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.]


  1. 1. Well first off, not all countries import all the raw materials they use. The US is actually still exporting raw materials in certain cases and so are many other countries. So the claim we running out of resources is missing both the local and global conditions of our resources.

    US fuel crises are due to speculators not lack of resources and power crises are due to local politics about new power plants being prevented from being built.

    2. Having people in the army does not alleviate the unemployment numbers, it masks it since they are not paid market rates. Also plenty of people predicted the dot com bubble which is why that did not crash the economy and even more predicted the housing bubble and connect financial mess.

    3. Many countries in Europe actually have a better rate of unemployment then the US and only a few countries do not and even a few countries from the middle east have better rates then us. Also our unemployment rate is going down though very slowly.

    4. Pollution is less of a problem then is has been in decades. Rivers are less polluted and air is cleaner. Consumption rates naturally go up though because there is more people. Averaging more people will always lead to a high average.

    5. Agriculture has always been a major economic strong point for our country, it just wasn't always in the news. Also there is less soil mining these days to avoid another dust bowl incident. Adding in scaremongering about GMO does not help your point or make it stronger.

    6. There is no evidence of YOUTH alienation unless you including people past the age of majority in youth (i.e. over 18) The biggest disfranchisement group is not Young Adults not youth as they are the ones more hard hit by the lack of jobs and adult entitlement. Youth however is fine to the culture shifting away from kids needing jobs in high school.
    As for dropping out of school and delinquency, that as always varies due to home life and culture as well as location.

    7. The reason for the glut in BAs of anything is due to a decade of people sneering at the trades and classing them as subhuman occupations while extolling the viruses of college and how it somehow would magically get someone a good job and better life. We do have a good system for trades education including a federal program available for teens/young adults. It has been ignored in favor of funding college and high education over trades. It is the current culture that shows no signs of changing so pretending it's the schools fault is red herring.

    8. Repealing child labor laws WILL NOT HELP ANYONE PARTICULARLY NOT CHILDREN. The last thing this country needs is going back to child work gangs or sweatshops. We can barely enforce our labor laws for adults and that is not what is causing problems with employment now.

    9. The increasing numbers of sick people can be directly traced to the rise of for profit insurance companies and the corresponding change in how medicine was practiced. Take profit out of the system and the problem will fix itself. Also elderly will not go away short of finding a way to make people stop aging.

    10. The problems of families in this country can be traced to a multitude of causes only a few of which are connected with just simply having a job. Also I bet the people who said they would take less money weren't actually in any kind of financial distress like most of the poor in this country are and had fairly stable homes anyways.

    11. How much a person is paid has very little connection on their parenting skills. Non sequitur.

    12. While there is things that are better than money or worth more and just as much, all of those tend to be irrelevant until you have a certain level of money. Ask a person who is homeless if they would rather have a hobby or a apartment.

  2. Thank you for your detailed critique. It will help me as I refine this paper. A couple of points I would like to make. While the fracking gas/oil boom is an unexpected potential benefit, we are definitely running low on key rare earth metals as China does its best to corner that market. People in the military, whether it alleviates or masks unemployment, the fact is that many veterans are now unemployed who were not a few years ago. I am hoping our local government takes good advantage of the federal trades education program as youth unemployment in my area is well above 25%, even though there is plenty of construction going on. I am not suggesting repealing child labor laws, but more constructive activities are needed for the young as you will see in some of the future installments. Regarding preferring less work, I am seeing this as one way of reducing non-productive furloughs and lay-offs, also explained further in other installments.

    1. Actually rare earth minerals are doing better now that more people are working to recycle electronics and break down the component parts. Also China like us is avoiding the markets for them from Africa though that could change. The majority of military though counts for underemployed so there is very little difference in usage of government services when they become unemployed as many of them are already on food stamps and housing assistance if they cannot live on base. Also exactly what do you mean by youth? As I pointed out the majority of employment issues are not with children as youth implies but with people 18 to 29. That age group is not YOUTH. They are just young adults. Youth work issues are complicated by current culture about education and it's importance. It is also hampered by child labor laws about people under 18 and their work. So either you are redefining youth to include people who aren't children or you want to repeal child labor laws?

      As a side point though, work in this country is primarily paid for by the hour. Salary work is not what makes up most jobs. So less work means less money and thus more problems for those paid for by the hour.

  3. For a retired person, 18 to 29 is youth. Under 18 is teenagers and children. However in expanding and rewriting I will keep my prejudice on this in mind.