Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bernie Sanders Vs... Artur Davis: Guaranteed Jobs


Right-wing Democrat-turned-Republican Artur Davis was originally put into office with AIPAC money after his predecessor, Earl Hilliard, got a little too uppity for about the Palestinians. He represented a super blue Alabama district from 2003 'til 2011 when he ran for governor and was badly defeated in the primary, even in the bluest parts of his own district. He went from being a coddled DCCC creep who was the poster child for the Republican wing of the Democratic Party to switching to the Republican Party and moving to Virginia. He became a rabid GOP attack dog against Democrats and a Romney surrogate. More recently he ran-- and was defeated again-- for mayor of Montgomery, garnering just 27% of tiger vote. He tried to rejoin the Democratic Party and was rejected.

Over the weekend he predicted Doug Jones would lose to Roy Moore today. "It’s very difficult to appeal to white and blacks at the same time," he said. "I’ve been there, it’s a hard thing to do." Davis never had the faintest clue how to speak to working families effectively, regardless of skin color. Even before he officially joined the Republican Party, he was, heart-and-soul, a clueless Republican shill for corporate interests and a pitiful "Uncle Tom" for his entire pathetic tenure in politics.

Recently Bernie economic advisor Stephanie Kelton recommended I read a post by a colleague and former student of hers, Pavlina Tcherneva, Why Bernie Sanders Should Add a Job Guarantee to His Policy Agenda, written in the summer of 2015. Pavlina is now chair of the Economics Department at Bard College and it would have been very useful for Artur Davis to have studied economic under with her or Stephanie. "Discussions of the 'politically possible' always remind me of a favorite quote: 'Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.' Bernie Sanders’ issues page reads like a list of everything we’ve been told is not politically possible. And yet he’s getting record breaking support, precisely because people are tired of being told that something cannot be done-- that it is impossible to get money out of politics, or that tackling inequality and racial injustice is unrealistic, or that securing a living wage is a political nonstarter. Bernie has unapologetically rejected sclerotic visions of what is 'politically possible'.  And now he should add the Job Guarantee (JG) to his list of issues [see video above]. Indeed, he already has the key ingredients-- a bold proposal to eliminate unemployment by creating 13 million decent-paying jobs, a living wage, and a federally-funded youth job guarantee, which Sandy Darity correctly called a stepping stone (a pilot program) to a blanket job guarantee for all.
The Job Guarantee’s time has come.
It secures a basic human right
It tackles at least three key sources of “economic violence and injustice”-- unemployment, precarious work, and poverty wages
It is good for families, the economy, the environment, and our communities
She then outlined some basic facts we all need to know about the Job Guarantee, the first being that it is not some unpredictable big government expansion. But it's an employment stabilization program that offers prevention as much as a cure. It "tackles all the vile consequences of mass unemployment (on private sector spending and expectations, and on people and communities).  The JG is also good for the private sector and ensures more stable and plentiful private sector employment, because it guarantees that domestic demand never collapses as much as it does today with mass unemployment. It's based on the idea that if unemployment is like a virus that spreads through the economy if nothing is done to check it and "the best 'cure' for someone who wants a job-- is a job, not a handout." It's always important to remember this:
Every unemployed person today puts another one out of work, but the Job Guarantee reverses the process: employing one person creates work for another.
"The JG," she wrote, "will always be there to provide voluntary employment for a pool of people (small relative to today’s unemployment numbers)-- who have difficulty finding private sector jobs or have been rendered ‘unnecessary’ by private firms.  It’s one thing to support a family on an unemployment insurance check, and a whole different thing to replace lost private sector income with a living wage income from the JG in a job that does something useful (more below). In this sense, the livelihood of those participants is not disrupted as much as with unemployment, and does not cause the large ripple effect of layoffs through the economy we see today due to collapsing demand. In other words, it is easier to prevent the development of mass unemployment, than to eliminate it once it has developed."

Job Guarantee, she wrote, breaks the vicious cycle at the bottom of the income distribution since "people from different social stations experience different employment situations-- the highly-skilled and highly-educated face virtually no unemployment, or relatively short stretches of joblessness. They are hired first and fired last. But even when they are unemployed, their safety net is much stronger because of more generous employment benefits, severance packages, savings and other sources of wealth. But for those at the bottom of the income distribution, life is very different-- precarious income and employment, longer periods of unemployment, shorter job tenure, and fewer prospects for accumulating wealth or building a nest egg. The vicious employment cycle is fired first-hired last. The JG by design captures those who are most vulnerable." So what it does is change the economic odds for poor and middle class families:
Imagine two candidates applying for a job: one has 9 months of experience in a JG soil renewal of reforestation project and the other-- 9 months of unemployment. Which applicant would the prospective employer hire? Chances are-- the one with the job. And indeed, research shows that, employers consider 9 months of unemployment to be the same as 4 years of lost work experience.

