Monday, November 5, 2012

Unemployment Crisis (Solution) - Post #5, A New National Lifestyle

This is the final post to a multi-installment presentation of a 20 page document I have spent 40 years thinking about and developing.  The introductory hypothesis was posted on Oct. 21, 2012 and outlines what I believe is a fundamental change in the international world of work.  This possible solution to the severe worldwide unemployment crisis this change has helped produce has been posted on Oct. 26, 27, Nov. 2, 4 and 6, 2012.  I hope you find it a worthwhile possible solution, and will share your thoughts with me as I expand and develop this document more fully.  Also, if you have found my ideas and posts worthy, I hope you will vote for me on Nov. 6th.   I hope you will consider all our 6 DC Green candidates as well.

 G. Lee Aikin,  DC Statehood Green Party candidate for "Shadow" Representative to Congress


     Although the advantages of this flexible system to individuals are obvious, there are numerous potential advantages for management as well.
     1. Lower turnover in boring types of work should result as workers recognize the twin advantages of financial and job security and freedom to pursue personal goals. Anyone can stand 3 or 6 months of routine work if they know they will have 3 months to work on their favorite project after that.
     2. Better quality workmanship with all its resulting savings should result from employees feeling less bored and routinized in their jobs.
     3. Fewer malcontents and people stuck at their level of incompetence (“Peter Principle”) should result as people experiment with different jobs during their “free” quarters, or as they make a gradual transition from one career to another as their needs and economic picture change. People who are unhappy or incompetent in their work would have the opportunity to try out various forms of work until they find the one ideally suited to them.
     4. The greater freedom to use both student trainees and mature workers who are in transition should result in the acquisition of more competent and experienced employees.
     5. The employer wouldn't have to feel like an S.O.B. Every time economic factors raised the specter of job layoffs. The savings in medical costs alone for executive ulcers should be considerable.
     6, Since the opportunity to elect leave quarters could operate on a seniority basis, the people rotating on and off the job would be the most experienced workers, thereby causing minimal disruptions and loss of readjustment time for the orderly flow of work. [
     7. The choice of working fewer quarters by senior people would lower wage costs and improve opportunities for upward mobility.
     While this is by no means an exhaustive list of the advantages that could accrue to management, it should serve to stimulate the imagination of any executive who might wish to seriously consider this system. It should be of special interest to those businesses that are being hardest hit by the current energy and financial crunch, like the auto industry, or those which have been in serious trouble for some time like the banking and housing construction industries.


     Flexible provisions to increase or decrease quarters available could be linked to some standard measure such as city, state or national unemployment figures.
     Although implementation of the Quarter System could have a major impact on the workplace, the transition should not be difficult with good labor/management coordination. Naturally a number of modifications would have to be made in existing labor contract language.
     The following sample contract provisions are modifications based on a Collective Agreement which the author has worked under personally. These provisions contain points favorable to both employees and management such as might be worked out through give-and-take negotiations. Although this particular contract is designed in terms of a white collar work situation, it's adaptability to the blue collar work force should not be hard to imagine.


     A) A total of __[ 40 ]__ quarters of leave shall be available to the __[ 100 ]__ bargaining unit members per (calendar/contract) year. [Some percentage of total quarters worked annually by all full time bargaining unit members should be chosen, such as 15%. This figure could be made flexible for firms with rapidly changing conditions—i.e., the auto industry.] [In the case above the figure is 10%.]
     B) Bargaining unit members may elect leave quarters (LQ) on the basis of seniority up to 2 quarters per year. Deviation for strict seniority will be permitted in hardship cases or where essential knowledge and skills of the most senior workers are needed.
     C) Employees using LQ will accrue annual and sick leave on a prorated basis, i.e., workers eligible for 13 days each of annual and sick leave will earn 3 ¼ days of each during all quarters worked.
     D) Employees may elect to receive full salary during quarters worked or proportional salary over 12 months, i.e., a person working 2 quarters could choose to receive 6 months pay at full salary or half salary over a 12 month period.
     E) In most cases, employees will inform the union and management of their quarter work plans and wishes at the beginning of each year. Otherwise the employee should inform management of the intent/need to take LQ at least one month in advance. Exceptions may be made for hardship cases.
     F) The employee will notify management one month in advance whether or not he/she intends to return to work. If the employee does not intend to return, he/she will notify management of this in writing. Failure to do so may result in the loss of some severance benefits.
     G) If reduction in force (lay-offs) become necessary the employer will notify the union of the number of quarters in specific job classifications that need to be reduced. The union will then poll the membership to determine if some employees would be interested in working fewer quarters, eighths, or months during the crisis period.
     H) An employee hired to work a single quarter (temporary hire) will not pay the initiation fee, but will begin paying monthly union dues upon completing the probationary period.
     I) Every effort will be made to enable employees to take LQ so as to coordinate with vacation and work schedules of spouses and children.
     J) When the local unemployment rate rises above ________%, employees taking LQ shall not work for other establishments employing more than ________ persons. Failure to observe this rule may result in loss of reinstatement rights. [These figures could be made flexible based on the prevailing unemployment situation, i.e., 9% - 20 employees, 12% - 5 employees.]


