The Platform


In Illinois, where government pensions are well-underfunded and some politicians are totally bankrupt of any good job creation ideas to improve regional economic development, comes the latest in creating obsolete jobs for people and charging you for it.

This harkens back to the government efforts of the Great Depression when jobs were scarce, and the more modern version of “shovel-ready” projects in the Obama administration, were created to get some people back to work.

Unfortunately, it costs a lot of money to create “make work” projects, let alone obsolete jobs. These efforts provide minimal, if any, residual payback to the individuals, let alone the public, for the amount it costs the public. The new concept is to charge people more for a service related to a commodity so that a job can be created – or more accurately, re-created.

In Oak Park, Illinois, known more for its Frank Lloyd Wright houses than it is for any great government and economic development ideas, comes the latest bill to get into the State of Illinois’ House of Representatives to ban people from pumping their own gas so a new job of “Gas Station Attendant” can be created in order to help a low-skilled worker. For reference, here’s the article that addresses this new proposed law.

This is such a bad idea, it cannot be real – but it is. Creating a “make work” position for something that all people have gotten accustomed to doing over the last several decades, makes no sense to those in Illinois, who are looking for a better government approach to lowering taxes, pension fund management, and operating the state in general.

A gas station attendant used to be someone in high school getting minimum wage, working part-time, and doing it instead of taking on another minimum-wage job like working at McDonald’s, KFC, or some other restaurant chain.

This was a beginning job to get basic job skills and something on the resume under work experience before graduating high school. Pumping gas was never the goal of a high-school graduate back then and it should surely not be the goal of someone graduating high school today.

Plus, the last time I looked; our economy is running pretty strong. We don’t need to create “make work” jobs today, there are already open positions available all over the place for potential employees. Yes, you need to bring in some skills, but how much are we talking about? A warehouse job for Amazon pays good money – a lot more than a part-time gas station attendant would. Or, are we talking about $15 an hour for that gas station attendant?

It definitely was a job requiring minimal skills. Maybe that’s why they changed out all gas stations to self-serve pumps so that hiring part-time attendants would be a thing of the past. Streamlining labor out of a process has been an objective of Corporate America for decades. Adding unnecessary labor to increase costs is unheard of. (and I would think – un-American.)

Why not bring back elevator operators as well?

Creating “make work” jobs should not be a direction for the future. If we do that, then maybe we should also bring back elevator operators in every high-rise building? Paying someone $15 an hour to push a button may not be a glamorous job, but so what? We’re talking “job creation” here. Or are we?

I am sure everyone would want that extra cost tacked onto their monthly rent or condo association fees?

As far as office buildings in a downtown area, maybe we could also create an “elevator pass” that you could carry around and swipe in order to pay for that operator through some government-run regional agency.

(Translation – create and pay another government bureaucracy to provide jobs for the unskilled plus all the bureaucratic overhead that goes along with that – the administration, the Board of Directors, the office furniture, the office space, the operational workers, the administrative workers, accounting, the machine operators who print out the monthly passes plus all the pensions that go along with the bureaucracy.)

Gotta cash that check in order to go shopping? You can wait!

The same goes with removing ATM machines. Let’s ban them so you can wait in lines at the teller window to cash a check, while all these old, retired people come in and make sure their bank account reflects the latest quarterly dividend, not only in their bank book, but the bank books of their spouse, and the joint-account they have together.

Granny Smith needs to make sure the bank puts down the quarterly dividend into her bank book so that it reflects the 4.5% she is getting on her passbook savings account. Only today, she would be waiting for something more like 1% on her money, while you wait to cash that check you have.

Ever stood in a line like that? I have. You would wait almost a half hour while all these people would stand in line to get their savings passbooks “updated” while some of us were just waiting to cash a check.

Looking back, why didn’t they set up a window for “passbook updates only” so that those wanting that service could wait the half-hour in line while others, who just needed to get the money to go shopping and have money for the rest of the week, could stand in a shorter line moving a lot faster?

Why would we ever go back to these types of manually accomplished job functions of society that took a lot of time? To re-create obsolete jobs.

Next time you vote someone into office, maybe you should be asking the question – how skilled is this politician when it comes to understanding what regional economic development is for this decade and the next, and not rely on what they think it is from the past century.

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.