Randy Wray: The Answer to the Unemployment Problem is More Jobs

By L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Research Director with the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability and Senior Research Scholar at The Levy Economics Institute. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

Dean Baker, everyone’s favorite progressive economist (mine, too), has an interesting take on our unemployment problem.

Give more paid vacations.

The idea is that if all the employed work less, employers will need to hire the unemployed to produce what the already employed won’t be producing while sunning themselves on Florida’s beaches.

Look, I’m all for shorter work weeks. It is ridiculous that labor’s push somehow got stuck a century ago at the 40 hour work week in the USA. Employed Americans work more hours per year than just about any other workforce on the planet.

weekly hours worked unemployment

But, as Joan Robinson once declared, the only thing worse than working as a wage slave is to be unemployed. Just ask the Italians, who now have the highest unemployment rate since they started keeping records. Thanks to the EMU and German fiscal rectitude!

I see shorter work days and more paid vacations as a progressive goal to humanize the work place. More time to enjoy one’s family, recreation, and the arts. More time for self-improvement and community involvement. More time for our wage slaves to enjoy the life of leisure long pursued by the leisure classes.

However, last on my list of arguments for a shorter work week would be the claim that it will create more jobs for the unemployed.

“Job sharing” as a cure for employment makes as much sense as “sandwich sharing” as a cure for the problem of hunger.

As my colleague Pavlina Tcherneva points out, for every social problem except unemployment, progressives advocate a direct solution.

How do you solve the problem of lack of access to healthcare? The progressive advocates single payer.

(Not, of course, Obamacare, which is just a scheme to turn more of your income over to Wall Street’s insurance industry.)

Hunger? Food stamps.

Homelessness? Public housing.

Old age poverty? Social Security.

But Unemployment?

More vacations. Pay the employed not to work.

Unemployment compensation. Pay the unemployed not to work.

Or, more ludicrously, BIG (basic income guarantee). Pay everyone not to work.

What is missing? Jobs. The unemployed want jobs. But progressives will not give them jobs.

Progressives offer hand-outs to the unemployed. Or paid vacations to the employed. Or BIG to everyone!

But no jobs for the unemployed.

Why not? Progressives offer up a variety of excuses. The most common argument against creating jobs for everyone who wants to work is that this is not politically feasible in the USA.

Why? Oh, it would cost too much. Estimates put the cost of a job guarantee with a living wage at 1% to 3% of GDP. Progressives argue you’d never get that much spending through Congress.

Of course, the federal government alone already spends about 3.4% of GDP on anti-poverty programs—mostly to deal with poverty that is in large measure caused by unemployment, involuntary part-time unemployment, and poverty-level wages paid by the nation’s undertakers like Wal-Mart.

poverty and unemployment programs chart

Of course, that 3.4% does not eliminate poverty; indeed it barely even scratches the surface. As we’ve ramped up social spending, the only group that has seen a significant reduction of poverty rates is the nation’s seniors—thanks to Social Security.

I do not begrudge our seniors their Social Security. Reduction of poverty among our aged is a shining achievement of Roosevelt’s New Deal.

But we’ve failed all other groups—most notably Americans of working age and their children.


Why? Because we are too afraid to push for jobs-for-all.

Instead, our progressives dismiss job creation and push instead for the supposedly more politically palatable paid vacations, unemployment compensation, and BIG.

Call me crazy, but I think that Americans are far more likely to line up behind paying people to work, than behind a scheme to pay people for more vacations.

Especially if a job at a living wage would eliminate the need for most social spending plus huge subsidies and tax breaks already paid to businesses–trying to coax them to create a job or two.

In one stroke, a job guarantee at a living wage not only eliminates the need for most anti-poverty spending, but it also ensures private sector jobs will pay decent wages. And it eliminates the myriad of public policies that impoverish our local governments as they give tax breaks and subsidies trying to bribe corporations to relocate their factories and warehouses.

Baker points to Germany as an example of the successful use of work-sharing to prevent unemployment from rising. The government pushes firms to reduce hours worked by employees, and then makes up lost wages by essentially using funds that would have gone to pay unemployment benefits. As a result, Germany’s unemployment rate is only 5%–obviously very much lower than the average rate across all of its EMU neighbors.

Nice story, but Baker ignores the real reason for Germany’s success. Germany has pursued the most ruthless “beggar thy neighbor” policy the world has ever seen. It has held its own wages constant since unification, destroying industrial production throughout the rest of the EMU. In other words, Germany simply exported all of its unemployment.

So America is supposed to follow that strategy? To whom should we export our unemployment? Mexico? Canada? This will be much harder since they have not joined a US Dollar Union. Germany’s advantage is that its neighbors cannot depreciate their currencies since they’ve adopted the same Euro.

I’ve noticed that in many of his pieces, Baker mentions dollar depreciation as a possible solution to America’s unemployment problems. The idea is that if the dollar fell against the Euro and the Chinese RMB, we could capture some of the prized manufacturing jobs.

Indeed, “bring back factory jobs” is a nearly universal progressive rallying cry.

I was recently at a conference in Europe where an economist from a highly respected US progressive think tank made exactly that argument. I decided to play along with her. OK, I asked, how many factory jobs do you think we could bring back from China if the RMB appreciated significantly?

“3 million.” Well, I responded, we need about 25 million jobs.

“Yes but there will be a multiplier—the 3 million factory jobs will create demand for output of other sectors.”

Right, I said; so let us say the effect is double—we get 6 million jobs total. That leaves us 19 million short—give or take some millions. What about the rest?

“Well, it is a start.”

I decided this was a chance to talk about a job guarantee…. What about providing a job for everyone who wants to work, at decent pay?

“That’s a nonstarter. With the Republican Congress coming in, you’ll never get that through.”

OK, wait a minute. So you are arguing that we have a better chance of getting the Chinese to appreciate their currency in order to destroy their own manufacturing sector to the benefit of American jobs?

“Uhhmmm. Yes.”

You mean that the progressive position is that it is better to lobby Chinese politicians to act in the interest of the American people, than it is to attempt to lobby American politicians to act in the interest of their own voters?


Such is the sorry state of American progressives. They dismiss the political feasibility of the obvious in favor of supporting second- or third-best solutions with zero chance of success.

To be sure, I am not claiming that a job guarantee is an easy sale. It is hard. It is damned hard.

But it is far more consistent with American values. As readers know, I’m a big fan of George Lakoff.

As Lakoff says, “Cognitive scientists study how people really think – how brains work, how we get ideas out of neurons, how framing and metaphorical thought work, the link between language and thought, and so on. But other academic fields have not been using these results, especially, political science, public policy, law, economics, in short, the main areas studied by progressives who go into politics. As a result, they teach an inadequate view of reason and “rationality.” They miss the fact that our brains are structured by hundreds of conceptual metaphors and frames early in life, that we can only understand what our brains allow, and that conservatives and progressives have acquired different brain circuitry with the consequence that their normal modes of reason are different. What progressives call “rational arguments” are not normal modes of real reason. What counts as a “rational argument” is not the same for progressives and conservatives.”

More paid vacations as a solution to our unemployment problem might seem “rational” to a progressive, but it violates “normal modes of reason”. How is taking more paid vacations contributing to our community? Why should government pay for your extra vacations?

Why won’t the unemployed go out and get their own jobs, rather than forcing me to share mine? How do I know my employer won’t just make me do 40 hours of work in 25 hours? What if Congress reneges on the promise to make up my lost pay? And what if my employer likes you more than me, so that I get sacked and you get my full-time job?

So here’s my puzzlement. Why won’t progressives try to help develop the moral framing to support jobs-for-all? At decent wages.

There is no better anti-poverty program than jobs for those who want to work. Offering a job is a hand-up not a hand-out. Working promotes community. It allows for shared prosperity. We all benefit when everyone works. It is consistent with American values.

We have a half-century of experience with hand-outs instead of hand-ups. Hand-outs have not reduced poverty. If anything, poverty is worse. Inequality is worse. Joblessness is worse.

Hand-outs are not consistent with American values. Hand-outs come with strings attached. Means testing. Drug tests. Sanctions on children. And hand-outs are always kept meagre, consistent with American values.

Putting our nation’s fate in the hands of Chinese politicians is not an answer, either. Truthfully, I do not believe the manufacturing jobs will come back to the US, no matter how high the RMB goes. China is losing millions of manufacturing jobs, too. There will always be a lower cost producer. And it won’t be the USA. In any event, robots take away more jobs than Chinese ever will.

We need policies consistent with American values of work, initiative, self-sufficiency, and productivity. We need policies that promote community-building. We need policies that are within the sovereign power of our own nation—which do not require other nations to operate against their own self-interest. We need policies that can be supported by progressives and conservatives alike. We need to find common ground.

