Ben Bernanke: “The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.”
The Week Magazine published an article titled, “The hidden dangers of the Democrats’ job guarantee message“, by Jeff Spross, May 18, 2018. Here are a few excerpts, plus my comments:
Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and others want to guarantee every American a job: If you want work, and can’t find it in the private sector, the government will hook you up with a job that pays a living wage and benefits.
We previously have discussed, or rather questioned, the realities of, ” . . . hook you up with a job that pays a living wage and benefits.”
What exactly does “hook you up” mean? For instance, does “hook you up,” mean finding you a job in the private sector, thereby taking a job away from some other person?
And if in the private sector, will the federal government force the private sector company to pay $15 hour (the number that has been suggested)? And must that job provide benefits? And if so, what exactly will those benefits be? And how will this affect all other private sector and public sector jobs?
And if you are fired, what happens? Will the government find you another job, even if you were fired for being lazy, incompetent, rude, smelly, or stupid?
Or will “hook you up” mean being hired by a state or local government, and if so, what are the answers to the above questions?
Or will “hook you up” mean being hired by the federal government, and again, requiring the answers to the same questions.
The Job Guarantee proponents seem confused about all of the above realities. But no matter, they simply will forge ahead, without a plan, hoping that somehow, there will emerge a bureaucracy that can make all those decisions, then supervise employment throughout the 50 states, approximately 3 thousand counties, and the nearly 20 thousand cities, towns, and villages in the U.S.
That should be easy.
We have mentioned those concerns before. No need to discuss them further, until we receive answers from the believers. This post is meant to address an even more fundamental question, as referenced in this excerpt:
“There is great dignity in work,” Booker declared when announcing his legislation.
Historically, that rhetoric has been used by Republicans right before they try to cut programs like Medicaid or SNAP or impose work requirements.
ObamaCare means fewer people “getting the dignity of work,” Paul Ryan said in 2014. The unspoken premise is that less fortunate Americans on these programs are just too foolish or short-sighted to recognize the benefits and honor that comes with a job.
So they must be stripped of government aid and driven back into the labor market — for their own good, of course.
Why then do progressives echo these conservative talking points?
Well, first off, because it’s a great way to turn one of the right’s favorite rhetorical weapons against its wielder.
There’s also a lot of sociological evidence that unemployment really does wreak havoc on people’s psychological well-being and even their physical health. “Dignity” might not be the ideal way to express this, but it’s a term within reach.
And there it is, the claim that work not only is a moral imperative, but is necessary to provide psychological well-being and physical health.
This arrogant, condescending crap is what the rich want you common plebians to believe, so that you will accept a job, any job, and reject the notion of government “handouts,” especially if given to common plebes poorer than you.
The fact is that it is lack of money, not unemployment, that wreaks havoc on psychological and physical health.
I haven’t had a job in more than ten years, but I am quite content to enjoy my life playing tennis, writing the occasional blog post, reading, attending various forms of entertainment or even lazing about like a slug when the mood strikes.
Why? Because I have enough money to do it. I have owned several companies and have had a variety of jobs, and never did I feel that it was my labor that gave me “dignity.”
Anyone who believes working, much less working for a boss, is necessary to provide dignity, never will have it.
Think of your employment. Does your job give you “dignity”? Would you do your job without pay, just to acquire “dignity”? Can you even imagine what “dignity” means in the context of working for a salary?
I looked up “dignity” in the thesaurus: decency, decorum, grace, grandeur, greatness, honor, morality, poise, prestige, quality, respectability, self-respect, stature, status, virtue.
Now try to visualize the minimum wage jobs with which the bureaucracy will “hook you up.” Will that low-wage labor provide you with decency? Decorum? Grace? How about morality? Prestige? Quality?
If anything, won’t it be the money that provides you with a modicum of self-respect and virtue?
The idle rich want you not only to hate the notion of receiving money and benefits without labor, but to despise seeing others receiving such “welfare” — except for the idle rich themselves, whose entire lives are devoted to receiving benefits from minimal to no personal effort.
The article continues:
Finally, there’s the fact that work improves communities, especially when it’s not geared towards maximizing returns for the 1 percent.
That is the first job criterion I ever have seen from JG adherents — a job that “does not maximize returns for the 1 percent.” That would seem to eliminate all private sector employment.
I suspect Mr. Spross didn’t consider that.
“I would say the dignity potential of work stems in the first instance from its communal implications,” wrote leftist commentator Max Sawicky. “We look with favor upon those who contribute to the general welfare.“
More pompous nonsense. Decency, decorum, grace, greatness — who feels those attributes in your community? The guys who pick up your garbage? They contribute a tremendous amount to the general welfare. Does their job give them poise and prestige? Is that what you would feel?
How about the people fixing potholes in your street? Decency, decorum, and grace?
Your plumber, electrician, painter, and roofer all contribute far more to the general welfare than does Mr. Uppercrust who inherited millions and now lives in that mansion up on the hill. His labor consists of cutting coupons from his huge bond investments.
But who has the grandeur and gets the honors? The guy with the money.
