What counts as “work”? Or a “job”?
The usual conception of a “job” implies activities that create value for someone else – one’s employer. For doing this, one gets paid… and the employer makes profit by making sure that payment is less than the value of the work.
Many activities, though, that demand time and effort, and that do in fact create value for society, but not for an employer, are not recognized as “jobs.” As social theorist Riane Eisler has pointed out, our economic systems “fail to value and support the most essential human work: the so-called ‘women’s work’ of caring and caregiving.” This includes the work – usually full-time, if not 24/7 – of caring for oneself, one’s family, one’s community, and one’s environment.
In the present debate on healthcare, for instance, conservatives who are trying to dismantle sections of the social safety net are fond of saying that those who may lose Medicaid coverage “can always get jobs,” as White House spokescreature Kellyanne Conway recently stated.
Well, okay then.
I propose the establishment of a quasi-governmental foundation, to be called the Foundation for the General Welfare. (As in “promote the general welfare,” one of the stated goals of the United States of America.) This foundation would be funded initially by the government and, increasingly over time, by private donations.
It would hire people, and pay them a living wage to do what they have to do.
This foundation would, for example, hire the chronically ill who do not have insurance. Their job description would be simple: to participate in treatment for their illnesses, and get better if possible. Full insurance would be among the benefits – in fact, it would be the same Federal employee package now enjoyed by our Congresscritters.
This foundation would hire single unemployed parents, especially teenage moms. Their job description: to raise their kids and take care of their households.
This foundation would hire adults who are caregivers for their parents. Their job description: keep their parents as safe, comfortable, and happy as possible.
Get the idea?