Job stimulus? Look to Oregon and Jersey

10 May

It’s not that often that IYSMU ventures into public policy, but given the ridiculous budget proposals and arguments amidst the near-shutdown of the federal government, I find myself thinking more and more about innovative solutions that the government could propose to a) reduce spending and raise funds or b) create jobs. I’ll spare you my budgetary opinions for another day and another post- today, it’s all about getting Americans back to work.

Here’s one for your trivia night memory bank: what wacky post-war law do Oregon and New Jersey have in common? Answer: they both require that an attendant pump your gas. By law, it is illegal to fill up your Prius with $5.21/gallon gas in the Beaver and Garden states. The somewhat logical reasons that these states have for preventing their citizens from pumping gas (in summary, we are stupid and accident-prone) mean that there are thousands of extra Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, etc employees in these states than there would otherwise be. This is a really interesting instance where a state legislature has the power to create jobs for thousands of people- imagine the possibility if every Rick Perry (definitely not going to happen) and Jerry Brown (nope) across this great nation took a page from the Oregon and Jersey playbooks and miraculously pushed through policies that required gas stations to hire attendants to pump gas!

How much could we chip off the latest unemployment rates if the rest of America adopted such ludicrous laws? Time for a quick and dirty analysis.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were a whopping 116,855 filling stations in the U.S. with paid employees in 2006; that works out to roughly one gas station for every 2,627 Americans. New Jersey and Oregon account for 2.84% and 1.25% of the U.S. population, respectively; assuming an equal distribution of gas stations across the country, it can therefore be estimated that there are roughly 4,770 gas stations in these two states, each one paying attendants to huff fumes and squeeze a metal handle all day. That calculation leaves 112,084 gas stations for the rest of us, all of which require us to pump our own gas like chumps!! If each state required a gas station attendant present for 20 hours of the day, 7-days-a-week, each station could potentially support at least 3 full-time (40 hours/week) employees. We’re talking 350,000 jobs at the blink of an eye here folks!

What would this mean? For starters, those 350,000 jobs would reduce Big Oil’s profits by a cool $7 billion each year. I don’t think the average American would be too upset with that, although it would logically follow that the oil industry would respond by raising prices, which in turn would lead to higher CPI, which in turn would probably be more ruinous to our fragile economy than any stimulus those jokers up on Capitol Hill could ever write.

Would the average unemployed American really want a minimum wage job pumping gas? Probably not. Will they complain and run for the hills when hard-working immigrants ask “regular, or premium?” Absolutely.

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