Yes! magazine doesn’t follow the simple path of conventional wisdom. Rather than indulge in clichés about mythical dodo-like “job creators,” it asks how our economy needs to change in order to generate a more stable economy in a time when we all need to be conservative in the greenest sense of that word: buying from local/regional markets, learning how to grow food and fix things, and working less/living more.
I love these solutions. But something radical would have to change in our society for this blueprint to work. Many people work so hard that they can’t fix things. They don’t even have time (in many cases, the income) to shop at a farmers market. Too many Americans have fallen in love with Wal-mart and the promise of cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. What they fail to realize is that corporations and business owners are applying a similar philosophy to how they will pay working people. Until we have a stable labor market that will allow the middle class and working poor to build wealth, we will look at a world where 22% of American children live in poverty. That’s unacceptable.
In Yes! magazine, Sara Van Gelder interviews Van Jones on several subjects, including how green investments could also yield new jobs. Jones is smart and practical. He points out that the U.S economy is still twice as large as China’s. Then Jones boils his point on jobs down to a simple formula: “It’s not a question of wallets but a question of will—whether or not we connect all the people who need work with all the great work that needs to be done in our country.” I strongly recommend this interview and everything else published by Yes!.
It’s interesting that so much of our politics is negative and angry. Yes! and Utne are magazines that present thinkers like Van Jones who look at the world with more open, optimistic eyes. We need a change in our political and social lives. Too much is negative, conflict-driven. It’s time to do what Jones calls the “great work,” a task we all should share.
Yesterday I wrote that the panic caused by a job growth of 54,000 was overblown. My point was that we should not live by fear. There is a jobs problem. How do we solve it?
Yes! magazine offers an outline of changes that will be fleshed out in their next issue. What Yes! does as well as any journal is challenge conventional wisdom. It condemns the tired ideas of both the right (cut deficits) and left (make jobs) in favor of creating an economy built around sustainability and a new model for sharing wealth. Yes! asks how we can:
- Create and finance sustainable jobs.
- Come together in the public and private sectors to create “sustainable livelihoods.”
- Share work and have more hours to live.
- Rediscover the ways we can do things for ourselves and share the gift of our talents with our neighbors.
Agree or disagree, Yes! presents an alternative to traditional solutions. We see everything in terms of right and left (and sometimes a vague middle). This kind of proposal might not work, but it presents a different way of solving a problem, which is what we need in the face of a weak economy and a changing world.
Yes! magazine features an article from Fran Korten, originally published in September 2010. Korten proposes 10 ways to improve the job market. Sustainability plays a big role on this list. We need to stop being such a wasteful country, which will have the happy added result of making new jobs. Korten also suggests that we make education a priority over advertising. I agree. Educated people think. Advertised people respond to stimuli that makes them want to buy. This is a fine article and worth your time.
Today’s Common Dreams features three articles about workers and the forces that are trying to hold them down.
First, Joe Burns, a lawyer and labor negotiator, reminds us that private unions are under more pressure than public unions. Private unions represent only 7% of the work force, which makes them weak and lets politicians like Scott Walker use their weakness to claim public sector unions are too strong. Burns argues that the only way for working people to protect their rights is to stand together as one and not let themselves be divided.
Executive Editor of Yes! Magazine, Sarah van Gelder rejects both right and left political solutions to the jobs problem. Instead, she calls for a holistic approach that will look to solve the nation’s many problems, including ecological sustainability. Yes! is asking readers to consider how we can build greener communities, share jobs, and develop an economy of exchange and gifts, one that is more concerned in the quality of our lives rather than money, money, money.
Economist Dean Baker rounds out the tripleheader. Baker looks at the effect job growth will have on the deficit. When theU.S.last had a budget surplus, unemployment was only 4%. Rather than a political fight between deficit hawks and inflation hawks, we need to take actions like lowering the dollar’s value, which would spur exports and manufacturing. Baker also suggests that the Federal Reserve hold bonds it has purchased and refund the interest to the Treasury, which would lower the deficit. As always, Baker’s solution are based on common sense, which means they will never see the light of day inWashingtonD.C.
Three cheers for Common Dreams for keeping us focused on working people and the issues that affect their lives.
Yes! Magazine profiles how new businesses are creating jobs in Detroit. Entrepreneurs are finding new ways to make the best of a bad situation (33% unemployment in the city). Reuse is at the heart of one thread of reform. Old buildings are finding new uses and barren land is being turned into farms. A second resource for business is Open City, a group that support entrepreneurs. Other business are collaborating to market their service and control overhead. Anchors businesses, like Slows Barbecue (where I ate a few weeks ago) have helped blocks revitalize and bring people back to once blighted areas. A final way Detroit is promoting local business is to call on people to shop locally for the holidays. Money spent on internet sales does not stay in the community. Buy local, and you support your community.
The story’s author Stacy Mitchell admits that these are small steps that will not employ enough people to turn the city around. At the same time, the story presents an alternative to the pessimistic refrain. Block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, local economies and small business are improving life in America’s big cities. It’s not the full answer, but it’s a good start.
Writing in Yes! Magazine, John Robbins explores the deep meaning of wealth. Robbins, an heir to the Baskin-Robbins fortune, rejected his family’s money because he wanted to make his own way in the world. He notes studies and common sense evidence that show people with more money aren’t necessarily happier. Children today are more anxious than they were in 1950. We worship GDP as a measure of our wealth while ignoring all the harm that comes with a philosophy of more, more, more. Robbins cites economists, including Joseph Stiglitz, who are designing alternatives to GDP, new ways to measure real wealth. Hopefully, we will find a new way to judge our economic success so it fits our real lives, not just theories to please Wall Street.
Click here to go to John Robbins’ website, which has many tools for living a better life.
Fran Korten of Yes! Magazine has written an article proposing ten ways to attack the jobs problem and build a better country. Korten offers common sense solutions that our grandparents would approve of: grow real food on small farms, waste less (recycle more), repair things instead of throwing them out, and shop at local stores instead of “megastores.” I love this thoughtful article and urge you to read it.
Writing in Yes! Magazine, Juliet Schor outlines a different model for employment – working sharing. This idea is catching on in the U.S., and it was one of the main reasons Germany kept a low unemployment during its recession. The concept is simple. Companies shorten the work week for some workers, hire new employees to work those hours. Government steps in and subsidizes the lost hours, so no employee loses income. This is an alternative to traditional unemployment.
Germany was not the only company to follow this model. Korea, Norway, the Slovak Republic, Japan, Belgium, Italy, and Finland used some version of shared work. 17 states in the U.S. gave employed workers unemployment benefits when their hours were cut.
Schor, a professor of Sociology at Boston College, thinks shared work could take a bad situation and turn it into an opportunity. Employees will be less stressed and have a better work life balance. There will also be ecological benefits because people will spend less and enjoy life more.
I really like this kind of thinking, which is common throughout Yes! However, I doubt that many American companies or citizens would buy the model. Recently some politicians were labeling unemployment benefits as “welfare.” We live in an era when screechy political and media voices can turn simple government programs into “Socialism.” What would they do with a common sense proposal like work share? This great idea is too radical for Tea Party Nation. It will be dismissed as “French.”
Yes! Magazine offers a review of Bringing It to the Table, a book on farming and food by Wendell Berry. Anyone who has read Berry’s poetry or prose experiences a very different perspective on the world. Turning away from the modern world and its conveniences, Berry has held to traditions, and he offers strong reasons for doing so.
We may disagree with some of Berry’s ideas, but it is hard to dispute his sincerity and the thought behind his words. Like Michael Pollan, he presents a healthy way to live and eat – and work . I hope to learn something from these essays.