The unemployment rate rose to 9.9 percent for the month of April, but artist John Anderson wishes the thousands of people seeking work would come to him. He’ll give them a job—-and you, too. He has jobs for everyone, an unlimited amount: He’s a one-man economic salve. The jobs are for workers of every age and level of education. You don’t even need to apply—-anyone can have one.
That’s because Anderson’s jobs are buttons he’s handed out on five separate occasions in recent weeks as a critique of the too-cavalier politicians who speak ceaselessly of job creation. Each one has a smartly-designed patriotic “JOB” logo, and comes attached to a card with quotes from some of the world’s greatest economic minds.
“There’s no clear course in how a job is created, it’s just a political argument that has been perpetuated for years,” says Anderson, who grew frustrated with the empty talk of shovel-ready projects and taxation that he saw on cable news. The latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 290,000 jobs were created last month.
“[Politicians] talk about making jobs and somehow it’s related to taxes—-they’re going to tax part of the population more or less and jobs will blossom,” he said. “I don’t understand how that works. I don’t think the average citizen understands how that works. Every time a politician says ‘I’m going to make a job,’ it’s a platitude, so this is without a platitude. But it’s something physical—-you can walk away with it and say, ‘I have a job.’ “
Like most Americans, Anderson is no economist, though he read up on the topic in preparation for the project, with Adam Smith‘s The Wealth of Nations among his research materials. Of all the books that he read, though, the Bible’s influence weighs most heavily on him. Even though he hands out jobs, he’s titled the work “Job Creation Project” with the first word pronounced like the Old Testament figure.
“To find a job, you need to be patient,” says Anderson. “Job was the Biblical symbol of patience.”
As seriously as Anderson takes the state of our economy, he acknowledges that he loves a good pun. “Sometimes art has to be a prank,” says Anderson.
To distribute jobs at Metro stations and in front of office buildings, Anderson donned an official-looking jumpsuit and put on his best Billy Mays voice to pitch his jobs. Then, he observed carefully what types of people accepted his offer, and what types did not. He gave jobs to homeless people and children, liberals and conservatives, and even to some dubious Capitol police.
“There was one woman who came up to me who was really angry. She said, ‘What is this?’ ‘It’s a job.’ ‘Are you one of those Tea Party people?’ ‘No.’ And she handed the job back,” says Anderson. “I thought, what if I was a tea party person, would she have taken it?”
Anderson doesn’t consider himself to be a political artist, though he finds it hard to avoid reflecting upon political issues in his work.
“The cliche of a political artist is someone who champions one side or another,” he said. “In this town, if you’re too political, you’re going to turn everyone off.”
Therefore, the jobs he’s created are for both sides of the aisle.
“I think it communicates to a larger audience, not just a liberal audience,” he said. “I handed one to my chiropractor, and she said, ‘No thanks, I’m a Republican.’ But she started reading it and saw a Ronald Reagan quote, and a Milton Friedman quote, so she felt very comfortable taking my job.”
For one day of the project, he was unable to find childcare for his baby daughter. Like any working parent would, he had to bring her along.
“After a while, she started taking jobs,” he says. “She put one in her mouth. I had to take her job away.”
He hopes to distribute more jobs in the next few weeks at the monuments, and he’ll be passing them out to a finance class at American University, too. And after that, he’s moving on to a new series in which he erases the front pages of newspapers as a commentary on the dying industry. Journalists—-now there’s a group that could use some jobs.