Time magazine's cover story this week is on the biggest crisis that America now faces. And it's not healthcare -- badly screwed up though our healthcare system may be. The article makes a bit of a strained analogy to 9/11 (suggesting that U.S. unemployment should hover in the 9% to 11% range for some time, hence it's Obama's (9%/11%, get it?) but it's mainly a plea for a common sense approach to attacking a new kind of jobs crisis in America.
Such a plan would start by changing what it means to be jobless. To begin with, this would require a massive increase in job retraining, one that assured that every laid-off worker had a chance to learn a new skill and years of funding to master it — instead of the six-month shots now generally offered. The Administration's proposal to increase funding to community colleges is a start. But it's only a start. Ideally, the White House needs to propose an omnibus employment-emergency bill that guarantees jobless workers a basic set of rights for two to three years: health care, access to retraining, subsidized mentoring for careers in high-end manufacturing or health services. Handled well, such a program could be a "cash for clunker careers." Obama should also bring together innovative minds in technology and service — the people who run consumer-driven businesses like Disney and Google — to find ways to make the process of being unemployed less of a bureaucratic and emotional mess.
In other words, the article reeks of political naivite. The changes of such a measure coming out of the Beltway in the current climate are about as good as the changes of the Washington Nationals coming out of the Beltway to take part in the baseball post-season, i.e., nil. Once Congress rammed through a massive aid package for America's neediest cases, a.k.a, Wall Street bankers, each plan that involves new federal dollars has been met with increasing skepticism, even common-sense measures for stimulating that economy to prevent a protracted recession (which, let's not forget, increases the federal deficit in the long run.)
I don't see an easier answer. How can there be a private-sector, market-based solution to unemployment when the free market is what is creating unemployment? I seriously doubt that the kind of economic solutions that Republicans prefer -- tax cuts upon more tax cuts -- would create new jobs in the current climate. The recession has forced businesses to figure out how to do as much as they can with fewer workers -- and now that they've done that, even when the economy recovers they will be more focused on rebuilding their bottom line than on giving people those jobs back.
Is the idea that they might have health insurance in 2013 supposed to be consolation for that?