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More means better choices

October 16, 2012

A recurring theme in The Gist Blog is that more choices are better. When people have options, they generally choose the one that they believe is best for them. A lot of our objection to government  is really not having a choice.

If the lack of jobs is our biggest problem right now, here are two ideas where expanding choices for our people may produce better results and lower costs.

Despite millions of unemployed workers, we also have several million unfilled jobs. Why? The employer can’t find people with the skills they need despite federal and state governments spending billions on worker retraining programs. What if we gave employers and employees another choice?

  1. The employee can choose to start a new job and continue to receive a smaller (and declining) amount of unemployment compensation (let’s call it under-employment compensation) for the first year on the job.
  2. If the newly hired employee remains full time after one year, let the employer qualify for a credit roughly equal to cost the government would have invested in his retraining.

Everyone Benefits: Unemployed people could take lower paying jobs as the “underemployment compensation” would soften the pay cut. Employers could hire undertrained workers as they could be compensated for sucessfully training and continuing to hire them. Governments would save by moving unemployed workers into jobs more quickly as well as save again by only paying for successful retraining efforts.

Unemployment conpensation programs are widely seen as a successful way to reduce harm to workers and businesses across the business cycle. When business is good, employers fund these programs. When jobs are lost during recessions, unemployment checks help laid-off workers pay their bills while they look for work. State and Federal sharing in unemployment programs helps move benefits from the healthier states to those hardest hit as well. What if we gave unemployed workers another option?  What if unemployment workers could choose either the traditional program or a public works option?  The new choice would offer higher pay for a year or two to workers who do full time public service work instead of getting paid not to work.

  1. The unemployed would have another choice which offered more money and the important benefit of working and contributing to their communities.
  2. Governments would benefit from having people willing to do the publics business at a low cost (most of which government was already paying through unemployment compensation.
  3. Taxpayers benefit so long as the public works option offered no benefits except access to Medicare, these jobs could not be unionized and have a certain end date.  The program would fail if it were turned into “government jobs lite” instead of what it must be, another option for the unemployed willing to work for more and look for a better job on their onw time.

Everyone Benefits: We’d all benefit by having our unemployed citizens working, maintaining and improving their work skills and doing some of the millions of things that obviously need doing.

I’d be fine with public works jobs that shorten the lines at the DMV, mow the weeds around distressed properties, fill potholes and clean up trash around town, etc.

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