     The economic indicator Gross Domestic Product has been a valuable tool for measuring national economic progress and prosperity. However, the recent upsurge in unemployment and decline of our cities and environment follows what had been a period of apparent rising monetary prosperity. Now it is especially important to consider what contribution the many unemployed can and do make.
     There are a great many activities of value to a nation's prosperity which can be quantified, but do not normally appear in the GDP measure. They include home maintenance and improvements, man and woman-hours spent in volunteer work (hospital aides, tutoring, counseling, scouting, etc.), growing and preserving food for family consumption, and sewing clothes and other craft production for home use. Engaging or failing to engage in such activities can have a tremendous cumulative impact on the national welfare, and consequently they deserved to be measured.
     One only need think back to the destruction of Bedford-Styvesant in the Bronx, or the areas where many foreclosures or plant closings like in Detroit are resulting in derelict neighborhoods, to comprehend the importance of these kinds of individual effort.
     It is therefore proposed that a new additional economic indicator be introduced, which could be called the Real Domestic Product Supplement (RDPS). This would undertake to measure all the activities mentioned above, plus any other domestic individual activities which can be quantified as goods or services that are not already included in the GDP [or in tax filings]. Because the results are not usually permanent and subject to verification, it would not include routine family maintenance activities like doing laundry, cooking, dish washing, trash hauling, shoveling snow, house cleaning, child care, etc. It would, however, include major repairs and home improvements as well as short term caring for children or other paid work for people who are not family members which falls below the IRS threshold for regular income reporting.


     A simple way to implement this new measuring system would be as an addendum to the Federal Income Tax. Each year along with the tax forms (or at Income Tax time for those below the taxable income level) everyone would be urged to submit a form outlining their production of goods and services not appearing on the regular tax forms. Each person would list the estimated fair market value of his or her goods and services minus the cost of materials used in their production. A person who did not create any supplemental goods or services would submit a form or mark an appropriate line in the tax form saying NONE.
     The reverse of the form could present tables of representative fair market values for common goods and services. Unskilled volunteer work would be rated at the prevailing minimum wage for the region in question. Services requiring a higher level of education or organizational skill and experience, i.e., tutoring, scout troop leadership, unpaid school board service, etc., would be valued at the local commercial rate for similar activities. These could be listed on the form or available on the Internet.
     A representative Family Production Form might contain items like the following [This sample family is imagined to comprise a wife who works part-time, a husband who was required by his employer to take the Spring Quarter off, a daughter 15, and a son 12.]:

Person   Goods & Services/Est. F.M. Value   Less Production Costs & Materials   Net Value

Wife       Sewed 8 dresses                      $ 480     cloth & notions                    $ 150        $     330
  “            Sewed 10 children's clothes     240     cloth & notions                         8                 160
  “            Scout troop leader (est. val.                gasoline (40 trips x 10 mi.
                   40 wks. x 3 hrs. x $11)          1,320        RT x 20 mpg. x $3.50/gal.)    70              1,250
Husb.      Paved side patio                    1,500      permit, cement, slate, rail      400             1,100
H. & W.  Fruit & Vegetable Garden    1,800      seeds, tools, fertilizer, etc.    300             1,500
Wife        Home freezing, preserving   2,400      veg., meat & containers       450             1,950
Son         Paper route, shovel snow        550      bike repairs, shovels, salt      80                470
Daugh.   Baby sitting (75 hrs. x $6/hr.) 450       crayons, etc.                            30                420

                           TOTAL SUPPLEMENTAL PRODUCTION VALUE                             $  7,180

The total family production multiplied by 4 = $28,720. This is more than the husband was earning in a non-union job. Thus the Supplemental Production Value created by this family is more than he lost from being laid off for the Spring Quarter. This time he productively used by putting in a large garden and paving the patio, feeding his family and enhancing his home's value.

     Under the Quarter System, preparing the annual Real Domestic Product Supplement report would help people understand the true value of their contributions. It would further a sense of pride and accomplishment while showing that taking quarters off does not need to cause a significant drop in family income or resources. In fact, that income might even be improved.
     Although filing this form need not be compulsory, voluntary compliance could be encouraged by means of a reward/incentive system. One such system might be to assign each form returned a number and have a lottery-type drawing with several large prizes and a number of smaller ones. This kind of incentive might particularly motivate participation by people who do not earn enough to file a regular Tax Return, including the retired who would actually have more free time for home productivity.
     The annual drawing could even be a big televised event, featuring the more productive drawing winners and praise for their individual contribution to the nations well-being. Presidents, politicians, and celebrities no doubt would want to take part. Handing out the big checks then could also create motivation for all to participate. Values like recycling, fine gardening and creativity could be highlighted. Honesty of reporting could be encouraged by verifying facts on any form chosen to win the largest prizes before awarding money to the winners.
     Enough data should be collected in this manner to enable statisticians to extrapolate for the total population. An alternative or additional method of gathering this kind of date would be to use the Census Bureau's household sampling procedures through their annual spot-sampling census to update household information.
     Recently and example was given regarding farmer self-sufficiency and dependency on the Agricultural Industrial Complex.  It was pointed out that when a farmer saves seed from his crop for next years planting, it does not count as part of the GDP.  When the farmer buys seed from Monsanto it is part of the GDP.  Does this really make sense?


     Although preparing the Real Domestic Product Supplement could be valuable even under our current conditions as a measure of non-cash transactions and the labor of young people, the many un- and under-employed and retired people, it would truly prove its worth under the proposed Quarter Work System. Under the Quarter System, the RDPS measure would record both the increased home production and volunteer work that could result from people taking off large blocks of time from paid employment, and at the same time make people, especially the young, aware that such production and services are considered a benefit to the nation as well as to the individual.
     Thus the many individual acts which make the difference between a society on the upswing and one in decline would at last be fully known, and in some cases greatly rewarded. I believe that this could also prove America is a lot healthier than many people think or say we are.

