a specter is haunting the employment market ...
March 23, 2018 9:34 PM   Subscribe

Why Democrats Should Embrace a Federal Jobs Guarantee
To explore the possibility of Democrats’ running on a guaranteed-job plan, we asked the respected data analytics firm Civis Analytics to not only poll guaranteed jobs, but poll it in the way that would be most likely to gain opposition from voters. They asked respondents: “Democrats in congress are proposing a bill which would guarantee a job to every American adult, with the government providing jobs for people who can’t find employment in the private sector. This would be paid for by a 5 percent income tax increase on those making over $200,000 per year. Would you be for or against this policy?”
"52 percent in support, 29 percent opposed, and the rest don’t know."

Should the Government Guarantee Everyone a Job?
Should Uncle Sam give a job to every American who wants one? That question feels awfully theoretical, given the slate of dramatic spending cuts pending in the Republican-controlled Congress. Still, it is one that Democrats are starting to ask.

The policy proposal is called a jobs guarantee, and the Center for American Progress—arguably the most influential think tank on the mainstream left—is officially pushing it as of this week.
The Federal Job Guarantee - A Policy to Achieve Permanent Full Employment
Today, economists and policymakers, including the governors of the Federal Reserve System, tend to associate “full employment” with a four-to-six percent unemployment rate, using the standard measure of unemployment.[4] This measure of unemployment counts workers who do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the previous four weeks, and are currently available for work; it does not count the millions who have stopped actively seeking employment, or those inadequately employed in temporary, seasonal, or other precarious employment situations. The four-to-six percent unemployment rate referred to above is based on a conception defined by economists as the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (NAIRU). It is noteworthy that this “target” has changed throughout time. Moreover, an economy with these unemployment rates needlessly condemns millions of U.S. workers to unemployment and underemployment, often resulting in severe economic hardship for those left behind by decisionmakers’ policy choices.
It’s Time for the Government to Give Everyone a Job
The federal-job-guarantee concept goes back to Huey Long’s Share Our Wealth plan in the 1930s. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. endorsed “employment for everyone in need of a job” in the civil-rights era. Under this framework, the government would fund jobs with a living wage and benefits similar to public-sector workers’. The open-ended program would be funded as needed, expandable in recession, and contractable when the economy recovers. Government would become the employer of last resort.
A Path to Ending Poverty by Way of Ending Unemployment: A Federal Job Guarantee
Poverty in the United States, one of the world’s most wealthy and prosperous nations, is persistently high. Despite a complex array of social insurance programs in place, 43.1 million people remain in poverty. Because unemployment is a strong predictor of poverty, we propose a permanent federal job guarantee for all Americans. The program would provide full-time employment for any American over eighteen, offering at least nonpoverty wages plus benefits. Such a program will constitute a direct route to producing full employment by eradicating involuntary unemployment. It also will substantially increase worker bargaining power by removing the employer threat of unemployment. To make the case that the federal job guarantee is viable, this paper includes responses to five common criticisms lodged against programs of this type.
Why We Need a Federal Job Guarantee
1. A job guarantee means fewer poor Americans.
2. The robots haven’t taken over yet. We still need workers.
3. A FJG could build an inclusive economy.
4. Federal jobs could provide socially useful goods and services.
5. It’ll stabilize the economy.
Toward a Marshall Plan for America - "Rebuilding Our Towns, Cities, and the Middle Class"
But this is a false choice. Indeed, we must not choose between addressing the economic concerns of people—of all races—who have been left behind by our economy and protecting the civil rights of people of color. We can and must do both. As progressives, we must fight for and represent the economic and social interests of all working people.

The reality, as this report demonstrates, is that people who have not gone to college have been particularly vulnerable in this economy for a long time. Progressives should care about the lost opportunities in Appalachia as much as those in Detroit. The economy is not producing access to a good, stable middle-class life for people who do not go to college, and those voters are likely to continue to disrupt the political system until it does. On prudential and ethical grounds, we must do more to create decent job opportunities and secure family situations for all working people facing difficult economic conditions not within their control. This is not simply a matter of messaging or a problem of persuasion but rather a challenge that requires bold thinking and answers outside the current political system.
What America would look like if it guaranteed everyone a job

The Radical Proposal That Moderate Democrats Should Be Running On
But there is little evidence that Democrats have any political incentive to broadcast their sympathy for Wall Street, or to demonstrate their sensitivity to corporate interests. In fact, there isn’t even much basis for believing that running competitive campaigns in pro-Trump districts and championing far-left economic policies are incompatible objectives. On the contrary, there’s actually some reason to think that Democratic candidates would have an easier time making inroads in Red America, if they ran on the right kind of radical fiscal policy — like, for example, a federal jobs guarantee.
You’re Hired!
Meanwhile, what jobs the economy creates, for whom, and on what terms, is determined by the people who own and control the flow of capital and property. This is the nature of private markets in capitalism. Both the left and right accept this arrangement as a fait accompli, and effectively try to bribe this rarified group into creating employment. The right-wing bribe is tax cuts and deregulation. The left-wing bribe is muscular deficit stimulus, welfare state spending, and public investment. The latter works much better at juicing aggregate demand, which is what makes it possible for employers to profit and gain market share by hiring more. But in both cases, the power to shape the job itself and to hire remains with the capitalists.
The Job Guarantee And Keyne's Employment Standard

Some Notes on Federal Job Guarantee Proposals
Discussion around the idea of a job guarantee has picked up of late (CBPP, The Nation, Sanders Institute I, II). As with any idea that attracts a sizable number of adherents, the term “job guarantee” means lots of different things to a lot of different people, which makes it a difficult thing to talk about in a comprehensive way. But with that limitation recognized, I thought it might be worthwhile to share some notes about the recent burst.
It's Time To Guarantee Jobs

Instead of Work Requirements, Why Not a Jobs Guarantee?
In a series of tweets announcing the policy shift, CMS Administrator Seema Verma explained the agency’s rationale that requiring eligible able-bodied adults to have jobs to qualify for Medicaid will make them healthier and less reliant on welfare in the future. “Our fundamental goal is to make a lasting and positive difference in the health and wellness of Medicaid beneficiaries,” she tweeted. She also cited a 2014 meta-analysis that concluded that “employment is beneficial for health, particularly for depression and general mental health.”

