jobs we create must be ones which they can step into quickly. So far, all the job-creation efforts and stimulus-package programs have been top-down. We have to reduce unemployment with the unemployed people we've got today, not with some ideal cadre of workers who've been trained, some over a period of years, to do the jobs some Administration decrees will be done. Unemployment and underemployment itself is a drag on the economy and on the tax revenues needed for more good programs. We have to ASK all unemployed and underemployed Americans what they should be doing for a good job right now.
We have to ASK Americans in general what work needs to be done, that isn't getting done now, and what products we need to make here, that we're not making here now. This is a type of "crowd-sourcing" that isn't being done yet.
Information on labor-force resources and consumer needs should be compiled and organized both geographically and economically. The Asset-Based Community Development Institute of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois should be brought in to help with this task.
In addition to incentives to employers for getting certified unemployed/underemployed people into existing jobs, we need a national "auction" to aggressively promote these same people for new jobs.
People who are already inventors and entrepreneurs have demonstrated ability to be the first people to realize that there's a demand or need for a particular product or service. They can do this before the government can create a "stimulus package," and before any employer puts out a help-wanted ad. Their leadership and creativity must be respected and rewarded in any job-creation bill.
A job-creation bill must respect the talents of people who are "self-taught" in some field. While these people know their limitations, and the need for teamwork, many employers think applicants can't possibly be competent, let alone superior, at anything, unless they have a lot of formal education in the field.