Should the government guarantee everyone a job? | The Tylt
Should the government guarantee everyone a job?
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is proposing a plan that would guarantee every American worker a job paying $15 an hour and healthcare benefits, according to The Washington Post. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) already introduced a similar plan that would allow 15 local areas to test out a version of a jobs guarantee.
Ady Barkan of The Nation argues the richest country in the world ought to be able to guarantee its citizens jobs. Those who are concerned about cost should consider how much we already spend on welfare programs. If we could guarantee every American who wanted a job could get one, we could drastically reduce costs elsewhere as we welcome more people into the workforce.
A good-job guarantee would pay for much of itself by eliminating the need for unemployment insurance and for many welfare programs. It would also lower the costs associated with the opioid epidemic and our system of mass incarceration. At the same time, the job guarantee would improve the performance of the private sector by increasing consumer demand, upgrading physical and human resources, and reducing the fluctuations of business cycles.
The concept of a federal jobs guarantee isn't new. FDR included the right to employment in his famous Second Bill of Rights. It just makes sense that we would want every American citizen to be a productive, contributing member of society. Ideas once believed to be radical, like universal healthcare, have now entered the mainstream. Guaranteed full employment is the logical next step.
A good-jobs guarantee should be at the center of [the Democratic] vision. Not only because of the enormous blow it would strike against economic and racial injustice in this country, but also because it advances the priorities of so many interest groups within the famously fractious party. Universal free childcare. National broadband. Mass transit. Public housing. A green economy. Genuine full employment—for all communities. An end to American poverty. In one of the richest nations in human history, these should not be just the stuff of memos, but realities of our lives.
But others argue a jobs guarantee is a totally ridiculous proposal we shouldn't take seriously. For one, it would be extremely expensive.
Then, there is the cost of the program, sure to be outlandishly high. Perhaps that is why no jobs-guarantee advocate has given a credible estimate of the price tag. One group of economists writing for the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the cost would be hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
Second, it's important to consider exactly who is unemployed any why. As Dylan Matthews points out on Vox, many of those who are currently unemployed are disabled, and therefore unable to work certain jobs.
Plenty of disabled people, for instance, would like to work but face structural barriers, like a lack of work accommodations or an inability to pay for health aides on the job, or a lack of work in a sector where they’re physically able to do the labor.
In a perfect world, we would have full employment, and anyone who wanted a job would be able to get one, but the realities of implementing a federal plan that promises everyone a $15 per hour job is extremely difficult and deserves to be meticulously thought out. For now, the only thing Sanders' plan guarantees is a high price tag.