How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

How to fix 1 of our country's biggest problems

One of the prime reasons that Hillary Clinton was defeated by Donald Trump was her nasty comment dichotomizing Donald Trump supporters into two baskets.

"You could put half of Trump's supporters, into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racists, sexist, homophobic, Islamaphobic - you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up." She went on to explain that the other basket of Trump's supporters "are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, no body worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change. It doesn't really even matter where it comes from. They don't buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs differently, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead end."

Hillary's language was insulting. However, her description of the resentment that white working-class men were feeling was on target. Global economic forces and labor-saving technology have resulted in the loss of one-third of all industrial jobs over the past twenty year. Not only have millions lost their jobs, but those who have managed to hang on have seen their wages stagnate. "Blue-collar men have had a lot of trouble in this new economy, where they are no longer getting the same bargain that they got when they were going to a factory and able to support their families on a single paycheck," President Obama said.

These folks see their way of life disappearing. George Packer in The New Yorker of October 31 wrote: "Trump voters were both more economically hard-pressed and more racial biased than supporters of other Republican candidates....they tend to be less educated, in poorer health, are less confident in their children's prospects - and they're often residents of nearly all-white neighborhoods." It is groups according to J.D. Vance, the author of The Hillbilly Elegy, "have lost their faith that if they work hard, if they try to get ahead, if they play by the rules, then that will ultimately result in positive outcomes."

These folks want to see government do more for them and less for those they see as less deserving of help. They have seen their dreams vanish at time when woman, blacks, Latinos, gays and transgender Americans have made enormous strides. Trump became the voice of those who were angry about the way they have been treated, or more correctly, ignored.

Like apple pie and motherhood, manufacturing has a powerful grip on the American psyche. Despite election year promises from both sides that this election will result in a return to the "Good Old Days" when our economy was able to provide a decent paying job for all people willing to get their hands dirty, the reality is that American factories will never employee the number of people as they did in the past.

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, in a book entitled Race Against the Machine, are on target when they wrote "that as computers get more powerful, companies have less need for some kinds of workers.... Ever-more powerful computers have for some time now been substituting for human skills and workers and slowing median incomes and job growth in the United States. As we head deeper into the second half of the chessboard - into the period where continuing exponential increases in computing power yield astonishing results - we expect that economic disruptions will only grow as well."

How does our new President provide jobs for blue collar workers that pay a living wage and reaffirm their dignity? The traditional glib answers are: reduce trade barriers (and start a trade war), rebuild Americas aging infrastructure (there are not a lot 50-60 year olds capable of doing heavy lifting) and re-train those who are displaced for high-tech jobs (have you ever tried to teach someone 50+ years-old about computers). We need a new idea as none of these solutions will work.

This is a big problem that requires a solution akin to the WPA Jobs Program, GI Bill or the 2009 Stimulus Package. What about a program modeled after the highly successful Federal Prison Industries, a wholly owned US government corporation, created in 1934 as correctional work program within the Federal Bureau of Prisons? Under this program, inmates manufacture dozens of products for sale primarily to the Federal Government.

What about a program in which the federal government, in collaboration with a private sector company, would operate factories, in distressed cities like Akron, Flint, Toledo or Youngstown. The factory would be staffed by displaced American workers, manufacturing items for our military, local police forces and other government entities? Just as military veterans are given preference and civil service tests for employment based their years of service, manufacturer veterans would be given preference, based on their years of service, in filling these factory positions.

Salaries would, no doubt, have to be subsidized and workers would earn less than in the past, however, they would not be doomed to permanent obsolescence and stripped of their self-respect.