How To Buck Up A Sad Labor Market

Over the weekend, President-elect Barack Obama announced an economic plan that he says will create two and a half million jobs over the next three years. Our resident humorist offers his suggestions for kick-starting the ailing labor market.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

In his weekly radio address, Barack Obama announced an economic recovery plan that he says will mean more than two million more jobs. In today's Unger report, Brian Unger wonders if Obama's plan is creative enough to meet our economic challenges.

BRIAN UNGER: Executives in Detroit can't seem to make cars Americans want to buy. Executives in Hollywood can't make TV shows Americans want to watch. I smell an opportunity to fix two ailing industries with something I'm calling The New Deal or No Deal. The greater economic good is the same.

(Soundbite of radio address, November 22, 2008)

President-elect BARACK OBAMA (Democratic Senator, Illinois): We'll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels.

UNGER: But here's how we do it. First, we put Brooke Shields to work on a wind farm. It may sound cruel at first, but it's not a Soviet-era gulag for actors. For someone whose show is about to be canceled, wind farming is a real job, not like acting. It's either "Lipstick Jungle"...

(Soundbite of TV show "Lipstick Jungle")

Ms. BROOKE SHIELDS: (As Wendy Healy) OK. I just thought we had a plan.

(Soundbite of silence)

Ms. KIM RAVER: (As Nico Reilly) You're playing me. OK, so not funny.

(Soundbite of laughter)

UNGER: Or this more creative stimulus package.

(Soundbite of music)

UNGER: (As movie announcer) Brooke Shields down on the wind farm, farming wind. Her hair blowing in that wind, and on that farm, blowing wind, meeting America's energy needs, one gust at a time.

Let's not stop with one wind-farming Brooke Shields. Let's put all unemployed actors to work on wind farms. Let's go even further. Let's put Hollywood actors to work on fuel-efficient cars and alternative energy to keep this economy competitive.

(Soundbite of the film "Milk")

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

Mr. SEAN PENN: (as Harvey Milk) My name is Harvey Milk, and I'm here to recruit you.

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

UNGER: I willing to bet that Sean Penn could design a better car than the Chevy Monte Carlo. A squirrel could, too, but squirrels are experiencing 100-percent employment this season. So, with an actor like Sean Penn, think of the innovative, brave, daring, creative approach to fixing Detroit. But what do we do about the thousands of displaced, out-of-work autoworkers? Simple, we put them to work in Hollywood making shows people want to watch.

Thirty out of the 50 most-watched TV shows in history were football games. I think an autoworker in Detroit, who's sick and tired of cranking out Buick Lucernes, could do better - or at the very least come up with a show about a talking car.

(Soundbite of TV show "Knight Rider)

Mr. VAL KILMER: (As Kitt) Burning rubber.

Mr. JUSTIN BRUENING: (As Mike Traceur) Just stay on the beacon, Kitt.

Mr. KILMER: (As Kitt) Beacon tracking system locked.

(Soundbite of music)

UNGER: Unlike the wet-rag appeal of a talking Ford Mustang, the most- watched shows today are about average people - government workers, people in the military, housewives, and people who like to dance. Detroit would have a better shot at creating that kind of TV, and Hollywood a much better shot at making a fleet of plug-in hybrids. So, while we're at it, designing the most creative stimulus package we can muster...

(Soundbite of music)

UNGER: Let's put lawyers to work rebuilding roads and bridges, chefs to work modernizing our schools, most of all, doctors to work treating all sick people - just like they do on TV. Let's get creative, America.

And that is today's Unger report. I'm Brian Unger.

(Soundbite of song "Knight Rider Theme")

BRAND: Day to Day's a production of NPR News. We have contributions from Slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen.

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