The present unemployment rate is 7.9%. But as Iraq War veterans have been flooding back home and Afghanistan War veterans are expected to be coming home in droves over the next 2 years, some are having a tough time adjusting to the cruel ways of market capitalism - the onus is on them to find a job in this tough economy. There are institutions out there that try to make it easier for vets to transition. But these aren't widely marketed and don't guarantee anything other than an increased access to a chance to be hired. That's not the same thing as a job.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate of recent US veterans is 2% higher than the national average. And for some categories of recent vets (women, 2001-present), it's almost 2X higher: 15.5% and this is projected to rise rapidly as the surge of vets finally come home.
What is our country to do to support these men and women? We could continue our current track of offering lip service, or we could work to enact a real policy change that could have a real positive effect. The only way to directly solve this problem is to enact a thoroughly non-mainstream economic policy (albeit on a smaller scale): jobs guarantee specific to our returning vets.
A jobs guarantee program is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of trying to indirectly get people back to work by stimulating demand/spending, or by providing more opportunities for interviews etc, the government literally guarantees a public job potentially offering a laundry list of positions including: beautification, public works, counseling service to fellow vets, etc. In the past I've expressed concern about enacting a nationwide jobs guarantee program, and I still have those concerns: creating another unproven permanent government bureaucracy with the potential to increase beyond its initial scope, promoting potentially nontransferable job skills, disrupting the private labor market, creating a moral hazard of labor, etc. But, when we are talking about creating this on a much smaller scale, and for a specific segment: for recent veterans, most of those concerns become minuscule compared to the potential benefit - the necessary sacrifice we owe our returning soldiers. The least we can do is guarantee them a minimum wage paying job while they are undergoing private sector job-search. This point of this program would not be to give a solider a permanent job - but to give them temporary work, to more fully employ their expertise and resource, until they can find a better higher paying private sector job.
It's time to do this. Stop wasting money on all these government services that don't get vets jobs - they maybe just get them in the door. That's not good enough. In the meantime, we waste precious expertise, talent and labor resource that could be adding to our GDP, and our tax revenue. The other added benefit of this program is that it can act as a small-scale trial / test for a more broadened nationwide program. Maybe it will prove the skeptics, like me, wrong. And if it doesn't, if it does have unintended consequences, the scale of it means the costs are small relative to the potential debt we owe our soldiers.