Dean Baker, everyone's favorite progressive economist (mine, too), has an interesting take on our unemployment problem.
Give more paid vacations.
The idea is that if all the employed work less, employers will need to hire the unemployed to produce what the already employed won't be producing while sunning themselves on Florida's beaches.
Look, I'm all for shorter work weeks. It is ridiculous that labor's push somehow got stuck a century ago at the 40 hour work week in the USA. Employed Americans work more hours per year than just about any other workforce on the planet.
But, as Joan Robinson once declared, the only thing worse than working as a wage slave is to be unemployed. Just ask the Italians, who now have the highest unemployment rate since they started keeping records. Thanks to the EMU and German fiscal rectitude!
I see shorter work days and more paid vacations as a progressive goal to humanize the work place. More time to enjoy one's family, recreation, and the arts. More time for self-improvement and community involvement. More time for our wage slaves to enjoy the life of leisure long pursued by the leisure classes.
However, last on my list of arguments for a shorter work week would be the claim that it will create more jobs for the unemployed.
"Job sharing" as a cure for employment makes as much sense as "sandwich sharing" as a cure for the problem of hunger.
As my colleague Pavlina Tcherneva points out, for every social problem except unemployment, progressives advocate a direct solution.
How do you solve the problem of lack of access to healthcare? The progressive advocates single payer.
(Not, of course, Obamacare, which is just a scheme to turn more of your income over to Wall Street's insurance industry.)
Hunger? Food stamps.
Homelessness? Public housing.
Old age poverty? Social Security.
More vacations. Pay the employed not to work.
Unemployment compensation. Pay the unemployed not to work.
Or, more ludicrously, BIG (basic income guarantee). Pay everyone not to work.
What is missing? Jobs. The unemployed want jobs. But progressives will not give them jobs.
Progressives offer hand-outs to the unemployed. Or paid vacations to the employed. Or BIG to everyone!
But no jobs for the unemployed.
Why not? Progressives offer up a variety of excuses. The most common argument against creating jobs for everyone who wants to work is that this is not politically feasible in the USA.
Why? Oh, it would cost too much. Estimates put the cost of a job guarantee with a living wage at 1% to 3% of GDP. Progressives argue you'd never get that much spending through Congress.
Of course, the federal government alone already spends about 3.4% of GDP on anti-poverty programs—mostly to deal with poverty that is in large measure caused by unemployment, involuntary part-time unemployment, and poverty-level wages paid by the nation's undertakers like Wal-Mart.
Why? Because we are too afraid to push for jobs-for-all.
Instead, our progressives dismiss job creation and push instead for the supposedly more politically palatable paid vacations, unemployment compensation, and BIG.
Call me crazy, but I think that Americans are far more likely to line up behind paying people to work, than behind a scheme to pay people for more vacations.
Especially if a job at a living wage would eliminate the need for most social spending plus huge subsidies and tax breaks already paid to businesses–trying to coax them to create a job or two.
In one stroke, a job guarantee at a living wage not only eliminates the need for most anti-poverty spending, but it also ensures private sector jobs will pay decent wages. And it eliminates the myriad of public policies that impoverish our local governments as they give tax breaks and subsidies trying to bribe corporations to relocate their factories and warehouses.....
Do read the rest at http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2014/12/answer-unemployment-problem-jobs.html
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