Continuing the discussion I initiated last week — Is not the answer to unemployment the creation of jobs, not government checks? The Republicans think so, and so do I. Obviously this task basically lies in the hands of the powerful and highly productive private business community. But for reasons cited last week, the private sector sees short-term profits to be more important than job creation.
But there is another path to an attack on unemployment. If the private sector is unable or unwilling to solve the problem, here is where the people and their representatives have a role. There are jobs by the hundreds of thousands in the wings. They happen to be in the public sector.
America continues to fall apart. Our bridges, schools, sewers, highways, transportation systems, parks — even our airways — are in a terrible state of disrepair. Travel in any other industrialized nation and you will find first-class trains which take the traffic off the highways, by rapidly getting people from city to city. Has anybody seen what they are doing in China? I was recently in St. Petersburg, Russia and travelled on their new subway system. A comparison with what goes on underground in New York is an American embarrassment.
There are enough leaks from antiquated pipes in almost every American metropolis to solve any water problem those cities have. And what about our underfunded schools? In California we went from the first rated educational system to 48th. We just ran out of money. And why shouldn’t every student who can pass the entrance tests be granted a fully-funded college education? There can be no better investment in America’s future.
And let’s talk about the kind of scientific research that is critical to any dynamic culture. That is where other nations are putting their funds. Even our National Institutes of Health is having to cut back on research.
Global warming? First we have to convince America’s political Neanderthals that the millions of tons of carbon we are spewing into the atmosphere is a substantial part of the problem. Then we have to invest in the sort of research it will take to develop alternative sources of energy. Can we do it? Certainly!
Right away there are a brace of reasons why we won’t tackle any of these things. Yes, we are talking about the stalled government initiative. Well, if the private sector is incapable of or unwilling to do the job, why not turn the government loose on the problems? Some will call this solution “socialism.” But others will see it as a path to national survival.
And then there is the cost. Even part of my list will take a few hundred million. Where will find the money? In any recent year the Federal government has coughed up in excess of 100 billion dollars in purchases from corporations, mainly for military hardware. Why not use some of that money spent for equipment the Pentagon says it does not want and cannot use. There are things that need to be done throughout the country, and a work force ready and able to do them. And even if the funds are not immediately available, America’s entrepreneurs know that the only way to wealth is by making significant intelligent investments. If we are going to complete successfully with nations now on the move, we will never do it without sinking serious dollars into the effort.
Let’s get back to what generated this column. We are talking about jobs — millions of them. We could continue to write government checks to support the unemployed, but why not spend that money, and a lot more, on solving the unemployment problem by creating jobs necessary to bring the US into the 21st century? It makes sense to me. But in the meantime, while we are getting serious about job creation in both the private and public sectors, the chronically unemployed need support. Congress needs to act on the extension of unemployment insurance. Then attention must turn to the real issue. Job creation!