G. Lee Aikin, July 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Unemployment Crisis (Solution) - Post #4, A New National Lifestyle

     In this installment of A New National Lifestyle, I will be illustrating the direct benefits of using this system to achieve personal and family goals and aspirations.  It also shows how troubles with the economy and reduction in force can be handled without causing undue hardship to individuals.  [These 4 families, urban, rural, young or middle aged, are not related to any real families, living or dead.]  If you have not read the Introduction and previous installments, you will probably want to begin with the posts on Oct. 21, 26, 27, and Nov. 2, 2012.  The next installment will show the advantages to businesses and how to integrate labor unions into the system.  In addition, an improved national economic indicator is proposed  to measure the increased home productivity that adopting this lifestyle should make possible.


     It has been stated that human beings have three basic needs—security, identity and stimulation—and that all other needs can be categorized under those three labels. As things are today, we are becoming ever less secure, and our sense of identity is being computerized into oblivion. [Actually, I need to give some thought to the computer comment, as the Arab Spring shows how identity can be enhanced by social media, while super intelligent computers threaten to make humans superfluous.] We are, however, getting plenty of stimulation, although [often] of the wrong variety. This system should greatly enhance the opportunities for [employment] security, while at the same time increasing the individual's sense of identity and providing positive forms of stimulation through self-motivated forms of activity.
     This system is adaptable to an infinite variety of lifestyles, from that of the very young to that of the elderly but active. Perhaps you will find your dream for the future in one of the lifestyles that follows.

                                        A YOUNG SUBURBAN FAMILY

     Richard and Nancy Winslow are young middle class suburbanites with two children aged 3 and 6. Richard works 3 quarters a year as an accountant ($59,000) and Nancy works 2 quarters as a teacher ($35,500). Nancy has an arrangement with 2 other mothers who work part time to take care of each other's children during part of their quarters at home. [They also share a housekeeper/nanny for when they are away from home.]
     Both take the First Quarter off along with their school-age child. In February they take several ski trips together as it is one of their favorite activities. In March they take two weeks vacation in a warm southern area. In April they fix up around the house and get their large garden plowed and do most of the planting.
They both work the Second Quarter. Since they already have done most of the major projects around the house, they have time to spend with the garden on weekends and evenings.
     Nancy takes the Third Quarter off. In August she does a lot of work around the house sewing [clothes for the family], decorating, etc. In September and October she freezes and preserves a great deal of food from their garden [, pick your own farms] and local roadside stands. Since Nancy is able to carry more of the load at home than under the old system when she worked the full school year, Richard can take evening courses in advanced accounting [and Information Technology paid for by his employer].
     They both work the Fourth Quarter. Richard takes several days leave to go hunting. If he has bad luck they get ¼ of a steer for their freezer. They also go skiing some weekends at nearby slopes.
Although $94,500 is not a large income, food savings and the work they do themselves on their less-than-new house allows them the luxury of ski trips and other travel and recreation.

                                              AN INNER CITY FAMILY

     Leroy and Paulette Johnson live in the heart of a large urban center with their children aged 2, 4 and 7 and Paulette's 17 year old brother who has not been getting along well with his step-father.
     This year Leroy is working ½ time ($24,000) at a large industrial plant. Other years he has worked 3 or 4 quarters, but when the union informed the workers that the current recession might result in layoffs and reduction in force, and knowing he was not very high on the seniority roster, he volunteered to work only two quarters. He has decided to receive full pay during his two working quarters and use the money he plans to save to make the basement of his row house, bought under a long-term urban redevelopment loan plan, into an apartment rental unit. [A small union loan will help pay for some of the building materials and appliances.] He also plans to supplement his income by doing some home improvement work for others ($14,500) using the skills he learned in a union-sponsored home handicrafts [and renovation] course.
     Paulette will work 3 quarters this year ($26,500) in her job as a nurses aide. Normally she has worked only 2 quarters, but the extra income will help make up for her husband's reduced income. [The fact that her husband knew months in advance when he would be off made it possible for her to arrange work for an extra quarter.]
     Since he was 16, her brother Charles has been attending high school 2 quarters and working in a supermarket 2 quarters ($12,000) under a special work-study program designed to prevent dropouts [and delinquency].
     Paulette's mother takes care of their youngest child, the 4 year old attends a partially subsidized day care center. All the children stay with her mother when school is out until she or Leroy can pick them up after work.
     Their year will be as follows: First Quarter, all 3 work; Second Quarter, the couple works, the brother is in school; Third Quarter, Leroy, Paulette and the children are at home, brother Charles works; Fourth Quarter, Paulette works, Leroy is home, Charles in school.
     During the third Quarter (August – October), Paulette will spend some time working with her husband on the house. Then her brother will take his week of annual leave, drive her and the children down to the country, and have fun hunting and fishing with his cousins. He will return to work leaving her and the children with the relatives. A few weeks later, Leroy will come down for her, spend a few days visiting, and then bring the family back home. Meanwhile, Paulette will have been busy [along with her relatives] preserving good country food to [bring back and] enjoy through the winter.
     The total family income for 3 adults and 3 children is $77,000, less $3,000 for Charles' education fund. While this is not a princely sum, their situation is far better that it would be with Leroy sitting around unemployed while Paulette bore almost the whole load with no time for herself, her husband, or the children.


