Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Simple Fix for Employment Crisis?

Jobs, jobs, jobs.

Not "Steve," as in the Apple guru.

But employment.

Earlier this week, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney floated a complex jobs-stimulation plan to a tepid reception. Thursday, President Barak Obama is going to introduce his, which will almost certainly be dead-on-arrival in Congress.

If you're like most jaded voters, you know both plans represent more political posturing than an empathetic striving to improve the economies of our families and our nation. How many epic Washington programs have ended up crashing and burning despite their noble goals, while costing taxpayers more than was necessary?

Instead, I've got another idea.

Are you ready?

This may sound like patriotic heresy, but perhaps we've come to a point in time here in the United States where some people need to give up their jobs.

Married couples - who both work when one of them doesn't have to - may be dragging down our economy.

Some conservative pundits like to say that people who are out of work need to either find something else or create their own employment, as if entrepreneurialism is as common as mud. It sounds like such a simple way to tackle unemployment, but if they'd stop and think about it for a minute; if everybody was an entrepreneur, we wouldn't really have entrepreneurs, would we? Entrepreneurs certainly wouldn't be able to build their companies, if everybody was out trying to start their own.

So let's agree that employment cycles happen. Not necessarily because a lot of people suddenly become lazy, or ignorant, or incompetent. But because times change.

And maybe this is one of those times where change needs to be addressed in a profound way.

How many dual-income households are unnecessary? How many spouses don't need to work in order to put food on their family's table? How many families need an inflated income to live in McMansions they don't fill, drive cars that cost too much, and travel places they don't need to go?

How many families could downsize their lifestyle quite nicely and still be able to afford a desirable standard of living? Maybe not as desirable as what they're currently aiming for, but certainly noplace near the poorhouse.

While meantime, plenty of families are staring the poorhouse in the face because neither spouse can find employment.

The job they're looking for may currently be held by somebody who doesn't really need it.

Oh, can you hear the indignant howls of anger and disbelief at such a notion?

"Why should I be expected to give up my job so somebody else who lost theirs can have it? I've earned the right to work. I've gotten the education and training to be good at my job. Unemployment is a fact of life. I've been unemployed before, and managed to survive. People just need to tough it out. Your idea is just another form of wealth-redistribution that penalizes ambitious people and unfairly supports undeserving folks."

OK, so maybe all of those things are true. At least to varying degrees. But living-wage jobs aren't being created right now in the United States. Estimates of the unemployed, when factored for those who've dropped out of the job market from sheer frustration, run as high as 16%. There probably aren't many families which can afford to drop a second income, but even if that number was 10% of the workforce, such altruism could get our unemployment rate down close to pre-recession levels. And help stabilize more families. And do so without government intervention.

President Obama is expected to ask Congress for hundreds of billions of our tax dollars to try and jump-start some sort of employment recovery. But how can America possibly afford that? Especially after all of the bailouts taxpayers have already funded? Should our government be in the business of making jobs anyway? What would Tea Partiers say to that?

Do you think you're irreplaceable at your work? Your employer probably doesn't think so. Corporate America long ago commoditized jobs, making your position just another line item in their budget. Even the immensely talented Steve Jobs proved replaceable at Apple. What are the chances that somebody with a little fire in their gut from unemployment angst might be more productive than yourself, and therefore more appealing to your boss?

Nothing personal. Just business.

Yes, we all want to succeed. But right now, many families just want to survive. And they're willing to work to do it.

Hmm.... Let's see. What might you have that somebody else could better use?

Not old coats, or cans of ravioli, or even cash.

How about your job?

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