Once again, we have employment data that shows fewer working Americans, and once again, we've immediately gone into denial. The private sector isn't hiring, because they are not making their money off of exploiting labor time, but rather by exploiting capital. Yes, it will help to strengthen manufacturing industries that are more dependent on labor, than service industries that are more dependent on brand, but this is a long term prospect -- one that's unlikely to be accomplished in a decade. In Empowering Cities Through Service, Dr. Judith Rodin and NYC Mayor Bloomberg write:
Henry David Thoreau wrote that, "City life is millions of people being lonesome together." Viewed from afar, city life can indeed appear impersonal and isolated. But that view, to turn a rural cliché on its head, misses the trees for the forest. Most cities are really a collection of local neighborhoods, with their own identity, their own traditions, their own sense of community. And the values that are traditionally associated with small towns -- looking out for your neighbors, pitching in at local events, supporting civic causes -- are finding new footing in America's cities, thanks in part to President Obama's call for "a new era of service." In 2009, New York launched NYC Service, a program designed not merely to increase volunteering, but also to direct volunteers to the city's toughest problems -- and measure our success in addressing them. In just over a year NYC Service helped the city train over 50,000 New Yorkers in CPR, administer 160,000 H1N1 vaccinations, educate 4,400 students on emergency preparedness, send 3,500 care packages to New Yorkers in the Armed Forces serving overseas, and paint over 225,000 square feet of roof tops with reflective paint to help buildings reduce their carbon footprint. And our team of 175 specially trained AmeriCorps VISTA members -- the NYC Civic Corps -- mobilized more than 50,000 volunteers who served more than 700,000 of their neighbors. New York City was able to do more, better, and faster thanks to the help of volunteers, who often worked alongside city personnel to extend the reach and impact of city government. And especially during these tough budget times, having extra sets of hands is enormously valuable.
Well, what if we simply changed the paradigm of employment/unemployment? Cities like NY could spearhead a movement that turns what has been considered "unproductive" labor into productive labor simply by paying "volunteers". How are we going to have full employment in the new economy? It's not likely that we will without a change to our attitude about what can and should constitute employment itself. Wouldn't it be more productive to have a citizenship fully engaged in working for the betterment of our communities, rather than comprised of millions of discouraged workers? Wouldn't a safety net of paid work that improves communities be better than living in denial?