Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Public Jobs Now!

"So here's a proposal: Why not use government policy to directly create jobs -- labor intensive service jobs in fields like education, public health and safety, urban infrastructure maintenance, youth programs, elder care, arts and letters, and scientific research?"

Robert J. Shiller, "What Would Roosevelt Do?" The New York Times, July 31, 2010.

Good Idea. First we should total up the public jobs we are already creating, or plan to create in the next few years and make sure we are getting the most out of them -- and extending funding when needed. AmeriCorp is tripling, TANF Emergency Funds, OJT and wage studies, assorted ARRA programs, transitional jobs, likely entry-level jobs from health-care reform, etc. And we need to tell the story of benefits and reasonably good implementation and management.

Second, how do you sell a big jobs program politically at this point in time? It might have been possible in 2009, but now? With all the wrangling about whether the stimulus worked, deficits, big government, and potential November losses, it's hard to imagine anyone sticking their heads out to promote a big, bad public job creation program.

But policy action maybe be possible in the longer run if high unemployment persists and we witness the increasingly corrosive social and economic consiequences of unemployment for all sorts of workers, families, and communities. Meantime, let's support the continuation and effective implementation of existing public jobs investments.

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