Loaves and fishes

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest round of unemployment numbers today. The current unemployment rate is sitting at 14.7%.

If you are not among that 14.7%, I see three ways to look at this problem:

  1. Erect a Somebody Else’s Problem field around it and keep going. Anyone who considers this a reasonable option probably isn’t reading this blog in the first place. (I hope not, anyway; I’d hate to think my writing appealed to that sort of person.)
  2. Drown in guilt and frustration over the unfairness of it all. I did that for a while this week. You may be shocked to learn that it benefited exactly no one.
  3. Let the math motivate you. When the world seems to be spinning out of control, I tend to close my eyes and trust-fall into the arms of Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, better known as the Father of Algebra. In the >30 years since I learned to solve for x, ol’ boy has never failed me.

With that in mind, let’s look at the numbers:

If 14.7% of us who normally have jobs are now unemployed, that means 85.3% of us are still working. (Note: The unemployment rate is different from the labor-force participation rate.)

If my scratch-paper scribbling is right, if every working person had the same income, the 85.3% of us who are still working could take care of the rest by sharing just 17.2% of our income.

We don’t all have the same income, and we can’t all afford to share that much. But honestly, I think 17.2% represents a worst-case scenario, because a lot of currently employed people are white-collar workers who can telecommute, and a lot of currently unemployed people are service-industry workers.

Because white-collar jobs tend to pay better than service jobs, we probably don’t need every currently employed person to give away $1.72 of every $10 s/he earns in order to pick up the slack; we just need all the current haves to take an honest look at our available resources and figure out how to leverage them to help as many of the current have-nots as possible.

If you identify as Christian, you already know a guy who did that at least twice and ensured that his initial investors got a pretty impressive ROI out of the deal.

Emily

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