If you watched Meet the Press yesterday, you heard Alan Greenspan opine that of all the problems caused by the recession, perhaps the most serious will be its impact on the long-term unemployed.
Today, there are almost 6 million Americans who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. As Mr. Greenspan noted, besides the emotional and financial toll they are experiencing, they are also suffering a terrible occupational penalty. They are growing more and more obsolete. The longer they (or anyone) remain unemployed, the less current and employable their skills.
Sadly, this view is absolutely correct. Which is what makes our current system of “unemployment insurance” so senseless.
Why pay someone to be unemployed, when we could just as easily pay them to be employed. Not at a traditional job, but at the job of updating and expanding their skill set. In other words, in addition to the monthly stipend a person collects for being unemployed, why doesn’t the country also giving them an “employment insurance” chit good for the tuition at any accredited academic or training institution?
Such a program would have a wide range of beneficiaries, including:
• The individual working man or woman whose skills would be strong enough to compete and win in even the most challenging labor market;
• Employers that would have access to a larger pool of workers with state-of-the-art skills enabling them to compete and win in the global marketplace; and
• Teachers who would finally have enough demand for their expertise to be able to find a job and earn a living.
I know it’s important to upgrade our crumbling infrastructure, but construction jobs do not prepare the American workforce for the challenges ahead. Only the most robust set of skills will enable them to do that. So, here’s my modest two-step proposal.
• First, I suggest that we redefine the “troubled assets” in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to include the occupational expertise of America’s workers.
• And second, I suggest that we use the remaining TARP funds to finance an “employment insurance” program for American workers.
What will this proposal accomplish?
One very important outcome—it will, at last, spread the wealth from Wall Street to Main Street and help put America’s workers back to work, not just for the next six months, but for the rest of their careers.
Thanks for reading,