An obvious answer

It’s an obvious answer, and therefore will not be tried. George Ure asked, Saturday morning, in his urban survival site:

“THE problem of the new Obama administration is this: How can the US (and for that matter, the whole civilized world) both find meaningful jobs and at the same time increase consumption of goods and services, so that we ‘bottom out’ and turn this economy around?”

The answer is obvious enough.

Give buying power to the people at the bottom of the pyramid to buy the essentials that they cannot presently afford: Food, clothes, shelter, etc. Don’t limit them to what they can buy (as food stamps did) in an attempt to mold their behavior. Get them the money and trust that they will know better than we do what they need. Yes, some will buy drugs, some may buy $150 sneakers, for all I know. But most will buy what they need, and would do so more predictably if they knew that the income would continue.

Want an analogy for this? Don’t think Mao or Stalin, think the US Armed Forces. There everybody knows the pay rates and what they’re going to get. In return for service they have their food and housing assured, access to medical care, opportunities to learn skills, etc.

And – I can hear it – somebody is going to say, “but what about their service in return?” Yes, what about it? Isn’t that the essence of unemployment, being unable to find a job someone will pay you to do? If there are no jobs, should the willing worker be penalized? And if society has to pay for people’s upkeep anyway, doesn’t it become worth our while to put people to work at things that are presently not done because nobody can make money on it? Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps planted millions of trees, put in miles of trails, etc. The WPA and PWA employed millions at productive skills that produced something for the country in return. Is there any reason at all to think we can’t do the equivalent today?

Are there no libraries, no nursing homes, no schools, no hospitals needing volunteers?

Are there no community gardens needing to be organized and tended?

Are there no kids needing tutoring, and mentoring, and meaningful work?

And at a more ambitious level,

Are there not millions of substandard housing units to be upgraded?

Is there not an entire modern light-rail system begging to be built?

Is there not a multitude of bridges and similar infrastructure needs to be addressed?

But as I say this won’t be tried because there is still the perception that people are poor because they deserve to be poor. And if they deserve to be poor, they shouldn’t be subsidized by society. Funny how this doesn’t hold for the idle rich, though, who we all pay for in one way or another.

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