There’s one gaping hole in that reasoning, however: If the federal government really wants to harness the benefits of employment to improve beneficiaries’ health and wealth, wouldn’t providing them with jobs be a simpler and more effective answer?
Should the Government Guarantee Everyone a Job?

More reading
posted by the man of twists and turns (92 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
 


*appears in a puff of red smoke* Oh! I have the same issues with a JG as I do a UBI but it can't hurt to put it out there- I was just talking about the need for a Climate Change Civilian Conservation Corps, or a fund to fill public advocates, or social workers, or meal delivers.

The solution to unemployment is to give people jobs.
posted by The Whelk at 10:00 PM on March 23 [37 favorites]


All of us middle, lower middle and working class kids scrambled for those California Conservation Corps jobs. Good pay, good skills, good opportunity for future opportunity.
posted by notyou at 10:22 PM on March 23 [8 favorites]


I'm leaning the way of the UBI, but guaranteed jobs bring back memories of 40 years of socialism which was very effective in making people forget how to be self-reliant and enterprising.
posted by Laotic at 11:04 PM on March 23 [2 favorites]


Are we just stuck with swinging between having too much self-reliance and not enough every other 40 years forever?
posted by bleep at 11:14 PM on March 23 [5 favorites]


All socialism did was make people forget how good socialism is.
posted by runcibleshaw at 12:56 AM on March 24 [22 favorites]


I'm not seeing any panhandlers, or starving people. OMG! WE'VE FORGOTTEN HOW TO BE SELF RELIANT!
posted by evilDoug at 12:59 AM on March 24 [29 favorites]


Why would anyone want a private sector job if you could work for the government? Public sector jobs have decent pay, better benefits, and you won't get fired so the boss's son-in-law can have your job.
posted by Miss Cellania at 3:07 AM on March 24 [8 favorites]


Given how often veneration of self-reliance and enterprise seems to go hand in hand with sociopathy, is that such a bad thing?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:20 AM on March 24 [16 favorites]


Well, one of these articles convinced me it was a great idea, and one of them convinced me it maybe wasn't. So, great FPP!

A couple big problems: 1) It's a challenge to think of jobs we need a lot of, but which can disappear during boom times. E.g. you could hire people as "companion to the elderly", but do you want all those companions to quit when better jobs become available?

2) A lot of people need help, but not necessarily in the form of a job. E.g. people who want to care for elderly relatives; people with mental illnesses or other handicaps; people with a bunch of children as dependents; people who want to study (or create art) but can't afford it. In many cases a UBI would help these people more (or free college, or subsidized child care, etc.).
posted by zompist at 3:29 AM on March 24 [23 favorites]


Why would anyone want a private sector job if you could work for the government? Public sector jobs have decent pay, better benefits, and you won't get fired so the boss's son-in-law can have your job.

This is very much part of the point of a jobs guarantee. It’s much harder to treat your workers like shit when they can quit at any time and get a decent job working for the government, guaranteed. The theory is that private employers will actually start treating workers like human beings in order to compete.
posted by No-sword at 3:30 AM on March 24 [37 favorites]


40 years of socialism

Where?
posted by howfar at 3:38 AM on March 24 [20 favorites]


Well it's no UBI but I'd definitely take it. They would have to pay a decent wage though, enough for rent and food and a few small luxuries here and there. If the guaranteed jobs were underpaid garbage, all we'd be doing is creating an even larger, even more entrenched underclass.

As for what those jobs could be, I'd suggest infrastructure maintenance and environmental remediation. Whenever there's not enough work to do, you can always find work repairing things and cleaning things. Make it a national effort to scrub and polish this land until it shines.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:59 AM on March 24 [13 favorites]


This is a great idea. I like the idea of hiring workers for universal day care / pre-school and elder care. That is desperately needed work that is low paid right now and having government jobs supplying that work could do a lot for the rights of the workers, working conditions, and supply needed services to the rest of society.

The apprenticeship idea is also great - people should be paid to retrain. It’s ridiculous to put the burden entirely on the workers to retrain for new opportunities.

I tend to prefer the more expansive version that isn’t entirely focused on non-college educated people. I think there are underemployed college grads and certainly if the economy declines we could be in a situation like 2008 with mass unemployment across education levels.
posted by rainydayfilms at 4:27 AM on March 24 [7 favorites]


...memories of 40 years of socialism...

Care to explain at what point in its history the US endured 40 years of socialism?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:59 AM on March 24 [9 favorites]


I'm mostly excited to see conservatives lose their minds as their white blue-collar base races into these jobs as fast at their legs can carry them. An infrastructure CCC would be ideal for this.

Even better if the jobs have mandatory union membership.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:12 AM on March 24 [9 favorites]


I like the idea of hiring workers for universal day care / pre-school and elder care. That is desperately needed work that is low paid right now and having government jobs supplying that work could do a lot for the rights of the workers, working conditions, and supply needed services to the rest of society.

Ok but that's just an argument for nationalized provision of child/elder care. Why should we wait for people to come looking for work instead of posting ads, if that's a good thing for the government to do?

This is the thing about a jobs guarantee: for any given job, either it makes sense for the state to proactively hire for that job or else we're insisting that people do work that we don't actually think is worthwhile in exchange for what we've in theory decided is their birthright. In the first case, you don't have a job guarantee, you just have a job. In the second case, why not cut out the literal make-work and just give them the cash?
posted by PMdixon at 5:21 AM on March 24 [7 favorites]


I've posted about this before. I think it's a easier sell than a guaranteed living wage.
posted by Beholder at 5:26 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


As a person who has spent over a year unable to work due to chronic pain and health issues that were NOT classified as a disability I am wondering what will happen to people dealing with this. Will there be punishments given out for people who don't feel able to work the job they are given or to handle a full time position? What will happen to them? If there are no punishments for that, then this will be better than what we have now overall, but that is the biggest concern I have, more persecution of people who society deems fit to work but literally can't stand up for more than two hours without being dizzy and seeing spots and having heart palpitations and debilitating pain.
posted by xarnop at 5:28 AM on March 24 [19 favorites]


In the sane world: "This is a good idea. Let's find a way to make this happen that's compassionate and reasonable."

