When the economy first tanked, construction workers lost their jobs. As the economy continued to contract, it was government employees who were let go. Over the summer months, it is the teenagers who are unable to find work.
Between these three groups of displaced workers, we have an army that can do wonders. All they need is the right leader to inspire them.
Right now, Mr. Obama is telling people that they can’t function without the government. What he should be telling them is that this country can’t function without them. The President has in his hands the potential to leave a legacy the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the The Great Depression. Instead, he is allowing precious resources to stagnate and go to waste.
FDR understood the value of exchanging bread for work. He set up the WPA and the CCC. How can BHO do any less?
Mr. Obama can take advantage of this trifecta to marry (no, not gays) need with opportunity, and to give these people back pride in accomplishment. They are all somehow surviving, either through friends, family, or food banks. The only thing they don’t have is a purpose. Every person needs a purpose, a reason to get up out of bed in the morning. And Mr. Obama is in a unique position to give that to them.
It won’t take an act of Congress (thank God!). It may take a bending of the rules, a lessening of the regulations for a bit. Fortunately, Mr. Obama is the head regulator. He has the authority to bend or remove any rule that he sees as a barrier to success. And we’ve all seen that he is willing to bypass the Constitution to ignore laws that he deems unfit—ignoring his own branch’s regulations in order to establish his legacy should be a piece of cake.
This country was built on volunteerism. Communities would band together to raise barns, build roads, fight fires. As the economy grew, many of these services became paid jobs. As the economy is shrinking, some of these services, or their support staff, have been cut back. The opportunity to serve this country through volunteer work is growing just at the time when there are people who can’t find paid work.
The infrastructure in this country is crumbling. Everyone agrees on this. We need skilled and unskilled workers to repair and replace large sections of roads, bridges and government buildings. But the resources of the government are stretched thin. The money simply isn’t available for major, long-term projects. However, if Mr. Obama would be willing to temporarily waive regulations for the common good, those displaced construction workers may be inspired to come forward and do well by their country. They already possess the skills. All they are lacking is the go-ahead to use them. To be productive once more. A combination of paid and volunteer workers may be able to accomplish what neither could do alone. Available monies could be stretched to cover many more projects. The volunteer workers would rightly feel that they are contributing to their family’s upkeep. The paid workers would be provided much needed support. And a bridge that is about to collapse may be repaired. Lives could be saved.
The story is the same in the government sector. Federal, state, and local government cut their staffs in order to cut their costs. But their workload did not decrease. Quite the opposite is true. Just at the time that more people are relying on the government for more services, the money to fund each and every government department is cut. Workers are laid off. But the work goes on.
Mr. Obama could ask his former employees, as well as those of other governmental agencies, to assist those still in the saddle. To do what they did when they were paid. To help their former workmates cut the mountain of paperwork down to a manageable size. They would receive no monetary benefit now, other than whatever benefits they are otherwise entitled to, but they would be doing this country and their fellow citizens a world of service.
And the teenagers. Those mostly unskilled workers, shunted from the work lines onto the sidelines just as they were reaching the age of productivity. There is plenty of volunteer work available to keep them all occupied for years to come. Every natural disaster needs to be cleaned up. Every roadside could use a proper dusting. Hospitals go begging for volunteers to lighten the nurses’ load. Schools can always use a helping hand, from office administration to classroom riot control. Trees can be planted, fish can be counted, students can be tutored. Instead of sitting inside perfecting their texting and gaming skills, these young people could be perfecting their work skills.
They would have the opportunity to learn what they need to know to function in the workplace: get there on time, do the work you are assigned to do, focus on your tasks, be productive. All the skills they will need to learn eventually, anyhow. Now is as good a time as any to begin.
Just because we have gotten used to having services provided by paid workers, or learning to go without certain amenities, does not mean that we cannot be flexible enough to introduce volunteering during our hour of need. The work needs doing; the workers need to be doing. It seems a perfect fit.
And while none of these people would receive pay for all their toil, they would be providing services that they can be proud of. Further, their resumes would reflect their dedication once the economy picks up again. And it will pick up again. There will be paid work for these people in the future. And when a potential employer asks, How did you spend the recession?, they can hold their heads high as they respond, Serving my country in its hour of need.
In the meantime, would it better serve Mr. Obama if his people were moaning in the streets, or repairing them?