     John Fredricks, a man in his late fifties has a lower level management job in a government department. Because not long ago a policy decision was made to reduce the work force through attrition and forced early retirement [and buyouts, and not ready to retire], he joined his union's successful fight to institute the Quarter System in his workplace.
     Now John and several others in his age group work 2 quarters ($44,500) and take off 2 quarters a year. Lucille Fredricks works full time since all their children are married or [nearly finished with] college ($53,000).
     The First Quarter John is on leave and works part time preparing Income Tax forms for several small businesses and a number of individuals ($12,000). In April he spends quite a bit of time reconditioning and launching his small, used motor sailor.
     The Second Quarter he works. John and another long-time employee alternate their quarters to cover the one desk. They consult one another fairly frequently by telephone [and email], and once or twice a month the person on leave comes into the office to attend a policy meeting, and look over [or sign] important papers. He goes fishing on weekends, sometimes with Lucille and sometimes with his friends.
     During the Third Quarter, which he takes off, John spends a fair amount of time working with a group of community-minded retired and semiretired businessmen/management people. Their organization helps minority groups and young people start their own business enterprises, assisting them with management skills, bookkeeping, loan applications, etc. His project is to help these small enterprises get their stock inventoried 
[, replenished] and in order for the Christmas rush. Some small businesses he helped get on their feet now hire him for short-term consultation work ($6,000) along that same line.
     Lucile has three weeks vacation during this period. Usually they go to Europe. Sometimes one or more of their [adult] children accompany them. John also spends a fair amount of time on his boat. He and one of his sons sometime travel for a week or two on the Inter-Coastal Waterway.
     The Fourth Quarter he works full time. With the house paid for [except a small amount due on an Equity Line of Credit] and only one child left in college, they live very nicely on a combined income of $115,500.
     [With the current political pressure to downsize Federal, state and municipal governments and their spending, this system would be very helpful in reducing potential distress and dislocation while accomplishing those goals.]

                         AN URBAN WAGE EARNER ESCAPES THE CITY

     Jerry Kelly, Linda and their 3 children live on a truck garden/farm about 30 miles outside a large urban center. Four years ago he became interested in moving out of the inner suburbs when his oldest child, then 13, started running with the wrong crowd. His union's “Back to the Land” project helped him learn about farming, find a small place and get a loan.
     During the 2 winter quarters he works at his old restaurant job ($32,500). During the summer quarters he farms his truck garden. His organically grown produce brings premium prices from a coop distribution service in town ($30,000 to $35,000 net profit per year).
     [His experience and contacts in the restaurant business have also been useful in finding customers.] As he buys more equipment and gains expertise, he plans to lease additional acres which will raise his income from farming. During his busiest periods he sometimes hires an apprentice farmer through the same union program that gave him his start, thus giving others the same kind of learning experience that helped him get started.
     Linda Kelly has a fine household garden and keeps several dozen chickens. Between what she grows and preserves herself and a barter arrangement she has with a neighboring dairy and other local farmers, the Kellys are virtually self-sufficient in food (value $9,000). The two younger children are a great help in caring for the garden and the chickens.
     The oldest boy, now 17, is growing into a strapping young man. Now that he is making a real contribution by helping his father with the heavy work and driving the produce to market, he no longer has the time or energy to get into trouble. He even has some of his old friends out to visit for a few weeks in the summer, providing them with a worthwhile experience as well.
     The combined value of what the Kellys earn and produce [for their own use] is $71,500 to $76,500, enough to live a comfortable, though not luxurious, life. His seniority gives him considerable job security. His increasing ability as a farmer holds the promise of adequate earnings to send his children to [a local college] without excessive financial sacrifice [especially as they will be able to work part time to help create income on the farm].

The next/and final installment will show how this system can be integrated by business and labor, and a way to measure the increased productivity unleashed by greater freedom and more time off than we measure by our current Gross Domestic Product calculation.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Unemployment Crisis (Solution) - Post #3, A New National Lifestyle

This is the third installment of a 20 page manuscript I have been working on for 40 years.  The Introduction and first 2 Installments were posted on Oct. 21, 26, and 27.  I suggest that you read them first, starting with Oct. 21, 2012.  When all installments have been printed I will make the entire document available as a single download.  I sincerely hope that people from other countries will consider this, and I would love to receive comments for consideration as I expand this into a longer, more detailed document.


     [I believe we have reached a new period in the history of production and labor. In Europe the average time provided for paid vacations is mostly much higher than in the USA—France-38 days, Sweden-32 days, Italy-31 days, Denmark-30, Germany-27, Britain-26. In the USA the average is 13 days. Even Japan provides 15 days, and Canada 19. We must consider whether efficiency in world production, and market saturation with “stuff” has increased so much in recent years that the 35 to 40 hour, 49 to 50 week work year can no longer provide full employment in developed countries. If that is true, then there is even more reason to consider a new way of approaching time use and work.]

     [While there is tremendous long-term potential for employment by renewing aging infrastructure and producing renewable energy sources, this will not provide a quick fix. Nor will people necessarily be willing or able to run up the municipal or national debt needed to finance such employment. Thus it seems we need solutions that can be implemented quickly, and at the same time reduce unemployment and increase a sense of job security, all at a low cost.  Insecure people do not spend much money on non-essentials and the economy remains stagnant.]
     [During the current financial crisis some states, municipalities and businesses have tried to avoid firings and layoffs by requiring all employees to NOT work a few days each month. This is a helpful but not very efficient way to save some jobs and budget funds. It would be far better for employees to have longer planned periods when they could make productive use of the enforced time off.]

     [School systems have already learned to deal with the summer unemployment of many of their teachers. Individual teacher usually knows if they will have a job after the summer break. Teachers can often choose to be paid 1/10th of their salary for each of the 10 months they work, or 1/12th of their salary over the entire 12 months, even when they are off for the summer months. They can then use this paid time for professional development studies or economically secure time with family.]
     [If governments or businesses need to cut back on paid work time because of lack of revenue or reduced sales, they should consider the model developed by schools and teachers. They should determine if they have slower periods when some of their employees could take one or more months off without disrupting their employer's needs. These workers could them be paid full salary while actually working, or a fractional prorated salary for all 12 months of the year.]
     [Plans could be made well in advance for those who want pay for 12 months while working less, and the reduced monthly payments would begin immediately so payment for the months not to be worked would be deposited and available in escrow. While it would nice if we could have longer guaranteed vacations as they do in Europe, under current conditions many would probably just be happy to have a secure if somewhat smaller paycheck.  Given their current economic problems European countries might want to consider testing  this system as well.]