JG changes these odds. It gives people a chance for better life by providing a choice to work in a meaningful public service project-- something welfare checks are not able to do.
It also addresses income inequality and drives a stake through current power interests by guaranteeing access to a living-wage job and lifting incomes for the most vulnerable families in the economy-- a key step to reversing income inequality in the US. The threat of unemployment at the bottom of the income distribution is considerably weakened, she explained. "The JG redefines what kind of work is 'useful'-- public stewardship, environmental renewal and sustainability, community development and, importantly, investment in people, are recognized as important and valuable tasks, worthy of public support" while establishing "a standard for a decent pay package. It’s like the minimum wage, only better-- everyone gets it and more (what good is the minimum wage to an unemployed person?). Private firms must match that minimum standard and pay extra when they need to hire those workers. It's "the next step in completing the Roosevelt revolution" as well as "the missing piece from the social safety-net." In advanced economies, basic needs are generally solved by direct means:
When the problem is retirement income insecurity-- we provide retirement income (e.g., social security).
When the problem is food insecurity-- we provide food.
When the problem is homelessness – we provide housing.
But when the problem is joblessness, we do not provide employment. We provide a handout, a training program, a college loan-- everything but an actual job. The Job Guarantee institutes an important component of the overall safety-net: a job safety-net.
She makes the point that "The task before us is to provide a decent job at decent pay for everyone who wants one. Many progressives seem to think that conventional public works are better suited as countercyclical stabilizers or job creation policies... [but] we either need to replace the Tappan Zee bridge or not. A high-speed rail system is either a good idea or not. Rain or shine, recession or expansion, the work has to be done. These projects cannot fluctuate because they are essential, strategic, and capital-intensive. They are much needed programs, but they are not cycle-stabilizing policies. And they cannot guarantee an employment opportunity to the last person who hasn’t found a decent paying job, but wants one. Only the Job Guarantee can. But low capital intensity projects are in great shortage, can vary with the mood swings of the economy, and are not make-work.
The private sector is simply not in the business of satisfying unmet basic needs or providing employment for everyone. But once most basic needs are met, will there be enough work for the JG participants to do? I’m convinced, yes. As Warren Mosler says, “There is no limit to the ways we can serve one another.”

My worry is that even if we mobilized everyone who wanted to work in a private and public initiative, there would still not be enough manpower to do all the things that we sorely need-- especially concerning the environment.

Take the Hudson Valley for example where I live and work. The Hudson River and local parks and preserves are struggling with several invasive species (water chestnut and zebra mussel), fundamentally altering the ecology of the estuary and the natural habitat of the Valley. And while my community and friends, volunteers and non-profits, have been hard at work preserving and restoring the the Valley, one crucial thing is missing: large-scale funding and many, many more helping hands.

Learning to identify the invasive plants and removing them is mostly done by community members and school groups on volunteer basis. Other area projects include eel and herring monitoring, building hiking trails, cleaning parks, removing trash-- all low-cost, tow-tech, and high-labor-intensity tasks that bring many environmental and social benefits. And they literally only require gloves, fishing nets, and rakes. The work is flexible and year-round.

And this is just one example that that can provide jobs to thousands of unemployed people from the entire Hudson Valley on ongoing basis for decades to come.

The neighboring city of Newburgh–once the jewel of modern technological achievement was the first electrified city in the United States, showcasing the glory that electrification would bring the nation and the world. (Electrification–the offspring of private ingenuity brought to our doorsteps courtesy of large scale government investment). Today Newburgh’s housing stock-- a rare collection of historical architecture-- is crumbling and needs to be restored and preserved. After years of neglect and severe austerity, the city is slowly turning a corner mostly because of impressive community revitalization efforts. But unemployment remains a pressing problem. What is needed? Large-scale funding and many, many more helping hands.

Most communities throughout the US can benefit from countless ongoing public service, environmental, after-school and care projects. And the unemployed need the restoration of their human worth.

As Bernie Sanders’ himself put it in his 2011 8-hour Senate floor speech:
Human beings want to be productive… They want to be a part of something. They want to go to work, earn a paycheck, bring it home. You feel good about that.

Do you know what it does to somebody’s sense of human worth when suddenly you find yourself at home …[and] you can’t go out and earn a living. It destroys people… That’s what unemployment is about.
Good intensions rarely stand in the way of good economic policies-- but lack of conviction and political will do. When it comes to the Job Guarantee, we can also use a bit of imagination.

Sanders is already changing the conversation about what is politically possible. Adding the Job Guarantee to his issues will solidify his unapologetically bold and sorely needed progressive agenda.
Believe me, Artur Davis never tried addressing black and white voters in this way-- which is why he's a classic failed and pointless politician remember, if at all, as a distance disaster in the lives of his constituents.

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At 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is only one problem with this premise: Bernie quit and boosted HER! There is no chance the DNC will return his gonads so that he can again run as a man. HER! is going to run again, and there is ZERO chance Bernie will be allowed to do better than he did in 2016.

At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuck Artur Davis. You need not even mention that pos. He's irrelevant.

But back to Bernie. In not so many words, he seems to have embraced FDR's "OTHER" bill of rights but stops short of guaranteeing jobs... and you wanna know why? Because it would absolutely SOUND like a lie for the purpose of fooling stupid people.

I believe that the US government SHOULD guarantee a living wage for all who want to work; and if there aren't enough private sector (vampire squid) jobs, it should put people to work for a living wage building stuff that is useful. It's been done before and it works (No need to ask who knows shit about WPA, REA and so forth, right?).

But the percent of americans who would vote for someone that so espoused? Maybe 10%. You see, for this to happen, taxes would need to be raised. And even poor people will believe fox and breitbart about higher taxes being the antichrist. Americans are sooooo fucking stupid.

So... that's why Bernie didn't do that. It would be stupid.

At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:42, good comment. You could substitute Elizabeth for Bernie and it would still be true. Warren refused to endorse the one who shares all her advocacies and endorsed and campaigned for the one who has proven over the last several decades that $he is anti-everything EB and BS are for.

Personalities over party over nation over principles. And money over everything.

The party needs to be euthanized. Let Warren and Sanders decide how to associate after the corrupt antithetical party is dead and buried. Until then, fuck both of those hypocrites.


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