In America: "This is a great idea! Now we can punish all those lazy mooches by forcing them to work! Bring back workhouses!"
posted by clawsoon at 5:45 AM on March 24 [20 favorites]


In the second case, why not cut out the literal make-work and just give them the cash?

It may be bullshit but from what I’ve heard is that people like feeling useful. To the point that in some democratic socialist countries there are fake companies which have been set up by the governments as training facilities, where the fake companies do fake business with each other. Like an elaborate Nordic Larp that pays you to play.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:55 AM on March 24 [6 favorites]


It may be bullshit but from what I’ve heard is that people like feeling useful

So why leave intact the equation of "useful" and "can labor for wages," unless as Beholder alludes to above it's a sop to fundamentally sentimentalist impulses that in practice mostly play out in cruel forms?
posted by PMdixon at 6:04 AM on March 24 [6 favorites]


This is in no way being proposed as forced labor, or punishment for the non-visibly disabled, or anything even close to that. It's guaranteed jobs for those that want them, just as it says in the FPP. Similar programs, even the New Deal and New Society here in the US, did not exclusively create manual labor jobs. Also, my hope may be misplaced, but I feel that the political stance of a US government that would be able pass these reforms would have to be leftist enough to carve out accommodations under federal law. At the very least, the many federal jobs themselves (and especially bureaucratic placements) would have to abide by those accommodations. The sensationalist "OMG SOSHALIZMZ" and Modest Proposal framing seems unnecessary.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:05 AM on March 24 [7 favorites]


Yeah, as with most of these proposals (e.g. UBI) it's all in the details and implementation. Depending on how it's done, a guaranteed jobs program could either lift millions out of poverty or ensure that they stay trapped there for the rest of their lives. And yes, it seems clear that there's the potential here for some already-marginalized people (like xarnop) to come out of it worse off than before, even if the overall effect on society is very positive. In a world where we had rational, evidence-based politics and lawmakers who cared more about crafting good policy than about notching victories to help them get reelected, provisions to mitigate those unintended consequences would be a given. But then in that world we'd already have a sane disability support system, and we don't and probably never will without some major changes to the political landscape, so this all sounds like a bit of a pipe dream. In the event that something like this passed I fully expect our politicians would fuck it up and we'd all come out of it worse off than before.

Anyway, back in fantasy land where things make sense, the reason I suggested infrastructure maintenance and environmental remediation above is that these are things that are relatively easy to turn on and off. To use an analogy, think of the country and economy as a workshop. In boom times, there's plenty to do—more than you can handle really—and you're producing products as fast as you can while maybe getting a little behind on repairs, maintenance, and cleanup. You've got lots of work but the shop itself becomes kind of a mess. Then slack times come along, and there's not really enough production work to occupy everyone, so what do you do? You clean and repair and polish and re-organize and re-stock and generally keep busy with making sure that everything is in the best possible condition and ready to go for when the next boom comes along.

There's plenty of that kind of work to do in America. We have deferred a lot of infrastructure maintenance over the decades, and we've let a lot of environmental messes go un-remediated. There's much to do, and whether we have 10,000 people or 10,000,000 people doing it, any work that gets done in those areas is a plus for the country. If we run out of highways and bridges, we could turn people to the task of improving our housing stock and creating more options for safe, affordable living space. We could replace hydroelectric dams with solar farms and restore rivers that have been choked off for decades. We could do lots and lots of things that aren't getting done and which nobody is really clamoring for, but which would be big improvements if we could make them happen. Not everything needs to be construction-related obviously, but construction is one of those fields where the rate of production is largely limited by how many bodies you can throw at the problem. There should be options for people who can't or don't wish to do physical labor, but construction and related fields could absorb a lot of workers and we could get a lot of public works projects done.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:10 AM on March 24 [9 favorites]


Also, my hope may be misplaced, but I feel that the political stance of a US government that would be able pass these reforms would have to be leftist enough to carve out accommodations under federal law.

if ur government is already that leftist just start nationalizing shit

seriously, this is not significantly ideologically less left than a UBI - both empower an individual laborer to quit a job without destroying their life. Capital can see this perfectly well. So unless you think JG is that much more politically potential than a UBI then you should just go for the UBI.

If you do think the difference is in the politics then I will claim you are laboring under the delusion of a much more well-informed electorate capable of drawing much finer policy distinctions than has ever been the case that I'm aware of and I suggest you check out your local PoliSci dept to be disabused of such. Either full socialism is a vote winner or not, because relative to the US status quo, that's what both JG and UBI will be judged as.
posted by PMdixon at 6:14 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


PMdixon, I do see it as something of a sop. It would still be a hell of a lot better than our current situation, though. Having to work to support yourself is much better than not being able to support yourself at all. Also, there are a lot of public works projects in this country that could stand to get tackled, so potentially a program like this would kill two birds with one stone.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:14 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


To expand a bit, I think the sop aspect of this is important as far as making this more politically viable than a UBI. America has this deeply-ingrained idea that if you don't work, you don't deserve to live. It's not right and it's not fair but it's a powerful driver of policy and a huge barrier to implementing something like a UBI, and it's a real thing that must be dealt with before a UBI is possible. A guaranteed-jobs program avoids that issue because it requires people to work for their pay. There are lots of reasons why that's not as good as a well-implemented UBI might be, but a well-implemented job guarantee would still be a massive improvement over the status quo. Like I said above, it's no UBI but I'd take it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:18 AM on March 24 [5 favorites]


I've often said how we need a new Works Progress Administration, and I think a job guarantee could work like a WPA. As the wiki article states, it wasn't just about construction - arts, literature, and theater were all part of the original WPA. (I remember a beautiful mural in SF that was painted as part of the WPA.) A current WPA could focus on repairing infrastructure as well as building it, but there seems to be so much a WPA could do that it would provide jobs for just about anyone who wanted them.

