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Allowing High Unemployment Is a Choice Our Government Is Making

Official unemployment is at 9.1 percent, and the American people think unemployment is the most important problem in the country. That is why it is important for regular people to know that high employment is not solely dictated by some “invisible hand of the market.” It can be greatly affected by the policy choices made by the federal government.

The government has a lot of power to take actions that would increase the number of Americans with jobs. By not taking these actions, our political leaders are making the choice to allow unemployment to remain high. If there aren’t enough jobs, the government can simply create new government jobs. As long as the government can easily borrow money or raise more money, the United States can directly pay people to do jobs that need doing. The government can hire millions of new teachers, police officers, firefighters, road maintenance workers, crossing guards, people to repair schools or retrofit dwellings for energy efficiency or even ditch diggers.

To bring down unemployment, the government can even go beyond just creating new jobs. It is a well established legal principle that not only can the government offer to hire people who are unemployed, but the government can actually force unemployed individuals to have a job. We are currently fighting multiples wars, and during a previous war, the federal government conscripted people into the military. If an individual is drafted, it is effectively illegal for them not to have the job the government drafted them to do. While for many reasons I would strongly oppose confronting our unemployment crisis by drafting Americans to fight in Afghanistan, the example shows the extreme power the federal government has to radically reduce unemployment.

With every action there are, of course, trade-offs. Some may argue creating millions of new government jobs to deal with the unemployment crisis is not worth the added debt or not worth possibly risking inefficiencies. But the important thing for the American people to understand is that this is a choice our political leaders are making. The federal government can take actions to significantly reduce the number of unemployed Americans.

Our elected politicians, mostly Congressional Republicans, are choosing to allow high unemployment by not taking these actions. Very high unemployment isn’t just something that is happening to us; it is effectively something our government has made the policy decision to allow.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at