Employing PEOPLE

In this terrible economic crisis, it is remarkable how many innovations really owe their origins to the New Deal, or as in the case of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to Herbert Hoover. Even those who fought so hard to undo the New Deal are now putting back in place its safeguards or even acquiring for the government private institutions and assets to get through the financial crisis. We now have, with the encouragement if not insistence of Wall Street, capitalism for the poor and socialism for the rich. You guys have to live by the market vagrancies, but Wall Street is standing in line for a bailout. I have yet to hear any more talk, by the way, of privatizing Social Security.

To deal with the current unemployment rate and even higher projected rates, the Federal government and the states are supporting tax credits, rebates, and extension of unemployment compensation. None of those are working directly or long term on what will be a worsening problem—the loss of jobs at a most difficult time.

Perhaps it is time to return to the New Deal again, and reinstitute a new and different type of job creation. While we will have many new blue collar jobs created from the explosion of physical infrastructure projects, we have not been a successful in finding new work for white collar and managerial peoples. I propose that the governments at all levels create not a CCC, but a creative attempt to match skills with social needs.

As any one who has dealings with a hospital knows, patients need articulate and persistent advocates to prevent them from being lost in the shuffle. Even prescription drugs for patients are messed up, let alone modest creature comforts like an ice cubes or pillows being raised higher. Buzzers to nursing stations are rarely answered promptly, especially at nights and on weekends. Some of our service workers could be easily trained to serve as paid advocates.

President Bush has pushed for economic literacy training in the schools, not very successfully. The recent crisis shows how much we are in need of such training, especially in matters like credit, bank accounts, checking basics and the like. We have an awful lot of highly trained financial services people who could be paid and be involved on economic literacy.

There are a variety of other jobs that could be created if we rethought the personal services aspect of our economy. While the United States is a great productive power, it has a very poor profile in dealing with customers. Most of our large companies are farming out those tasks to people in other countries. Perhaps we need to establish some major tax disincentives for companies that go off shore, or even out of state. I do not understand why New Jersey telephone information services are in North Carolina where they do not even know the counties or cities we have. How can it be cost effective if after talking to a machine, I then have to talk to a person because the machine doesn’t understand?

This country needs to think seriously about how to create jobs, especially for the middle class that reflect the realities of our economy. We have to link retraining more clearly to the skill pool and use our advanced higher education network to create a one stop center for support services and for true long term retraining. It is time to put Americans back to work again.

 

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Michael P. Riccards is Executive Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey.

 

Employing PEOPLE