I've also said that we need a "social capital WPA" - more medical professionals, teachers, social workers, high-quality Montessori-type child care centers (to care for all the kids whose moms want to work), elder care professionals, and addiction counselors. There are not nearly enough in the caring professions to fill the need as it stands now - especially if we are going to treat addiction as the public health issue that it is, not a criminal one - and a Social Capital WPA is desperately needed. It would also counter the protests of those who think "WPA = ditch digging".

As the American Progress article states, we need a Marshall Plan for our own country. I've thought of this many a time as I read yet another story of some poor, troubled family or town tucked away in the boonies, with all sorts of social pathologies running rampant.

I know the Debbie Downers will say "we can't have nice things" and wail their sad trombones, but I think this is an excellent idea. Our country needs mending; we have willing people who would love to work, or work in a different job than what they have; the money earned would flow back into the economy.

And if it's Democrats, like Kirsten Gillibrand in the Nation article, who are in favor of this, it has a much better chance of being well implemented. #BlueWave2018
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:24 AM on March 24 [13 favorites]


It's not right and it's not fair but it's a powerful driver of policy and a huge barrier to implementing something like a [leftist policy agenda], and it's a real thing that must be dealt with before a [leftist policy agenda] is possible [in the US].

"Racism" is a much better referent for "it" than "don't work don't eat ideology," historically. That is, after all, why we dismantled the welfare system.

Look, historically white Americans love the government giving out free shit. They just don't like it getting given to Black people. I understand wanting to believe that your co-citizens are wrong on the merits because they have the moral heuristics of a puritan colony or something rather than just plain old racism, but wanting something don't make it so.

American politics are racist. That is why we can't have nice things. There's more detail than that to be told, sure, but that's the bottom line. As long as that racism is there in sufficient quantities, Capital can use it to run the show.
posted by PMdixon at 6:27 AM on March 24 [18 favorites]


if ur government is already that leftist just start nationalizing shit

That was the argument in the sadly paywalled agurment against UBI in response to this which was basically if your movement is powerful enough to enact a UBI it’s powerful enough to do several other things like mass nationalization.

As with UBI the problem is all in the implementation, my desire to employ say hundreds of thousands of people into social work comes with a desire that that work be fundamentally democratic with the workers in charge of thier decision making and destiny. I am a syndicalist at heart after all.

That being said, we have a severe pressing need right now for climate change/disaster relief work and infrastructure upgrades. A mass deployment of people given good jobs working to save our citites and move to a carbon free economy should be our focus and taken as seriously as war footing. (Let’s plant trees guys)

(There was recently a sign for a fix it pop up shop in the area, one of those circular economy things, and I thought ...what a good idea - why isn’t that a city function? A neighborhood place where you could take an appliance and there would be a good faith attempt to repair it? I could think of five people off the top of my head would sign up for a nice safe city that that was literally tinkering and problem solving all day. you could even have delivery and pick up service. The time has come to rethink how we approach everything and move to a non-commodity non-market based model).
posted by The Whelk at 6:31 AM on March 24 [7 favorites]


OK PMdixon, you win. Everything is impossible so let's not even discuss it. If someone comes up with a solution, we can always find a new reason why it can't work. Let's go with that.

I'm actually not all that optimistic though, myself. Unlike Rosie M. Banks, I have zero faith that the Democratic party could implement this in a sane, effective, non-exploitative way. If life has taught me anything about American politics, it's that Democrats are masters at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and Republicans are consistently successful at hamstringing any nominally-progressive policies that the Democrats attempt to implement. So while I'd support a system like this if it looked like it might be done well, I'm not holding my breath.

It's fun to talk about though, and the more people talk about it the more likely it is to actually happen.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:35 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


I am of course only advocating this on the belief it will lead to a new federal theatre project and then I can finally complete my true mission of living inside Cradle Will Rock
posted by The Whelk at 6:40 AM on March 24 [8 favorites]


The time has come to rethink how we approach everything and move to a non-commodity non-market based model).

Ok: what stopped the time coming before now? Why isn't that going to stop it now?

Lots of things would be a net positive to the world were they to happen. The fact that they don't means that there is a reason they haven't - that there is some mechanism rooted in power preventing their emergence. The fact that "we need," in and of itself, isn't going to remove that mechanism. "People would be better off," in and of itself, isn't going to remove that mechanism.

The reason we have an oppressive society based around organization via coerced participation in markets isn't because no one could think of anything better, it's because it's in someone's interests who has the power to quash alternatives. The problem we have is not a lack of workable alternatives, it's those chains that might or might not be lost by uniting.

(But as long as a nontrivial portion of the population places racial hierarchy above almost literally every other societal good, meaningful union is impossible.)
posted by PMdixon at 6:40 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


OK PMdixon, you win. Everything is impossible so let's not even discuss it.

Actually I'm saying go big or go home/so long as you're dreaming you might as well throw in as many ponies as you can. Since as you say the only possible avenue of change is to get people wanting by getting them talking, you should give them something really cool to want.
posted by PMdixon at 6:42 AM on March 24 [3 favorites]


Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: "A guaranteed-jobs program avoids that issue because it requires people to work for their pay. There are lots of reasons why that's not as good as a well-implemented UBI might be, but a well-implemented job guarantee would still be a massive improvement over the status quo. Like I said above, it's no UBI but I'd take it."

Also though it is only a half step it kneecaps a lot of other exploitative work practices. If you can go down to the government job centre at any time a boss paying 2.30 an hour (no benefits) for 4/4/4 split shift is going to find it hard to get employees. In this aspect I think it would actually be more powerful than a UBI.
posted by Mitheral at 6:59 AM on March 24 [9 favorites]


You know what could really use a floatilla of dedicated workers and an influx of money ? A white collar crimes division running out of the IRS. Wage left, tax avoidance, all that stuff. Easy sell to the public, all your horrible corner cutting exploitative bosses are going to actually have to suffer conquesences.

