Last year’s blog started with my resolution for 2010: to make positive change.
As 2011 launches with the unemployment rate stuck above 9% (12%+ in California), and the gut-wrenching shootings in Tucson, sunny optimism is on holiday.
In its place, here is resolve for 2011: Create jobs. Especially for people least likely to have one (REDF’s special niche). This will create glimmers of hope for the people who get the jobs, the companies that offer the jobs, as well as the businesses and government agencies that buy from these enterprises and hire their workers once they are better prepared.
Also, when we make it clear that all kinds of people can ‘pull themselves up by the bootstraps’ given half a chance, we will contribute in some small way to alleviate the frustration of their fellow citizens whose anger is creating an atmosphere that can lead to violence. Especially among unstable people whose mental health problems are still so stigmatized that they are not only unemployed, but access little in the way of services that might prevent explosions from happening.
So – how do we create more jobs?
While private businesses are the engine of job growth, it is also true that one of the essential economic notions driving US business has been minimizing labor costs. But in the face of a changing economy, and intense international competition, what if more of a balance between labor and capital is better for all of us.
If more people are employed, more people buy stuff. If more people buy stuff, more people become employed. If more people are employed, crime, unemployment insurance, and welfare-dependence drop. People take better care of their families. A virtuous circle.
But more people employed might mean that business profits drop. Witnessing the stock market bubbles, and investor frauds of the past few years might make us wonder how bad that really would be….and capital might start flowing if investors noticed that when more people are employed, the efficiencies achieved can actually increase profits. Let me illustrate.
Sitting at home after taking time off from work to wait for the dryer to be repaired for the second ‘four hour window’ that turned into six hours with no repair person in sight left me wondering about American competitiveness and job growth.
As I simmered, I imagined a two hour appointment window, and an online method for checking the schedule. After my fifteenth call to the repair company with no accurate information let alone service, my mind began to drift.
It used to be that you could be pretty sure if you lived in the US you were getting the most up-to-date services and products. We had a huge middle class. Isn’t that why it was always easy to see why our system was so much better than the Soviets or China during the Cold War? We had it better. Now it’s hard to be sure.
Anyhow, when the repair guy showed up, I was interested in what he had to say. The company he works for had invested $30 million in a new on line system that basically calls him at 4 pm every day to tell him which of the overscheduled appointments he had missed between 9 and 12. Imagine the number of times those enraged people had already called the company representatives to complain – taking up their time and getting nowhere.
Meanwhile, the guy said he’s working 10 hours days 6 days a week making good money, but he’d just as soon work a few less hours and have a few less irate customers. Surely there is room there to hire a few well paid dryer repair people and save on at least part of the $30 million technology investment.
So – how do we create more jobs in 2011?
We say social enterprise. But check out what the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (started originally by those record-busting job creators David Packard and William Hewlett) suggested to Governor Brown. What’s on the top of your list? Stay tuned here for more of REDF’s ideas.