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Jun. 1 2009 - 9:26 pm | 4 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Get a job — exactly how, well, that’s your problem

Building Trades Unemployment Insurance Rally

Image by aflcio2008 via Flickr

The good news: The haves are recognizing the problem. The bad news: They don’t seem to know what to do about it.

Joblessness, not welfare dependency, is now the national scourge. And as a poverty conference convened here last week, custodians of the safety net confronted an obvious question: If aid is reserved for people with jobs, what happens when the jobs go away?

“We have a work-based safety net without work,” said Timothy M. Smeeding, an economist at the University of Wisconsin. “We’re really in a pickle.”

The Safety Net – Slumping Economy Tests Aid System Tied to Jobs – Series – NYTimes.com.

The story makes a passing reference to the failure of past attempts to solve the problem by training people. But let’s revisit that. Seems to me, one of the biggest problems was that we never really knew what kinds of jobs to train people for. We would “train” them to sling hash at a time when the world was crying out for computer programmers. Maybe if we’d offered remedial math courses and then seen who had aptitude…

The same goes for today.  If there’s any money going to retrain unemployed people to thrive in an internet age, I haven’t read about it. Why aren’t we trying to develop a new cadre of  security experts, of computer repairmen, etc?  I’m not being naive here — no, I don’t think every unemployed auto worker (or fill in the group that you feel most sympathetic with here — maybe journalists?) has a knack for internet entrepreneurship just waiting to be discovered. But I’ll bet that some of them do.

Or here’s an even better thought.  I’ll bet that many of them can teach, be it the inner workings of auto engines, or investigative reporting skills (get the sense where my sympathies are lying?) or even fifth grade.  Why not pay to get them teacher certification, so that we can do a bit more about the educational crisis? It beats what seem to be the only two other alternatives: Reinstate the old welfare system, the one that no one, not even us liberal types, particularly liked.  Or, let more families fall into abject poverty. ‘


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    I graduated from Cornell with a degree in child psychology, enough years ago so that all you needed to break into journalism was willingness to starve. I went into business journalism because, in the 60s, the business press was the crusading press, the ones that wrote about environment, race relations, etc. Since then I have worked for Business Week, Chemical Week and, from 1984 through May 2008, BizDay at the New York Times. I remain bored by and ignorant of esoteric financial instruments; I remain fascinated and pretty knowledgeable about management, marketing, environment, all the non-financial aspects of business. But my true passions? Tennis, both playing and watching, and food, both cooking and eating.

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