During World War II, Americans were encouraged to buy "war bonds" to support the war effort. From Hollywood to Madison Avenue to Main Street there were bond drives that stressed our patriotic duty to invest in victory by buying US Savings Bonds. By the end of the war, nearly half of all Americans had bought war bonds, raising nearly $185 billion -- a staggering sum at the time -- to support the troops.
As we face another global crisis, maybe it's time to invest in victory over the financial crisis with bonds to create jobs -- call them "job bonds." The idea would be a pretty simple corollary to President Obama's economic stimulus plan, which would dedicate over $800 billion to infrastructure spending and other projects that would create jobs right away.
The "job bonds" would have a similar purpose , but would be funded by the investment of all Americans in our future, and wouldn't cost taxpayers a penny. These bonds could also be targeted toward specific spending areas. For example, you could buy a bond that would pay for green technology projects, or for improving our bridges and highways. And the bonds would be just like the old war bonds, paying a decent interest rate and backed by the government.
For the ninety percent of Americans who still have jobs, and for those who have a little extra to invest in our country, wouldn't it make sense to buy a few "job bonds" rather than let the money sit in a savings account or CD at some bank holding company with overpaid executives living on government bailouts? A number of states and several foreign countries have already either proposed or offered "economic stimulus bonds," which would be sold to investors and dedicated to providing local economies with a much-needed jumpstart.
I'm not an economist, and there are probably a hundred technical reasons why "job bonds" are a lousy idea. For one thing, they don't get consumers spending again on big-screen TV's or flashy cars. But I don't see that many people out on spending sprees lately. So why not put our money to work creating jobs with long-overdue infrastructure improvements rather than give it to the banks to invest in securities derivatives that don't create anything of value?
The idea of "job bonds" wouldn't be to replace the economic stimulus package. We need government intervention immediately to stop a global economic freefall. But why not give individual Americans a chance to make a meaningful investment in our country's recovery? If nothing else, buying a "job bond" would be a lot more satisfying than going shopping for something we may not even need.
After 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, George Bush suggested that Americans could support the country by "going shopping," which struck a lot of the public as a strange way to show our wartime patriotism. In the face of global financial meltdown, when many workers are facing the loss of jobs and when most Americans are reluctant to do a lot of shopping, "job bonds" might be a more creative and constructive way to help our country in this time of crisis.