Emboldened by his success, Esposito went after the remaining population he considered a burden on society: the homeless. The homeless weren’t considered unemployed by the PCA because they weren’t on unemployment assistance or any other assistance. They had simply slipped through the cracks, intentionally or unintentionally.
Esposito argued that society had failed them and so society needed to take care of them. And government was the face of society. Esposito commissioned a study to determine the suitability of the homeless population to work. The answer came back that nearly 80% were considered unemployable. That was OK. Esposito had expected as much. The plan was to screen the homeless for those who could work. Those who could work were assigned to The Contract and provided state-supported housing.
The remainder would be given state supported housing, or Homenet. Handlers from the unemployment rolls would be assigned to the formerly homeless to make sure they had what they needed. Better the state take care of them than to allow them to become a burden to society and individuals. Everyone would be taken care of.
On the same day the Homenet bill was passed in the senate the PCA announced its first Five Year Plan to target key industries that could benefit from the creation of one of PCA’s quasi-private companies. The Plan included a list of trades and skills necessary for those industries. Training for those skills would be introduced into high schools and colleges with quotas. Planning for needed skills was far more effective and cost-efficient than training on the fly.
Millions of people found their way onto the government workforce. Hundreds of large and small labor camps sprang up. The labor camps became societies unto themselves, albeit with government-imposed rules and regulations.
For all the touted benefits of the PCA, the real challenge for the workers was getting off the government work teat. The only way off was a firm job offer from an accredited private sector company or a non-PCA government job. Unfortunately, you were damaged goods once you went to the work camps. Some thought the best option was to drop off the grid. If you could afford it. Some people could.
Then there was always black market unemployment. If you didn’t take government assistance you didn’t have to go to the work camps. So you bought this insurance and hoped you found a private sector job. It was like a rainy day fund you could borrow against. You paid it back when you got a job. If you didn’t get a job soon enough, you either went to the work camp or you disappeared.
I stopped getting calls from Esposito. He didn’t need me anymore. I didn’t need him either.
One day I read a news story about a minstrel messiah travelling through the PCA work camps preaching and singing for freedom. “Let my people go” was his slogan. A modern-day singing Moses. Someone needed to fight for freedom. I thought he might need some help. I thought I should find out. He was last seen in Tennessee. I went to look for him.
The pendulum was going to swing again. Extreme behaviors have a way of causing that to happen. What we needed was moderation and compromise, not extreme application of logic to extreme ideologies.
I had ridden the pendulum on the side of the machine and on the side of the cog. I was just that much more weight carrying the pendulum farther and farther to the extremes. I was part of the problem. This time I would step in front of the pendulum. I would slow it down. The minstrel and I would spread the word together. He had the message and I had the money. We would find common ground and we would stand on it. Together.