The Public Response to an Artificial Disaster

One in Six Floridians Now Depends on Food Stamps (http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-12-21/business/fl-food-stamp-surge-distress-20111220_1_food-stamps-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-food-banks retrieved 2011-12-24).

The problem is real. In addition to adults, it affects many children. Half of all food stamp beneficiaries are children
(p.15, M. Ver Ploeg and K. Ralston, "Food Stamps and Obesity" (USDA, 2008-Mar,http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib34/eib34.pdf retrieved 2011-12-24). According to persons who want to abolish the food stamp program, in 2009 the federal food stamp program cost $56b including $6b of administrative costs and $3b of fraud and 28m recipients (all poor), and the federal free school breakfast (8m children) and lunch program (30m children) cost $16b, and the federal WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) cost $7b while serving 6m women (http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/agriculture/food-subsidies retrieved 2011-12-24). In the US, in 2007, 8 percent of households with children didn't have consistent access to food for the children (p.i., Nord, Mark. Food Insecurity in Households with Children: Prevalence, Severity, and Household Characteristics. EIB-56. U.S. Dept. of
Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. September 2009 http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib56/eib56.pdf retrieved 2011-12-24 also Chris Emery, "Half of American Children Receive Food Stamps" http://www.medpagetoday.com/Pediatrics/GeneralPediatrics/16752 retrieved 2011-12-24).

If a big hurricane went through Florida and put 1/6 of the population to standing in food lines, then what would be the appropriate response, both on a personal and public basis?

Labor productivity has increased in almost every year since the end of WW2. Since 1980, more than 80% of the benefit of increased productivity has been redistributed to (or converted to additional income for) the One Percent, and the 99% have divided the rest of the benefit (http://daniel-brockman.blogspot.com/2011_03_01_archive.html). For the poorest persons, real income declined since 1980 (http://daniel-brockman.blogspot.com/2010/06/income-inequities.html).

Individual employers establish policies requiring workers to work a minimum of 28 or 30 or 32 hours per week to qualify for the benefits of full-time employment, such as medical insurance for the worker and the worker's children, retirement plan, ESOP, and others. Rare exceptions include Starbucks and Peets which require 18 or 20 hours per week. So, nearly all workers want full-time 40-hour-per week employment, so much that they feel they can't accept fewer hours per week.

Our economy can produce sufficient products and services to meet demand without full employment, that being the status quo today, December 25, 2011. Another way of looking at this is that there aren't enough 40-hour-per-week jobs to go around. This is important because the job is the connector of the person with the economy, the vehicle by which an individual directly acquires a portion of the distribution of goods and services, all other means available to individuals (which excludes acts of Congress) being much more expensive or difficult for someone.

One way to extend the basic connection to those currently unemployed would be legislation to require employers to provide full-time benefits to persons working at least, say, 20 hours per week. Then workers would be satisfied with the minimum plus a buffer, say, 28 hours per week. Then they would have the opportunity to leave their current employer to accept a shorter work week with another employer. Among employers, some would be glad to hire a person for 28 hours per week for a job that couldn't justify hiring a person for 40 hours per week, and they would profitably do so. Some other employers would begin to notice attrition among their work force and fewer applicants willing to accept a "full" workweek more than, say, 32 hours long. Their costs for existing workers would not increase, unless they would choose to convert to a shorter work week. Some other employers anguish over laying off 10 percent of their workforce, and they would have the opportunity to convert to a shorter work week instead.

A shorter full-time work week would virtually eliminate the crisis of unemployment. (http://daniel-brockman.blogspot.com/2010/07/35-hour-work-week-remedy-for.html, http://daniel-brockman.blogspot.com/2010/11/french-experience.html, http://daniel-brockman.blogspot.com/2010/12/california-experience.html).

Policies that intentionally or directly make people work harder or longer to produce a unit of goods or services should be avoided. They would reduce the size of the pie, rather than distribute the slices more widely. And transfers to the unemployed and underemployed don't affect the structure of the economy which causes their unemployment and underemployment.

However, transfers to the unemployed and underemployed are an urgent and vitally necessary stopgap action. They indirectly prevent many children from suffering. They provide urgent economic sustenance to many adults as well.

Repeating our earlier question: If a big hurricane went through Florida and put 1/6 of the population to standing in food lines, then what would be the appropriate response, both on a personal and public basis? What if the crisis that puts 1/6th to standing in food lines is not a natural disaster? What if it results from our social conventions for determination of the definitions of property and ownership and distribution of the fruits of productivity improvements and distribution of income? What if the unwillingness of the Tea Party to tax the One Percent more heavily impairs our public response? What if the demand of the Tea Party for expansion of the Capital Gains income tax loophole, for the benefit of the One Percent, succeeds in starving the beast and, incidentally, the children?

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