Terry Griffin of Hillsboro, OR, asks:
With the exception of the inner cities today's labor
market seems to be functioning reasonably well. Can a
large scale jobs program for the inner cities be devised
that does not significantly distort the rest of the labor
Dr. Wilson responds:
This is a good question. Labor markets are working reasonably well today because we are in a tight labor market period of economic recovery. Unfortunately, in recent years we have not been able to generate sustained or prolonged periods of tight labor markets. Next year we could be in a recession and not only would the jobs problem in the inner city get worse, but other areas would be affected by job shortages as well.
However, in answer to your question I think a large scale jobs program for inner cities can be devised so that it does not distort the rest of the labor market. To accomplish this, a jobs program should be designed, as I pointed out in "When Work Disappears," to only produce goods and services that are not being produced in the private sector and are not presently provided by regular public sector workers (For example, the creation of useful public work that is currently not being done for financial reasons such as regular infrastructure maintenance, the cleaning of streets twice a week instead of once a week; the opening of libraries on weekends and in the evenings; the cleaning of municipal parks, playgrounds, and other public facilities at a level and with a frequency that would ensure their attractiveness and invite use; and the supervision of public playgrounds that would maximize safer, adult-sponsored recreation for all children.