Promote Job Creation

Bob Herbert and I often differ in our views but I really like what he said about economic stimulus as is being discussed in D.C.

There is no question that some kind of stimulus package geared to the needs of ordinary Americans is in order. But that won’t begin to solve the fundamental problem.

Good jobs at good wages — lots of them, growing like spring flowers in an endlessly fertile field — is the absolutely essential basis for a thriving American economy and a broad-based rise in standards of living.

Forget all the CNBC chatter about Fed policy and bargain stocks. For ordinary Americans, jobs are the be-all and end-all. And an America awash in new jobs will require a political environment that respects and rewards work and aggressively pursues creative policies designed to radically expand employment.

I’d start with a broad program to rebuild the American infrastructure. This would have the dual benefit of putting large numbers of people to work and answering a crying need. The infrastructure is in sorry shape. New Orleans comes to mind, and the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis. (emphasis added)

What is a political environment that respects and rewards work? The answer is – one where we don’t perpetually give money to people who don’t work (I’m talking welfare here, not pensions or social security as those are supposed to be earned benefits). What we currently have is a policy that discourages people from taking work that is “beneath them.” If I am receiving unemployment I lose the benefits if I take work that pays me less than I’m worth and thus it is in my interest to turn down temporary or lower paying work so long as I can receive those benefits.

Even unemployment could be considered an earned benefit. People on government welfare can stay there as long as they are willing to live at that level of poverty – their health care is free to them even if it’s somewhat limited, and they never have to worry about going hungry even if Food Stamps don’t provide any luxuries. For those who lack the skills to get a job that pays noticeably more than welfare hands them, there is no incentive to go work when staying home gives them the same economic standard of living.

Herbert is right, economic stimulus should come in the form of work programs not unlike the WPA which would provide income and training for  those in need of new or improved skills. As the economy grew the program could be terminated (again) but until then people would have work and the nation would be improved in whatever ways were deemed necessary at the time. This would be much better than a one time tax rebate or extension of unemployment benefits. It would be more valuable than manipulating bankruptcy laws to save a few people from foreclosure. On-the-job training would even be more effective than paying people to seek new or improved skills in an academic setting.

4 comments for “Promote Job Creation

  1. January 20, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Thanks for leaving a note on my blog. I added a link to your site on the Provo Web Site (the DNS for your site says you are from Orem).

    BTW, I am not sure if more work really is the answer to our economic malaise. I don’t know the proper balance of life to work. There is a chance that we are over working ourselves. We clearly have signs that we are consuming our natural resources too quickly.

    One of the reasons I lean libertarian is I think if we had greater liberty, people might find a better balance between work and life.

  2. January 20, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    I don’t believe that working more is the solution to the current economic situation of our nation. What I meant to suggest was that government aid to people without work should come in the form of work opportunities rather than coming as unearned paychecks and food stamps. I would agree with you that the nation as a whole is much more likely to be working too hard than we are to be not working hard enough.

  3. January 20, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    The political dialog seems to always be about jobs. A fundamentally more interesting question is finding a meaningful role for people in the community or economy.

    In a job situation, a class of people called owners hire you to do something. A truly robust economy might have a more blurred distinction.

    That is in part why I was thinking the economic stimulus might be something along the line of spurring people to invest in conservation. If people had a $50 check that they could spend on installing insulation, or tuning up cars, then their minds would be engaged in thinking about ways to get more with less resource consumption.

    Regardless, I am not sure if stimulating the economy to stop slowdowns really is a good thing. The expanding and contracting of the marketplace seems to be something that drives innovation.

    Our problem seems to be that we too many rigid structures in our economy (like fixed income jobs). When a slow down occurs, we end up with one group having their entire income destroyed by the slowdown. Because the distribution of pain is so random and severe, we do antimarket things to try to solve the problem by keepingg the economy humming at an unsustainable rate.

  4. January 20, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    Maybe this is just my own personality speaking, but I really think that working for one employer – meaning only having one source of income – is not the way people were meant to live. I think that everyone should work for themselves, doing what they are best qualified to do. Whatever I may do for my employer, I should be working as if I were my own boss, being judged according to the quality of my work, and taking responsibility for my own goals and direction.

    I guess that it’s not having one source of income that is the problem so much as the feeling that can come that you are simply a cog in the wheel and you do work for someone else (your boss) in exchange for your boss ensuring that you have continued work.

    In politics we are continually fed the false notion that we can have an ever expanding economy and/or that when we experience an economic contraction we need not feel any financial pain as a result.

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