The article continues:
All that said, you really don’t want to denigrate those who can’t work because they’re young, old, disabled, sick, or caring for children or other family members.
Spross just has admitted that if you are young, old, disabled, sick, etc., your psychological well-being won’t be impacted by lack of labor? Why them and not the rest of us?
Continuing the article:
There are a few things I think job guarantee champions should do to avoid falling into this trap.
The first is to pair any job guarantee legislation with bills to strengthen the country’s various cash aid programs.
We already send cash to retirees, via Social Security, but the program’s generosity needs to be increased. We also have a cash aid program for the disabled, but it’s extraordinarily meager and patchy.
For children, and for people caring for children or parents, we have basically nothing at all. This all needs to be fixed.
Finally, toward the end of the article, we approach reality. Rather than the government providing jobs, the government should provide money.
Mr. Spross actually is suggesting his version of the Ten Steps to Prosperity (below).
Job guarantee advocates also need to forcefully communicate, over and over, that the purpose of the program is to ensure a universal right. Booker, to his credit, is already thinking along these lines: “Both Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Franklin Roosevelt believed that every American had the right to a job, and that right has only become more important in this age of increasing income inequality, labor market concentration, and continued employment discrimination.”
A right to a job doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will exercise it, but it should be guaranteed nonetheless.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. The purpose of a government, any government, is to improve the well-being of its people.
This does not mean putting everyone to work. It means providing benefits that improve the health and happiness of the populace.
This would be the polar opposite of the conservative view: That work is something bestowed on the poor by the good graces of the rich.
Instead, a job guarantee should declare that it is society’s moral obligation to provide work. And it is everyone’s right to join in it — but only if they so choose.
Finally, the author admits that if you don’t “join in,” i.e accept a minimum wage job, you won’t receive, and don’t deserve those government benefits the JG workers will receive. This is exactly the religious right-wing position, moralistic position.
Forget providing dignity; give the people real benefits. The Ten Steps to Prosperity.
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Twitter: @rodgermitchell; Search #monetarysovereignty
Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
The single most important problems in economics involve the excessive income/wealth/power Gaps between the have-mores and the have-less.
Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.
Implementation of The Ten Steps To Prosperity can narrow the Gaps:
Ten Steps To Prosperity:
1. ELIMINATE FICA (Ten Reasons to Eliminate FICA )
Although the article lists 10 reasons to eliminate FICA, there are two fundamental reasons:
*FICA is the most regressive tax in American history, widening the Gap by punishing the low and middle-income groups, while leaving the rich untouched, and
*The federal government, being Monetarily Sovereign, neither needs nor uses FICA to support Social Security and Medicare.
2. FEDERALLY FUNDED MEDICARE — PARTS A, B & D, PLUS LONG TERM CARE — FOR EVERYONE (H.R. 676, Medicare for All )
This article addresses the questions:
*Does the economy benefit when the rich can afford better health care than can the rest of Americans?
*Aside from improved health care, what are the other economic effects of “Medicare for everyone?”
*How much would it cost taxpayers?
*Who opposes it?”
3. PROVIDE A MONTHLY ECONOMIC BONUS TO EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD IN AMERICA (similar to Social Security for All) (The JG (Jobs Guarantee) vs the GI (Guaranteed Income) vs the EB (Guaranteed Income)) Or institute a reverse income tax.
This article is the fifth in a series about direct financial assistance to Americans:
Why Modern Monetary Theory’s Employer of Last Resort is a bad idea. Sunday, Jan 1 2012
MMT’s Job Guarantee (JG) — “Another crazy, rightwing, Austrian nutjob?” Thursday, Jan 12 2012
Why Modern Monetary Theory’s Jobs Guarantee is like the EU’s euro: A beloved solution to the wrong problem. Tuesday, May 29 2012
“You can’t fire me. I’m on JG” Saturday, Jun 2 2012
Economic growth should include the “bottom” 99.9%, not just the .1%, the only question being, how best to accomplish that. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) favors giving everyone a job. Monetary Sovereignty (MS) favors giving everyone money. The five articles describe the pros and cons of each approach.
4. FREE EDUCATION (INCLUDING POST-GRAD) FOR EVERYONE Five reasons why we should eliminate school loans
Monetarily non-sovereign State and local governments, despite their limited finances, support grades K-12. That level of education may have been sufficient for a largely agrarian economy, but not for our currently more technical economy that demands greater numbers of highly educated workers.
Because state and local funding is so limited, grades K-12 receive short shrift, especially those schools whose populations come from the lowest economic groups. And college is too costly for most families.
An educated populace benefits a nation, and benefitting the nation is the purpose of the federal government, which has the unlimited ability to pay for K-16 and beyond.
5. SALARY FOR ATTENDING SCHOOL
Even were schooling to be completely free, many young people cannot attend, because they and their families cannot afford to support non-workers. In a foundering boat, everyone needs to bail, and no one can take time off for study.
If a young person’s “job” is to learn and be productive, he/she should be paid to do that job, especially since that job is one of America’s most important.