Here’s Lakoff, again:

“Not everyone functions with just one worldview in every aspect of life. Many, if not most, people are primarily either strict or nurturant, but partly the other in some areas of life. I call them bi-conceptuals, since they have in their brains both worldviews – each inhibiting the other – and applying those worldviews to different ranges of issues. With respect to political issues, those who are mostly one, but partly the other, are called “moderates.” But there is no one shared moral or political ideology of the moderate. Moderates differ on what they are moderate about and what their primary worldview is.

The existence of bi-conceptuals is hopeful. Conservatives who hold some progressive policies that are governed by the nurturant worldview, can have that nurturant worldview appealed to and strengthened. But that requires hearing progressive language and thinking progressive thoughts that will strengthen the progressive worldview already there in his or her brain.

In personal interactions, as over the Thanksgiving table with conservative relatives or in your social or business life with colleagues and coworkers, the first thing to realize is that, for the most part, conservatives believe deeply that they are morally right, that they and other conservatives are operating from the right moral principles. They don’t believe that they are immoral, and they don’t believe that right and wrong don’t matter. As moral beings, they want to be treated with respect. And in personal relationships, respect is appropriate.

The question is whether they are bi-conceptual, whether they have partly progressive values. So turn the conversation to an issue defined by nurturance: What have you done, or are you doing, that helps other people or helps your community? What makes you feel good about it? And so on. If there is nurturance there, bring it out and magnify it, and respect it. Try to keep conversation focused on such issues. Don’t try to argue against their conservative positions, and certainly not in their language. Listen. Be patient.

If you must discuss political differences, just be positive, starting with your values and with how you understand freedom and how it arises from citizens working together to provide public resources for everyone. Use your language, not theirs. Stay respectful….

There are deep truths that are known about how brains work, how our unconscious minds work, and the effect of language on the mind and brain. Those are vital truths, because only by mastering and using them can you avoid the traps of laundry list truths, truths that don’t add up to the communication of general progressive values, truths that have given us a Democratic Party that seems not to stand for any overriding value. Lists of truths that are not made meaningful by values are destined to be ignored. Make truths matter. Wed truths to values.”

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  1. James Levy

    I am unconvinced that our halting first steps in cognitive science provide much of a guide to action, much less global theories about “values.”

    The problem is that it is not in the economic or social interests of those so-called progressive who hold positions in public life to push for boat-rocking, order-disrupting changes that will take away from their relative power, privilege, and perks. The most glaring example is integration. It never happened because it would have meant class-mixing, which is much more threatening to elites than race-mixing (that they can live with, as witnessed by who our current President is). All this talk about “values” is obfuscation, in my judgment. The values that matter are property values, and “family” values, in that the educated upper middle class wants to pass on to their children the advantages that have accrued to them whether the kiddies deserve them over some poor kid or not. Progressives want to ameliorate poverty, racism, and the gross inequities in our society, but by throwing some money at the problems, not tearing out, root and branch, the structures that advantage some and disadvantage others.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I have to disagree with you about racism, based on my experience growing up (we moved a TON, and lived mainly in the Midwest), and continued practices in real estate. Blacks were NEVER shown houses in the nicer suburbs in Ohio (the ones with good schools) but all had a few starter homes (the sort built right after WWII) that at least a few people with comparatively low incomes lived in. All the schools I went to were lily-white despite being in towns and cities with substantial black populations, and some black professional class members (doctors and lawyers). Mountain Brook, Alabama, the most affluent community in the state, was incorporated when Brown v. the Board of Education passed. It has some modest homes and even now similarly no blacks save as service people to the whites.

      Similarly, even now, housing discrimination is alive and well in the best buildings in New York City, which are co-ops (as in the buyers purchase shares in a corporation and are subject to approval by the board). Those buildings have quotas on Jews. Pretty much none allow a single woman to buy an apartment (she’s deemed a threat to the couples in the building, I am not making this up). And blacks? Unless you are Ken Chenault (CEO of American Express), fuggedaboutit.

    2. Benedict@Large

      Macroeconomics determines how many people are unemployed. Racism determines who is unemployed.

      A number of years back as I was in about my third year of teaching myself MMT, a flash of insight came upon me. Randy was the person I asked whether or not that insight was true. MMT seems to be saying that the federal government has at all times the ability to set the unemployment rate to whatever it wants, including zero, and that it can do so in a substantially non-inflationary manner. Randy agreed.

      Full employment (100%, minus friction) is possible using MMT. No other macro can do that.

      1. Massinissa

        Theoretically, MMT can produce full employment.

        In reality, this is impossible under the capitalist system. The capitalist sytem over the last few hundred years has always had unemployment. MMT is just theory, it cant change the reality of how the system works.

        1. Robert Kelly

          There is no reason a capitalist system requires unemployment. It is a political choice. MMT merely states that our monetary system can run via income or via credit or all the various permutations therein. Fiscal policy dictates income. Monetary policy dictates credit. Those choices are made democratically. Those who control the democracy make those decisions. Capitalists prefer the credit/monetary method. Socialist democrats might prefer the income/fiscal method. MMT states that as long as we have the REAL resources and output capacity we have the fiscal capacity to make the political decision to employ those who want to work.

          1. NoFreeWill

            Just as in theory, it is possible to have green capitalism, despite the need for economic growth built into the system. Capitalism requires a reserve army of the unemployed to keep labor costs down for capitalists, and it has never been any other way. Read the part in Das Kapital about unemployment if you aren’t convinced. Sweden tried to reach full employment as part of it’s social democratic politics in the 70s (there was a great article here on this years ago) and was overruled by finance capital’s power and worries about inflation. We’re talking about an economic system founded on slavery here.

            1. James Levy

              Agreed. Without the unemployed capital loses its critical power to deny work and thereby set wages. This truth, that capitalism is a system of power as well as a means of producing and distributing goods, is the unmentionable, unthinkable truth that Economics does everything in its power to obfuscate and ignore.

              When a good is produced or a service rendered, there is no inherent reason why the owner of capital gets to keep the lion’s share. It is a custom that has been enforced as a law and a choice that has been ordained as a truth, but no natural fact of life says that the man who owns shares in a car company that was founded 110 years ago should get the fruits of a man or woman’s labor that went into designing and manufacturing the cars. That share holder did not fund the founding of the company. These days, he or she didn’t even fund new plant and equipment, as no mature company I know of floats stock for that reason when it can borrow at 2% or issue commercial paper. All they hold is a claim on profits, profits that exist because somebody designed, built, and sold the cars.

              If you challenge the assumption that work is the gift of the capitalists (“job creators”), you place the whole framework of who gets what and why under scrutiny. The capitalists will never allow that to happen if they can possibly stop it.

              1. Lambert Strether

                Which is why, when you think through the implications, the JG is a far more serious proposal than the BIG, which is no more and no less than a program to guarantee consumption (though, granted, a BIG pairs well with a JG for those who can’t work, as Diptherio points out).

              2. LifelongLib

                Not trying to be snarky here, a real (if maybe ill-informed) question:

                If I pay someone to (say) build a house for me, do they then own the house? So in your concept I’m not paying him for the labor of building a house which belongs to me, but rather buying the house from him (since he built it, he is the default owner)?

            2. Robert Kelly

              One of the main points of Wray’s JG program is that the reserve army of unemployed is a buffer stock. Wray has cited Marx in his JG literature often. Capitalists want the buffer stock to keep cheap labor cheap. The JG is just that. A buffer stock that sets the low end of labor costs. Capitalists are free to hire any JG worker out of the program and into their work force. And as conditions change, that employee may be laid off and need to re-enter the JG program.
              You’re certainly correct about the finance capital power. The issue is political will. The Swede’s were not able to overcome the inflationistas. Obviously neither are we. Since humans of various skill and power started bumping into one another the conquered have always been slaves to the conquerers. Wray is hoping Lakoff can figure out a way that we can change that thinking.

      2. MRW

        I agree, Benedict@Large.

        Is this your line? Because I’m going to steal it.

        Macroeconomics determines how many people are unemployed. Racism determines who is unemployed.


        Randy Wray. Great article!

      3. nothing but the truth

        “MMT seems to be saying that the federal government has at all times the ability to set the unemployment rate to whatever it wants, including zero”

        MMT is just the money illusion gone mad. When that happens the money illusion collapses. Guess what that is called.

  2. Ben Johannson

    In this regard the left is boneheaded: welfare payments, which have failed for decades to provide any hope at all for ending poverty, are to be pursued heedlessly of success. Basic Income and worksharing are representative of static thinking, intellectual stasis, non-adaptive cognition.

    Learn: study what has and has not worked.

    Adapt: develop a policy with more strengths and fewer weaknesses.

    Overcome: make your enemy your ally.

