A Marshall Plan for America: Is the Job Guarantee-an Idea Whose Time Has Come?
Earlier today I released my Gravis poll against Peter King NY2 I’d been promising the last week.
The results are very promising-they have me leading 51-41 after respondents are introduced to my ideas that are compared to Peter King’s. In the March SuveryUSA poll I was jazzed just to be down by 11 points. But this has me up. It seems plausible as King’s popularity has slipped since then.
As I said earlier, Gravis has promised a major press release. We’ll see what feedback we get from the Nate Silver’s of the world.
The respondents seemed to prefer my position on virtually every issue, and this was also true of my proposed Job Guarantee. 60% say they are more likely to support me after hearing about my support for the JG.
Note if you check out the poll, it’s question 12.
This idea is based on FDR’s old WPA in the 1930s. However, now, in a time where many are suffering from low wages, it’s an idea whose time has come again. David Dayen:
he Center for American Progress has been a White House in waiting for mainstream Democratic candidates for over a decade now. When it places something on the agenda, that becomes part of mainstream discussion on the center left. And at its TIdeas Conference this week, it embraced one idea that has been kicking around the left for a long time: guaranteed employment for anyone who wants a job.”
“In “Toward a Marshall Plan for America,” CAP frames this as an answer to growing despair and acute economic pain bred by stagnant wages and lack of opportunity. But few advocates who have been pushing a federal-job guarantee for so long were consulted or even cited in the proposal. And while they’re generally thrilled that their life’s work has entered a broader conversation, they’re concerned that something is getting lost in translation.”
The advocates Dayen is referencing, of course, are the famous MMTers-Modern Monetary Theorists. It’s not hard to get why CAP didn’t want to talk to these folks too much; I’ve read their proposals with interest but they tend to be a very self righteous and polemical. I read them but don’t usually engage in discussions with them-as they are not a lot of fun to talk to. Certainly if I ever quote them I give them credit.
“Actually, it seems to me another group that could benefit from the JG are the many college graduates over the last 17 years who have had to work for much lower wages. It seems to me that we don’t have a jobs problem so much as a low wage problem. I’m speaking from experience. If you want a job any job, you can get one. But it will pay $10, $9, $8 an hour. Even if you’re lucky to get full time work, this won’t be close to a living wage.”
The $15 MW idea is on the march but, of course, if there’s no JG then the effective MW remains $0.
Back to Dayen:
Yes, I think in this day and age, what we need is a focus on those out of work so long that they can’t get another job due to discrimination against the unemployed. Obama had talked about barring employers from discriminating against the unemployed.
Again, the problem of our time is not jobs but wages.
Solely targeting non–college graduates, a measure clearly designed to serve a political goal (much of the CAP paper details the shift of the working-class vote in the Midwest from Barack Obama to Donald Trump), necessarily limits the reach of the program. “How would this plan have helped after the Great Recession, when 800,000 people a month were losing jobs, including skilled workers with college degrees?” asked Stephanie Kelton, economics professor at the University of Missouri–Kansas City and former budget aide to Bernie Sanders. “If we’re genuinely trying to achieve full employment, we shouldn’t be targeting 79 percent labor-force participation. We should eliminate involuntary unemployment.”
I’m not a huge fan of Kelton-particularly as she was a Berner. But it is true that what we’ve seen in the last 16 years is also those with college diplomas struggling-I’ve been there personally.
A criticism of the JG is that for it to work it has to be based on jobs that aren’t essential.
“Here is an exhaustive list of things Spross comes up with under his “The Work” heading:
A. Selling food, butcher shops, bakeries, clothing manufacturing, toy manufacturing, grocery stores.
B. Elder care, child care, comforting sick people, educating citizens, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, cleaning cities, ecological preservation, recycling centers.
C. Sculpting, making murals, producing plays, urban gardening, tending parks, refurbishing historic buildings, beautifying neighborhoods.
“The cyclical nature of the JG (it picks up in recessions and declines in expansions) is critical to understanding what kinds of jobs it makes sense for JG to do. Most importantly, the cyclical nature of JG means that you cannot use the program to staff jobs that are necessary to do. Put another way, it only makes sense to use JG to staff nice-to-have jobs but never must-have jobs. For the latter kind of job, you would want to hire a workforce that permanently crowds out the private sector (as we currently do with public school teachers).”