6. ELIMINATE FEDERAL TAXES ON BUSINESS
Businesses are dollar-transferring machines. They transfer dollars from customers to employees, suppliers, shareholders and the federal government (the later having no use for those dollars). Any tax on businesses reduces the amount going to employees, suppliers and shareholders, which diminishes the economy. Ultimately, all business taxes reduce your personal income.
7. INCREASE THE STANDARD INCOME TAX DEDUCTION, ANNUALLY. (Refer to this.) Federal taxes punish taxpayers and harm the economy. The federal government has no need for those punishing and harmful tax dollars. There are several ways to reduce taxes, and we should evaluate and choose the most progressive approaches.
Cutting FICA and business taxes would be a good early step, as both dramatically affect the 99%. Annual increases in the standard income tax deduction, and a reverse income tax also would provide benefits from the bottom up. Both would narrow the Gap.
8. TAX THE VERY RICH (THE “.1%) MORE, WITH HIGHER PROGRESSIVE TAX RATES ON ALL FORMS OF INCOME. (TROPHIC CASCADE)
There was a time when I argued against increasing anyone’s federal taxes. After all, the federal government has no need for tax dollars, and all taxes reduce Gross Domestic Product, thereby negatively affecting the entire economy, including the 99.9%.
But I have come to realize that narrowing the Gap requires trimming the top. It simply would not be possible to provide the 99.9% with enough benefits to narrow the Gap in any meaningful way. Bill Gates reportedly owns $70 billion. To get to that level, he must have been earning $10 billion a year. Pick any acceptable Gap (1000 to 1?), and the lowest paid American would have to receive $10 million a year. Unreasonable.
9. FEDERAL OWNERSHIP OF ALL BANKS (Click The end of private banking and How should America decide “who-gets-money”?)
Banks have created all the dollars that exist. Even dollars created at the direction of the federal government, actually come into being when banks increase the numbers in checking accounts. This gives the banks enormous financial power, and as we all know, power corrupts — especially when multiplied by a profit motive.
Although the federal government also is powerful and corrupted, it does not suffer from a profit motive, the world’s most corrupting influence.
10. INCREASE FEDERAL SPENDING ON THE MYRIAD INITIATIVES THAT BENEFIT AMERICA’S 99.9% (Federal agencies)Browse the agencies. See how many agencies benefit the lower- and middle-income/wealth/ power groups, by adding dollars to the economy and/or by actions more beneficial to the 99.9% than to the .1%.
Save this reference as your primer to current economics. Sadly, much of the material is not being taught in American schools, which is all the more reason for you to use it.
The Ten Steps will grow the economy, and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and you.
9 thoughts on “*The Job Guarantee and the “dignity of work””
Good article; read it: G.O.P. Insists Making Poor People Work Lifts Them Up. Where’s the Proof?
I think the truth is a bit more nuanced than that. The following Democracy Journal article does a good job of explaining how a JG would work in practice, and why a JG and a UBI would on fact be complementary rather than substitutes for one another. Of note, Argentina had actually had a modest version of JG for several years and their previously extremely high unemployment rate plummeted dramatically. The main reason why they decided to kill the program was not because it was too expensive or ineffective (it was neither), but because it led to a shifting of gender norms that apparently made the macho men rather uncomfortable.
For the record, I personally support both ideas, UBI and JG. And I also oppose the outdated and specious notion that everybody and their mother must work for a living.
Great and to the point. I’ll be bookmarking and sharing this one.
I am surprised RMM is not aware of this detailed proposal, which addresses all of his concerns. But since Rodger prefers the UBI it probably won’t matter.
Click to access wp_902.pdf
1. I do not prefer UBI. I prefer the Ten Steps to Prosperity
2. I don’t spend hours checking out all the links that are sent to me each day. If you would like to address specific concerns and solutions, I will be glad to discuss those with you.
Splitting hairs, perhaps, but Step #3 (the Economic Bonus) is technically a form of Universal Basic Income (UBI) in that it is unconditional and universal, but yes, it is distinct from the Guaranteed Income (GI) in that there is no means test of any kind. And I personally support both UBI (whatever it is called) and Job Guarantee (JG) myself–though I would still be fine with just the Ten Steps. But yes, a JG by itself or a poorly designed (or poorly funded) UBI or GI would leave a lot.to be desired.
Rodger, I was recently reading something the other day that immediately made me thing of this topic and your response to it.
While I generally agree with Riane Eisler on nearly everything, I would say that her proposal on this is rather quixotic and would be just as much (if not more) of a logistical nightmare than the MMT idea of a Job Guarantee. There really is no overarching reason why there must be any strings attached to such a proposal.
I do not subscribe to job guarantees, partly because I do not believe encouraging people to work for a company is a useful national or personal goal. And for other reasons.
And Eisler’s idea, while not the same as a JG, is in fact logistically even more difficult than a JG IMHO. Any way you slice it, her idea still suffers from many of the same faults, a fortiori in fact. She is apparently skeptical of a straight UBI, GI, or EB, for reasons that I feel are rather paternalistic. I generally agree with Eisler on just about everything else, and think her other ideas about a caring economy are great, but I would have to respectfully disagree with her on this.