America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
Out-of-the-Box Economic Solutions for Tough Times
By Martin H. Levinson
17 October 2015
Bold, clever, and useful ideas to keep people working and optimistic are vital in tough economic times. Here are five such notions that fit the bill.
I. Devise Impossible-to-Complete Public Works Projects
Public works projects that get completed do little to help the economy. They simply put workers on the dole when the projects are finished. To keep workers off the unemployment line what’s needed are undertakings that have people constantly working. For example:
1. The Bridge to Nowhere: Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was onto something when he endorsed a bridge to nowhere in Alaska a few years ago. The only problem was Stevens’ bridge was actually a bridge to somewhere, namely two places that exist in the 49th state, so it would have eventually been finished. What I propose is erecting a real bridge to nowhere starting in Montauk, going east into the Atlantic Ocean, and meandering around the world. The beauty of this plan lies in the fact that when the economy improves, workers can stop laboring on the bridge to nowhere and go back to doing other things. When the economy gets worse, workers can be reassigned to building the bridge to nowhere, which, with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, is the perfect bridge over economic troubled waters.
2. A Tunnel to China: An eight-lane tunnel from New York to Beijing would take a millennium to build and another millennium to repair if the MTA was in charge of construction. These are ideal timeframes for periods of major economic downturns. As a bonus, think of all the people who could be employed as toll collectors, rest station area attendants, and tow truck drivers along the twelve thousand mile tunnel route once the job was over.
3. A Highway to Heaven: This venture might be a bit more difficult to fabricate than the previous two, as it involves a metaphorical destination. However, that difficulty can be overcome if religious leaders are put in charge of the endeavor. They could also oversee the construction of a road to hell, a destination that lies in the opposite direction from paradise.
II. Increase the Manufacturing and Selling of Defective Domestic Products
Boosting the manufacture and sale of defective domestic products will result in consumers having to more frequently exchange faulty goods for items that work. This will necessitate increased domestic production to keep up with the demand. Of course, some products will have to perform properly; otherwise people will stop buying anything. Sadly, I’m not sure where one can get domestic products without flaws, as America over the last several decades has primarily concerned itself with having its citizens buy stuff on credit as opposed to encouraging the construction of factories that make things that function correctly.
III. Increase Health Care Costs
One reason there’s so much unemployment in hard times is older workers stay at their jobs, which keeps younger workers from being hired. That scenario could be changed if older workers weren’t around, for example if they got sick or died, which leaves us with the question, how can poor health be promoted among older workers?
One way to do that is for the government to come up with measures that increase health care costs as such measures will deter individuals from seeking medical attention when they’re not feeling well. Since older people tend to get sick more frequently than younger ones higher health care costs will disproportionately keep oldsters away from work and they will also help society because seniors who become so ill that they pass away won’t be around to collect their Social Security benefits. For national economic health that’s a win-win scenario.
IV. Subsidize Vacations for the Unemployed
The unemployed are a drag on the economy, a drag on their families, and a drag on working people who would rather not see their unemployed friends and neighbors hanging about. How to reverse these drags? Simple. The government should subsidize vacations for the unemployed, the advantages of which are as follows.
1. People on vacation spend money going out to restaurants, hotels, movies, and traveling around. That means profits for those who work in these industries.
2. When people go away they’re distracted from their problems and tend not to brood about them as much as when they’re at home.
3. Out of sight, out of mind.
V. Engage in a World War
The Great Depression was put to rest when World War II came along since that conflict brought with it full employment and massive government spending. It’s logical that participating in another world war would produce similar economic benefits for America. How do get the world to go to war? Here are some suggestions.
17 October 2015
Martin H. Levinson is the author of nine books and numerous articles, plays, and poems on various subjects. He is a member of the Authors Guild, National Book Critics Circle, and the book review editor for ETC: A Review of General Semantics. His website can be accessed at martinlevinson.com.