Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Waste of Human Potential

Do we want this:

Or this:

On Wednesday, December 12, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated: "The conditions now prevailing in the job market represent an enormous waste of human and economic potential" (statement here).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment report for November, there are 4.8 million Americans who are "long-term unemployed." And according to a recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, there are about 6.5 million young adults who are not in school and not working (see article about report here).

Collectively, as a culture, have we decided that some percentage of our population consists of throwaway people? Have we decided that the idle youth and the long-term unemployed are necessary casualties, i.e., the price that has to be paid for the rest of us to have jobs? Or, after 4 years of economic doldrums, are we still waiting for the "job creators" to come to the rescue?

Some people say that the unemployed don't want jobs, that they're lazy and don't want to work. But when McDonald's had a big hiring event in the Spring of 2011, one million people applied (64,000 were hired, 936,000 were not; see article here). To my way of thinking, that's not a sign of laziness, but a sign that people are hungry for jobs, even low-paying McDonald's-type jobs.

To the people who say that the unemployed are lazy, I say: Let's put that theory to the test. Let's create a new WPA and a new CCC and see how many people sign up.

(First photo above shows unemployed men sleeping on grass in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1939, photo courtesy of the Library of Congress. Second photo shows WPA workers building a school in Maryland during the Great Depression, photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives. One criticism of the New Deal work programs was that they did not employ enough people.)

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