Everyone is pessimistic – about gas prices, inflation, unemployment, possible taxes, and the benefits of Social Security and Medicare. Gallup finds 80% of Americans believe the economy is still in a recession. There is no reason to think that these problems will not persist. And there is every reason that our government, strapped by high deficits, will not rescue us. Fewer and fewer Americans can afford the “basics” that have been part of what the middle class has been able to expect for decades.
The worry about the economy is not just about present troubles. We sense we’ve lost the momentum that used to belong to the world’s largest economy as we see the rapid growth of other developing nations. They have taken American service and manufacturing jobs. Without jobs the consumer spending base and prosperity for both businesses and individuals has faltered. The media calls the US a second-rate economy. Enough people agree to help create a malaise among many Americans.
The pessimism is likely to worsen, as government layoffs rise and spread from state to state and town to town. People will see neighbors lose jobs particularly because government employment is such a large jobs base. Two-thirds of Americans know someone who has been laid off or lost their job in the last six months – the highest in Gallup history. Many companies are concerned that profits could slip as inflation threatens to cut into margins, especially in an environment in which many Americans believe that the recession has not ended. The problem creates a vicious circle. Employers concerned about profits continue to lay off and laid off consumers disappear from retailers. Gallup says that Americans still do not believe that they can find jobs.
Our leaders’ inability or refusal to address our budgetary woes, to revitalize an economy that has had its worst decade in generations, and to overcome the seemingly intractable political gridlock that prevents meaningful governmental action even on issues for which broad agreement exists is depressing. Capability isn’t the problem – its will. Obama supporters are concerned when key political advisers tell the New York Times they remain committed to giving the appearance of addressing the country’s economic free-fall, rather than taking the more difficult – and politically risky – steps required to actually fix it. And why, John Huntsman can say “Gone are the days when the Republican Party used to put forward big, bold, visionary stuff.” And, “we’re going to have problems politically until we get some sort of third-party movement or some alternative voice out there that can put forward new ideas.”
The nation is not bankrupt. We can service the budget deficit and national debt, and despite the most pronounced recession, despite the horrible housing slump, and despite the 2008 stock market plunge, the United States remains the richest nation and civilization ever known with roughly $60 trillion in wealth and investment capital, depending on measure. If an emergency occurred, the nation could eliminate the budget deficit and national debt quickly.
Most Americans are not poor, but are rich compared to the people around the world. Most Americans live in their own homes with electricity, running water, and bathrooms. Many have clothes dryers, food freezers, and air conditioners. Most Americans take good care of themselves, visit their doctor and their dentist. Machines are not taking everyone’s jobs; mostly the jobs where people work with their hands as farmers, miners, factory hands, and the like. But the number of white-collar jobs, like doctors, engineers, technicians, and the like, is increasing but available talent isn’t.
America needs action addressing these problems and in doing so, restoring a foundation of strength; its optimism of can do. This responsibility lies with the federal government to answer a jobs concern with wide implications for consumer spending-the engine of the US economy. This is what must be addressed to restore America’s belief in itself.
Previously, I offered the 32 hour work week; a simple but elegant, calculable, tested solution. Additionally the following old platform but “new needs” programs should be considered.
• A Manpower Development to train workers for jobs found through research, labor market surveys to match unemployed with jobs that are already available.
• A Job Corps to offer work, training and new surroundings for boys and girls with most of them coming from the highest unemployment areas, and being high-school drop-outs. They will be paid and trained in national parks, veterans’ hospitals and other areas away from their homes.
• Youth Work- to keep students in school using various jobs in federal, state, and private agencies.
• Work-study for college students of part-time jobs, on-the-job training, mentoring and vacation work in labs, libraries, and so forth, with costs shared by the U.S. Government, private industry and universities.
• Community Action to fund communities by rebuilding and manning things like community centers, playgrounds, adult-education facilities, and health clinics.
For the U.S. Economy to return, we require a discussion regarding the structural problems facing the nation, including resource allocation and the impact/consequences of greed. And as this debate progresses, keep one fact at the forefront: there’s more than enough money available to address all these problems.