Sunday, July 18, 2010

Unemployment, Participatory Democracy is Counter Cyclical

Our nation and the world are not doing a good job of utilizing the time of those who lost their job. On average, Americans sleep eight hours and fourty minutes and are watching TV another twelve minutes. They are not volunteering more. On average an American over fifteen is only working three hours and thirty two minutes. That is down seventeen minutes from 2007. The article proposes that unemployed Americans might spend more time doing household chores and the like rather than paying for a service. That is not happening. Household chores stayed constant at one hour and fourty-eight minutes. (The Federal Government runs a time-use study every two years. This compared 2007 and 2009.) (1)

Participatory democracy is uniquely counter-cyclical. Sortiton juries could distribute money on the "Wait Til We See Whether You Truly Are Worth it?" plan. This would be a time to review how individual doctors did. Those just laid off would report to a sortiotion jury reviewing the work of physicians and the like. Those who id well could be given a huge chunk of money. They would be told to go out buy a nice house and all the furnishings--you deserve it and we need to stimulate the economy. And those who invested in well-performing health-care companies would get a nice sum of money. Sortition juries would review the claims of those who were victims of malpractice at this time. Certainly, those who are victims of accidents or other torts at the beginning of a boom should not wait seven years for a recession to receive compensation. However, law suits generally take a few years to go through te system. There is no reason that this can't be dramatically accelerated when recession hits, and giving a reasonable compensation to the sortition jurors.

States run the unemployment system. Employers in each state pay a payroll tax to put money into the funds--and the states pay the benefits. Many are in a hole as one expect during unemployment--The Federal Government lends the difference. New York owes 3.2 billion for this purpose.

Certainly, participatory democracy is not the only way that we can absorb the time of our unemployed. We can plan for unemployment by giving all individuals in high school training for something public-service oriented that they can do when inevitable job loss hits. That could be Certified Nurse Assistant training so they can help those who need help with the Physical Activities for Daily Living. Thus, during a recession, those eligible for a home health aid for three hours a week might get six hours a week--a care givers for a spouse or parent with Alzheimer's who might get a few hours per week of respite care might have that doubled to twice per week. Individuals could get training on being a police officer. The minimal training is only four hundred hours or the unemployed could report for some basic training. Although they might not enlist then, we would be better prepared should the nation have to mobilize for a major conflict like World War II.

Our nation has a shortage of nurses and teachers. These are obviously not roles that one can take on with a few hundred hours of training. But they could use assistance. Instead of giving teachers a few thousand dollar raise--during the recession, municipalities are cutting back on raises. But they could be assigned twenty hours per week of house-hold care or child care from the unemployed, with assignments based upon quality. Mr. Excellent Teacher, we don't have money for a raise. But we do award you twenty hours per week of help. You have your choice of the following ten individuals who just got pink slips. (Participatory democracy sortition jurors could decide which teachers earned this merit.) And teachers could get a phalynx of graders and tutors. In high school, a good algebra student could be selected to help the following year. (The American Educator, the magazine for my union, had an article on the struggle that teachers have to keep up with their grading. A high school teacher might have ninety to one-hundred twenty students. If they decide to give each class one assignment per week that needs ten minutes apiece to grade, that adds up to twenty hours per week. And one assignment per week is far from ideal--perhaps that is why high school students aren't spending enough time on homework.) Should they lose their job ten years later, they could be assigned to an algebra teacher to give them a hand with grading and individual assistance.

Of course, we must recognize that many unemployed need time from nine to five for interviews. But the things I proposed can be scheduled for evenings and weekends.

Unemployment is a happiness killer. Dr Diener, a.k.a Dr. Happiness, gave a talk at my University. He talked a permenant notch in happiness experienced by those who lose their jobs. An econometric regression showed that unemployment has a negative effect of -2.8 percent on happiness as compared to -1.2% for inflation That means that a one percent increase in unemployment decreases satisfaction by 2.8 units on a one to four scale. We do want to provide flexibility for structural changes in the workforce. And it will take time for a well educated, well trained and person with specialized experience to find a job that utilizes his needs--society should engineer itself so that these people are usefully employed, instead of their time "squandered," that verb used in 1.

  1. Justin Lahart and Emmeline Zhao, "What would you do with an Extra Hour?" Wall Street Journal June 23rd 2010, Pages D1 and D3 Volume CCLV NO 145
  2. Jacob Gershman, "Fund Debt Fans Fears of Spike in Taxes" Wall Street Journal June 23rd 2010, Pages A19 and A23, Volume CCLV, NO 145
  3. Di Tella, Rafael, MacCulloch, Robert and Oswald, Andrew J. "Preferences Over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness" The American Economic Review Volume 91, No 1, March 2001 pages 335 to 341

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