Military Wire: Solving unemployment with a 21st century program

Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler

Solving the “jobs” issue is both a local and national concern for not only politicians but certainly for many of those out of work and those who wish to see America not buckle under the weight of its own debt.

When people earn a wage, they add to the tax revenue. When they don’t work, they don’t add to the tax revenue. They also lose hope, get discouraged, small family matters often become big family matters and stress runs rampant. People need a purpose and a mission to fully thrive.

Many in government and the media speak of a growing economy, a declining unemployment rate, and that the great recession is over. Yet, there is a concern over a lack of jobs – viable jobs.

And rightfully so.

Despite the veteran unemployment rate dropping to 5.3 percent in 2014 — the lowest level since 2008 — there are still a significant number of veterans who qualify and are reliant on food stamps to provide the bridge between their take home pay and what’s actually needed to feed their families.

In fact, the actual U.S. unemployment (veterans and civilians) rate, when one takes into account all those who don’t have a job, is 37.2 percent. Some suggest that, contrary to expectations, a drop in the unemployment rate is presently a sign that the unemployed are simply dropping out of the job market.

Viable jobs that add value, not just profit, to America is what is needed. In simple terms, what Americans need is a new challenge – one that could improve our infrastructure. This challenge will come with an incentive (pay), feeds the self-worth (recognition when the project is complete), and encourages a giveback (improves America).

While this may sound new, this is just a twist on a program that revitalized Americans and added tremendous value to our country more than 80 years ago.

Formed in March 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps, CCC, was one of the first New Deal programs. It was a public works project intended to promote environmental conservation and to build good citizens through vigorous, disciplined outdoor labor. Close to the heart of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the CCC combined his interests in conservation and universal service for youth. He believed that this civilian “tree army” would relieve the rural unemployed and keep youth “off the city street corners.”

By September 1935 over 500,000 young men had lived in CCC camps, most staying from six months to a year.

Instead of a “tree army,” we’d have a “Lifeline Army.” America’s infrastructure is what keeps commerce flowing. Here’s what I propose: The Civilian Infrastructure Corps. Those who are unemployed will be assigned to a project in their community or state that needs repair. On the job training will be provided. Much like the CCC, the CIC would operate under the army’s control – the Army Corps of Engineers. The new corpsman would focus on repairing roads, bridges, dams, building sidewalks, repairing water and sewer lines, dredging water ways as well as projects that will protect and restore America’s environment.

The incentive is simple: You work, you get paid. No more sitting at home collecting unemployment checks without adding value. No more falling into despair. No more taking yourself out of the game. This is America. You participate in making America great.

When a project is completed, much like the CCC, those who participate will be recognized and celebrated – some will even earn a spot on a plaque – and they will be placed into a fast-track employment pool that is supported by private industry. Some will even be hired full time by the private firms that were awarded the army contracts to help assist with infrastructure rebuilds for future projects. Other firms will also see past performance and skills without a gap in work experience and a commitment from the individual to help make America great and not just sit on the couch and collect a check.

This program will be funded through public/private partnerships and funding. You get your government unemployment check (which would be renamed “ITC – in transition check”) as well as a “match” from Corps or the contracted firm. Think of this as one big apprenticeship/Americorps project.

I know some of you are going to fire holes in my only ¾ baked idea – but at least this goes beyond the platitudes being dished up from the national stage. With a little collaboration and far smarter people than I to work through some of the details, this idea could actually have merit.

Bottom line: This is the year of promises, good intentions, and a few bad outcomes depending on what side of the issue (whatever it happens to be) or candidate you support. It’s time to move beyond rhetoric, study what HAS worked and redeploy into new initiatives, embrace that we all are Americans (regardless of skin color or political affiliation), and that we have one mission: to make America great with American manpower and ingenuity.

— By Michael Schinder

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

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