Forgetting that the Forsaken are the Future
by Adam Ondo | University of Rochester
Unemployment, one of the more salient issues that the Occupy Wall Street movement is focusing on, is the problem that I am going to try to tackle with this article. It is not going to be easy, especially for someone who has faith in the capitalist market system, to address this issue and suggest solutions. What I have to offer may not be much, but here it goes.
Recently there has been a rebound in manufacturing, which has spurred a limited amount of job growth. According to Steven Wood of Insight Economics, “there are hopeful signs of some modest improvement” in the job market, though. For instance, the unemployment rate recently dipped to 9 percent after 80,000 jobs were created in October. Wood goes on to explain that the decreasing number of people receiving unemployment benefits could mean that people may have found new jobs, but that “a larger number have likely used up all their benefits.” Also, individuals that have lost hope and stopped looking for jobs are not included in the 9 percent of unemployed.
Organized structural unemployment, like that seen in the case of the migrant Africans working under apartheid, is a tool business elites use to ensure greater profits by offering lower wages and fewer employee benefits. It is in the interest of the bourgeoisie to keep workers in a position that forces them to take what they are offered. High unemployment also keeps workers divided, keeps them competing with each other for jobs, keeps them squabbling with other members of the proletariat, like foreigners or nonunion workers, effectively securing the ruling classes dominance over them. This unemployment problem, in the words of Vladimir Lenin, erodes the “solidarity of the workers and divides them, to the delight of the bourgeois.”
This being said, even if business elites in the United States were benefiting from high unemployment, it would be deleterious for them to see it continue for too much longer. Let me explain. Workers require income that covers sustenance, maintenance, and replacement. Sustenance is the direct wage required for a laboring worker to live on. Maintenance is usually covered with indirect wages, or fringe benefits, meaning that most workers have something to fall back on during periods of unemployment. This will not last forever, though. Lastly, employment is necessary if businesses want a new generation of workers in the future, as high unemployment and low wages discourage breeding, because they make the 18 year upbringing of the new worker too burdensome in some situations. So if vampiric businessmen drain their victims of every last drop, leaving them looking like a sucked orange, then they will cease to receive profits in the long term. If this isn’t enough of an incentive to provide jobs – which in turn strengthens the economy – then I feel that more government meddling may be the only viable option.
Offering tax breaks to businesses that hire workers who had been unemployed for at least six months prior to being hired, may be one way to stimulate job growth. Taking on these employees stimulates the economy, as the spillover from the new income affects other sectors of the economy. This should lead to further job growth. Of course the tax breaks could only be applied if the company did not fire old employees, barring a violation of company policy or some other egregious act, or cut their hours, as this would defeat the purpose. Providing tax relief to factory based businesses may also be a way for the government to manipulate job growth, as an increase in factory output usually corresponds with increases in employment opportunities.
An even better idea, in my opinion, is the reallocation of government resources in a way that creates more government jobs. Congress could redirect defense funds to transportation, forestry, and other jobs that require little specialization and are at a relatively low pay grade. I know from experience that the National Park System could use some extra maintenance, so why not hire a few more workers to help with that. Instead of providing funding towards a proxy war in Somalia using Ugandan troops, the government could take that money and hire workers to resurface roads for the Department of Transportation, because some of the interstates I’ve been on feel like wooden rollercoasters at Six Flags. Also, cutting down on frivolous costs, eliminating unnecessary agencies, and creating better ways to communicate could free up more money so that defense spending wouldn’t have to be cut. In any case, this seems like one of the better solutions.
Some have also suggested that ever weakening European economies need to be propped up in order for our unemployment to decrease, because as long as Europe has a “depressed economy,” it will not be able to import more US goods. Providing Europe with the ability to import more goods is necessary because we need the demand for US exports to increase in Europe in order to encourage more job growth here at home. This may mean providing economic aid to European countries, while maybe cutting down on the $7.5 billion in military aid we give to Pakistan. I don’t like it, but maybe this could work.
As much as it pains me to call for this type of government intervention, I feel that it may be necessary. If I didn’t know any better, I may even suggest paying workers to dig ditches and then fill them back in again, requiring them to use spoons instead of shovels. More government jobs, tax breaks, and economic intervention in Europe are not optimal solutions, but once all the other options are exhausted, these might be what are we left with.
Originally from Missouri, Adam Ondo is a political science and history double major at the University of Rochester in New York. He is an avid blogger and staff writer for the Campus Times, and also has his own political talk show. His geographic focus is Africa and he will be studying abroad in South Africa next year.