It’s like using something like this to fill every community with public advocates, the problem has been the extreme disparity of power between a worker and thier bosses.
posted by The Whelk at 7:03 AM on March 24 [21 favorites]


I mean here is an example of real change.

Ten years ago or so these conservations would not be playing out in major mainstream publications and part of public discourse. They would’ve been considered extremely fringe ideas not worth acknowledging.

Everything is impossible until it’s not. I lthought the country was too hateful to ever enact federal level same-sex marriage.
posted by The Whelk at 7:10 AM on March 24 [17 favorites]


The idea that caregiving and child care could be solid paid positions makes me think of Silvia Federici; it’s not like the demand for that will go DOWN, and many people are doing that work anyway, because they HAVE to.

Also yes, development in infrastructure, and as an artist I’ve honestly always dreamt of a WPA-like program. Think of all the amazing art we got from that! What work isn’t being created now?

I also have my doubts this would be implemented in any kind of good way, but I can dream.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 7:12 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


This could be used to smuggle in some popular, progressive goals. Raising kids is work: paid mat/pat leave for the first five years of a child's life.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:13 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


I think guaranteed access to a 20 hour a week job, plus a supplementary guaranteed income check from the government would be sweet, and I swear I'd do something semi-productive or community building with a few of the 20 hours left over in my week.
posted by puddledork at 7:13 AM on March 24 [6 favorites]




You know what could really use a floatilla of dedicated workers and an influx of money ? A white collar crimes division running out of the IRS. Wage left, tax avoidance, all that stuff. Easy sell to the public, all your horrible corner cutting exploitative bosses are going to actually have to suffer conquesences.

Oh hell yeah, I'd be down for this! A knock-on effect: more agents available for ordinary people filing their taxes and who have questions or need help. Right now there's a huge wait on hold or to get your email answered; more agents to quickly, professionally provide answers and advice, would benefit the little guy who is not looking to cheat but just wants to get their taxes right.

There would be so many jobs out there waiting to be filled if we had a new WPA. Jobs for all skill types and educational levels. For someone who is disabled, I think they could get a doctor's waiver and go on disability - and I wouldn't be surprised if there was more acceptance of people on disability because it wouldn't be used as a kind of early-retirement program for people with little education as it is now in some areas. With a fully employed populace, it would be obvious that those on disability really need it.

I really like the idea of a UBI as much as anyone - and with a jobs guarantee, more money would be circulated in the economy so there might be more funds for dipping our societal toe in the UBI water. A Canadian experiment with mincome found that people still worked, except for mothers of babies (who stayed home with their children) and teenagers (who quit work to concentrate on their studies), meaning that mincome was more a backup than a substitute for work. And if we can get Medicare for All in there...a gal can dream!

And as far as Democrats being the party of bumble and fumble - we need to elect better Democrats, which I see us already doing. We have a pretty capable bunch here in California. That makes me think that this kind of project - Marshall Plan or WPA or however you want to call it - might be implemented at the state level first. /goes off to mail a postcard to Gavin Newsom
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:15 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


How about we start with the idea that everyone deserves a basic level of dignity then work to define what a basic level define what dignity looks like. Take the fucking money and politics out of it and go back to square one because until we can figure out what basic dignity means any of these options are gonna be biased towards screwing someone somehow.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:17 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


How about we start with the idea that everyone deserves a basic level of dignity

Yeah unfortunately I think we're still at this step with a lot of work to be put into it.
posted by PMdixon at 7:19 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]


Forgive my typos hahahaha. I was in a hurry and missed the edit window....
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:23 AM on March 24


Lots to read. I think it's a good idea in principle, but I'm skeptical there are enough competent people to do even the most menial jobs.

There are plenty of people you'd pay to stay away from your kid's school and to not clean the bathrooms at the park. But now you're just talking about a UBI.

(Also not a bad idea, but falls into that weird area of "Why do I have to work when that guy just gets money for free?" with no self-awareness that "Actually, I kind of like to work, and would be unhappy if I just got paid for nothing.")
posted by spacewrench at 7:25 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


There are already lots of incompetent people in every type of job at every level. I don't see how this would change that one way or the other. I've never worked a job yet where there weren't at least a few people who were clearly not good at their jobs.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:55 AM on March 24 [8 favorites]


This sounds a lot like Frank Underwood's America Works program.
posted by rokusan at 8:10 AM on March 24


There are already lots of incompetent people in every type of job at every level.

True, and work gets done (to the extent that it does) despite those people. But I think the balance will be different in a guaranteed-job program. Not that it can't work; just that that'll be a critical thing to manage.

I bet the military has a lot of experience getting useful work out of a wider range of competencies. That's where I'd look for management skills, and project / mission planning.
posted by spacewrench at 8:57 AM on March 24 [3 favorites]


I was stunned to get to the end of the post and see that it was not posted by kliuless.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:04 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]


As a manager, finding what motivates people to work can be difficult. And, yes, there are some people who's motivations (have power to hurt others/just in it for a paycheque/need basic life and social skills before they can consider contributing) would make this a difficult program to manage. If you can't fire someone for incompetence/threats/harassment your team of otherwise well-adjusted people will fall apart. People are very sensitive to fairness. Managing difficult personalities can also be a lot of emotional labour for the manager. Why would someone take on a management role in such an organisation when they could get paid just a little less and just coast? Or do we accept a very stratified society with the majority of workers in low-paid, not hugely responsible jobs and then a smaller class of high paid managers with a lot of responsibility?

Gwynn Dwyer has been pushing for the four day work week. It has been what, 80 years?, since the six day work week was reduced to five. Time to reduce it again to four and create job (my understanding is that in some professions working above 35 hours a week is normal - as in 50 hours a week! Reduce it to 28 hours and the job has almost split in half).

