Thursday, July 15, 2010

An Old Idea

Congress is currently wrangling over extension of unemployment benefits for those who have been out of work for more than 99 weeks. A lot of Americans don't think that its a good idea to pay people not to work, and I think that they have a point. The enforced uselessness of unemployment demoralizes and erodes skills and work ethic. Yes, paying unemployment benefits is a good way to inject money that will be quickly spent, but there is little other advantage to it. There is a better way, and its been done before.

Reinstitute the Civilian Conservation Corps and a few similar programs. The jobs should be low wage and intrinsically temporary, but provide basic health insurance on favorable terms. First priority would go to those who had exhausted unemployment benefits or been unemployed longest. All members would be required to spend something like twenty percent of their time on skills training.

Such a program would replace a lot of unemployment benefits and Medicaid, thus tremendously relieving the burden on the States. The cost would be only marginally more and the benefits would be far greater. These programs would likely be opposed by the lowest wage employers and by unions - they would have to be non-union jobs - but they could produce some useful public work and help maintain and improve work force skills.

My part of the country still has a lot of useful public structures build by the old CCC, and a new crop could be useful.