Friday, December 4, 2009

Jobs: Bring back the WPA, ...Just Do it!


Since today is President Obama's Jobs summit I thought I'd discuss what I believe needs to be done for our country.

(Executive Summary: I believe we need a new version of FDR's "WPA-Work projects Administration", that will be focused on training, service, and helping our country. I contend that this massive stimulus package can help re-focus our economy, and also make our nation less energy dependent.

There are several inter-related problems

1) Job Availability
2) Job Training and Retraining
3) Education
4) Green Economy / New "Manhattan" Project

1) I believe that the entire United States economy has been destroyed by its transformation from a supplier of GOODS, into a consumer based SALES economy. Availability of jobs, both traditional, blue collar, to high tech (technology) have fled from the United States overseas.

It is NOT an option to re-introduce trade barriers. It's too late for that. However, we can STILL overcome this, and make a great number of skilled trade jobs available. By undervaluing blue collar, and not encouraging manufacturing of any sort anymore, we have eliminated a huge number of potential jobs.

2) Job training and retraining:
Detroit. 'nuff said? I think so...
seriously, job losses and jobs exported ALSO is very high in the technical (computer) sector.
besides overseas call centers, web and computer programming, almost everything, including technical support, can and IS outsourced to other countries.

We need programs to help newly graduated, as well as unemployed, (and even) OLDER 50 and older workers learn new trades.

3) There are a great deal of studies about how our educational system has failed a great deal of inner city and urban students. For argument's sake, lets just say that 80% of the urban HS population graduates, but does not go to college.

What are the realistic job prospects for these newly graduated teenagers? The Service industry.
Not a lot of skilled labor there. If I wanted to become a plumber or electrician, becoming an apprentice is the only difficult way to achieve this.

What we need is the ability to have someone learn a skilled trade, that will allow this person to become a productive member of society, that will earn a living wage. I say living wage, because this is also a key problem in our current service economy.

4) Green Economy / New "Manhattan" Project
The opportunity to re-engineer our entire country, and create a national 'home' grid, as well as re-creating the national highway system are potential recipients of this labor.

What I am proposing is simple:
We will create a new job program (I call it the training corp), that will take workers, and depending on their talents and interests, help to train them, apprentice them, and then become skilled journeymen craftsmen in their chosen fields.

This program will take both volunteers, and eventually, all HS graduates (or over 17, which-ever comes later) for a three year, gradual program to teach these new skills.

Several aspects of the program will be familiar. The concept of military boot camp will be useful to teach new survival skills to those who may not have previously had the best learning environment.

The concepts of the "Military Academy" (West Point, Annapolis, etc) is also a key goal, as is the concept of the permanent career (just like in the military...)

Many of these "military concepts" can help to guide these programs. An example of a new service path would be for those interested in becoming engineers, or architects (for the large number of future projects).

The Manhattan Project (for Energy)
Here's a key infrastructure project that will make our country much more competitive:

It cannot be implemented using the current private US rail system, but would inter-act and exchange cargo with it.

But first:
When I recently took a trip down the NJ Turnpike (Route 95-South), on a Sunday night at about 11PM, I counted over 500 tractor trailers in one 1/2 hour period. Imagine what could be achieved if we had a new national rail system.
This new rail system would become a brand new expansion of the existing Eisenhower Interstate Highway system (Originally created to speed military operations if needed inside our country).
One of the critical factors would be to create 4 lanes (2 heavy and 2 light rail) railroad tracks, that would run down the highway, and allow trucks to offload (or even entirely load the entire truck itself) onto newly designed rail cars.
As another example, you might get onto the highway (again Route 95) after the George Washington Bridge. You (or your Car/Truck), or (eventually, just your cargo trailer) would get onto the train, and the train would carry you, your cargo, and your car or truck to your desired stop.

Cargo (as well as cars/buses/etc) would be tracked with High tech RF-ID tags, to help enable automated routing to your final destination.
A system this complicated will take almost as long to be built and implemented as the National Interstate highway system did in the 1950's, 60's and 70's. It isn't for the faint hearted.

But that's why I say it is PART of a "Manhattan Project" for energy independence. The crews, the skilled labor, (yes, pouring concrete accurately and perfectly IS ALSO a skilled trade!!!) as well as the ability to put a great deal of our young people to work in jobs that will help our country become a new model for the world is something that is visionary.

No, we won't have to develop a bomb. But eliminating Trucking via diesel rigs will be a huge step to controlling pollution, reducing our oil usage, as well as making transportation a new industry that can help our country become more competitive again.

Additional steps besides research for R&D (and to develop new types of small power generators (think solar and wind) as well as plans for deploying them across the country will help our economy better then paying bankers, or Car manufacturers.

Part of this plan would be to commercialize and economize a solar panel, so that an average house could become energy neutral, if not a major energy generator.

Combined with new energy distribution networks (grids), as well as positive (or negative) metering and billing, we can pray that we can reduce our country's addiction to coal fired power plants.

XYZZY. Oh. You're already inside.

Is this just a dream? I hope not.

Please take the time to comment, critique, and make suggestions!

thanks again..

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