IDEMA: How to help America's jobless

As a former pastor, I can attest to the anguish that losing a job brings to a family or an individual.
Jan 15, 2014

Not being able to find another job compounds this anguish. Often what follows is divorce, depression and alcohol abuse.

To enter the home of a family who are worried sick about how to pay the bills breaks your heart. When you see the anxiety in the eyes of children as they worry about their parents, you are left feeling helpless as to what the church can do to help.

The church can provide love and support, and instill hope.

Few churches have the economic resources to do much beyond providing some food and small economic assistance. I don't know of a church that is in a position to take over mortgage payments or tuition bills.

Helping out families at Christmas is part of a church's pastoral care, but Christmas is only 12 days. The spirit of Christmas does not have much of a shelf life. "Why couldn't every day be like Christmas?" is a song on Elvis' Christmas album, and most of us wish it could be so.

The jobless situation is structural. To find cheap labor, many companies have shipped jobs to China or India or someplace else. Pensions are disappearing, especially for the working middle class.

The old truism that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer is all too true. I would add that the middle class is simply treading water in this economy. The tax code favors those who write it.

So, what can we do as concerned citizens? Two ways come to mind.

First of all, we can buy American.

I needed new appliances recently. I wanted to buy American, and found that Whirlpool makes products that are just as good —or better — and as competitively priced as foreign makes. My new stove has a big "made in America" sign on it. Also, these appliances were probably made in Michigan. 

Same with a car. I wanted to buy a Ford because they had not taken bailout money. My Ford Escape was made in Kansas, not Michigan as I had hoped, but close enough.

I needed another vehicle a couple of years later and bought a Jeep. Yes, it has some Italian blood in it because Fiat helped bail out Chrysler, but it was made in Ohio. I bought both vehicles locally. 

Finding clothing made in America is tougher, but still possible. Most of the food you buy at our local stores is American made.

So, something we can all do is buy American. Or invest in American companies. If I had bought Ford stock instead of my Escape, or Whirlpool stock, I would be somewhat richer. Buying American can pay off on several different levels.

The second way our country can help the jobless is to demand of our political leaders that they put into place a jobs program. One aspect of this could be to borrow from the New Deal (the WPA, for example) and set up and administer opportunities for work.

Extending unemployment benefits beyond an agreed-upon period of time should be linked with working in some capacity. Working for government benefits — if one is physically and mentally able — builds self-esteem. A handout eventually erodes it. Educational retraining programs should also be beefed up.

Jesus commanded us to help the least of those in our midst. The jobless fall into that category laid out in Matthew 25. We need to see ourselves as our brother and sister's keeper, and force our politicians to act to help the jobless. Just a fraction of what the Pentagon spends put toward a jobs problem would go a long way to achieve full employment.

If members of Congress could see the eyes of the children of the unemployed as the clergy see them, their hearts might turn from hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.

— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune religion columnist

Comments

truthhurts

correction, your ford was assembled in kansas, but was made in china, mexico, and maybe 8% US made components.

buying american and investing american analogy is flawed...b/c those companies are investing overseas. We need to get back to the mom and pop basics, corporate america is scamming you, me and us and the government helps them do it!

Goyo

Don't necessarily believe everything truthurts or others tell you either. As an example, with the exception of their trucks, most Toyotas are manufactured and assembled in the US. Just ask the dealer, not me or the internet. Better than buying American, by local whenever you can. Buy a used car from your mechanic or car dealer and he can buy his (or her) child braces.
Dearest Reverend, the people in China and Mexico have dreams and aspirations,and children and elderly parents to care for just like us. I am ok with caring about them too.
Support American industries that are forward thinking and working ethically in the international marketplace if you want a better future for your family and our country. As Thomas Freidman says, "The world is flat". Would you rather your grandchildren work in the past "stamping hoods" for the man their whole lives or have the opportunity to be a part of growing, innovative American companies. Embrace change and live free!

truthhurts

agreed, my reference may have been extreme, but its very true and needs to be considered and tells another part of the story. Also, consider who the manufacturer hires for the engineering of the cars...case and point..have you ever been to dearborn? Not many American's designing their cars. I also agree that honda and toyota have just as much american made parts and assembly as ford, gm, and chrysler. The auto bail out was a huge mistake! if it did not happen, another manufacturer would have stepped up with a more affordable vehicle with out all the BS of big companies, but then again a small company would not be able to handle the gov. stepping on their toes by controlling their buisness.

Lanivan

The economy very possibly has reached a realm of stasis. Many economists have called for infrastructure spending to jump-start a stalled economy, but Congress is not buying it even though it is widely known that government job creation via infrastructure spending, for instance, in fact increases job creation in the private sector.

Instead, government has eliminated about 500,000 public jobs since 2009, and there does not seem to be an infrastructure/jobs plan that the current House will pass. The reality is that the new normal may very well be a slower-growth, mature economy with a broken government.

Most of us have grown up with a US economic and employment climate with seemingly inevitable growth - our current and future fortunes may no longer be as inevitable or predictable.

zwesterhouse

The "Jobless" are just plain up that well known creek without the necessary utensils. It looks so bad right now. CEO's are making 20,30 100 million dollar salaries. Vice Pres and Regional mgr's making 3, 4 up to and over 8 million dollar salaries. There are thousands of "Billionaires" in this world. Its sad though. One day they will all answer for it. Read the parable of the Goats and the Sheep. What happens to the ones on his left hand? Starting at Matthew 25 verse 23. The rich have now - but they won't have it then.

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