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The Albatross around our necks

Published July 16. 2011 09:02AM

In this article, I decided to write about the things that affect those of us who earn their way, pay taxes and support their families. I have to admit that lately I felt overburdened by the redistribution of our wealth. We continue to support those who are able-bodied but choose not to work and the unemployed who have stopped looking for work.

I have no objection to providing a good pension to those who are disabled; Social Security for those who have worked long and hard; and unemployment insurance to those between positions for up to 26 weeks. I am tired of having to carry the load of those who are able to work but choose not to. With our unemployment rate officially at 9.2 percent and the real unemployment rate in excess of 20 percent, the burden is excessive. We can no longer rob a productive Peter, to support an unproductive Paul.

We have been paying people not to work for far too long. Each week more people decide that it is easier to go on the dole than it is to find a job. Many of the unemployed are trying hard to find work. I also know others who are trying to stretch unemployment for every possible penny they can get. With unemployment insurance now covering people for over 150 weeks there is no incentive for them to seek a position beneath their skill level. I understand the desire to wait for a job similar to the one that was lost. Unfortunately many of these jobs are gone forever. For those unemployed more than 26 weeks, the likelihood of finding a position similar to the one they had, is low.

In my community, there are many businesses looking for new employees. Many of these positions only offer minimum wage or slightly higher. Some of these jobs offer health and other benefits. These businesses cannot afford to pay large corporate wages, but they do offer employment to those between positions. Yet these jobs go unfilled because of a growing dependence on government handouts. It is better to stay at home and receive unemployment benefits or welfare than it is to work in a minimum-wage job. This situation is crippling our economy. Those who take a job, even a low-paying job, get off the dole and they start paying taxes. Those two things are essential if our government is to reduce the deficit and pay our debt. By converting the unemployed into wage earners we can start the process of rebuilding our economy.

I know that most of us do not want to take positions below our expertise or education. I was once unemployed. I know what it was like. Rather than take unemployment, I chose to drive a taxi. I was able to work nights to pay my bills while looking for a full-time job during the day. I was very lucky as I found a job and later started a business.

In this economy, I understand that it takes far longer to find employment. However, part-time work in the evenings is a good way to hold things together while one seeks better opportunities. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of well-paid positions as many of these jobs have moved overseas. We must adapt to the changing conditions and encourage the long-term unemployed and those on welfare to find productive work, even if it does not fully utilize their skills. We must encourage them whenever possible to go back to school, to retrain themselves, so that they can be productive members of the workforce.

I know that childcare can be a burden for those between positions and have young children. Instead of shelling out billions of dollars for shovel ready jobs that are not shovel ready, why don't we use some of this money to fund facilities for childcare? I'm sure that we could train and use some of the unemployed as childcare workers, supervisors and managers in day care centers. The centers should be open 24 hours a day to give evening and night workers excellent childcare at reasonable prices. Skip the shovel ready projects that aren't and fund real projects that enable people to take the jobs they need to support their families. In addition to providing basic childcare, these centers could also provide tutoring services. Children could receive assistance with their homework from tutors who are between positions. The lack of decent, affordable childcare keeps many people on the dole. Lets fix this so that they can rejoin the work force!

This leads me into the requirement of community service for those on unemployment or welfare for more than 26 weeks. I understand that is hard to find work in this economy. For those who are unsuccessful in finding employment, I believe they should have to provide services to the community to receive long-term benefits. There are plenty of opportunities to provide services without threatening the jobs of those currently employed. We need people to pick up trash along the sides of the highway. Our senior citizens and handicapped could use help with painting their houses or cutting the grass. Charitable organizations could use additional "volunteers" to assist in food kitchens for the poor, reading to people in hospital or performing other needed but unfunded services in the community.

In the1930s, during the Great Depression, the unemployed worked on public projects to support their families. They built bridges, highways, schools and other infrastructure. These were not jobs they wanted; they were jobs they needed to support their families. It was not charity because society benefited from these public works projects. It is time to bring these programs back! We have more unemployment now than we had in the Dirty Thirties. Our government cannot borrow our way to prosperity. We must put our people back to work so they can pay taxes and again become productive members of society.

It is not easy for those who are unemployed or on welfare. I believe that most of them want to be gainfully employed. The longer one is between positions, the harder it is to get a job. Eventually people become disheartened and stop looking for work. It is very difficult to keep their hopes up in this dismal economy. But we cannot give up. We must be more creative! Our politicians must recognize that we need jobs not handouts. They need to be very creative in finding ways to create new jobs without mortgaging our future. I believe that "civilian volunteers", working on public projects, can be a very positive force in the rebuilding of America. Once we get the ball rolling, it will speed up. Eventually the recession will end and there will be many new jobs created.

I know that some readers will disagree with the ideas I suggested in this article. Great! Join the discussion and add your ideas. No one person can dig us out of this recession. It will take many of us working together to develop a solution. But we can't leave something this important for the other guy to do. The other guy will drop the ball. The politicians have failed us. Our President has dropped the ball and blames the problems on others. Now is the time for Congress, the President and the American people to work together to rebuild our shattered economy. We have started on the path to recovery. Let's reduce the foolish regulations that constrain growth.

We must create a business environment that can support a recovery. Small businesses want to expand, they want to hire and they want to increase their profits. The government needs to get out of the way and let them do it. Put our people back to work; rebuild our economy; but most of all, restore our faith in America!

© 2011 Gordon Smith All Rights Reserved

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