I'm also concerned about how this is funded. Do we continue to allow a select few corporations / individuals to amass huge profits like latter day robber barons? Should the State really be subsidising the workers' income so that the corporations profits increase? Amazon just managed to get several hundred cities to compete against each other for HQ2. Would any government be willing to begin taxing corporations appropriately and how does that look in an era of Global Corporations that can shift their head offices and wealth around the world. Instead of free trade agreements, would countries be willing to work on profit-sharing agreements?
posted by saucysault at 9:47 AM on March 24 [8 favorites]


As well, with automation eliminating half of all existing jobs within the next twenty years, offering full employment is simply not sustainable (unless the "job" is to be some robot's pet). The jobs that will be left are mostly in artistic or caring professions (and even those will be hit hard with automation). Elder care is a great example - there is a need for those workers, but they also have the potential to allow incompetent or outright abusive workers to do real damage to a vulnerable population.
posted by saucysault at 10:01 AM on March 24


Ever since playing, I keep seeing Horizon: zero dawn datapoints all over the real world. Was this proposed by FARO, MIE, or Sterling-Malkeet?

srsly tho, that CCC program sounds like a great idea...they should hook it up with that billionaire who wants to plant a trillion trees.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:06 AM on March 24


"Look, historically white Americans love the government giving out free shit. They just don't like it getting given to Black people."

This is the main reason I think a job guarantee is more likely to fly with voters than UBI. You tell racist white people everyone's going to get a basic income, a significant number are going to scream about "their" money being given to lazy minorities and my guess is, even if it is enacted, the reactionary racism will be horrifying.

Tell racist white people that everyone who's willing & able to work is guaranteed a job, and they'll grumble about lazy minorities showing up to clock in and sit around, and they'll spread "Obamaphone" type stories about undeserving minorities getting paid for easy makework. But I don't think they'll be able to muster the kind of kneejerk outrage and potential violence they could gin up for "giving 'our' money away" like a UBI.
posted by wiremommy at 10:20 AM on March 24 [11 favorites]


Great idea that I thought would gain traction after Reagan, when (I thought) the country had had enough of measuring the state of the economy by what's in their own pocket, i.e., without considering how others are doing. Then Dukakis lost to Bush.

I was hoping that Clinton's election signalled a change in priorities, but arguably the most lasting legacy of that administration was the gutting of welfare as we knew it.

I thought Obama's election was a sign of major changes to come in this country, but...well, you all know what happened.

It makes my day to see this initiative being discussed. These days, I wouldn't be surprised if it could be entirely funded by closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing income and capital gains taxes on just the upper 1-5%—in other words, who wouldn't support it?

It looks like things could finally turn around. Right?

(I promise I will RTFAs this evening.)
posted by she's not there at 10:36 AM on March 24


I was stunned to get to the end of the post and see that it was not posted by kliuless.

ಠ_ಠ
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:40 AM on March 24 [7 favorites]


Missed the edit window:

I look forward to RTFAs this evening.

And thank you for the comprehensive post.
posted by she's not there at 10:42 AM on March 24


With all the problems about billionaires buying news outlets and shutting them down a system like this could be used to build a comprehensive public news and journalism system that can even hope to compete for attention.
posted by The Whelk at 10:49 AM on March 24 [9 favorites]


So a system with guaranteed employment that ALSO protects people from harassment is going to mean there’s a whole lot of men who get...what, quarantined? To where?

And then what?

The hard truth is that even if competency is not a problem (and it is), there’s a whole lot of people who think they’re entitled to abuse other people on the basis of gender, race, etc.

What do you do with those people? Because any system that doesn’t have an active way to deal with this is just going to be more of the same white male supremacy bullshit.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:00 AM on March 24 [8 favorites]


For the record I am fine sending them to mine asteroids or whatever, but I suspect the giant slingshot from Gazorpazorp is not going to be a popular policy solution
posted by schadenfrau at 11:02 AM on March 24 [7 favorites]


sentenced to solitary employment
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 11:39 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Can we just... with the... puritan work ethic already?
posted by symbioid at 12:11 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]


There is just so much work to be done with fixing our infrastructure and making our already rock-bottom social services better that if these were properly funded and staffed, we wouldn't even need an employment guarantee for many areas. Just making America a better place to live would soak up a lot of unemployment.

I think cutting back on the extreme overtime would help, too. If a 40-hour week really was that, and no additional unpaid overtime, and corporations had to hire more people instead of overwork their current staff, there would be another set of jobs for the taking.

I am in favor of a mincome, as well as a maxcome (the late Graef Crystal discusses the maximum wage here), but right now we really do have plenty of work available. A second WPA would do our country a lot of good, over and above just employing warm bodies. We all benefit from infrastructure. We all benefit from a healthy, well-educated populace.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:24 PM on March 24 [6 favorites]


40 years of socialism
Where?
posted by howfar at 12:38 PM on March 24


Perhaps I wasn’t specific enough, I meant my country, Slovakia (formerly Czechoslovakia).
All I’m saying is please consider the damage that a utopian policy (everybody must change so a specific society can be built) can cause in the long term. Please consider the differences between Eastern and Western Germans which were not there before the East was forced to test the Russians’ version of Socialism.

I’m talking about Socialism because we in the Eastern bloc never came to experience Communism (although you Americans seemed to think so).

Just come to any shitty former Eastern bloc country and see for yourself what the total elimination of self-responsibility, self-reliance does to entire nations. People were taught to rely on some external entity (the state) to provide and resolve, and three generations on we’re still stuck. I’m not saying guaranteed jobs are the only factor, just that it’s a slippery slope from there on.

Also: just because the US health system is not working does not mean you should go full Socialism.
posted by Laotic at 12:35 PM on March 24 [4 favorites]


Actually, a healthcare system that will literally kill people to maintain profit margins is one of the best argumentsS for socialism there is.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:57 PM on March 24 [11 favorites]


No Space Coyote, there are many possible degrees between those two.
posted by Laotic at 1:09 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


Can we just... with the... puritan work ethic already?

No shit. We're already at a point where we have, effectively, 20% of the population as utterly surplus capacity. We do not need them to do any job, and growing automation in all industries is going to make that number even larger.

We don't NEED jobs.

I'm certainly on-board for some interim governmental make-work programs. Let's use some of these excess people to build out some new infrastructure and make the country great again, but that's only temporary!

