Monday, November 9, 2009

Why is there unemployment?

The Right to Life belongs to everyone of us, according to the Declaration of Independence. That means that all of us can live a secure a life without fear of physical attack. But it also means that we are assured sufficient food not to go hungry, shelter that keeps us from being homeless, access to a doctor when we are ill, and to schools when we want to learn. When most Americans lived on farms, food security required that every person had enough land to feed the family. Today food security means access to work that will support a family.
But our government does not make sure that every person can find a decent job. Instead it gives people money when they cannot find work. Why are we doing that? There are plenty of jobs that need doing but do not get filled because no one wants to pay for them. We need more preschools, we need more teachers' aides in our schools, we need more people to help out the elderly and we need more people to take care of parks and playgrounds. Your average appointment with your doctor is scheduled for 10 minutes. If you have a question it either does not get answered or the next patients have to wait a long time for their turn because the doctor is way behind. We could use a lot more general practitioners. More and more people spend long hours on hold or talking to computers because there is no live person to talk to when they have a question for the insurance company, the bank, the credit card company, the IRS, or the Internet store where they bought a product. Customer service could use a lot more attention.
There are plenty of jobs that need doing. It would be easy to fill those jobs if the government were to pay for them. They would not be paying the people out of work, they would not be handing out food stamps, housing subsidies, etc. The money is already there to enable every person to work at a decent job which supports them and their families. Why do not we do that?
The answer is that unemployment is good for business. During the present economic crisis, many businesses need to tighten their belts and that usually means they lower wages or benefits. If everybody has a job, some employees might quit their job to find a different one when wages and benefits are reduced. If we have, as we do at the moment,10% unemployment, the employer who reduces wages and benefits does not have to worry that his employees will quit; they know that they would not find any other work. Unemployment serves to “discipline” the work force as the economists say. In plain English, unemployment makes it possible for employers to treat their employees shabbily.
Since the 1970s real wages – what your money wages will actually buy – have not gone up; in the last 10 years or so they actually went down. How is that possible? Why did people who are in low wage jobs not go out to find better work? We know the answer. We have had significant unemployment during all this time; the good jobs have been flying out of the country, helped by our income tax laws. Finding that better job was not easy; quitting the job you had was always taking a big risk.
This is why we pay people to be idle instead of finding work for them and paying them for it. We could be filling all the jobs that go begging, that would make life in our society better for many people. This is why the right to life is violated for many people who are unable to support themselves by their work. Unemployment is good for business and, as Calvin Coolidge said, “the business of America is business.” Those of us who work for wages, who are not in business are second-class citizens. The interests of business come first; ours second.

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