     [This kind of program could be implemented anywhere and at any time by a government or business that wants/needs to save money while at the same time providing security and stability for their employees and the wider community that depends on them. However, if we are truly entering into a historic new phase in employment needs, then a more structured and widespread system of employment should be examined for possible use.  For example, individual working hours can be changed seasonally, but national Daylight Savings makes doing it easier.]
     In order to succeed, what characteristics must a broad, “revolutionary” plan have so it can attack these problems and encourage these attitudes [and choices].
  1. It must not threaten major power groups—labor, industry, etc.
  2. It should not be compulsory for any major segment of the people.
  3. It should, if possible, fit into and be compatible with other related aspects of the social and economic order.  
  4. It should be possible to test the plan in small areas [like towns and cities] before expanding its application to larger regions [like states and countries]. 
     This proposed plan for social [and economic] change meets all these criteria, as will be shown. What then is this “revolutionary” concept that can gradually bring about so many desirable changes in the American life style [or that of other developed countries, some of which have 25% unemployment]. 
     Simply this: Just as a few colleges and universities already operate on a quarter system, all major businesses, governments and the entire educational system from grade school through college could operate on a Quarter System, with a nationally [or regionally in the testing phases] agreed-upon time for the break between quarters. The Quarters could also be subdivided in half [or into thirds] for those entities that would find these shorter periods more useful. [The key point is that the breaks would be the same few days for everyone, thus facilitating the flow from work, to school, to vacation, and back.]
     Such a system could be promoted by local governments and Congress in the same way that Daylight Savings time has been over the years—first on a trial basis in urban centers and certain states, then nationwide and permanently.
     Under this system workers could voluntarily choose to work full time, 3 quarters, etc., just as students now can choose to attend college 4 quarters, 3 quarters, or less as their needs change.
     In order to provide the most useful and equitable distribution of favorable and unfavorable months, [although one man's meat is sometimes another man's poison], it is proposed that the quarters be divided roughly as follows. Naturally minor deviations would be necessary to equalize the number of work and school days per quarter [with the number of days and national holidays factored in for each month.]
          1st Quarter - February, March and April
          2nd Quarter - May, June and July
          3rd Quarter - August, September and October
          4th Quarter - November, December and January
     This division into three-month clusters would give two quarters a share of the prime vacation months of July and August. And the other 2 quarters the prime winter vacation months of January and February. People would also have more of an opportunity to enjoy the fine weather in June and September, and the big drain on winter resort facilities around Christmas and New Year would be reduced.

     I would recommend that any company, city, state, or country that decides to experiment with this concept adopt the following time frame. There should be a week at the beginning of each quarter that would be the changeover week.  Equalization of the number of working versus holiday and weekend days could then be made during that week.  Under this concept that would be the first weeks of February, May, August, and November.  This week in most cases would include some days from the previous months of January, April, July, and October.
     For calendar year 2015, the week dates would be Feb. 1 thru Feb. 7, May 3 thru 9,  Aug. 2 thru 8, and Nov. 1 thru 7.  For 2016 the dates would be Jan. 31 thru Feb. 6, May 2 thru 8, Aug. 1 thru 7, and Oct. 31 thru Nov. 6.   Thus, any group anywhere that would begin to experiment with this concept would then fit seamlessly into the wider world if this is adopted in many places.

     This system would not have to be compulsory, [nor should it be] but governments could take the lead by permitting or encouraging employees in less essential categories to work fewer than 4 quarters a year at full hourly pay rates and by advising subcontractors to do the same, thereby reducing the need for involuntary layoffs.
     With the current pattern of forcing early retirements, [arbitrary days off each month], and cutbacks in program [and department] funding, this system would be especially valuable in reducing the amount of hardship suffered by employees dependent on federal [, state, and municipal] money [and funding] for their livelihood.

     Such a system could also be tried first in regions of highest unemployment and rapidly changing employment patterns like Detroit, Arizona, Nevada, California and Florida [previously Seattle, Connecticut, Detroit in the 70s, and Texas, Silicon Valley, Detroit a decade ago], etc. In such areas councils of labor, management, and government could meet to determine the manpower needs of the region. Then employed people could be encouraged [offered incentives and guaranteed return to their positions] to work less than the full 4 quarters, and the unemployed hired to fill in the quarters thus vacated. People who might otherwise be laid off [or required to take several extra days off each month] would retain their positions and job security. In jurisdictions with high youth and hard core unemployment, special job training programs might be integrated into this changeover.
     Naturally, labor contracts would be written [and/or modified] to deal with this system, with paragraphs detailing protections and obligations.
     In those places without acute unemployment, people would be permitted rather than encouraged to work fewer than 4 quarters, and the hard core unemployed, young people, mothers, and the retired would have the opportunity to work as they desired [, or as they completed training in fields that are short of people with the skill sets needed in the current economy].

