In Emergency, Break Glass

Too much of the talk about today’s JOBS issue has been theoretical. Here’s a real-world proposal. We need to put people to work, NOW! What’s more, it would be nice, if these newly-created jobs didn’t create too much environmental harm.

My modest proposal involves two basic materials, both of which are abundant, renewable and recyclable.

First, it’s time we started using more wood in our economy. The recent economic downturn has decimated the construction industry, and as a result, timber harvests are down across the US of A. Here in Maine, we had to cobble together a package of subsidies to keep a freight rail line to the north country operating. Lumber orders were way down, and there just weren’t enough potatoes to keep the railroad profitable.

Let’s get some more of that good New England hardwood onto the market. Few items feel more natural in the hand or instill more can-do spirit than a good ol’ Louisville Slugger. We’ve got plenty of high quality ash wood here in the Northeast — let’s get it on the lathes and turn out some bats!

Second, plastic is both passé and problematic in this age of peak petroleum and weird weather. Glass, on the other hand, is made of sand, and we’ve got plenty of that. Glass is not only 100% recyclable — just melt it down and make new stuff out of it! — but also quite pretty. It lets the sun in and keeps the cold out. By golly, we ought to be making more glass.

Teenage unemployment is a very serious problem. Nationally, one in every four 16-19 year olds cannot find work — and for urban teenagers, the unemployment rate is much higher. These are people who are restless and energetic. These are people who, if they cannot find wholesome employment, might well turn to crime and vandalism. And folks, this is a market economy, and I say we ought to take advantage of natural incentives. Let’s put Louisville Sluggers in the idle hands of those teenagers.

There are roughly 40 million private houses in the United States, holding a total of some 400,000,000 windows at the ground floor level alone. And in urban, commercial areas, where the teen unemployment problem is most acute, the aggregate smashable area increases by a factor of five (I’m making these numbers up, but you get the idea).

I say: why wait! Supply America’s youth with stout cudgels of maple and ash, and make the tinkling of shiny shards the soundtrack of our national recovery. Winter is coming to North America. Once those widows are busted, folks are going to want ’em fixed, pronto. And while we’re fixing them, we’d be silly not to install high-quality, modern double-paned replacements. We’re talking payroll-taxable full employment, and energy conservation to boot!

Some readers may recognize that this proposal has been made before — and, yes, some egghead “economists” have endeavored to refute it. Well, phooey on them. Give them a smoothly-turned ash handle, a quiet storefront and room to swing — they’ll see what I’m talking about.

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