    That’s how change happens, not by tantruming about “commodification of labor, or whining about oligarchs.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Were you there last week for Prof. Wray’s ‘Groaf by Fiat’ seminar? He began by explaining how ‘we can never run out of currency units …’

      Near the front a hirsute young man in torn clothing stood and interrupted, ‘How can ye have any beer, if ye canna redeem yer beer certificates? If ye canna redeem yer beer certificates, how can ye have any beer?’

      Prof. Wray frowned in annoyance. ‘You don’t understand a thing about MMT,’ he asserted.

      At this, the two front rows of students rose to their feet en masse and began chanting, ‘Thirty hours work for forty hours pay! Thirty hours work for forty hours pay!’

      Disgusted, Prof. Wray slammed his chalk down on the tray and stalked toward the door. Toward the back, one student climbed atop his desk and began making pumping motions in front of his crotch.

      Stopping in the doorway, Prof. Wray turned to confront his legion of tattooed, nose-ringed tormentors. ‘You’ll never amount to anything, you witless little twits!’ he shouted. As he ducked into the corridor, a hail of projectiles clattered onto the floor where he’d just been standing.

      Prof. Wray wiped his brow as he exited Communist Martyrs Hall. It had been another day of vigorous intellectual exchange at the Wild West of economics, UMKC.

      1. lolcar

        Meanwhile at Jim Haywood’s Jean-Baptiste Say memorial “The Market (hallowed be its name) always clears” seminar we learn that eliminating the minimum wage is the truly progressive path to continuous full employment and prosperity for all.

        1. skippy

          Libertarian socialists…. the mind is boggled by the cog dis and meta burnz….

          Skippy…. wandering deserts for so long will do that….

          1. Massinissa

            Look it up on wikipedia somtime as you clearly dont know what it means. It has nothing to do with right libertarianism.

            1. skippy

              Never implied it had anything to do with the right vector of libertarianism nor the others. My reading and understanding is based on the economic underpinnings – of – that value system, imbued within the term libertarian and its ex niliho axioms. Furthermore the cornucopia of similar sociopolitical delineations that share such quality’s and their historical progression.

              Even had a anarcho libertarian the other day use the Champagne fairs of the middle ages as an exemplar of their preferred sociopolitical “free market” template, the bloody middle ages?!?!?! Its as whimsical as the old testament free market mobs, full retard mode.

              Skippy…. the romanticism boggles the mind….

      2. Alejandro

        The fact that you would use your time to blabber such incoherent nonsense, can be viewed as an admission (Freudian slip?), that he has something valuable to say that rattles your cognitive cage…but you can’t quite identify it, can you? Maybe you can learn to transmute your abreactions into honest engagement. I’m convinced that we can all learn from each other.

      3. susan the other

        That’s just naughty. Funny, but naughty because you know as well as anyone else that everything is fiat so why restrict access to fiat? Name one thing in the human universe that is NOT fiat.

    2. bdy

      Welfare is not for ending poverty. People who suggest it might are being silly – thinking if we lie in earnest the thing will come true. Rather, welfare is a nice way for people without income to obtain food, shelter and clothing while increasing demand for those things (which is why we like lots of it but not too much). Ditto with a jobs guarantee – not so good for “war on poverty” (guns are best for that) but a nice way for people to contribute when markets insist they can’t.

      What is the argument (besides the political expediency cop-out) that payouts and paid jobs can’t coexist?

      “Here’s enough to live with decency and hey, if you want to pitch in you can make extra!” Isn’t really so hard?

  3. washunate

    Good to see the policy choices so clearly spelled out.

    Universal unemployment insurance, universal health insurance, mandatory paid leave, reduced number of weekly hours to incur overtime under the FLSA, and increased base salary for an exemption under the FLSA would be a fantastic set of policies. Both more practical and more popular than a minimum wage-based JG/ELR approach.

    We don’t need more formal employment, especially when our existing broken system is who determines what that work would be. We need to end the monopoly that paid employment has on one’s ability to maintain a basic standard of living. We need to eliminate the DEA and the TSA and so forth, not hire yet more people in those kinds of jobs that make our country worse off.

    The beauty of social insurance and the FLSA is that it takes judgment out of the hands of politicians. And economists, too.

    1. Ben Johannson

      The Jobs Guarantee will deliver superior outcomes to the welfare payouts you so greatly desire, in every single metric. And it has conservative support, making it more practical than the foolishness you advocate which they’ll resist tooth-and-nail.

      Which means you don’t want a solution, you want the status quo.

      1. washunate

        If you don’t like the philosophy behind the Social Security Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act and so forth, just say so. I will happily stand in support of such programs.

        1. Ben Johannson

          You talk of philosophies, I speak of effectiveness. The Jobs Guarantee will help people. Meanwhile you float above it all with nary a concern.

          1. washunate

            So you are saying that social insurance and workplace regulations have been proven ineffective? Now we’re getting somewhere.

            I would strongly disagree with that claim.

            1. Ben Johannson

              I would strongly disagree with that claim.

              Of course you would: you’re untethered from reality and do not care that a basic income will never, ever be passed into law in the United States. And so the unemployed continue to suffer while you drone on about insurance, walking between the raindrops.

              1. washunate

                In the interest of brevity I have not offered a PhD dissertation on the evidentiary support for the effectiveness of the Social Security Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and similar approaches.

                Guilty as charged.

        1. vidimi

          i’m not sure that it’s fair to throw labels around. a jobs guarantee would still qualify as ‘progress’ anyway you slice it, even if it’s not the best solution.

        2. Ben Johannson

          One must prefer welfare payments above all else? Gee, that handout didn’t come with my complimentary edition of Utopia when I joined up.

    2. Ben Johannson

      Interesting that these programs you advocate to address unemployment will not end unemployment. I think there was something in the post about “progressives” suddenly adopting an indirect approach when it comes to work and then we get the perfect example right here.


      1. washunate

        Exactly. I’m not trying to end unemployment. MMT has the wrong goal. I don’t want a world of wage slaves. I want a world where employers are desperate to find employees. That’s the proper power balance.

        And I’m not really a progressive, if by progressive you mean a mostly east coast elitist banking and warmongering philosophy.

        But if by progressive you mean using government to curb the power of the powerful while providing social insurance to the masses, well, um, now I’m confused. Your first comment just said the SSA and the FLSA aren’t the way to go. Yet they are two of the most enduring legacies of the New Deal era.

        1. MRW

          I want a world where employers are desperate to find employees.

          That world is where employers have so many potential sales walking through the door that they are desperate to find employees. Ask any employer.

          The “sales” walking through the door have to income to spend (from jobs), don’t they?

          1. washunate

            Yeah, no argument there, it sets the minimum wage. I’ve been critiqued for pointing out that very thing. And for observing, why not just tweak the FLSA to raise the minimum wage and skip the hiring part? Because there are only three possible outcomes: the government is going to hire tens of millions of people indefinitely (a massive philosophical change in American political economy), tens of millions of people will remain out of the labor force indefinitely (same soup warmed over), or the vast majority of the employment gain is going to happen in the private sector anyway, not the public sector.

            But it’s not just the private sector I’m worried about. I’m worried about the public sector, too. It, too, should face competition from non-work. It, too, has a lot of waste and duplication and even activities that actively destroy wealth rather than creating it. That’s the broader ideological argument I’m making, separate from the practical concerns about the implementation of JG. A basic standard of living should be the right of every citizen, not a privilege dependent upon one’s willingness to earn it by showing up at the local Mayor or Sheriff’s office highway cleaning day or tax-incentivized real estate development or whatever politically connected grant gets funded in your particular neighborhood.

            1. MRW

              I’m worried about the public sector, too. It, too, should face competition from non-work. It, too, has a lot of waste and duplication and even activities that actively destroy wealth rather than creating it.

              Spare me. Unless you don’t believe in ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people’.

              1. washunate

                Spare you what?

                The uncomfortable truth that armed government agents target young black men? That we abuse prisoners? That we bail out fraudulent and incompetent bankers? That there is massive waste in healthcare and higher education?

      2. Massinissa

        You cant ‘end’ unemployment, its something endemic to the capitalist system… The most you can do is address it.

        1. zapster

          A job guarantee would end unemployment, and maybe even get all these broken bridges fixed, too. It would also force employers to compete for employees, raising wages across the board. It would also cut into the incomes of the elites as people pay off debt, leading to greater equality of incomes. Broadening the guarantee to cover parents staying home with children would also help; in reality, that *is* work.

          If it also defined full-time as 30 hours instead of 40, it might lead to employers following suit and lead to more fulfilling lives for all of us. It really does fit into conservative framing–people should work. People being forced to remain idle when they *want* to work seems to me to be a very anti-conservative position, regardless of what faux-conservative kleptocrat politicians claim.

