What is it? How is it meant to work? The below video summarizes it in a nutshell, and my comments put it in a larger perspective.
Having recently presented the combination of a universal unconditional basic income (citizen’s dividend) and a pay-with-assets economic scheme as a shared assets element of a just economy that would best also use a federal monetization of socially important non-market jobs via a Federal Job Guarantee, it is time to present the FJG:
A note about the video: not to worry, the shrill music only hits you in the beginning and end.
(Note: if the video linked above gets deleted, you may search the Internet for the title: »“The Job Guarantee” featuring Pavlina Tcherneva«)
1. I agree that there are (A) many job-seeking, desperate unemployed people and also (B) many jobs needing to be done (care, wellness, housing, sustainable energy, sustainable farming…), and the conclusion that a Federal Jobs Program (or even Guarantee) could help a lot in solving both problems is plausible. In fact, the New Deal proved it, just as other programs presented in the video did.
2. Yes, widespread availability of federally funded public sector jobs would create an effective minimum wage in the form of an escape route for underpaid and abused workers from the private sector.
3. Yes, just like a UBI, federal job creation of this sort would be eminently affordable. (With so much income going to the idle rich, it’s just a question of altering the money flow (most easily by reassigning assets). We are a prosperous country and world. Poverty only exists because of the gouging by the rich.)
However, there are also problems with this proposal.
4. The proposed program focuses on un- or undereducated menial laborers. Where would that leave people like me, highly educated, highly experienced, talented, and skilled, but still highly unemployable in the private sector by now, due to age, a quilt-like professional past, and health problems that make me unfit for menial labor (aside from me loathing it)?
5. What about people who are unable to work for any reason, be it physically, mentally, because of (allegedly) lacking qualification (or because of bureaucratic hang-ups prohibiting them to work – oh, yeah, that happens!)?
6. My passion in this phase of my life is political and economic research and writing. Would such a program pay me for my econo-political activism? I doubt it. It might pay me for my caregiving to sick relatives, but financial compensation for my other highly time consuming activity in research and information dissemination would probably be denied (politicians don’t like activists), whereas a universal basic income would give people like me a safety cushion liberating us to do the work we want, whether some bureaucrat likes it or not. I will elaborate on the matter of choice a bit more in the next paragraph:
7. What about liberty and the pursuit of happiness? What if someone doesn’t wish to work a job? In the old ages of scarcity, social co-responsibility gave us grounds to call all hands on deck. In today’s surplus economy that has changed. And with the rampant job displacement of humans through automation (not just manual work but brain work as well due to the explosion in artificial intelligence), the only way to safeguard against widespread poverty and despair is to decouple income from work. A FJG doesn’t do that since it only creates replacement jobs, but a UBI does, as would a work-for-assets economy to some degree (by enabling early retirement). The latter would go even further in social redesign by turning us from paycheck or government grant recipients to owners of our world, no longer mere benefits recipients or serfs and tenants of the 1% of “owners” who usurped our world.
8. A wisely and benevolently well-run FJG would monetize a lot of good activities boosting them and even drive our society back into a more ethical, healthy, and sustainable state. That would make it a true boon. However, what if the people running the program were not wise, benevolent, or competent – or accountable to the citizenry? What if it were underfunded? Here a UBI would come in letting people decide for themselves what the best use of their time is (if the UBI were adequately funded). An adequately funded UBI would also make a minimum wage unnecessary, again liberating workers and small entrepreneurs by giving them more leeway. On the other hand, people lacking ideas could get useful direction from a FJP that a UBI would not provide them.
So, I conclude, as I have before, that combining both measures is far better than implementing only one of them. And if we added the pay-with-assets idea that Yanis Varoufakis mentioned in a speech and I elaborated on last week, we would be even better off by thereby creating earned residual incomes, eliminating the owner-worker divide, and on the whole taming the assets beast gone wild — as this would, when done thoroughly, eliminate our gross economic inequality that feeds money in politics and thus ruins everything for everybody save a few privileged rich.
Note 1: As for the Argentinian Jefes program analyzed in the above video, it is probably good to mention that this is not the only measure with which Argentina recovered from its severe economic crisis. Another big measure was performed by Argentinian workers themselves who took over the businesses their owners had closed. They turned them into successful worker co-ops, something U.S. company owners or CEOs like to forestall by actually razing their former factories to the ground, so the workers they laid off when they moved production to Asia can’t restore their paychecks and compete with their former employers.
Note 2: The Vimeo posting of this video comes with a textual description from which I would like to quote the first paragraph: “Millions of people in the United States need jobs. Of those fortunate enough to be employed, how many people stay in jobs they hate, exploited by management or doing unconscionable work, because they feel they have no choice? How many are struggling to support themselves on unlivable wages or juggling multiple jobs just to get by? Meanwhile, crucial public services get cut, local infrastructure decays, and people’s basic needs go unfilled. A federally-funded, locally-administered Job Guarantee could change all this almost immediately.” — Well, as I explained, the view of this as a panacea is too rosy. A FJG can help a lot, a UBI as well, and together they can do a lot more. Adding an earnable asset dividend economy would top it off and secure a bright Utopian future.
Note 3: A comment left on the Vimeo video calculates that creating 10 million jobs this way and taxing the 1% for it would reduce the average income of the 1% from their current $3.9 million to ”$3.6 million – big deal”. Indeed! Big Deal!
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