2008 December 1

     The American people have spoken, it's okay to redistribute the wealth and it's okay to spend lots of someone else's money giving poor people shelter, clothing, and health care. Fine, let me make a suggestion in the footsteps of Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) and his New Deal. Let me suggest a New New Deal.

     Let's decide we're going to have nobody on welfare by the end of this decade. As of 2011 January 1, if you're able to cross a street by yourself, then you're able to do something to contribute. We need stuff done, we have people who can do that stuff, and we have people who can't (or won't) find jobs.

     I propose we form the Government Work Force. The folks who like Three Letter Abbreviations (TLAs) can call it GWF. The GWF will provide its members with a place to stay, day care for children, basic health care, and work opportunity. You might think of GWF as a company town where the company is the government. You might think of it as debtor's prison without confinement. You might think of it as a reservation for jobless, homeless people rather than native Americans.

     What should the GWF do? Well, for starters, let them build windmills for energy production. If you believe in global warming, then reducing carbon footprint is a good thing to do. If you believe in Muslim terrorists, then reducing U.S. oil imports is a good thing to do. GWF could sell work product on an open market, you buy GWF labor the same way you buy convict labor today.

     You may join the GWF if you want to. You don't have to prove anything to anybody. If you're mentally competent, then you can leave anytime. The rules might look like this:

     Housing is available to residents, one small room per resident. You don't get to choose the room, you have no guarantee of getting the same room night after night, and you have no fourth-amendment rights. Families get to stay together if they want to. No drugs, no cigarettes, no booze, and no objections to search. You can have a cubic meter of storage per person for personal stuff. Meals are provided to GWF residents in cafeterias.

     Access to telephone, television, and computer are available to residents in community rooms. Children can have supervised access to these facilities. The telephones and computers may be used to look for work outside GWF. The purpose of GWF is to offer a safe alternative to poverty, not to be a prison in any sense.

     GWF will take you from resident to work and will take kids to day care or school or training. You don't need a car and no storage for one is provided.

     Work is assigned, eight hours of work, an hour break for lunch, as much as an hour transportation to and from work, all provided by GWF. You get three dollars an hour in addition to GWF residence and food. Choice of job is up to GWF although residents with good records and multiple skills may be offered options. Failure to do good jobs will result in shittier assignments, failure to do lousy jobs well will result in losing GWF privileges altogether. The assignment may be training rather than actual work. GWF doesn't guarantee equal-opportunity for anything or anybody nor does it guarantee the same level of safety as the outside. Legal recourse is limited to deliberate malice rather than simply not knowing a bad situation exists. Similarly, the burden of proof for any sort of harassment claim rests entirely with the plaintiff complainer.

     Medical facilities will be based on white-collar offices of thirty years ago, A community of 1000 workers will have one or two doctors and a few nurses providing basic medical care including vaccinations and examinations. More-serious care will be provided as needed, but don't expect rich-people medical coverage.

     There are a few truly-disabled people. Some people can't see, hear, or walk well enough to do a job, not any job. Some people can't keep enough attention on a job to do it. Both of these groups fall outside the "able to cross a street by yourself" criterion I mentioned at the beginning, but there aren't many people who can't do something useful for somebody. (They might be similarly housed and provided care for what ails them, but throwing money at them while they live on their own doesn't help.)

     I intend this as a way to form a safety net that still allows our country to be productive. It can even help the environment and reduce our dependence on imported oil and manufactured goods. We have a million lawyers in our country who can hammer out the details of GWF. I don't intend GWF to be a nice place to live. It should be better than prison and worse than the outside.

     We built dams, highways, railroads, buildings, and all kinds of other good stuff during the depression of the 1930s. It wasn't a good time for the United States, but we got a lot of good stuff done. Today we pay people not to work, to have more children they don't want, and to get sick. Let's pay people to work and ensure their children learn the skills so they can work, too.



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