Job Emergency: Recommendations One and Two

08/01/2010 09:38 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A job may be broadly defined as any activity which one is paid to perform. If an employer is a taxpayer supported entity certainly we must insist that such activities be worthwhile, productive, and in some way must contribute to the common good. Since we are constantly surrounded with important dormant activity possibilities finding one half of the requirement for job production is not a problem. Revenue to provide payment - the second requirement - is the vital challenge.

But the Obama stimulus package started with this overwhelming challenge already resolved. The dollars have been there since the date of passage of the Recovery Act. Why then do the Washington bureaucrats find it so difficult to create jobs?

Immediately, tomorrow morning: ninety per cent of the schools in America could gainfully employ an entry-level contingent of Classroom Aides, Family Liaison Workers, Janitorial Assistants, Health Information Aides, Assistant Coaches. In every poor community there is an ample supply of bright individuals who, with a minimum amount of orientation, could ease the pressures on the teaching personnel and improve the quality of education.

The fact that these kinds of jobs can only be financed for a year or two is not an acceptable excuse. Well-documented programs show that large numbers of entry level workers can be jump-started onto a course that leads them to seek upward mobility through education or inspire them to search out higher paying jobs. In 1967, as a result of a mandate of the Johnson War on Poverty, Local Education Agencies receiving federal funds were forced to work in collaboration with the designated local anti-poverty agencies. Under the leadership of Mayor John Lindsay sixteen thousand "paraprofessionals" were hired by the New York City school system and paid with federal community action funds.

When Congress began siphoning off the funding for this group, the "system" and the "union" united and found ways to retain most of them. Teaching scholarships encouraged upward career mobility; assistance with Civil Service Tests helped to place many in permanent clerical positions; and a large portion of these community based school workers benefited from the establishment of new merit based positions related to education. The United Federation of Teachers has a special division consisting of several thousand of these special workers.

Through a slower process but covering more enrollees over a longer period of time the Head Start Programs have moved unemployed parents through a similar upward mobility process. Some Head Start pioneers have even succeeded in high-level political careers. Wages that helped to produce better prepared primary school students also produced better-fed families.

The second job creation recommendation involves using the tax code, which is a vehicle usually reserved for large corporations. Large numbers of low-income workers who rapidly recycle their wages back into the economy should no longer be neglected or ignored. A long-standing symbiotic relationship between home-care personnel and parents - mostly women - working in medical, academia and middle management positions must be understood better. Teaching and nursing shortages can be ended if the cost of childcare can be made more reasonable.

The proposition: Allow families with children to operate as small businesses and deduct the cost spent on home-care personnel as a business expense. As the demand rises for the better-educated workers, parent caretakers would be encouraged to reenter the workforce without the unfair hardships of financing childcare. A large body of low-income heads of households would be reemployed as home nurses and maids, etc. A valuable by-product would be the development of a higher quality, better paid and better trained home-care workforce. To be eligible employing parents must pay no less than the federal minimum wage plus social security, workers compensation, etc. Health care coverage would not be required but instead made available through some government-subsidized arrangement.

Contracting with service agencies would be permitted. Unionization and collective bargaining would be open possibilities for home care workers. Payment to assist with specialist training and education could be negotiated.

In the end this job creation program would also produce the valuable by-product of a more nurturing environment for a segment of the nation's children.

Implementation of both of these programs would be relatively simple. Thousands of workers could be in place by the end of this year.