We need a system that lets these people (and more) live happy, healthy, comfortable lives doing whatever the hell they actually want to do with their time. Even if "that" is sitting around playing goddamn Xbox all day, or making awful "art" that no one else wants.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 1:35 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]


We need a system that lets these people (and more) live happy, healthy, comfortable lives doing whatever the hell they actually want to do with their time. Even if "that" is sitting around playing goddamn Xbox all day, or making awful "art" that no one else wants.

While we wait for the robots to take over all the menial labor tasks, who is going to provide the infrastructure and clean up after these people?
posted by she's not there at 2:05 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


Just come to any shitty former Eastern bloc country and see for yourself what the total elimination of self-responsibility, self-reliance does to entire nations. People were taught to rely on some external entity (the state) to provide and resolve, and three generations on we’re still stuck. I’m not saying guaranteed jobs are the only factor, just that it’s a slippery slope from there on.

Is there any extensive sociological and economic research that actually says this, though?

I ask because this rhetoric has been used for decades by libertarians and other free market cheerleaders in the US and elsewhere to justify horribly racist and classist socioeconomic policies that have only served to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. The "slippery slope" justification in particular has repeatedly proven not only to be wrong, but the exact opposite case in much of the world. In the case of Slovakia, we're 25 years out from the beginning of economic changes and it has had its share of both booms and busts. As far as I can tell, neither economic successes nor downfalls had anything to do with any sort of national character based around lack of self-reliance, but were instead largely tied to regional and global economic factors. As of December their unemployment rate was around 6%, the same as Canada--who I'd hardly rate as a country with a shitty economy and a culture influenced by a lack of responsibility--and lower than that of a number of other EU member states that were never part of the Eastern Bloc such as Belgium and Sweden, and decently below the European average. And it's not just Slovakia, either, there are several major former socialist states that have also managed to do as well or better, including their former countrymen and women in the Czech Republic.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:43 PM on March 24 [14 favorites]


I don't think it's "puritan" to say that there is plenty of work to be done, work that will benefit all of us citizens, and that the robots aren't here yet, so if anyone is going to mend our infrastructure, care for our children, support our recovering addicts, upgrade our computer systems, install our solar panels, etc. it's going to be us meat-machines, at least for now.

The WPA worked. It gave us much of our current infrastructure, as well as art, music, and preserving our history through such means as the Federal Writer's Project interviewing former slaves. When the robots do come for our jobs, then we can talk. But right now, I look around and I see road repair projects with human beings working on them. I go see a human nurse at the urgent care clinic. Hell, my nearest Safeway doesn't even have those automatic checkout terminals! And what I wouldn't give for every window at my post office and DMV to be fully staffed. Robots may well be coming for our jobs, but it won't be for a while, at least this is how I see it, and there is plenty to be done in the meantime.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:33 PM on March 24 [18 favorites]


There's all kinds of stuff that isn't economically viable as a job in our kind of cutthroat capitalist economy but the skills are good to have. Teach people to be small-scale farmers and grow their own food (if they want, I don't want Angola-style prison labor). Teach people to convert their houses to solar. Child care is ridiculously expensive and that's something that a program like this could easily take care of and make life better for everyone. Pay people to travel around and record memories of the elderly. There's tons of history being lost there that's not really "a profession" or something people would pay for.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:17 PM on March 24 [5 favorites]


Scientists.

How many postdocs who could be doing great work have been squeezed out of research because we'd rather have billionaires?
posted by clawsoon at 4:42 PM on March 24 [17 favorites]


Educators and students. As per capita productivity continues to increase, there's really no limit to the number of educators we could employ or the number of people we could incentivize to get more educated. Imagine the difference in motivation in our workforce if it was normal to go to college, work for 5-10 years, then go back into full-time school to refresh your skills or retrain for a different industry, and just spend your career cycling between school and work that way? And if some people prefer to spend their whole lives as perpetual students, learning and contributing to human knowledge and being given a place to live and enough to eat while they do it, what's the problem?
posted by contraption at 6:07 PM on March 24 [5 favorites]


One of the things that the US has been failing at for a long time is seeing people as people and not interchangeable widgets. We tend to partition everyone into some slot and have few mechanisms for addressing individual situations.

In my 63 year lifetime, everything has become more and more one-size-fits-all, the rules are the rules and no consideration of real life circumstances can be given. All trust in any kind of mutual goodwill and negotiating solutions that work has eroded to zero.

I want to work. I have skills. I am female and I am almost 64. My job situation since 2009 has been tenuous. And the work I do best in my field has pretty much been squeezed out of existence. The part where I design a solution that marries the business needs with the software, actually using the capabilities of the software, instead of customizing for customizing's sake hardly exists anymore.

On the one hand I was told that a project would not have gone live on time and on budget if I hadn't stepped up done the testing and troubleshooting for all the financials and the configuration of one module I had never worked with before. And I was credited with being instrumental in developing a proposal response that won a big chunk of business for my consulting practice. On the other hand being laid off shortly thereafter because fielding me as a consultant was more than twice as expensive as outsourcing my job was very painful.

With a job guarantee program, or UBI, or even medicare-for-all, I would be fine. As things are now, it could go either way.
posted by Altomentis at 7:17 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]


schadenfrau: "The hard truth is that even if competency is not a problem (and it is), there’s a whole lot of people who think they’re entitled to abuse other people on the basis of gender, race, etc.

What do you do with those people?
"

Setup booths at every on and off ramp and have them count cars? Pick up trash on the freeway? Dig for clams? Split shakes? Hermit? Lighthouse keeper? Tree plant? Build and maintain playgrounds? Pipeline/hydro line inspector? Letter carrier? Music critic? There is all sorts of solitary and semi solitary work to be had if funding was available.

Tree planting (at least how it works here in BC currently) is actually the perfect sort of job for some of those people. It's pretty solitary and working conditions are currently not great because it is being bid purely on price. Pay a government living wage with all that implies, pay more living wages for actually decent camps instead of overcrowded 60 year old trailers and you'd have a lot of people clamouring for the work.

Also remember that because the government is guaranteeing people jobs the victims of abuse could just quit and move to something else.