     While the majority of workers would probably want to continue work full time, there are a number of classes of people (probably amounting to a good-sized minority) who would be overjoyed at [the opportunities offered by] this change including:
     1. Men and women who would like to update their job skills, change their careers, or gain advancement through formal study.
     2. Full-time working wives and mothers, as well as fathers, who would like to spend some time in the home with family [or working on home improvement projects].
     3. People with special skills, crafts, or hobbies who can make some seasonal money “doing their thing,” but not enough to live on [, or who might want to experiment with becoming self-employed].
     4. People who like to grow their own food. (Spring planting and fall harvesting and preserving seasons especially.) This idea is becoming more popular in light of today's skyrocketing food costs and concerns about chemicals. [This is also in line with the “locovore” movement promoting energy savings through food production close to where people actually are going to eat it.  People are also concerned over highly hybridized and genetically modified food and the related industrial practices.]

     The fact that both schools and workplaces would be on the same time system should have tremendous advantages. Transferring from school to work and back again would be greatly facilitated. [While some schools and businesses/governments cooperate with regular intern programs, this system would greatly enhance internship possibilities in many places.] Schools could operate year round with all the resulting economies and there would not be the big bulge of students seeking summer employment which can cause difficulties for students who really need the supplemental funds to finance their educations [but may suffer by not being so competitively desirable].
     Vacations could be taken at any season of the year and the economy of the recreation sector would be greatly enhanced. At the same time overcrowding would be reduced. Longer vacations could result in fuel economies as people went someplace for a longer time, perhaps by train or bus, rather than taking many weekend trips by car. This trend is already appearing as people go skiing for a week, rather than take a weekend , and use their campers to stay at one location [for a while] rather than travel from day to day.  [As shown previously, the most desirable summer months are split between two quarters, and the same for the winter recreation months.] 

     This plan should also have many other positive effects on the national welfare. Many people would love to do constructive things around their homes and communities, but are limited by the need to work full time and the almost total lack of decent hourly wages or job security for work that is less than full time. Although such individual activities are not included in conventional economic measures, that does not mean they are any less valuable and deserving of consideration when estimating national productivity and economic health.
     With this one major innovation and the will to make it work we could achieve many of the “revolutionary” aims of youth [and even some goals of the Occupy movement] without bloodshed or depriving anyone of a decent standard of living. We would be moving a big step toward easing the problems of unemployment (both technical and hard-core), excess consumption of natural resources, overcrowding in our schools and universities, women's lack of equality, juvenile delinquency, and who knows what others. Surely such a system deserves a fair trial [at least on an experimental scale].
     [This plan could also be used in smaller increments of one or two months off work, but fit into the overall spacing of the quarters to allow transition to other planned activities like classes.]

The next (fourth) installment will describe some hypothetical "Lifestyles Under A National Quarter System."  Descriptions will be made of white collar, blue collar, suburban/urban, rural and partially retired workers and how they integrate the Quarter System into their life needs and goals with cooperation/help of employers and labor unions.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Unemployment Crisis (Solution) - Post #2, A New National Lifestyle

This is the second installment of a 20 page article written about a new and low cost way to solve our unemployment crisis.  First, please read the Oct. 21, 2012 post "Our Unemployment Crisis (Solution):  Work, has its Nature Changed Permanently?"  Then read the Oct. 26, 2012 post "Unemployment Crisis (Solution) - Post #1, A New National Lifestyle," next.  Finally read this post and hopefully the future ones I will be putting here about twice a week.  This installment outlines various desirable changes in lifestyle which could be introduced more easily if this idea were implemented.


