Tire blow-outs and the Job Guarantee program

I had a blow-out on Monday.  I was near Spartanburg pulling the heaviest load I’ve ever had - 54,000 pounds.  I’m rarely over 40,000 pounds (the legal limit without a special permit) and usually much less than that.  I think my previous high was just 45,000 pounds.  If a typical car weighs 3,000 pounds, imagine that I was carrying a load of eighteen cars, in much less space.  All together, my rig weighed more than 90,000 pounds - the weight of 30 cars.  Ya, pretty scary.  And believe me, that rig handles much more sloppily at that weight than it does at a normal weight.  No room for mistakes.

Blow-outs are like their name - loud - like a shotgun blast ten feet behind me followed by shaking and pieces of tire flying all over the road (as viewed from my two mirrors).   I was hoping it was a problematic tire that lost a bit of tread a couple months ago and has since become unbalanced and vibrates the entire truck.  Unfortunately, it was one of a set of two new tires I bought just a month ago.  Shit happens.  

On Google maps I found a truck repair shop about ten miles up “the 85” (For reasons I don’t understand, truckers always call every road “THE” and then the road number.  Instead of saying “north on I-26” they’ll say “up the 26”.  I’ve spoken with enough professional truckers - I’m just a tourist here - that I can do a pretty good impersonation and could probably pull-off a very entertaining ten minute stand-up routine about truckers.)  

I called the shop.  He asked what size tires.  I have no clue.  A detail I don’t care to learn.  Tourist, remember?  He says “we probably have some.  Come on by."  

If you ever wondered why trucks have tires in sets of two, this is why.  One of my set of two tires blew out, but the one next to it was still OK.  So I could easily drive a couple dozen miles at relatively slow speed - 45 or so - to the shop to have it repaired.  

I got to the exit at Cowpens, South Carolina.  (There’s an historic revolutionary war battlefield in this town.  It’s very pretty rolling farm country up here, but I can’t imagine giving my life to defend it.)  I spotted the shop - the typical country truck repair shop with a steel building behind a big yard filled with a dozen or more trucks in various states of (dis)repair.  

I met the owner, a well-worn but fit-looking man of about 60.  He said his dad worked in the motor pool in the Army and then at the local Freightliner dealer while he was growing up.  He’d been around trucks since he could walk so it was natural for him to get into the truck repair business.  He’s had this little company for forty years.  

While he fixes the occasional highway breakdown on The 85 (like me), his bread and butter is the maintenance and repair of about two hundred trucks from a couple dozen local businesses.  Including mine, there were four trucks in the shop being worked on.  Mine was the only tire repair.  I saw a wide variety of diesel engines in various stages of disassembly.  He said the business grew from just him and a helper to the seven guys he now employs.  

After about an hour, and four hundred dollars later, I had two new (used) tires (the other of the set was delaminating and none of us trusted it), and was on my way. But I couldn’t help but think about how my five legislative actions might impact this guy’s truck repair business.

I didn’t ask, but I’m pretty sure the owner of that truck repair shop is probably not paying all of his seven guys $15/hour or more and paying for their health insurance.   If the Federal Job Guarantee program were implemented, anyone in Cowpens, South Carolina who wanted a job, and could keep the job, could have a job in a local non-profit which would probably pay them $15 an hour, and pay for their health insurance.  So the owner of this truck repair shop might have to increase the lowest wages he’s paying to match that, AND provide health insurance for all his employees.  Maybe not.  Maybe some guys like working on trucks enough that they’d accept lower pay.  Maybe.

Would having to possibly increase the pay for all his employees and pay for their health insurance break his business?  I don’t think so.  Worst case he’d raise the prices on his labor charges a little bit.  Instead of paying $400 I would have paid $450.  

Could the businesses of the trucks he’s maintaining afford to pay more?  Probably.  Worst case THEY would raise their prices a little bit to compensate for their increased truck repair costs.  

So worst case, every business in Cowpens, South Carolina raises the prices of their products and services a few percentage points to compensate for the added costs of attracting people away from the Job Guarantee program (when they need them) and paying for health insurance for their employees.  Within a year of implementation of the Job Guarantee program, prices and employee pay will probably have settled at a new higher level, and life will continue.  

But consider that at that new higher level of prices and pay, more people will be participating in the economy.  If Cowpens is like most towns in South Carolina, the official unemployment rate is something below 10%.  But the number of people who have dropped out of the formal economy might be closer to 20%.  With a population of 2,162, would 400 people suddenly seek employment with the job guarantee program?  If so, and if enough non-profits could be formed and funded, imagine what an extra $12.5 million into the economy every year would do for little Cowpens.  (That’s $15/hour times 40 hours a week times 52 weeks a year times 400 people).

That much more money in the local economy would require local businesses servicing those people to hire more employees to handle the increase in sales - more rent being paid, more cars being bought, more car insurance being paid, more fuel being purchased, more groceries being bought, more housewares being bought, etc.  That additional $12M into Cowpens every year could trigger an economic boom. 

With the Job Guarantee program, everyone who wants to work, and can keep a job, will have a job.  So if businesses are looking for new people to hire to handle an increase in sales, those new employees will have to be hired OUT-OF the Job Guarantee program, and probably at a wage higher than what is paid within the Job Guarantee program - exactly what the program is designed to do.  Fortunately for the businesses looking for new employees, people in the program, instead of being “stale” long-term unemployed people, will be “fresh” and updated and ready to work in private industry.  In fact private industry will seek out the best people in the Job Guarantee program for exactly those reasons.  

The Job Guarantee program will become the “buffer stock” of new employees for private industry.  When the economy is running hot, there may be very few people in the Job Guaranteed program, instead everyone will be employed by private industry.  When the economy is running cold, there may be lots of people in the program as private companies lay people off.  With the Job Guarantee program, getting laid-off won’t be the life and wealth destroying experience it can be today.  In fact, if people manage their finances well, cycling through the Job Guarantee program every few years might be a nice change and an opportunity to make career and life changes without risking everything you’d previously worked for.  Also because of the Job Guarantee program, businesses facing normal business-cycle downturns, finding themselves needing to reduce their payroll, won't have to feel so bad about laying people off, knowing they'll still be making a decent wage in the program.

I don’t know what the crime rate is in Cowpens, but I’d be willing to bet that if everyone who wanted a job had a job, there would be a lot less crime.  Fewer domestic disputes.  Fewer robberies.  Less vandalism.  When everyone has enough dollars to pay for a decent living, and doesn’t have to be concerned about losing everything they have from a job loss or a medical emergency, America will be a much more relaxed place.

The creation of the Federal Job Guarantee program will definitely have a long-term positive impact on our society.  For previously unemployed people it will have an immediate positive impact.  For small business owners in marginally profitable businesses, it might have an immediate short-term negative impact by requiring the owners to improve their employee compensation packages.  But for America as a whole, the Job Guarantee program will increase the quality of life for people who need it the most, it will increase the number of customers with money to spend, and it will provide a social safety-net for everyone who wants to work.  If implemented in combination with the other four of my other five legislative actions, America could be a much better place to live a decade from now.