          Such a guarantee would set a standard defining the base principles of what employment should be in the US, level the field so no employer is favored or given unfair advantage, and eliminate much poverty, all in one relatively cheap program. What’s not to like?

    3. John Zelnicker

      The Job Guarantee as currently proposed by its major academic (and other) advocates is based on a living wage, not the minimum wage. Although it does, in fact, set the minimum wage, saying that it is “minimum wage-based” is a serious mischaracterization of the proposal. Paying a living wage, adjusted for local costs of living, is one of the core principles of the JG/ELR. The current minimum wage, even in those states that have raised it above the federal level, is seriously short of a living wage anywhere in this country. Anyone working a standard work week (35-40 hours, presently) should be able to support themselves, at a decent standard of living, without government or other outside assistance.

      1. washunate

        Are you familiar with MMT? The JG, by definition, is the minimum wage. It is used in contrast to other jobs that will pay more than the JG. That’s the whole point. Otherwise JG isn’t a buffer stock, a price anchor, which is the philosophical justification for the monetary theory based upon it.

        Now if you are proposing something different than what Wray and Mosler and others have been describing for decades, I would be very intrigued to hear the details of your plan, especially since the details are all that matter when discussing working conditions in the real world.

        But the system they propose says that JG workers should be paid less than academic economists and DEA special agents and university administrators and hospital executives and so forth. I find that notion simultaneously naive and hilarious.

        If you really don’t know the MMT history, google BPSW. That’s the Basic Public Sector Wage.

        “We will call this the basic public sector employment (PSE) at the basic public sector wage (BPSW). Of course, there will still remain many (non-PSE) jobs in the public sector that are not a component of the PSE and that could pay wages above the BPSW. It is also important to emphasize that PSE policy is not meant to substitute for current public sector employment (PSE workers should not displace current public employees).”


        1. zapster

          What bothers me about that is that it continues to create an underclass–low-paid public workers vs. higher-paid private sector workers, and fosters the idea that those the private sector won’t employ are somehow inferior, which is overwhelmingly *not the case*.

          We have immense amounts of necessary work in this country that is not taken care of by the private sector. Doing that work requires the same (or higher) level of skill and dedication as any private sector job, and should be paid accordingly. Let employers rise to an affluent national standard, as they did before the whole “privatization” disaster began. The private sector has proven conclusively that it cannot and will not care for a nation–we must have public workers to do that vital, essential work.

          1. washunate

            What does that have to do with MMT? Are you saying that the net deficit spending of the past decade and a half has been spent on necessary work?

            1. MRW

              Are you saying that the net deficit spending of the past decade and a half has been spent on necessary work?

              Whatever Congress voted on, whoever got paid to do what. That ‘net deficit’ is now sitting in American savings and checking accounts. Because that government ‘net deficit’ increased the net worth of private sector Americans. Where else would it go?

              1. washunate

                zapster specifically referenced necessary work, which is why it doesn’t apply to MMT, as you point out. I very much agree with you.

                MMT cares about the aggregate – that increased net worth of private sector Americans – not who got paid how much to do what for whom.

                1. Ben Johannson

                  The phrase “necessary work” doesn’t appear in MRW’s comment other than as a quotation from you, which has reduced you to refrencing yourself for supporting statements.

                  Not a good place to be.

                  1. washunate


                    I know you mean well, but I don’t know what you mean.

                    zapster made what I thought was an interesting comment, which is what that particular comment of mine was referencing. MRW also thinks this is interesting, so referenced me referencing zapster.

                    Maybe we should just go back to my original comment? It’s pretty good at expressing my personal opinion on the topic.

                  1. washunate

                    Wray and Mosler say picking a buffer stock is the MMT Insight – you have to pick one. Saying one part of that is a school of thought and another part of that is a concrete policy proposal sounds like semantics to me.

                    1. zapster

                      MMT says nothing about the kind of work to be done, that’s a policy decision.Still, there’s no shortage of work, and no shortage of workers to do it. All that’s missing is the money.

                      The job guarantee is also intended to be voluntary, and so there’s no reason to treat JG workers with any less respect than any others. They don’t have to be make-work jobs.

                    2. washunate

                      zapster, I’m very curious when you say all we need is money.

                      When has money been a constraint on our political process? What activity of the past couple decades would our government have pursued if money hadn’t been a constraint?

          2. MRW

            I thought the JG included the same health benefits that federal employees received, which would increase the appeal to, and the value of, of the lesser-paying JG jobs. Don’t forget this is going to appeal to people who have been out of work for over 6 months and even more than four years. It’s a lifesaver. They need this job to get their skills back, and be seen as employable in the private sector. [And it’s a plus for an actively-seeking employer.} That’s the point of doing it.

            1. washunate

              The linkage of healthcare and employment is a problem, not a solution.

              In my opinion, of course. Others may have a different opinion.

              1. MRW

                The linkage of healthcare and employment is a problem, not a solution.

                Because they don’t deserve it? It’s no skin off your teeth, or out of your wallet, so what’s your problem with it?

                1. washunate

                  lol, yes, that’s why advocates of simple, universal, national social insurance programs don’t like the linkage of employment and healthcare.

                  Some people just don’t deserve a healthy life.

        2. John Zelnicker

          From the article you linked to:

          “We will also assume that this is a “living” wage, and that it is the legal minimum wage that exists at the time the PSE program is implemented.”

          Found in the third paragraph under the heading of Government as Employer of Last Resort.

          I don’t know if your are misreading this intentionally or not, but what Wray is saying is that the living wage paid in the JG/ELR becomes the minimum wage. He assumes it is also the legal minimum wage for purposes of this paper only.

          “(As Hyman Minsky always argued, if there is any unemployment, the effective minimum wage is zero.)” Ibid.

          1. washunate

            I’m not sure why there is confusion here between minimum wage and living wage, or why you are assuming I am misreading something.

            MMT sets the minimum wage by offering jobs rather than regulating private employers. Different mechanisms doing the same thing.

            I think(?) you don’t like it because you’re reading some pejorative quality into the term minimum wage that I do not mean? Of course the minimum wage could be a living wage. Depends on the specifics. Living wage is a subjective term, with different meanings from person to person.

            But one thing Wray and others make clear is that whatever this Awesome Living Wage is going to be, it’s not enough for existing high income public employees. They need Awesome Living Wage + Beaucoup Additional Wages.

            1. John Zelnicker

              My original point is that when you call it “minimum wage-based” you have it backwards. The JG sets the minimum wage, it is not based on it. And maybe that is a bit of semantics, but semantics is one of the things that determines how people think about concepts, also called framing.

              And I am confused why you keep bringing up the wages of high income employees. Please explain exactly what that has to do with the Job Guarantee. I have more than a passing familiarity with MMT and I don’t recall seeing anything about high income earners. What’s your point? And, please, reference something a little more recent than Wray’s CEFPS paper from 2000.

              “But the system they propose says that JG workers should be paid less than academic economists and DEA special agents and university administrators and hospital executives and so forth. I find that notion simultaneously naive and hilarious.” From your comment at 12/3/14, 11:26 am.

              And what is so naive and hilarious about that? The Job Guarantee is proposed as a way to provide employment at a living wage for all those willing and able to work, who have not been able to find a job in the private sector after the increases in employment provided by a government funded program of infrastructure repair and maintenance (carried out by private enterprise), increased R & D, and all the other things our society needs that are not happening because private enterprise can’t make a profit on it in the next quarter. The increased demand from all that should provide most of the additional jobs we need. The JG would be the way to get the remaining involuntary unemployed doing something productive that is useful to society and earning a living. IIRC it is assumed that this would not be a particularly large group.

              1. washunate

                So you see no conflict in someone who doesn’t want the JG to apply to himself lecturing Other People that they should be happy to have it?

      2. washunate

        P.S., there’s another part of the approach that really illustrates the mindset and assumptions I reject. Wray views the unemployed as if they have a problem. It’s a paternalistic mindset, one that says he’s the smart guy with the answers coming to civilize the savages below him.

        “Essentially, the government’s BPSW determines the wage for the lowest productivity group–the pool of unskilled and semi-skilled workers during periods of normal demand. Those workers whose productivity is substantially above $12,500 per year will find jobs in the private sector; those with lower productivity will find PSE.”

        That linking of ‘low wages’ and ‘low skills’ is one of the most vile, and yet deeply rooted, constructions in all of economic thought. It’s actually high wage employees that are often the least productive, the people looting organizations rather than strengthening them.

        And that’s why MMT has been so blind to the problems in banking and medicine and law and education and so forth over the past couple decades, because to indict those highly paid Serious People is to indict the very management philosophy at the heart of the JG.

