Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Role for Government During Times of Job Loss in the Economy

A friend of mine recently posted this comment of Facebook, "I guess this is why the rich stay and get richer..." in reaction to a study that showed low-wage workers were losing their jobs more than high-wage workers.

Here is my posted reply to my friend:

Actually, I think you are mistaken, and do yourself a disservice by giving energy to the meme "the rich stay and get richer".

Jobs that pay less are more likely to be terminated in hard times than jobs that pay more because the job is less valuable to the economy. People who provide work that is in short supply get paid more. People who provide work for which there is a surplus get paid less. When the economy goes down, and jobs
must be cut for businesses to survive, there is a much greater chance of cutting jobs that are in surplus.

This is one of the reasons I support government programs for the unemployed. The people who are least able to cope with job loss are often the very people who lose their jobs in a depression. And because the economy tends to undervalue what is good and right, our government has a responsibility to redirect resources and invest in human values.

When the economy goes down, it is the responsibility of the government to recognize the failure of the economy. The government  is empowered to consider the non-economic consequences of a person losing a job, leading the government to re-train people who lost their jobs and give them skills to get new jobs.

The idea is to help people adjust to the changes in the economy by giving them the training and opportunity to work in growing industries, not shrinking ones. The economy has a built-in incentive to treat people like any other economic resource, treating people the same way as machinery. One of government's responsibilities is to counterbalance this dehumanizing perspective with more emphasis on the role of why we do what we do, not how efficiently can we do it.

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