Terry H. Schwadron
June 26, 2020
From all the official and unofficial sources outside the White House, It sounds as if high joblessness is here to stay.
We all understand that when the folks from the Federal Reserve or academia talk about a long road to economic recovery, the real impact will be on jobs — and through jobs, health care, rent, tuition, training and a slew of other social needs, particularly, as we see in renewed protests, in lower-income black and brown communities.
Despite Donald Trump’s happy talk about robust e-openings and astounding economic projections, and his dismissal of dangers from coronavirus contagion, the word from everyone else is that measurable rebound will only come with widespread vaccines and a return of normal behaviors by consumers with money in their pockets.
In recent reports, even Trump seems more open than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to the idea of extending jobless benefits to the vast number of unemployed folks and businesses. When businesses do rebound, of course, their economics will favor automated processes where possible — which offer the side benefit of machinery that does not get sick — and what we have seen to date: Workers with cut hours and reduced pay.
As the Joe Biden people already are forming transition in the event of a positive election in November, it is time to consider two ideas that have floated for a while without landing on practical legislative platforms: Government guaranteed payments to those whose jobs are going away, and government sponsored jobs for the huge number of social service and infrastructure projects we face.
Hey Mr. Biden, let’s turn jobless into jobs.
Guaranteed Basic Income
The argument for guaranteed basic income is easy to understand, and most recently the call to arms for ex-presidential candidate Andrew Wang. If you give $1,000 a month to households below the poverty line, they will spend such humanitarian aid spurring every consumable part of the economy and be able to pay rent, go to doctors and eat.
The alternative argument is for a full WPA-type program that has come about only in pieces, promoted by various politicians from each party over time as, say, infrastructure programs, but never really addressed head on.
Listen to the voices of protests in the streets, and what you really are hearing about unaddressed social services. Rather than spend on militarized policing for those trained to use force, shouldn’t more money relatively be spent on housing, education, health and the like to even the playing fields in lower-income neighborhoods.
Franklin Roosevelt faced much the same type of question 75 years ago, and the WPA programs were the result, programs to address electricity and housing improvement infrastructure, art, photo and music programs, and more. We’re still better off for them all these decades later.
To me, this approach to hire a lot of people to do jobs rather than pay them to stay home has a lot of force. It could be a modern-day CCC program to revamp broken bridges, do contact tracing, and provide retraining for the post-corona world makes sense — almost whatever the cost, since we mint our own money.
Pavlina Tcherneva has a new book, ”The Case for a Job Guarantee,” coming out that lays out such a case, After decades in which the average income for the 99% of us have stagnated or fallen, this year’s super-punch of virus interruption , climate disruption and automation is creating a measurable disaster. Tcherneva argues that providing a job for every American who wants one would both set a modern living standard and marshal the power of the nation’s workforce to do work that so desperately needs doing, and by building the jobs directly, government bypasses the ever re-interpretation by profit-run businesses that take care of shareholders and executives before workers.
“The way I’m proposing it is from the ground up, a bottom-up approach where in every community you have environmental groups, you have nonprofits, you have food kitchens, homeless shelters. They try to do this on a voluntary basis, but they are always under pressure and understaffed.” Tcherneva told Huffington Post.Once you accept the principle, there are loads of such public service work to be done towards health care, disease and disaster preparations, and in unmet social needs.
Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders have backed the idea of job guarantees, A poll last summer earned support from bout 55% of respondents. They, of course, subscribe to the idea that the good effects of the jobs themselves outweighs any cost.
We’re already a few trillion into aid programs that so far have not kept us from seeing jobless numbers remain extremely high.
The idea is that we need public servants for a full range of tasks, and hiring people makes a lot more sense than paying them to stay home. Republicans would argue that this is not the point of government, But whether in a large-scale two-year program for young people or subsidizing work in the arts and health industries, we are investing in our society.
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