        1. Ben Johannson

          December 3, 2014 at 11:26 am

          Are you familiar with MMT? The JG, by definition, is the minimum wage. It is used in contrast to other jobs that will pay more than the JG.

          No, the Jobs Guarantee is not minimum wage. It establishes a living wage as the floor beyond which wages cannot fall and your attempt to confuse readers not familiar with this, by suggesting the Jobs Guarantee will pay at around $8 per hour, isn’t going to fly.

          That’s the whole point. Otherwise JG isn’t a buffer stock, a price anchor, which is the philosophical justification for the monetary theory based upon it.

          You don’t know what you’re talking about. The JG acts as a price anchor because it reduces capacity constraints and acts countercyclically.

          But the system they propose says that JG workers should be paid less than academic economists and DEA special agents and university administrators and hospital executives and so forth. I find that notion simultaneously naive and hilarious.


          Wray views the unemployed as if they have a problem. It’s a paternalistic mindset, one that says he’s the smart guy with the answers coming to civilize the savages below him.

          No, the unemployed think they have a problem called unemployment. It turns out that if we actually ask real people about this, they tell us they want a job and do not want welfare payments. The same thing happened during the Great Depression, in which the Works Public Administration was established to provide jobs when most Americans refused to accept a government check for nothing in return. But rather than address what they tell you they want, you’ve decided to give them what you think is best for them.

          Essentially, the government’s BPSW determines the wage for the lowest productivity group–the pool of unskilled and semi-skilled workers during periods of normal demand.

          The Jobs Guarantee is not the BPSW, a fifteen year-old conceptual model that was superceded long ago by a much more expansive proposal.

          1. washunate

            1) Um, I have never suggested what the JG wage would be. Indeed, that’s something I critique when MMTers talk about jobs conceptually – the details matter. The difference between $8 and $12 and $20 and $30 and $50 is significant. But you know who did throw out $8 as a specific figure? Warren Mosler.


            2) I don’t know what I’m talking about, eh? What’s the difference between ‘reducing capacity constraints’ and acting as a ‘price anchor’? There are finite resources. Either those resources are distributed roughly equally, or they are not. If they are not, in order for some to get more, others have to get less. I’m happy to call that reducing capacity constraints if that floats your boat. The reason I use buffer stock and price anchor is because those are phrases that Wray and Mosler use.


            3) So? So I care about excessive inequality, both in currency terms and in more general power relationships. That’s a personal preference. There’s no law that says you have to care about it. But don’t try and tell me that your approach solves something that’s important to me when you don’t care about what’s important to me. Basic problem solving here. Attempting to solve somebody else’s problem when that’s not actually what they care about doesn’t actually solve their problem.

            4) Actually, the data is pretty clear that Americans, in aggregate, want to work less, not more. The problem is the distribution of income, not the total amount of hours of work. And your example of the WPA is very interesting. Wray and Mosler don’t really advocate big federal jobs programs. They advocate giving money to local actors and assuming they will create meaningful work.

            And I see you ignore completely the Social Security Act, wherein millions upon millions of beneficiaries happily receive income and healthcare for not working.

            5) Ah, maybe we agree? The concept of PSE and BPSW is flawed?

            1. Ben Johannson

              Are you familiar with MMT? The JG, by definition, is the minimum wage. It is used in contrast to other jobs that will pay more than the JG. That’s the whole point. Otherwise JG isn’t a buffer stock, a price anchor, which is the philosophical justification for the monetary theory based upon it.

            2. MRW

              . . . don’t try and tell me that your approach solves something that’s important to me when you don’t care about what’s important to me

              Ah! Randy Wray’s point.

        2. zapster

          He doesn’t regard the unemployed as a problem. He regards the system as the problem–which is entirely accurate. The private sector cannot produce enough jobs with demand so low. How do you raise demand? You get income into the pockets of those who need it.

          And work = human dignity. People that *want* to work are being treated as second-class citizens because the work isn’t there. That’s insulting and paternalistic, as well as abysmally stupid.

          1. washunate

            I would say the best way to

            get income into the pockets of those who need it

            is to give it to those who need it. That’s called social insurance.

            1. Ben Johannson

              That is false. Social Insurance is intended to prevent members of society from falling through the floor due to catastrophe. Hence calling it insurance.

              1. washunate

                lol, how can an opinion be false? It’s my opinion.


                I think what makes you mad is that a lot of other Americans like social insurance programs, too. If I was some crazy quack espousing some crackpot theory, you would be able to respond differently.

                But you can’t just say we should repeal the Social Security Act because for some bizarre reason Americans are so stupid they actually like these various idiotic backwards programs. And this is with the flawed patchwork of programs we have today; truly universal programs would be even more effective.

                Oh and in case you’re going to say I’m making this up and am unhinged from reality, I’m including some links to various analyses and surveys about public opinion. I might also include some links saying that water is wet and the sky is blue.

                Well, sometimes. I mean, there are always exceptions.


          2. not_me

            Doing work does not require a job, indeed quite a few jobs perform negative work instead – TSA officials, for example. Nor does an income require a job; the rich do well enough with assets alone.

            A JG is an attempted substitute for justice which would involve asset redistribution, especially land, plus the elimination of the cause of so much economic misery, government subsidies for private credit creation – another Progressive hallmark.

  4. Jim Haygood

    ‘I see shorter work days and more paid vacations as a progressive goal to humanize the work place.’

    Just as France prepares to dump its cockamamie 35-hour week:

    A fight has broken out within President François Hollande’s Socialist government over whether to officially end the nominal 35-hour workweek as a way to overcome France’s economic malaise.

    Breaking a taboo, Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron has begun to openly question whether the measure — which was passed in 2000 by a Socialist government to encourage job creation — still serves the country’s needs.



    Alors Monsieur … je vois que vous êtes un énarque.

    1. Sam Kanu

      They have shorter workweeks in Scandinavia. I think as little as 35 or 37 hours in Norway for example. And not likely to go away soon. Of course they have a more rounded society than France, which has bigger inequality levels despite having a broad welfare state. In particular a focus on adult retraining and education. Suggests to me the solutions are multiple rather than length of work week alone…

      1. vidimi

        france’s main problem is that they are deeply committed to the neoliberal agenda. several of the world’s biggest multinationals are french, so they have an interest to play by neoliberal rules to protect them. if jim haygood’s point is that socialist policies are undesireable in a neoliberal framework, then fine, there’s not much to argue about. the real question is whether it’s desirable to maintain that neoliberal framework. and i think the answer is the sooner we can rid ourselves of it, the sooner we may become more civilised.

        1. James Levy

          You also must take into account that everything I’ve ever read in the NY Times about France was a hit piece/hatchet job. Unless French policy slavishly mimics the Washington Consensus it is automatically portrayed as wrong, dangerous, and motivated by nothing but anti-American bile and stupidity. Until relatively recently the same had also applied to India, another NYT whipping boy.

          1. vidimi

            i suspect the last time the NYT put out a hit-piece against france was when hollande enacted a 75% top income tax on the 2m€+ bracket. other than that, he has been pretty much in line, both in economic as in foreign policies. perhaps france’s recent, non-binding vote to recognize palestine as a state drew some frowns, but i suspect it was too meaningless to draw much notice.

      2. Working Class Nero

        You got to be careful with this shortened work week. In my profession at least, the work week refers to the number of hours you’re PAID for — it has little to no relationship to the number of hours actually worked. So a few years ago our far-sighted and kind company reduced our work week from 40 to 36 hours. Of course what that really meant was we all got a 10% pay cut since most people continued working the same number of hours — often more than 60 hours a week.

      3. rusti

        They have shorter workweeks in Scandinavia. I think as little as 35 or 37 hours in Norway for example. And not likely to go away soon. Of course they have a more rounded society than France, which has bigger inequality levels despite having a broad welfare state. In particular a focus on adult retraining and education. Suggests to me the solutions are multiple rather than length of work week alone…

        I live and work in Sweden. Work weeks being a bit under 40 hours is the norm, as well as 5+ weeks of vacation in addition to public holidays. Usually everyone is out of the office for the month of July and Christmas / New Year’s. People regularly disappear for 6+ months at a time for maternity/paternity leave as well, it’s just sort of a fact of life.

        It’s not all rosy though, for the past 8 years there’s been a government that (at least from my opinion) is built more in the Reagan/Thatcher mold but is socially liberal, and this most recent election has been a disaster with the anti-immigration party gaining enough seats to throw the left/right block dynamic into disarray as neither holds a majority and neither want to associate with them.

        I think a well-implemented employment guarantee would cure a lot of the ills that stem from the chronically underemployed / marginalized immigrant population and support for the single-minded anti-immigration party would evaporate to the pre-2006 levels where they couldn’t meet the 4% threshold for entry into parliament, but I’ve only lived here for two election cycles.

