Thursday, December 14, 2017

Campaigning On A Guaranteed Jobs Program Makes Sense-- And More Candidates Are Catching On, Although The DCCC Has Never Heard Of The Idea


The Guaranteed Income (UBI) proposals floating around, courtesy of the Silicon Valley aristocracy, is a dangerous trap, fraught with right-wing austerity dangers. Progressives who have put any time into it are far more interested in the Job Guarantee models, as we discussed here on Tuesday. In fact, if you missed Pavlina Tcherneva's explanatory video of JG, I've posted it again (just above).

Progressive candidates need to shut down the Pavlovian impulse to repeat Peterson’s talking points because, let's face it, there is no progressive agenda in a deficit-neutral world-- and, even if liberals aren't, the Peterson people are very aware of that, exquisitely so. Candidates who accidentally reinforce the idea that everything must be "paid for" in a deficit-neutral way are falling into a trap and killing the progressive agenda and any semblance of the kind of bold game-changing actions that will shake up the status quo. Several of the Blue America candidates have already been campaigning on Job Guarantee as part of their platforms. Dan Canon (IN-09), for example, has this up on his campaign website:
A guaranteed public-jobs program that provides meaningful work to those who are willing and able to take it, primarily in rebuilding and improving American roads, bridges, public transportation, energy grids, rural broadband access, and in environmental cleanup/preservation; ultimately the program would aim to result in 100% (voluntary) employment over time.
When I spoke with him yesterday, he told me that "Ultimately, I think we're going to have to come up with some kind of solution to the massive job drain that we are about to face due to the rise of automation. I don't hear very many politicians talking about this, but it's a huge concern. We're looking at millions of over-the-road trucker jobs disappearing overnight, probably within the next 5 years. This is a problem that we need to get out ahead of, and a guaranteed job program is one possible solution that we need to consider. The added benefit is that it allows us to make much-needed investments in our crumbling infrastructure; we could put people who want good-paying jobs to work rebuilding roads, bridges, and water systems, and expanding broadband access. Even if you're terrified of deficit spending, it's hard to see this as a losing proposition, since you're investing directly in the working-class and in America's infrastructure, and those investments will pay dividends for the economy over the long haul."

Goal ThermometerAnd Tim Canova, who's in a tight race with crooked New Dem Debbie Wasserman Schultz in South Florida has been a supporter of a federal job guarantee for many years." He told me that "In the 1990s, at the National Jobs For All Coalition, we called for this approach. The need for a federal job guarantee has been even greater since the 2008 financial collapse and the trickle down recovery that has followed. New Deal public works programs helped build so much of the country’s infrastructure while providing hope and dignity to millions of people. Today there are millions of Americans, particularly among our youth, who are unemployed or underemployed in bad part time jobs. We need to provide them with opportunities in public jobs programs, building our crumbling infrastructure, in conservation projects, and in service to others. This is a big part of our agenda."

But not every candidate feels they can campaign on the issue. One guy we're still vetting told me that he's "a big fan of the JG and agree with everything Stephanie and Pavlina have said on the issue. That being said, I don't plan on making it a part of my campaign just yet; I think it's still in the developmental phase and hasn't been widely publicized to the extent that any voters in my district would know what I was talking about. I see my current platform of payroll tax cuts and massive infrastructure projects as basically providing full employment/employment guarantee to people in the district, but I don't explicitly refer to it as a job guarantee. Same ends, different means. However I think in just a few years the JG could catch on in a major way, and if I'm elected to Congress I'd be its strongest advocate. Few things I or anyone could do as a member of Congress would be as progressive, powerful, and transformational as a JG because it totally upends the centuries-long power relationship between capital/management and labor. Given political realities I think it could start catching on after 2021, if things work well for progressives."

Another candidate who asked me to leave his comments off the record, told me that "Yes, a job guarantee is better than an income guarantee, and as a fundamental part of social justice, our social compact, and how to build a good society, we should have it. However it is foreign to most Americans' thinking and implementing it presents significant administrative and coordination challenges. In Congress I would push for trials in a few regions, in cooperation with state governments that want to try it out. But I don't see making it an immediate priority or a prominent feature of my campaign."

Kaniela Ing is very forward on this proposal and he's already working directly with one of Bernie's chief economists, Stephanie Kelton, on how to make sure Job Guarantee serves the needs Hawaii's working families. Last night Kaniela told us that "America’s promise has always been clear-- work hard and your family will prosper. Today, too many hard-working Americans feel that our leaders have gone bad on that promise. I talk to folks who tell me everyday, they grind and sweat, but struggle to get by. Wages are stagnant, unemployment and underemployment are rising, the threats of automation and globalization are becoming real, all while costs are skyrocketing. But just take a walk outside and look around at all the work that needs to be done in America. There are bridges to be built, highways needing repair, kids to be taught, aging folks needing care, oceans to be cleaned, trees to be planted. But private markets fall short. For every job opening in America, four people are gunning for it. This pits worker against worker and creates a power imbalance between workers and their bosses. It’s too risky for a worker to stand up to wage theft, inhumane working conditions, or sexual harassment, when they know there’s nowhere else to go. Our elected representatives must stop pretending that everything is okay, and that the job market will some home fix itself. It’s time for real solutions that will actually help working families across America. It’s time for a new New deal. Since the start of my campaign, I’ve been leading with a universal job guarantee, and I ask other progressive candidates to join me. Let’s remind the establishment that the ability to work for a livable wage is a human right that should be afforded to all. In these uncertain times, progressives will lead with real solutions that offer hope to the many, and just the privileged few."

Jenny Marshall is in a very similar district, North Carolina's 5th and she agrees that it's a great idea but sees the idea of Job Guarantee as something relatively easy to explain to voters. (Maybe that's because she's a school teacher.) She's campaigning for the seat held by a multimillionaire, Virginia Foxx, who has never exhibited any interest whatsoever in giving a hand to working families. "People," Jenny told us," want to work and give back to their communities in real tangible ways. They also want to provide a decent, secure life for their family. Think of all the New Deal programs such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Works Progress Administration that helped put people to work and which began to pull us out of the Great Depression in the 1930's. While those programs did not lift all out of abject poverty it did jump start our economy in a way that can still be witnessed today. Frankly, our infrastructure is long outdated and our national parks and memorials need tending to. Here in the 5th district we have national forest that needs trail cleanup, buildings that need to be repaired and programs that need to be staffed. We need to repair dams, bridges and other infrastructure projects. People need jobs and ones that pay a living wage. Why not offer work that would put an investment back into our communities?"

Our newest Blue America endorsee, Jess King (PA-16), has the same kind of perspective as Jenny. She told us that "We've known for a long time that stubbornly high unemployment not only hurts our economy, it also threatens our democracy. In 1944, as World War II raged, FDR observed that 'people who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.' He proposed a Second Bill of Rights that would establish a right to meaningful and sustaining employment. We need to renew that debate and decide how we as a nation are going to guarantee economic security in a rapidly changing economy."

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