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Long-term unemployment is a serious problem. Liberals don’t have an answer. Conservatives can do better.

Dec 16, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 14 • By MICHAEL R. STRAIN
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Only 88 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 years are currently participating in the labor force, down 9 percentage points from the years following World War II. There are many reasons why fewer prime-age males are working, but decreasing the cost of working by decreasing commute times should allow more men to participate in the labor force than currently do. And better transportation networks might open up job opportunities to the long-term unemployed that are currently closed due to distance.

In addition to directly helping the long-term unemployed and the working class by opening up job opportunities to them, the indirect effect of a multiyear infrastructure project would be a boost to aggregate growth. The health of the labor market and the health of the broader economy are intertwined​—​conservatives should see helping one as helping both.

Conservatives need coherent policies that resonate with the American people and convince them that conservatism is about more than ever-lower marginal income tax rates, budget accounting, and making an idol of the heroic entrepreneur. Policies to help the long-term unemployed and advance economic mobility fit the bill.

Michael R. Strain is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

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