  5. mike

    For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

    We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

    They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

    Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.

    I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.
    –Franklin Roosevelt, 1936, a giant loser who never accomplished anything because he failed “to find common ground” and “be patient.”

    1. jerry

      Wow awesome quote.. gota love the man. This kind of statement would never be uttered in Washington today.

  6. not_me

    What are needed are INCOME and meaningful WORK, not jobs, working for someone else, at what may or may not be, meaningful work. A BIG plus land and other asset redistribution should provide all the income and meaningful work the population needs and is the JUST solution too given that land and other assets were stolen from the population via what is essentially a government subsidized counterfeiting cartel, our banking system.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, jobs have the meaning you attribute to them. As the Zen master said, “Before I was enlightened, I hauled water and chopped wood. After I was enlightened, I hauled water and chopped wood.” Cleaning toilets and bathrooms is meaningful work (I’ve done it for money, as well as doing it as part of paying for retreats I went to) and I didn’t find it to be “meaningless”. It sounds like you are a snob about people who do manual labor, and deem that to be beneath you, ergo it is not “meaningful”.

      And there is plenty of work that needs to be done. Start with caring for children and the aged, keeping up our libraries and public spaces, and infrastructure investment. I am sure readers could add to the list.

      1. vlade

        Is meaningful the same as “I want to”? Would not BIG mean that if someone wants to have toilet cleaned, they would have to pay the cleaner reasonably, rather than min wage or less?

        I suspect that a reasonable BIG would remove substantial amount of crapified jobs, both in public and private sectors. It would also, from the same sectors, remove people who do the job because they have to get the money, but hate the jobs – which in general is a drain, rather than benefit to the organization. At the same time, it would allow people to do the jobs they like to do while ignoring (to an extent) pay stuff, since their financial future would be more or less guaranteed. And lastly “demeaning” jobs like toilet cleaning would now be likely valued more due to having to outweight the demeaning factor, as opposed to being “need cash now, don’t care about the job” pressure.

        Not to mention, do we really need to have more jobs, in a society that massively overproduces stuff? (and is likely to overproduce even more) And for the matter, I don’t consider services as the be-all end-all, since all to often they turn out to be equivalents of call centre jobs to sell stuff that no-one needs.

        BIG gives you a choice to do what you want, or wait till you can (which may be never of course), and not suffer financially for it. I can’t see a job guarantee that guarantees a job you want. Ex-Soviet bloc countries had job guarantees (job wasn’t a right, it was mandatory. It was a criminal offence not to have job, and one way the system punished disenters – denied them jobs, and then jailed them for not having one). It wasn’t that great.

          1. Jesper

            Might it have something to do with the approval ratings of the current president, senate, congress etc?

            Or would the JG be controlled by a new and incorruptible public institution run by?

      2. vidimi

        i think different work is meaningful to different people. a guaranteed jobs program can pay you to spit at the moon, but not everyone will be able to derive satisfaction from that. the biggest problem a guaranteed jobs program faces, IMO, is matching peoples’ various skills and personalities with suitable jobs, and that opens it up to a lot of potential abuse.

        1. Massinissa

          I agree completely. I dont see how a jobs guarantee will do anything but create valueless make-work. Make-work is something to be liberated from, not increased so that everyone can suffer from it.

          1. Paul Lafargue

            Well said. And let us be clear about definitions. Jobs, as the fine people associated with Detroit’s Boggs Center maintain, are today’s feudalism. Work, and it encompasses ALL necessary, socially useful tasks from cleaning latrines (though if there was some equity in this world, self-cleaning WC would be the rule not the exception) to carrying out the garbage (again, ditto above re equity: potential resources). This all comes down to a fundamental re-thinking of how to structure our lives. And maybe (I feign objectivity here) the crux of that ‘transformation of values’ leaves the realm of economics just as it waves goodbye to the discourse of rights and duties and lands (gently) in the land of conviviality and friendship.

            1. Lambert Strether

              “Jobs are today’s feudalism” is a snappy soundbyte, but feudal social relations are not capitalist relations, as you surely know.

              I’m all for a teleology where human ownership (slavery) moves to human rental (wage labor) to human gift (your conviviality and friendship).

              But it seems a long way off. May I suggest that setting baseline wages and working conditions democratically through the JG is a good way to start the process?

          2. zapster

            So government can run businesses too. I honestly see no difference between a business run by a government and one run by a corporation except that the corporation is a net drain on the nation’s productivity. I remember the arguments for privatization–that government managers had no “stake” in the company’s success, etc. But how is that worse than corporate looters that are given billions to bankrupt companies, rip off the public and throw millions out of work?

            Work is meaningful work, whether done publicly or privately. Repairing a bridge requires the same effort no matter who cuts the check. Frankly, I’m all in favor of nationalizing the bad actors–and rehiring their ex-employees, or yanking their charters and barring them access to our markets. It would clear the field for the millions of entrepreneurs that currently can’t break into these massively monopolized markets.

        2. jimmy elliot

          I often feel pretty irritated at being “forced” to “upgrade” to new programs and operating systems that do nothing it improve my efficiency – I’m still hanging in mostly with WindowsXP. I have been aware for years that all the new technology does very little to market real estate – what it does is gives realtors something else to buy that differentiates them to Sellers and Buyers – Most of the stuff is an unneeded gimmick. Maybe the people who program all this stuff really get a kick out of making it work, but I don’t see how they create much current or lasting value. Early in life I was into auto mechanics – If I was going to buy a car today and spend some money, I’d be happy with my 1937 Chevy – Cars have not gotten that much better and they are pretty much designed to drive 100,000 miles and send to the crusher to be “recycled” into new cars build in Korea.

      3. washunate

        Yves, that’s the heart of the matter.

        Would Professor Wray accept the working conditions of being a preschool teacher or home healthcare aide for himself? If so, the state of Missouri is seriously overpaying him.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Why does that matter one way or the other?

          Currently, “the economy” is regulated by throwing people out of work. This is a brutal and barbaric system that causes many ill effects, including depression and suicide (links on request, I’m in a rush) as well as loss of homes, schooling, etc.

          And yet people seem to be perfectly fine with this.

          The system Wray proposes is far more humane.

          Frankly, I’m getting more than a little tired of people whinging about JG jobs not being m-e-a-n-i-n-g-f-u-l — assuming, for the sake of the argument, that this untruth is true — and I’m starting to wonder why I don’t hear a smidgeon of concern for workers who lose their homes or get sick or kill themselves.

          One reason JG advocates support the policy is that they hope to provide meaningful work with it — and there’s PLENTY of meaningful work to be done, look around you — and that stands in great contrast to simply supplying people’s consumption needs, as does BIG.

          1. phil

            You seem to be comparing the JG to the current system, and your conclusions are correct there, but from reading these comments most of your interlocutors are comparing it to the BIG. It seems to me that a BIG would have done a lot to help the people you describe by decoupling economic power from the state of employment, and hence from the power to employ. It would also help a lot of people who can’t work, which the JG doesn’t seem to address at all.

            Casting the argument as “JG or BIG” also seems to be a false dichotomy. A JG would permit people who wish to do hired work to do so; a BIG would permit those who don’t or can’t to live without financial panic. If the concern is that some people in the second category should be compelled into the first, then making the JG wage higher than the BIG should provide the right incentives. (Or hey, compel people who can to work. I don’t think it will work out, but my point is that there is nothing inherent in the BIG that precludes the JG.)

            The JG is a significant improvement on the status quo, and I see nothing bad in having it. But why do its proponents view the BIG as an inferior competitor? It seems more like a complementary program. I presume they have their reasons, but I’ve never seen them laid out in anything like a compelling case.

          2. Ben Johannson

            Doesn’t matter. Washunate and the utopian left either get a perfect world or we’re stuck with what we’ve got now. That real people (and dogs) are suffering right now is an abstraction to them.

              1. Ben Johannson

                Sure it works, except for mandating everyone earn an identical wage like you want, or all those unemployed people that want to work. Other than that social insurance is swell.

                1. Carla

                  Actually, social security is not the same for everyone at all. The monthly benefit ranges from about $800 to at least $2,500.

          3. washunate

            I notice you make a response, but don’t answer the question.

            If the JG working conditions are not to be applied to all public jobs, then those cushier public jobs need some sort of justification for why they are cushier.

            So what is your justification?

              1. washunate

                Ah, way to deflect the question. I’m not proposing that my own work is way more valuable than others. Quite the opposite, I’m observing that differences in compensation and working conditions have very little to do with the underlying skill and performance of individual workers. Workers, especially knowledge workers and management, are replaceable. Those are the kinds of positions that have way more people interested in doing them than there are positions that need filling.

                1. Ben Johannson

                  What is your annual income? I assume you’ve refused any and all income increases to remain in line wiith your peers.

