Tuesday, August 30, 2011


To hear the TV pundits tell it, the American people are currently awaiting President Barack Obama’s new plan to stimulate the economy.

From both sides of the aisle, the politicians are yelling, “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

The economy is the big issue of the day. Unemployment is rampant. Real estate isn’t selling. Businesses are closing. Sales are lagging. Buying is postponed.

How in heck do you stimulate the economy? How do you get people to work, to buy and sell, to build, to get up and go?

Rumor has it that one of the president’s recommendations will be that the federal government extend unemployment benefits. Again.

Typical unemployment benefits last for 26 weeks. In New York, you can get another 33 weeks of ‘emergency’ benefits, and an additional 20 or so weeks of ‘supplemental’ benefits.

The theory of extending benefits to stimulate the economy is that the unemployed will spend the money and all that money being spent will create jobs, which in turn will create more spending and more jobs.

By this logic it would follow that giving every person over the age of say, 18, in Detroit a million dollars would result in a bustling, stimulated economy in that city.

I don’t think so.

I suspect that the casinos and the drug dealers would prosper, but it would be hard for all those millionaires to find anyone willing to cut the grass, paint the house or shine their shoes. And who would drive the cabs or the buses, or register the deeds? Millionaires don’t have to work.

I’m waiting to hear a politician who has the cahoonas to say, “The issue isn’t ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ the issue is ‘work, work, work.’.”

There’s a difference.

Rodney Dangerfield or Henny Youngman would explain it this way:
“My brother-in-law has a great job. He doesn’t have to work at all.”

That’s about the size of it. Everybody wants a job. Nobody wants to work.

Franklin Roosevelt put people to work with the WPA and the CCC. Bill Clinton touted ‘workfare’ over welfare. They were Democrats for heaven’s sake. Making people earn their daily bread is not some heartless capitalist, Republican idea. It’s just plain common sense.

Our goal should be to have a busy, industrious, productive population. To be a people imbued with a solid work ethic. To be builders and makers, and doers. Inventors and cleaners and fixers.

Somehow America has to go from an entitlement society to an opportunity society.

Here’s an agenda to start with:

We need urban homestead laws that will allow people to build up sweat equity in abandoned houses.

We need energy parks where young and not-so-young people can spend time generating useable energy through physical activity. In all the talk about clean sources of energy, nobody mentions human effort; walking, running, pulling, pushing, carrying, climbing. Make it fun, make it pay. The pyramids were built before there were bulldozers and cranes. Or entitlements.

We need to clean up our cities. Nothing destroys the work ethic more than seeing prisoners in orange suits picking up trash along the freeway while thousands of able bodied men and women draw welfare and watch television. Picking up trash is useful, honorable, manual labor. It isn’t punishment.

We need people to till the soil. To plant and prune and pick. In the 1940’s we had Victory Gardens. There’s lots of vacant real estate in America. And lots of hungry people in the world.

We need leaders. I don’t mean big shot political leaders in Washington and the state capitols. We need men and women who have the imagination to come up with useful projects and the chutzpah to organize teams to carry them out.

In short, we need to get off our butts and go to work.

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