President Andy Hardy, having looked about this vast land and found widespread unemployment, had an idea. No, it was not a dance and not a show, but something much more brillant. He asked every business in America to hire one unemployed person. Golly!
"I know there are some business that themselves are in trouble and can not do this," the president said. "But if a lot of businesses would take a look and see if they could hire just one person it would be interesting to see how much we could reduce the unemployment rolls."
The president's pal and counselor, Eddie Meese, was ecstatic. He said the president's plan would "certainly make a real dent" in the unemployment rate which is now at about 11 percent--nearly 12 million people. Meese acknowledged that some of the unemployment is structural and that some businesses are in a bad way themselves, but as an idea he thought the president's was very close to brilliant--not to mention imaginative. He said the president had borrowed it from a minister in Philadelphia. Well, all over the country people jumped up and down. Some of them sang and some of them tap-danced, but there were a few who scratched their heads. In the first place, they questioned the president's statistic that there were more businesses than unemployed persons and they wondered how a president who had lopped people off the federal payroll could have the brass to suggest that private industry do what his own firm--the federal government--would not do.
Some of them went even farther. They noted that the president has bent over backwards not to designate the 5-cent a gallon increase in the gas tax as a jobs program. The president, as is well known, has an aversion to job programs since he thinks they do not work. He might be right in this, but if the government will not hire people it does not really need, why should private industry be any different?
There were other things to say about the plan. In the auto industry alone 265,769 persons are laid off. At General Motors 170,000 are out of work. At Ford, the figure is 49,119; at Chrysler 42,600; American Motors, 2,450 and Volkswagen of America, 1,600. If all these firms did what the president asked of them, the total of layed-off auto workers would plummet to 265,764. No wonder the President and Meese are so excited.
The same sort of thing could be said about the steel industry--or rubber or textiles or just about any you could name. The sort of unemployment we are talking about is massive and in some industries structural as well. For these industries, the president has no plan at all--no reindustrialization policy, no retraining programs, no nothing. What he has, instead, are the sort of homilies that make Calvin Coolidge seem a great thinker by comparison. Luck has put me behind a typewriter. But if luck had placed me on an assembly line and because of that on an unemployment line and then, as is happening more and more, on a bread line, I would find the president's bold plan for curing unemployment nothing less than an outrage. The landlord wants the rent, my family wants food, and the president of the United States offers a cockamamie plan straight out of an Andy Hardy movie.
It has become the fashion in this town to mostly ignore what the president says. Statements that once used to register a five on the Washington Richter scale now get a day's play in the papers and then are forgotten. The president says one preposterous thing after another and yet congress mostly does what he wants. This is not the blind leading the blind, but the trickle-down theory of gullibility instead.
It does not matter if you are a conservative or a liberal, a Republican or a Democrat, we all can agree that the country is in trouble. Yet here is the president, two years in office and in the midst of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, and his cure for joblessness is for every business to hire someone it can't really use. The president recently said the country would tell him whether he should seek a second term. Well, golly, that is a good idea:
It's time he was told.