     Human beings basically appreciate order and are resistant to change. However, if a need to change a living pattern can be amply demonstrated, and the social leaders encourage that change, people will try rather radical new ways and ideas with a minimum of protest. We have only to look at the sudden [recent] change in the China situation, or our new fuel conservation practices to appreciate the persuasive power of leaders and the media. [Some things persuade by their very nature. Consider the massive acceptance worldwide of the digital revolution and cell phones.]
     Therefore, this plan proposes that the American people be encouraged to institute the following changes in their thinking and behavior.
     1. Wasteful consumerism should be deglamorized as a way of life—we are fast running out of the resources to support it. [Food scarcity is increasing, water supplies are failing, fish resources are decreasing, timber and other resources are being mined, and world populating is still growing at an unsustainable rate.]
     Aside from the psychological pressure to buy, buy, buy, caused by current advertising practices, the high cost of repair services and lack of “free” time prevent many people from recycling and repairing their still useful possessions.
     Considering current knowledge regarding agribusiness practices and food processing, not to mention prices, more and more people desire to grow and prepare their own food but are short of time and energy. A change in this area could result in significant energy savings for transportation and over-processing.
     Keeping up with the Joneses is a significant motivator, and Robert Townsend who wrote Up the Organization (1970) has some good points to make on the subject of executive salaries and off-the-job status competition. He feels that $35,000 [CPI adjusted for 2012, $207,000.  All subsequent wages are CPI adjusted to 2012.] is a desirable ceiling for executive wages, and that only outstanding performance or creativity should entitle them to more in the form of a bonus. If off-job status competition is eliminated, and the expenses in terms of conspicuous consumption removed, $35,000 to $40,000 [2012, $207,000 to $237,000] is enough to provide a very comfortable and efficient living standard for our busiest executives.
     If it were fashionable and practical in terms of maintenance, people would be perfectly happy with a new car every five years instead of a new one every other year. The public [and the government] is finally convincing Detroit that it would rather [be better to] have smaller cars as well.
     2. We should be encouraged to increase our consumption of services and reduce our consumption of goods, thereby maintaining acceptable employment levels but reducing the use of non-renewable natural resources. A pubic policy expanding the availability of leisure time and encouraging creative and constructive uses of that time could have this effect.
     The availability of larger blocks of free time could greatly expand the recreation sector of our economy. Moderately affluent families (especially the many who have achieved that status through the full-time work of both husband and wife) could spend much more time and money on vacations, recreation, projects [and social service volunteer activities]. This in turn would create more employment in resort and rural areas.
     No longer would our prime recreation sites be deluged on Labor Day and deserted the following week. The summer vacation season could run closer to five months than to the current 10 weeks, thus bringing greater prosperity to the coastal resort cities and poverty stricken areas of great natural beauty
like Appalachia. Many other leisure activities such as music, drama, and art could grow in importance at little cost to our natural resources. [Much more time could be available for worthwhile activities like mentoring, community service, parkland cleanup, and school repairs and painting.]
     3. The [cultural norm] that education should occupy one block of a person's life, work occupy the next, and leisure the last should be eliminated. [In adulthood, the ability to take periods of time off to study, retrain, conduct personal projects, or enjoy recreation should have a valuable effect on improving the general health and reducing ["Obamacare,"] Medicare and related expenses.]
     The world and technology are changing so fast that education must become a lifetime process. Adolescents should have a chance to work part-time, youths should not be forced to choose a life-time career before they know anything about life, middle-aged people should not be forced to keep their noses to the grindstone or cooped up in the house with the kids [or dependent parents], and the elderly should not have to sit idly on hands that are experienced and still capable.
     Some social and technology experts have suggested that in the future most people will work at three distinct careers in their lifetime. Under this proposed system people could easily train for a moderately demanding and reasonably well-paid job which would allow them to begin their families and establish a decent home. At a later time, perhaps in their thirties, they could upgrade their skills or embark on a new, more demanding career—i.e., medicine, law, etc. Finally as conventional retirement age approached (the fifties) they could reduce their level of work in their regular occupation and take up and develop expertise in a new, less demanding form of work that would keep them busy, happy, [and contributing to the economy] well past our current retirement time. [This is not meant to suggest that the current Social Security age requirements should be raised, but rather to suggest that older people working part time would still be contributing to the national economy. Many do not realize that above a certain income people have to pay taxes on any Social Security paid.]
     4. The idea that a person (particularly a man) doesn't “have it” if he hasn't started up the career ladder by age 30, and is “over the hill” by age 35 must be eliminated. [This will have to be reexamined in today's context.]
     The proper rearing of young children should be a major concern of parents of both sexes in their 20s and 30s. After the children have left the nest is the time to bury oneself in one's career. If young men didn't have to worry about getting their foot in the door and more older women were in the higher positions of responsibility, young men could be better fathers and their wives would be able to improve their own potential as human beings through work, education, [and creativity].
     5. The boredom and frustration of assembly line work should be alleviated by encouraging factory workers to learn other skills and by enabling them to work part-time without loosing seniority and job security.
     The same could also be said for routine forms of skilled labor and technical or clerical work. It would give the workers the money, security and time to pursue important personal projects and [achieve] life goals.

The next installment will outline the plan itself and suggest who might find it most desirable and where it might first be tested experimentally.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Unemployment Crisis (Solution) - Post #1, A New National Lifestyle

By G. Lee Aikin, July 2012

This post is the first installment of a 20 page article.  After posting all the installments it will be made available as a complete document.  Meanwhile, FIRST please read my Oct. 21, 2012 post "Our Unemployment Crisis (Solution): Work, has its Nature Changed Permanently?" for background.

I have seen that people from many parts of the world appear to have been reading these installments.  Places like Poland, Russia, Latvia, Indonesia, China, etc.  I would be very grateful if you would leave some comments regarding your impressions and if you think this might work in your country, or if you plan to do something political with the idea.

1. Economic and Social Indications and Problems
2. Needed -- A New Set of Attitudes and Behavior
3. A National Quarter System Could be the Answer                                        
4. Sample Lifestyles Under a National Quarter System                            
         A Young Suburban Family                                                                  
         An Inner City Family                                                                            
         A Government Worker Approaches Retirement           
         An Urban Wage Earner Escapes the City                                                 
5. Advantages to Businesses                                                                         
6. Labor/Management Cooperation                                                              
         Sample Labor Contract Language                                                      
7. An Improved National Economic Indicator (RNP) is Needed             
         Collecting the Data                                                                               
         Social Utility of the RNP                                                                    

This idea was first written and developed after the oil crisis of the early 1970s.  Some dollar figures may be from that period. A few items were updated for later crisis periods. On rereading, I was amazed at how little had changed in terms of basic problems in almost 40 years. Brackets [ ] are used where new information is needed or updated for 2012. This is a semi-final draft, your thoughts and input will be much appreciated. After posting all the installments I will make this available as a single document.     Lee Aikin,

     Things Fall Apart is a Nigerian writer's book about the effect on his people of the change from tribal to modern life. Many would agree that a book “Things Fall Apart” could just as well be written about what is happening in this country and economy today.
     Not since the beginning of the Great Depression almost 50 [90] years ago has there been such an upheaval in our peacetime economic and social life. Certainly the Civil Rights Movement and Youth Revolt of the sixties affected many people. Yet there were numerous pockets of normalcy where people tisk-tisked over their TV sets [PCs], but were otherwise unaffected.
     Now no one is immune. Whether it is the housewife at the meat counter, her husband at the gas pump, [or the family facing foreclosure or unemployment] everyone knows there is a [worldwide] crisis brewing.
     The gloomy predictions of rising [or continuing] unemployment and [high] food prices, gas and fuel costs, and possible world-wide depression are, of course, the culmination of years of poor [or nonexistent] planning and ostrich-like behavior [not to mention downright criminality by corporate and financial elites]. Many of these signs and symptoms have received public attention in the past and that continues to this day.
    Temporary improvements in international politics [and national policies] can bring about improvements in the short-range picture, but the long-range economic picture is most definitely on a down-hill grade.


