Home > Off Blog, shorter work time > Don’t seed the clouds, or open the faucet: Just go to the beach!

Don’t seed the clouds, or open the faucet: Just go to the beach!

Paul deLespinasse proposes to eliminate unemployment once and for all. And, to accomplish this he is advocating a variant of the government funded employment schemes making the rounds among progressive circles these days.

Paul begins by noting that the most recent employment numbers had an interesting solution buried in the otherwise ugly data:

The private sector of the economy created 83,000 additional jobs in June, but total employment fell because 225,000 temporary census workers were let go.

The census workers had real jobs and these were additional jobs that reduced unemployment. They demonstrate that there are two possible ways to reduce unemployment, not just one.

The government has been trying to reduce unemployment by “stimulating” the economy so that private employers would become willing and able to put more people to work. But it is unclear how well this strategy has worked.

The alternative is for government itself to hire the unemployed and put them to doing useful things. This is what the Census Bureau did, and back during the Great Depression this is what the WPA and other government programs did.

Based on his insight, Paul imagines quite a number of things government might pay people to do. It would, he argues, be possible for the government to provide a job for everyone who is willing and able for less than the total cost of last year’s Obama stimulus program:

If all 14.6 million currently unemployed took such government jobs, and if on top of minimum wages the government paid $400 per month towards medical insurance for each employee, it would cost about $24 billion per month, or $289 billion per year, not including administrative costs.

The newly minted government workers would be paid minimum wages of $7.25 per hour for a 40 hour work week.

Paul makes the reasonable argument that this approach to the unemployment problem is superior to the one currently pursued by the Messiah’s administration. Obama is trying to stimulate businesses to hire the unemployed, but has seen little visible results for his massive deficit spending. Paul compares what Obama is trying to do to filling up a pool by seeding the clouds and hoping for rain.

If we have a pool we want to fill with water, does it make more sense to turn on a faucet and fill it up, or to hire pilots to seed the clouds and try to make it rain? Cloud-seeding, like our current approach to dealing with unemployment, would be discredited “trickle down” theory with a vengeance!

Why not go with a straightforward approach whose costs and results are measurable, which has worked in the past, and which could put a total end to unemployment rather than just reducing it?

We agree! There is no reason to pay people not to work, while providing massive incentives to companies to hire them. Where we disagree with Paul is on his insistence that this ineffective system should be replaced by millions of minimum wage workers performing what passes for necessary work only in the minds of progressives. If there are important public work projects to be undertaken, workers should be employed at wages consistent with the value of their labor power, i.e., the average hourly wage for the country.

Public projects of importance to all of us, such as roads, bridges, water and sewer reconstruction, education, etc., should be undertaken as serious endeavors and not simply as make-work activities to employ otherwise unemployable members of our communities. These things are far too important to use as busy work, and people are far too important to waste their time and effort on activities of no significant economic value – like chiseling statues into mountains.

However, if the intent is to actually reduce unemployment, we have solution that doesn’t cost a dime, and requires no administrative overhead:

Just reduce hours of work, and keep reducing them until there is no unemployment left.

This way, Washington isn’t engaged in filling pools by seeding clouds OR turning on faucets – if we want to spend time in the water, the beach is already there waiting for us.

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