How to Put America Back to Work
by Jean SmilingCoyote March 17, 2016
For most of human history, people could directly get from Nature the resources they needed to survive. It was your skill in hunting, fishing, gathering, and sometimes farming that earned your living. People could even leave their group permanently for unoccupied land. Now, a cordon of laws and landowners stands in the way of people who need these natural resources. It is one’s success in pleasing the powerful people which gets one money to use to buy these resources, including a secure shelter of one’s own. These people pretend to represent Nature in selecting who is fit to survive and who isn’t. Because they don’t use Nature’s rules, they make wrong choices. We are all trapped in the money economy. Even the bush pilots serving the remote villages of Alaskan subsistence hunters, bring supplies from the money economy of the outside world.
The United Nations stands with the powerless people in their right to get through this cordon:
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights” in 1948:
“Article 23: 1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
[...]3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.”
And the U.S. government, in the Full Employment Bill of 1945, Section 2, said essentially the same thing: “b) All Americans able to work and desiring to work are entitled to an opportunity for useful, remunerative, regular, and full-time employment.”
Because this cordon is legitimized and maintained by laws regarding land ownership, hunting, fishing, gathering, and uses of Federal and State lands, the government, which refuses to let people have adequate access to natural resources to support themselves and have secure homes without participating in the money economy, has the responsibility to ensure that the people can earn the money they need through this cordon: “c) In order to assure the free exercise of the right to an opportunity for employment …, the Federal Government has the responsibility to assure continuing full employment, that is, the existence at all times of sufficient employment opportunities for all Americans …” .(ibid.) Full employment is the necessary compensation for our being trapped in the money economy.
An official unemployment rate is a product of the cordon. Without it, people could temporarily leave the labor force, get these natural resources directly, and keep their secure homes.
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. Employers’ current hiring practices exacerbate underemployment and long-term unemployment.
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." 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 stimuluspackage 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 "crowdsourcing" 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. I
n 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 helpwanted 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. This bill must recognize the fact that a person might not have all the technical skills typically used in a job, but, as part of a team including others who do have the skills, can make significant contributions right now in order to be employed.
Every good job created requires a legitimate source of money to pay for the salary of the worker. Economists have a tradition of not recognizing "demand" unless it's backed up with the money to pay for the product or service. This has created a distorted view of what work needs to be done, and what products need to be made. When you have information on the real need for something without regard to the money the consumers need to pay for it, the next step is how to fund the demand. This is the place where macroeconomic policy changes and new programs can be most needed and effective. Health-insurance reform, tax reform, financial-industry reform, and support for "green" technology are examples of macroeconomic tools. The problem is that they don't earmark existing or new jobs for unemployed and underemployed people who want to step forward and tell the government agencies they need a good job now.
Misallocation of Productive Resources
There is a huge misconception now about the level of superfluity of American workers. Many observers, noting the number of jobs that seem to have permanently disappeared, think that many people will be "permanently" unemployed and that the economy obviously doesn't need as high a percentage of the workforce employed at any one time, as it did in the past. I believe there is a misallocation of the factors of production of monumental proportions. Much of this is fueled by too much money going to one place, and too little money to another. Solving this misallocation can restore employment levels to what works for workers, as well as providing the goods and services that are needed more than supplied. This is a complex challenge and crowd-sourcing would help tremendously. Ask Americans: What goods and services does this country have too much of? What goods and services does this country have too little of? What could be done to get us "about the right amounts" of these goods and services? Reallocation of the factors of production can minimize unemployment, underemployment, and poverty without requiring unsustainable economic growth for recovery.
© Jean SmilingCoyote, 2009