Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 09:59:04 AM EST
The never-ending debates over how to best get the economy going again swing between tax policies, interest rate adjustments and public spending. All of these require a huge bureaucratic system to be put into motion. My plan is much simpler and can be put in effect immediately.
Here's how it works, those who are unemployed or underemployed get income support through existing insurance programs. Then instead of sitting around or pretending to look for work they use their time to volunteer.
There are many areas where extra hands could help. For example, teaching reading or helping kids with their homework in public libraries in the afternoons and weekends.
Or monitoring after school activities that give kids a place to go while their parents are working. The gym, library and auditorium is there, it just needs some adults to supervise or create activities.
How about driving people to doctors appointments or job interviews or the like. Even visiting the home-bound just for companionship is a good idea.
If you want to get more ambitious, those with the appropriate skills could volunteer to help people fix up their homes with improved insulation and the like. The issue of who pays for the building supplies would need to be worked out, but many localities already offer grants for this type of thing.
I'm sure there are dozens of other areas which could benefit from some volunteer labor. Since these volunteers are being paid they are not sacrificing financially by being good Samaritans.
Unlike the job corps or the peace corps or the WPA these efforts would be from the bottom up and responsive to local needs. One could use a mechanism like Craig's List to coordinate things. All of these projects are "shovel ready" right now.