                  1. washunate

                    So you agree that differences in compensation and working conditions have little to do with the skill and performance of individual workers? Or you want to know whether I make more or less than Professor Wray first before deciding what your opinion is?

              1. washunate

                I’m not talking raising a wage floor. I’m talking about the gap between whatever that wage floor is and highly compensated employees. Why should a significant gap exist? It’s okay if you haven’t thought this through in detail before.

                I am curious for you to articulate a specific set of criteria by which you find it acceptable for people working a similar amount of time to have such different working conditions and compensation packages. Is it something about the individual? The job? The organization?

                1. Ben Johannson

                  You don’t know what you’re talking about: Lambert and many others have discussed this here, which clearly has left no impression upon you that yoi don’t remember it. If ever you get past “jobs” to think about implications for national income, let us know because you’re way behind.

                2. Lambert Strether

                  This is pure deflection. Will be JG do what it claims? Yes. Does it have the power to tilt the balance between employer and employee toward the employer? Yes.

                  Does it abolish wage labor or create an egalitarian society? No. And so what?

                  1. washunate

                    So now we’re arguing about who’s deflecting instead of answering my question?

                    If the JG is such a great program, why shouldn’t all public employees be part of it? The test of great public policy is whether you would want the rules you advocate to apply to yourself.

                    1. Ben Johannson

                      Actually you were demanding to know why everyone shouldn’t be forced to earn the same wage.

                      Then you complained about the Jobs Guarantee being “patrernalistic”, forced on to people.

                      Noe you demand the Jobs Guarantee be forced on everyone. You’re incoherent.

                3. Calgacus

                  Washunate, a JG (in some form, perhaps implicit) is the minimum for a non-psychotic monetary society. It manifestly provides for more equality than our current criminally insane design. It does not say that everybody be paid the same for the same time. That is something for each society to decide.

                  But in particular, since you oppose a JG, a JG is more egalitarian than your preferred systems, which have a JG wage of zero, and therefore a minimum wage of zero. Why do you think that there should be unemployment? Why do you think that some people deserve no money for their labor? Historically, this disgusting crime against the poor and the unemployed has been the primary (nearly the sole) cause of poverty.

                  Basically, you complain that in the MMT JG, Joe Schmoe gets 10 while Randy Wray gets 20. Fine. But saying this is inegalitarian when you want more inequality, want Joe Schmoe to get 0 (while Randy Wray, due to his diabolical cleverness, will still get 20) makes no sense at all.

      4. jimmy elliot

        Oh this is fun. I do not consider myself a snob around labor – maybe I’m a reverse snob- I clean my own toilets, do my own cooking, built my own house, fix my own cars when I can, I build and play my own guitars (even though it’s economically stupid), I built a kiln to fire my own pots in the back yard, I walk my own dog, I prefer reading paper books to digital. Reality is that IS society doesn’t “need” the work of all the people we have. I don’t get the stigma associated with being unemployed – when virtually all normal people work hard with unemployment retirement) being their goal. For most of my life I have not had “jobs” because I was too busy working – I like chopping wood and enjoy running my chainsaw, but regulations increasingly make chopping wood and burning it illegal and uneconomical. People (women) used to spend days hand washing laundry and now we have washing machines that freed up an incredible amount of time – some women are increasingly “hiring out” the raising of theri children so the can work for Apple or Google designing and marketing any crap built in China, that people are willing to pay for. Infrastructure is a great thought – In Half Moon Bay we currently have a “State Built” pedestrian and bicycle bridge that has been closed – The F……idots incharge are planning on a 2-year permit process while everyone has to detour and ride their bikes on the highway. I still love the old WPA bridges and structures from the depression day – now we get multi-year permit process – competitive bids from highly skilled Union Conctractors and the stuff looks and is generic.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Have you ever been un or underemployed? I’ve been for over a decade. I had many years as a consultant when I made enough to earn a pretty good living and still had tons of time free because I commanded a very high consulting rate. It was not good for me psychologically at all to have so much free time and no work to do. Admittedly, because my work was erratic (as in when work came along it was so intense I could not do anything else) that I couldn’t get involved in charitable work to fill up the slack time.

          So I have to tell you, I’ve lived the “have enough income, not enough work” and I can tell you from personal experience that it is a bad place to be. Not as bad as having no money, but way way less good than having regular work to give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment, and a way to structure your time.

          1. nihil obstet

            You’re giving your experience as evidence, so let’s go on with it if you don’t mind. Were you unable to get a job that would pay basic expenses, say as a bank teller — it would be way below what you were doing in terms of pay and skills involved, but it would provide you with the 40 hours of employment time, the lack of which you found so bad? What would a JG provide you? Do you see it as insuring you the opportunity fully to use your skills and the pay that those skills command in the private sector? Or do would you be happy being offered a job as bookkeeper/office manager at an elementary school? I admit that I doubt you’d go for the under-employment for yourself, and I’m having some problems understanding why you dismiss it as an option for others.

            Having done a lot of work with non-profits that rely on volunteer labor, I have somewhat limited faith in the ease (or even the feasibility) of matching work that needs to be done with the skills, beliefs, and personalities of the people who show up to do it. You really can’t staff a suicide prevention hotline with someone who is convinced that “reverse psychology” is an effective approach. Or with someone who is going to miss a fair number of scheduled shifts because of the needs of a sick child at home. JG advocates seem to think issues like these are so rare that they can easily be addressed as exceptions, but I have found them rather more prevalent than that. The volunteer coordinator has to work pretty far outside the parameters that a job supervisor observes, as demonstrated by your own experience not being able to do charitable work because of schedule.

            Anyway, do you see a JG as insuring you and everyone else the job that will give what each needs in purpose, accomplishment, and structure?

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Those are non-questions. When you have very narrow, high end skills, all you can get hired to do is something that uses those high end skills. That’s something that BTW Jamie Galbraith discusses in his book “Predator Nation,” where he casts aspersions on having a lot of people get advanced degrees because those degrees are costly from a societal standpoint to earn and leave the person receiving them exposed to risk that there are too many people for those narrow job skills and they are stuck.

              I know people who had graduate degrees back in the day who had to scrub that from their resume to get hired as a secretary. You can’t do that now due to the Internet and employers not liking gaps in resumes.

              Separately, I could never be hired as a bank teller. I’m “overqualified.” And I’m also not good at some skills critical for working in a retail bank. One is proofreading ability. Bank employees are average 99th percentile and you can see from the typos on this blog that I am below that. So despite it being a “lesser” job, I am actually lacking in a core skill necessary to perform it. I am also, believe it or not, a terribly slow and inaccurate typist, which is another problem with the bank teller job idea, since the banks require rapid and accurate data entry. So I would be unhappy in it by virtue of being an underperformer and would likely be fired even if I could get hired. But I would probably not mind teaching, but again it requires years of credentialing to be hired as a teacher.

              1. nihil obstet

                So how would a JG solve your problem of being underemployed? I don’t think that’s a non-question; many, many people have specific issues of capabilities, skills, interests, and pay. The people you talk about in your first paragraph — they can’t get jobs, so the JG ought to work for them. Can you explain how? Using your own experience, how would you envision the JG working?

                I just keep reading assurances that the JG will provide everybody with good, appropriate jobs. My tendency is to think that it would do well for relatively unskilled labor or for specific projects like the WPA, but that it would require many people to spend their time in jobs that they are not suited for and that fail to use their capabilities for good social purposes. Would a JG address your problems of underemployment and provide you with a job you’re suited for? I think that’s a serious question about the benefits of a JG.

                  1. nihil obstet

                    Instead of a vague assurance, tell me the specifics so I can understand what you’re envisioning. “The Jobs Guarantee” is a policy that needs a structure and personnel to implement it. I don’t mean to appear personal, but Yves specifically used her own experience to dismiss the BIG in favor of the JG. I think the two work well together, but I’m hearing arguments against the BIG as very moralistic lecturing, reminiscent of the 18th c. arguments in favor of enclosure, so that the villager would have to go to factory work to learn the habits of industriousness. Show me that I’m wrong by explaining to me why a job that would be created for a specific advocate of the JG would be preferable to the financial ability made possible by the BIG to take or refuse a job.

                    So, what agency would create the job that uses specific high-end skills? Would this agency have job-creating personnel that could design jobs for any narrow, high-end skill set? Or would the job seeker have a skills assessment test to identify the skills she has? Would it include job counseling to explain that not wanting to do tedious work like proofreading does not translate into an inability to do it (people with better choices always claim to be incompetent at the worse choices. Do you get to eliminate the worse choices from the getgo?)

