Answering economic atrophy:
A public option for jobs
By Greg Moses / The Rag Blog / May 16, 2010
Creative destruction is one way to say it. In order for capitalism to create a job, it must first promise to destroy it. In years when this gruesome formula works out, capitalism creates more jobs than it destroys. Then there are years like these.
Thursday night on the Capitalism Knows Best Channel (CNBC) Larry Kudlow said one thing that made sense. What if we stop wasting time on the blame game and start getting busy with solutions. Not that I’m taking my bets off the short table, mind you, but I’d feel a whole lot less hysterical these days if I thought someone actually knew how to get “the system” to create more jobs than it destroys.
The catastrophe of our economic atrophy since the market top of 2007 was too easily sketched in Thursday’s New York Times by a life-long worker whose skills had finally been displaced by the revolution in desktop computing.
Today’s economy, said the worker, only favors special-needs groups like minorities and veterans and the disabled. I don’t think the worker said a thing about how capitalism really works, except that someone had sold her some worthless training recently, along with one more goddam loan that she can’t pay back.
So where do jobs really come from and where should we really be looking — if not at minorities, veterans, and the disabled?
The worser the world gets the fewer words will be acceptable to boil down the process of job creation, and the less time we’ll have to block the hip shots aimed toward the usual suspects that fascism loves to detain. Imagine blaming the hardest working immigrants on the planet earth for the fact that we have no jobs! Yet, look who the police are coming for in Arizona. I guess if you’re caught standing at the curb looking for a job, it must be your fault you didn’t find one quicker.
“Too complicated for television” is what my news director used to tell me when I’d turn in a tape that played for three minutes and fifty-four seconds. If we don’t get the real jobs story down to 15 seconds or less a lot of innocent people are going to tear each other apart.
Under these emergency circumstances we have two quick choices. There is supply and demand. Or there is labor and need. These are not the same things by a long shot.
The longer that “free market capitalism” — recently valued at $49 trillion dollars globally by the World Federation of Exchanges- — fails to solve the problem of supply and demand the sooner we’re going to have to get serious about a public option where labor meets needs.
In either case it’s a national disaster to have one million people willing to work while the private and public sectors are both paralyzed before them. The wise labor economist Ray Marshall said somewhere recently that a day of unspent labor is a day you never get back. And if you are working all day only looking for work, soon enough you are scarred for life.
An economy of needs can be organized if unmet needs are matched with unused labor. There may be no profit in the deal — no supply or demand — but useless lives can be made useful and the swift transformation can get us all focused on solving some real problems rather than playing blame.
Now here’s what can be done. The world’s most wealthy holders of sovereign debt (yes, the White House knows who they are) can accept a restructured payment plan. The present-day savings of the sovereign debt service can be funneled into emergency public service programs. Did you know there are children on the playgrounds of public schools who have no one to watch them? Out of a million unemployed people, how many could be quickly certified for that?
What? Are there not a million playgrounds? What? Are some workers not suitable for children? How about reshelving books at the city library? How about scooping buckets of oil from the Gulf of Mexico? One million workers paid $30,000 per year each would cost $30 billion, a fraction of the financial bailout called TARP.
Now I want you to stop me when you see “free-market capitalism” hiring away these “public option” workers onto paths of so-called prosperity, but until then, as I say, there is so little time. Soon enough the fascists will be cramming new detention centers full of immigrants and calling it sovereignty or somesuch nonsense as that.
Instead of passively undergoing creative destruction we can demand creative engagement and we can demand it quickly from the people who have the power to deliver it. Meanwhile, decency demands that we stop the nonsense of blaming minorities, veterans, and disabled people for suddenly becoming folks the rest of us have the time to think about, again.
[Greg Moses is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]