I think that it is long past time that we give up the notion that most of the decent jobs lost in this country are ever coming back. As far as I am concerned, it has been obvious since at least the 1970's that we were going to eventually end up in this situation, but of course, just as with global warming today, the short term interest of corporations in doing nothing that would cost them a penny has totally trumped the urgent need to address this problem.
Here is at least a partial solution to the unemployment problem which I first thought of way back then. I think it is still a good idea.
The traditional 40 hour, five day work week should be decreased to a 32 hour, four day work week, essentially making every weekend a 3-day one. In return for this 20% decrease in work time, workers would agree to a 10% pay cut. Those who really needed more money could pick up some weekend work if they had to.
I would enact this proposal in stages. First, I would see to it that there is a government-mandated 3 day weekend every month; then, in five years, I would go to a 3 day weekend every other week, and finally in another five years, to the four day work week.
There are a number of benefits to this suggestion. The fact that it would radically decrease unemployment is of course obvious. However there are other things to be gained:
First of all, as more and more has been squeezed out of American workers in recent decades, a cruel practice lauded in the press as "increased productivity," work for many Americans has become more and more dehumanized. I believe a significant part of the endemic rage of the American populace stems from this, and I also believe that if something is not done about it, eventually our society is in for a catastrophic social collapse.
And finally, I wish to point out something that I have discussed before. In his analysis of the runup to the great depression, Arthur Schlesinger pointed out that, in the 1920's worker productivity increased rapidly, but none of the increased profits went to the workers; it was all claimed by business owners as profit. This was a major factor in creating the vast pool of money in the hands of the rich, that produced the bubbles that resulted in the 1927 real estate collapse and the 1929 stock market crash. The exact same concentration of wealth has happened again, and as counter-intuitive as it might seem, I believe that it is necessary at this point to decrease worker productivity, in order to preserve our economy in the long run.
Well, that's it. I can't imagine that too many Americans would be indignant at the idea of three day weekends every week. Unfortunately, we know who really runs the country, and no matter how disastrous their management has been, their bought-and-paid-for politicians aren't going to take the reins out of their hands.