“With that understanding out of the way, let’s return to the list of jobs Spross imagines.”
“List A is stuff that is highly capital intensive (another thing the JG has to avoid, as Spross himself notes) and already exists in the private sector. This list is mostly derived from the Argentina situation where perhaps the circumstances are different. But it does not really make much sense in the US context.”
“List B is stuff that you should want to do permanently, not only when the private sector is in recession. You need child carers, elder carers, recycling workers, educators, and so on at all times. It would not make sense to stop caring for children and educating people just because the private sector has picked up steam.”
“List C is the only stuff that I think is plausible for a JG program. Local arts productions are mostly useless and so you could definitely spin them up and then spin them down with the ebbs and flows of the economy. Urban gardening seems completely useless, if not actively harmful insofar as it is not a good use of expensive urban land that is also typically full of heavy metals. The beautification stuff seems like the kind of thing that falls neatly under nice-to-haves but not must-haves.”
“So after we’ve looked at the list, what we find that really fits the JG mold are local arts productions and discretionary beautification. That’s supposed to absorb millions of jobless people, including those who want nothing to do with putting on plays? Seems doubtful.”
So, Mr. Bernie Bro, Matt Brueing, is not sold on JG-quite the opposite it seems.
But it seems to me the key is how much socially useful work there may be that the private sector doesn’t find profitable. That seems to me to be a key.
“During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were public employment programs designed to put Americans back to work after the national unemployment rate reached 25 percent. These programs, implemented under the Roosevelt administration, provided socially beneficial goods and services that benefited all Americans. Some of our national parks — Zion, Glacier, and Shenandoah — received substantial work contributions from employees of the federal jobs programs. The Blue Ridge Parkway was a federally funded and staffed infrastructure program.”
“A new federal job guarantee could undertake similarly bold and much-needed public-works projects.”
“The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the United States a D+ in infrastructure and prices necessary repairs at $3.6 trillion. This lack of investment has lowered employment rates, cost businesses sales, and reduced incomes for American families. Make no mistake, these are government choices. They could choose instead to hire unemployed workers to repair bridges, maintain roadways, and update power grids.”
“Likewise, Bill McKibben just called for us to “declare war” against climate change. With climate change being perhaps the largest threat to our well-being, bold action is needed. The job guarantee program would create the capacity to do just that. Professor Robert Pollin of the Political Economy Research Institute calls for scaling up the transition to a green economy, which would create millions of new jobs along the way. He and his colleagues estimate what a Green New Deal would look like, and find that a transition to a green economy would amount to an estimated $200 billion in investment annually, resulting in a drop in “US emission by 40 percent within 20 years, while creating a net increase of 2.7 million jobs.” In part, this is due to the labor-intensive nature of energy efficiency and other “green” investments.”
This is what’s surprising about Brueing’s attitude-does he believe that the private sector and the profit motive meets all socially beneficiary and necessary work? Interesting view for a ‘democratic socialist.’
P.S. As noted in previous post, the Gravis poll is out and it shows me, your buddy and humble blogger, Mike Sax, up 51 percent to 41% for Peter King in NY 2. I know-knock me over with a feather too. But that’s what the numbers say.
They indicate that I have a real chance. But I need help and support ASAP. If you’re in NY 2 contact me if you’re interested in volunteering or just offer your support and vowing to tell all your friends.
And-yes-I do need donations if I have any hope of bringing around the local party to seeing that I am the chance to break out of the party’s long losing streak against King.
Whether you live in NY 2 or across the country, you can donate. As yourself whether you cannot afford even $5 or $10 dollars.
The coming media release Gravis promised should get us some publicity. But we have to start building a campaign infrastructure before the naysayers who say ‘Wait your turn’ can mobilize.
There is nothing more important in getting answers to Trump-Russia collusion than a Democratic House in 2019. Peter King is on the House intelligence committee. I think we all know that he will never be any part of the solution for getting to the bottom of Trump Russia.
Please donate to help me in my part of the effort to fight for a Dem House.
We can have a Dem Congress, we must have a Dem Cogress, and we will.
Thank you. We must have a Dem House. And so, we will.