Anyone interested in how this could play out should read James P Hogan's Voyage from Yesteryear. I mean it's way out there at the end of gay space communism but it explores a system where people only work because they want to and people pretty much do what the want even if robots could do the job. In fact people in the story often work along side robots at the same task because that is the job they want to do.
posted by Mitheral at 7:24 PM on March 24 [9 favorites]


seeing people as people and not interchangeable widgets

Corporations do not want to hire people. They want to hire interchangeable widgets. If you are a corporation and you employ a rockstar person, you are at risk. The rockstar could get hit by a bus, get poached by a rival corporation, or decide that you need to pay substantially more.

If you employ a bunch of single-purpose interchangeable widgets, your risk is reduced -- any bus mishaps, poaching or uppityness can easily be remedied. Ergo, that is what you do, if you are a prudent corporation bent on increasing your market share and returning value to your shareholders.
posted by spacewrench at 8:37 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


Tree planting

Yep, an isolated camp with a combination of peace-loving hippie children who want to be with nature and contribute positively to the environment and another group of socially-ostracised abusive fucks living in harmony? This is where "lord of the flies" type mob rule can easily become the norm and cause lasting damage to many people

the victims of abuse could just quit and move to something else

That isn't seriously a solution is it? Leave a job/area you enjoy because harassers are more entitled to it? (And will harass the next unsuspecting crop of people...)

If we are going to have guaranteed work, we need to have respectful, meaningful work that doesn't grant more rights to oppressors than anyone oppressed.
posted by saucysault at 6:20 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


As if predators aren't the ones running and enjoying the most advantages in our current workplaces.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:13 AM on March 25 [6 favorites]


This just... doesn't seem very practical to me. It seems like if someone doesn't have a job, you can fix it with a UBI or you can fix it by building an organization from scratch for someone to work for. The latter sounds much more expensive to me. You can't guarantee you can find something useful for everyone to do, and if you can't you are paying an awful lot of overhead to give someone money for unproductive work.
posted by quillbreaker at 5:03 PM on March 25 [2 favorites]


It's not necessarily more efficient, it just avoids the whole argument over whether it's OK for someone to be able to live a dignified life if for whatever reason they don't happen to be employed. Also, we might could get some stuff done that sorely needs to happen. Lots of things are worth doing even though it's hard to find someone willing to pay you to do them. If we had to make sure everyone had a job who wanted one, we could surely find things to do that don't necessarily enrich any particular business owner but which nevertheless have great benefits for society as a whole.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:04 PM on March 25 [4 favorites]


You think if the jobs are makework, that the employees won't figure it out? I'm not picturing that scenario generating a dignity surplus.
posted by quillbreaker at 6:12 PM on March 25


Relative to being homeless? And anyway, I think there's plenty of valuable, necessary work to be done that's not being done because simply because it's not profitable. I think that if we discard the profit motive and use a bit of creativity, we could find more than enough genuinely useful work for everyone, even in bad times. If you read this thread you'll have seen many suggestions offered, all across the board. That's just what a handful of MeFites have been able to come up with off the tops of their heads.

But sure, let's say that the jobs guarantee is backed by a guarantee that you will be paid a certain livable amount even if the government can't actually find you any work to do. That would create a back door to a UBI, in what I think would be a much more politically palatable package.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:30 PM on March 25 [5 favorites]


the victims of abuse could just quit and move to something else.

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that suggested as a solution to harassment of women in the workplace today, I wouldn't need to move on to anything else after I quit. What if I want the job I have now? "well, women can just leave all the good jobs and choose the lower paid ones that make up for their low pay by refusing to allow harassment and then we can dicksplain away the gender pay gap as women making dumb choices!"
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:52 PM on March 25 [9 favorites]


I do think that this would give employees in the aggregate more leverage over their employers, though. Would it solve misogyny in the workplace? Definitely not. Would it make a difference, if everyone had a guaranteed living-wage job in their back pockets when deciding whether or not to put up with the bullshit at their current workplaces? Yeah, I think so. And since everyone would have a backup job option at all times, employers would be put on notice. How many job-related AskMes get answered with "find another job and then quit?" What if we could all just jump straight to Step 2 when things got stupid?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:34 AM on March 26 [3 favorites]


the agents of KAOS: "If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that suggested as a solution to harassment of women in the workplace today, I wouldn't need to move on to anything else after I qui"

It's not a solution now because there is not a job guarantee.
posted by Mitheral at 11:44 AM on March 26


I think there's plenty of valuable, necessary work to be done that's not being done because simply because it's not profitable

Well, I think there's plenty of money to pay them that isn't being paid because executive pay growth has outstripped that of employees by multiple orders of magnitude. Keeping in my that my sense of "profitable" has been changed to include "allows a desired executive pay rate." Point being, the bosses are taking all the money.
posted by rhizome at 2:03 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


to take a neoliberal tack (for the sake of argument ;) re: management issues -- to the degree there are ones! -- generous wage subsidies are one of many workarounds :P

as for funding, combine with a VAT!

but if it seems like:
  1. job guarantees, basic incomes -- not mutually exclusive! (they can complement one other :) -- and the like,
  2. along with all the bureaucracy and management infrastructure to make it effective,
  3. not to mention the taxes (and/or money printing! plus the death of banks, if not banking ;) to support it,
  4. on top of universal -- or 'public options' on -- health care (and nutrition), education, housing, finance, etc. to, among other things, ensure 'surplus value' doesn't all just go to 'men with guns'*
...after all that, are 'pushing the envelope', difficulties getting off the neoliberal train aren't technical or technological, they're political-economic.
posted by kliuless at 5:01 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Possibly some form of self organization amongst the workers to advocate for their rights and safety could help?
posted by Artw at 5:11 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


It's not a solution now because there is not a job guarantee.

Oh wow, way to actively dive away from the point. Are you advocating a "fulfilling, interesting, career-building job doing the work that I want to do" guarantee? Or are you saying that victims of abuse should be happy to have a job, any job, and stop whining about wanting a good job, let alone any particular job?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:52 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


posted by kliuless at 5:49 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]








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