     1. We are running out of resources. More and more we have to import raw materials. The winter of '72-'73 saw fuel and power crises in numerous areas of the country; only our mild winter kept them from being more serious. This year, of course, the problem finally became startlingly apparent to even the most short sighted. Meteorologists suspect that warm winters will soon be a thing of the past. [I will need to develop paragraphs on greening the energy picture and the climate change issue, also the impact of fracking on gas and oil recovery.]
     2. We have a continuous unemployment problem which only appears to be alleviated when large numbers of our young men [and women] are in the army. [and even that is not working any more and will get worse as we downsize the military] All predictions are for considerably higher rates of unemployment in the near future. [No one could have predicted the bubble, the McMansion/housing bubble (perhaps fueled in places like Florida and Las Vegas with money laundering activity) or the outrageous unregulated behavior of the major world financial institutions, and how they temporarily increased economic activity and employment.]
     There are predictions for considerably higher rates of unemployment in the near future [as is now seen in Europe and the Middle East] [Well those chickens have come home to roost now, and we will not have any housing boom to bail out this situation any time soon. Of course we also have a change in expectations. Years ago 6% was considered a reasonable unemployment level, but now people are looking for under 5%. This is probably unlikely without a significant change in the way we conduct our economic life.]
      3. Pollution has become a major problem. Every day we consume more, waste more and throw out more. Until recently wasteful consumption has been promoted as a virtue—at last we are discovering that it is a foolish, intolerable vice. [Famously , or infamously, President Bushes response to what people could do to help us recover from 9/11 was “shop.” We even have a The Worlds Longest Yard Sale, 700 mile from Michigan to Alabama, and others of 250 and 70 miles. I think that people are discovering we have too much STUFF and are sensibly trading it around. Of course, this does nothing for manufacturing, but it is good for the environment, and our garages.]
     4. Although agriculture is finally coming into its own as a major economic strong point for our country, the migration to urban areas continues as more and more small and medium-sized farmers are forced off the land. This in turn is having the effect of converting our agricultural practices from soil conserving to soil mining, as well as forcing small units out of production completely. [The “locovore” movement is a welcome counter to these trends, but corn ethanol and genetically modified crops have significant impacts on the food situation that need to be altered.]
     5. Youth alienation, [unemployment] dropping out of school and establishment life, juvenile delinquency, etc. are rampant. Although youth may have been the first to sense that something was deeply wrong with our way of life, everyone else is finally reaching similar conclusions. [The computer driven social media revolution has accelerated this move and has even become worldwide as seen with The Arab Spring. Youth unemployment is much higher than for older people and is creating worldwide instability.]
     6. While B.A.'s in liberal arts are a glut on the market, good laboratory [and computer] technicians and auto mechanics are hard to find. Our school systems are obviously failing in the area of technical education and economic adaptability. [A sensible idea has been suggested that the vocational education track should include small business management classes.]
     7. In former times youth was needed for productive work at the age of physical maturity. Our present system of child (read adolescent) labor laws and continuous schooling to the age of 18, or to the age of 22 or more for white collar and professional work, is against nature and our youth is rebelling [I saw that many in the Occupy movement were young and unemployed.]
     8. The increasing number of elderly and ill persons is creating vast problems of wasted human potential and excess institutional facilities. [Much needs to be done in developing creative solutions to these issues, and this plan should make a useful impact.]
     9. Homes are breaking up, children [and women] are beaten and abused and women kill themselves and their offspring at a shocking rate in this country. [A 2004 study by the Center for a New American Dream indicated that nearly half the Americans surveyed are willing to accept a smaller paycheck to have more time with their families and for leisure activities.]
     10. A few years ago at the meetings of the White House Conference on Children and Youth, it was found that delinquent behavior among the children of businessmen and executives had become a major problem. [This is probably not a problem that has been improved by the astounding growth in the ratio of top CEO and other upper management wages compared with that of their low level employees. While 30 or 40 years ago this ratio was about 40 to1, by the time the economy was tanking in 2007 these ratios ranged from 400 to 1 up to 1,000 to 1. Although these ratios have diminished measurably, they still are far from the level that seemed quite comfortable for the upper class 40 years ago. The Occupy movement has it right. We are the 99%, and the 1% has still run off with most of the marbles. The argument of some politicians against restoring the Bush tax cuts at the top by 4.5% is symptomatic. McCain had it right, GREED, GREED, GREED.  Or is it a guilty fear of the future.  Candidate Romney has even suggested removing ALL taxes on dividends and interest.  I guess paying taxes at the 14% level is too much for him.  He would rather pay 4%.]
     Despite these many indications of fundamental ills, those attacks which have been made on the problems have only occurred on a piecemeal basis. In essence, we have been applying band-aids to bomb victims. [We have been operating on the assumption that material wealth is all important. We need to consider that perhaps non-material items like time, entertainment, leisure and creative activities, and friendships can substitute very nicely for some aspects of material wealth. Thus we could maintain a high level of national well-being at a lower costs in nonrenewable resources.  My Sept 4, 2012 post "Are You Better Off Today vs. 4 Years Ago: 'Better' Defined," hints at this concept.]
     The only comprehensive approaches to change have come from extreme leftists and militants [and tea party conservatives], but their suggestions would disrupt the status quo of too many citizens and hold the threat of far too much chaos to be acceptable. Nevertheless, by now there can be little doubt in anyone's mind that fundamental and broadly based changes are needed in the way we conduct our economic life. [The concerns of the Occupy movement seem more centered on the great disparity in wealth, but changing that would only fix part of the overall problem.]

In the 2nd installment I will look at attitude and behavioral changes that can improve our economic life and happiness, and in some cases our environment.]