Posted 5 years ago on June 8, 2012, 11:10 p.m. EST by Misaki
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
Who bears the cost when someone is looking for paid work but unable to find any? The answer is usually some combination of family, friends, or the state. Indirectly, welfare provided by the federal government is paid either by taxpayers or by all holders of wealth through inflation. It is the responsibility of anyone subject to these costs to decide whether to accept them as the price of maintaining social stability within the current system, or to support changes so that these costs are no longer incurred.
Until now, many people have assumed that it was not possible to eliminate these costs because it would be even more expensive for the government to create jobs through additional spending. Economists have never offered a clear explanation for why the business cycle exists, or what leads to job creation at the end of a recession, and so many people have been forced to rely on ideological explanations for what is wrong with our economy.
These explanations are all wrong. The poor cannot volunteer to work for lower wages because ownership of land and restrictions on building drive up housing prices, and even if every single job opening in the United States today was filled there would still be millions of people out of work. We have plenty of educated workers in every field and over $1 trillion in student debt. The rich do create jobs through spending and many give generously to philanthropic efforts. The government does waste money through unnecessary programs and costs but this leads to more jobs, not fewer.
It is the middle class who allow unemployment to remain as high as it is. 56% of the population, as well as the Congressional Budget Office and Moody's, agree that higher taxes and government spending would lead to growth, but only 42% think that the government should create jobs in this manner. In a democracy, it is the people who ultimately define the goals of government, not the elected leaders or a wealthy elite, and so our high levels of unemployment have continued.
This is not to say that the majority of people want unemployment to exist. Prior to the financial crisis, 68% of the population thought that money and wealth in the US "should be more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people". The fact that this proportion dropped sharply to 58% after the crisis and has remained at that level suggests that people incorrectly assume that the United States is lacking the wealth necessary to support more and higher-paying jobs.
Concerns about the economy have gradually been replaced with concerns about unemployment as the most important issue facing the nation, but ideological conservatives continue to promote the delusion that tax cuts on the rich lead to more "real" jobs than the same amount of government spending, as evidenced by the significant numbers of people who do not believe that higher government spending and taxes would lead to growth. This low valuation of truth is obvious when only 27% of registered voters think that the leading Republican presidential candidate says what he believes instead of what people want to hear, but 46% would choose to vote for him over the current US President. Confusion about what is wrong with the economy is the result of deliberate efforts to limit the size of government or reduce assistance to the poor and unemployed.
At the heart of this lack of regard for the unemployed is the idea that if those without jobs were truly willing and fit to do the work requested by those in society who are able to pay, they would be able to find work. This ignores some simple facts about how the economy works. Sales and business deals are not made solely on the basis of product price or even product quality—there are many other factors, like social connections and brands, that determine which transactions are completed and reduce competitiveness.
Someone may have gone to college and be a brilliant expert in their field, but because their credentials are not prestigious enough they are not even be able to get an interview. A company might make outstanding products but because they do not personally know the CEO of a corporate client, they lose a contract to someone who does. An unemployed worker might be dedicated and skilled, but because this is difficult to prove and a workplace requires social compatibility as much as it does efficiency, their job application is rejected and a less productive existing worker continues to earn a higher wage.
The harmful effect of this simplified version of reality is that it causes people to assume that it is better for those with proven ability in a profession to work harder than to entrust the unemployed with a task they might not have experience with. To see how ridiculous this is, apply it to one of the most dangerous activities in the United States which, regardless of its risks, almost everyone eventually learns to do—driving a car.
There is no need for everyone to work as long as possible out of the mistaken belief that the United States is somehow lacking in the amount of wealth possessed by its rich. If we reject this idea unemployment can easily be fixed, without higher government spending and taxes, simply by adopting the accelerated work week. Instead of showing our dedication by working long hours, we use our time more efficiently by focusing on core tasks and completing the workload as quickly as possible. This front-loads our productivity and allows less important work to be done by another employee or, if necessary, by working longer hours at a reduced wage rate to recognize the lower contribution to the business's success or our lower productivity as a natural response to a longer work week.
Some might argue that the workers of our society are uniformly oppressed with low wages, or are too addicted to their consumer lifestyles to ever accept the slight reduction in workload and pay that would allow a business to hire additional employees. Contrary to this expectation, most of even the top 1% of income work in occupations where it would be possible to choose a reduction of pay and workload. The stereotype of golf-playing managers who depend on their subordinates for all real work while they network with their peers may be unfair but more responsibility by employees in dictating their own work processes would reduce the need for management as well.
The alternative is for us to agree that we would rather the unemployed live off of welfare and use whatever means necessary to survive than provide a stable source of income by having the government create jobs through higher spending. In its own way, this would still be upholding the ideals of freedom and independence that the United States was based on—since any unemployed worker who spends more effort to find a job would be condemning someone else to permanent joblessness, the ranks of the unemployed would be filled not only with those who are unable to find a job, but also the altruistic.
Any abuse of welfare entitlements or government services would be transformed into a moral act of taking from the rich to give to the poor, similar to the story in English history of the heroic outlaw named Robin Hood. There would be no shame in using or even selling food stamps when their cost is borne by an uncaring society that prefers deception about the effects of economic policy over providing a job and an honest income for all individuals.
It is then up to taxpayers and others who provide support to the unemployed to vote for job creation to end this situation, whether through more government spending or by encouraging the use of an accelerated work week.