2012's Silliest Ideas To Solve The Jobs Crisis

Bad ideas to solve jobs crisis

If this past year were to be summed up in a Sweet 16 birthday bash, then the theme would be jobs, and there would be a lot of tears and yelling. While the unemployment rate has been slowing slipping for three years, this country still has a jobs crisis, and lots of people have lots of ideas about how to solve it.

Some of those ideas have come from the government, a handful have come from the private sector and nonprofits, and others from really, really rich people. Some have been obvious, a handful have been inspired, and others have been really, really silly. In this latter bracket, here are the top five:

5. Replace Adult Workers With Schoolchildren

During the Republican debates back in January, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed a gem of an idea for reducing the dropout rate and promoting the work ethic of poor youth: fire absurdly overpaid New York City janitors, and let 30 kids do each of their jobs.

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Researchers and journalists pounced quickly, pointing out that New York janitors aren't paid an "absurd amount of money" ($37,710-a-year after two years on the job), that there's no research to suggest that working keeps poor kids in school, and that if one maintenance job was divided by 30, those kids would be earning a little over $24 a week.

There's also the matter of those grownups who worked those jobs joining the ranks of the jobless, and of their families, who'd join the ranks of people asking why children are taking adults' jobs.

4. Get Rid of Taxes for Corporations

David Cote, CEO of the diversified manufacturer Honeywell International Inc., called for corporations to pay no taxes back in May, claiming that it would boost job creation. There is some logic to this: If corporations didn't have to pay the 35 percent maximum corporate tax rate, they could use that money to hire more workers.

Unfortunately, Cote isn't the best man to make this argument. His company paid just 2 percent in taxes between 2008 and 2011, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, and between 2008 and 2010 it received more in government subsidies than it paid out. And in the past two years, a Wall Street Journal analysis found that Honeywell -- despite increasing sales -- cut its U.S. workforce by 1,000 and added 11,000 jobs abroad.

3. Scrap Employment Laws

Last year, the British government asked venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft to write his recommendations for spurring job growth. The resulting report, published in May, was called a "bonfire of regulations" by the British press for its assault on labor protections. Beecroft's proposals included making it much easier for employers to fire workers, saying in a redacted portion that a few people getting fired just because their boss didn't like them was a "price worth paying" for economic growth.

Other controversial suggestions included allowing companies to hire staff from other countries without first advertising the opening in local job centers (as British law currently requires), making it easier for employers to hire children for certain jobs, and re-introducing the mandatory retirement age of 65.

2. Make The Unemployed Work For Free

The U.K. Department for Work and Pensions completed a pilot program earlier this year that forced jobseekers who have been receiving unemployment benefits for three years to work without pay for six months -- or have their benefits stripped. The government planned to roll out the project nationwide, but it hit a tiny legal snag involving the European Convention on Human Rights.

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One 41-year-old job-seeker and former mechanical engineer, Jamie Wilson, refused to wash and clean furniture for six months for no money, calling it "slave labor," and lost his benefits, forcing him to rely on the kindness of friends and family to survive. The British High Court ultimately found that his benefits couldn't be lawfully taken away, since he wasn't properly informed about the penalty. In a December hearing, the government tried to overturn the ruling, while Wilson's lawyers countered that the entire program violates a European law "prohibit[ing] forced labor."

1. Lottery Tickets

Spain is suffering one of the worst jobs crises in the world, with unemployment standing at 25 percent at last count, and over 50 percent for young people. Sixty-year-old driving instructor Bartolome Florido decided that he wanted to soothe some of that pain, so he visited welfare offices in five southern cities, and handed out lottery tickets to the unemployed people waiting in line.

Encouraging job seekers to gamble is not the most practical or sustainable strategy for job growth (the lottery is often referred to as a "tax on the poor"), but Florido did at least offer people an ounce of hope. In response to his simple gesture of caring, many hugged him and wept, he said.

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