                    Explain how this works. Or, even without the details of how this marvelous-job-for-everyone policy will work, I’ll be a willing advocate of the JG as a partner of the BIG. What I have real problems with is “BIG make people lazy and unhappy. JG make people industrious and happy. Meet the Boss.”

                    1. Ben Johannson

                      I think the two work well together, but I’m hearing arguments against the BIG as very moralistic lecturing, reminiscent of the 18th c. arguments in favor of enclosure, so that the villager would have to go to factory work to learn the habits of industriousness.

                      Then you aren’t listening.

                      Show me that I’m wrong by explaining to me why a job that would be created for a specific advocate of the JG would be preferable to the financial ability made possible by the BIG to take or refuse a job.

                      1) The BIG is inflationary, so the central bank will dislike it.

                      2) The BIG is in American culture a “handout”, so conservatives will hate it.

                      3) The BIG will reduce the size of the labor force, so business will fight it.

                      4) The BIG is an awful notion because, for the reasons previously stated, it will never become law in this country.

                      So, what agency would create the job that uses specific high-end skills?

                      What agency would you like?

                      Would this agency have job-creating personnel that could design jobs for any narrow, high-end skill set? Or would the job seeker have a skills assessment test to identify the skills she has?

                      These aren’t mutually exclusive.

                      Would it include job counseling to explain that not wanting to do tedious work like proofreading does not translate into an inability to do it (people with better choices always claim to be incompetent at the worse choices. Do you get to eliminate the worse choices from the getgo?)

                      If they don’t want to proofread, there is no reason they would have to.

                    2. nihil obstet

                      My question was “Can anyone provide specifics?”
                      The answer appears to be, “No.”
                      Thanks for your attention.

              2. John Zelnicker

                ” I am also, believe it or not, a terribly slow and inaccurate typist,”

                Now that explains a lot. :-) I have wondered why such a brilliant thinker on the difficult subjects you tackle sometimes writes sentences that need more than a bit of interpretation because of misplaced, mistyped, and missing words. Now I understand.

          2. vidimi

            i’ve had this too. but most of my anxiety was coming from the fact that a) the longer i remained unemployed the more unemployable i would be; and b) expenses of every day life depleting my savings. a JG would only address the former if it G’d a J in whatever area it was that you wished to become more employable in. the devil is in the details with the JG and most of those are missing. JG advocates seem to be pretending that we’ve had those discussions, but we haven’t. defining the length of the work week would be a good place to start, but Prof. Wray already poopooed the job sharing idea, which, by the way, would be the simplest to implement and probably most beneficial to those currently employed.

            extrapolating from my own experience, i found no problem filling in the free time i had with other activities: i learned to bake bread, took painting classes; things that might be considered work for some people. if i were unemployed again i definitely wouldn’t want to be compelled doing something, anything, for 40 hours per week and 50 weeks per year if i had another option of protecting my savings.

      5. susan the other

        +350 million. I’m just thinking about my own list. It’s anything that doesn’t involve too much desk sitting. Gardening. Maintaining public places. Cleaning. Repair work. Child care. Elder care. Cooking. Singing. Dancing. Playing a violin. Writing poetry. Throwing pots. Brushing down a horse. Feeding birds. Shampooing a dog. Restoring a toxic site; restoring a countryside. Maintaining clean watersheds. Creating an interconnected infrastructure for a sustainable future — you know – just the little things.

      6. RanDomino

        Not all jobs and work are meaningful. We could hire half the unemployed to dig holes and the other half to fill them. Which is essentially what subsidies have been doing for a number of industries for the last few decades, I suppose. There are also many jobs which seem useful but are actually just make-work. The retail cashier produces nothing. They literally stand between people getting things and using them. The rise of the barista in the last decade added nothing to the real economy.
        There are plenty of meaningful things that could be done, but they’re simply not going to be prioritized by the government. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are interested and third parties have zero chance of ever becoming influential.
        The only force that could make meaningful jobs a reality is the unions, if they magically decide to start getting into the business of directly owning the means of production (if they have millions to spend on elections they have millions to invest in shops and factories). But that would interfere with their victimhood-management racket.
        More importantly, it doesn’t answer this question: Even if all of the work that actually should be done gets fully funded, what if there still isn’t enough work to go around? If there’s 40 times as many people as there is necessary work, for example, do we have everyone work one hour per week? Or do we leave it at something more rational like 10 hours a week and we’re at 90% unemployment?
        No- access to the necessities must be decoupled from immediate contribution. That’s what it means to be an anti-capitalist.

      7. MRW

        I am sure readers could add to the list.

        Digital historians for every county in the country using archival methods that will protect these records for the next 500 years. This would hire the out-of-work public librarians, historians, document management professionals, organizers and storage experts, and graduating students.

        Repurposing unused government buildings (like the post offices Feinstein’s husband is getting rich selling off by himself) for new community-based futures. This would hire the out-of-work architects, engineers, urban planners, poll-knowlegdable community people, and graduating students.

        Introduce a four-language read/write/speak requirement to graduate from high school nationwide that has to be introduced at the kindergarten and grade one level: English, a romance language, pictorial language, and an elective. This would hire the out-of-work language specialists, translators, people who speak the language, new legal immigrants, extracurricular specialists, and graduating students.

        The list goes on from local agricultural/fresh food-growing programs, to community-based citizen and police integration programs, to labeling all the hiking trails in America and install GPS markers, to joining retired physicists/thermodynamic physicists/radiative physicists with new hard science graduates to develop electromagnetic energy products.

        1. MRW

          And my number-one favorite: installing the government information highway. Install cell towers across every square mile of this country, including mountain passes and in desert areas. This would hire out-of-work construction workers, surveyors, electronic technicians, landscape architects, sculptors, logistics experts, cable layers, and graduating students.

          1. MRW

            . . . . as opposed to sticking cable in the ground, which gets into property rights and royalty issues, the air waves belong to the public. These airwaves are leased to the telecom and broadcasting companies, have been since 1934. Since AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint and the cables refuse to build out public-access wireless nodes, the government should do it so everyone in the US can benefit, and the telecoms and cables can pay for the increased access.

            This is how Korea and Japan grew their broadband so quickly. Sticking cable in the ground could offend the ancestors or disturb the feng shui, so they camouflaged high-power cell towers over ‘every inch’ of their countries.

            1. MRW

              Great idea! (I still want those post offices ‘Mr. Feinstein’ walked off with returned to the people.)

    2. Lambert Strether

      If the JG is under democratic control, the jobs are as good as we the people can make them,* i.e. work. JG jobs are in no way inherently crapified. I had this out with a previous commenter who agreed to stop peddling this bullshit. I suggest you stop peddling it, too.

      Incidentally, in the many, many, many jobs I’ve had, the people in the workplace have been more interesting than the work. That is, “place” has meaning in addition to “work.”

      NOTE * ZOMG!!!!! There is no magic pony!!!!! There is no deus ex machina!!!!!!! We might have to do politics!!!!!!!

  7. Bead Blonde

    While there are some passionate employees, a far greater number are motivated by fear first and foremost. This truism will escape the tenured professors. But it explains why every day isn’t a holiday and why people conform in dress and appearance. It explains punctuality and the popularity of weekends.

    Probably conservatives are convinced that absent fear very little gets accomplished. I will admit that the idea of employment and pay simply for my existence and essential charm is a lovely thought. But that’s in some heaven far from Pharaoh and the whip.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Your comment is a straw man. This isn’t “pay for existence.” It’s pay for work.

      And most people like to work. Not having a job is highly correlated with depression. People like social contact. People are social creatures.

      1. Gil Gamseh

        Yes, people like to work. People also like to make decisions about the manner of such work, to have real autonomy and control over their work, work that has real (not notional, bureaucratic functional) value. But that’s a topic for a different day.

      2. vlade

        When you say “not having a job is highly correlated with depressions”, was it controlled for wealth? As in, am I depressed becasue I have no job and thus live on the borderline, or am I a rich heiress and have no job thus depressed?

        Women started to get into workforce only about 100 years ago, were they depressed and w/o social contact all the time before?

        I honestly don’t know the answers to either above, I’m not trying to bait anyone.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          It is hard to collect data on the rich because they don’t submit themselves to poking and prodding by social scientists. Having said that, there are plenty of examples of fabulously rich people who have addictions (alcohol is the usual one) because they can’t find or create a meaningful life for themselves (some even merit long-form treatment in magazines, see http://gawker.com/5440297/born-rich-the-life-and-death-of-heiress-casey-johnson, but you can find multiple older ones in this genre. And those are the ones who spin so badly out of control that it becomes a major scandal. Most families try to shuttle them into rehab). Or see this: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2008/11/21/why-rich-people-are-so-miserable.html

          Why do you think not a small number of rich people give their kids only a few million (which these days is enough to retire on or stake a business but not enough to have a frivolous wastrel life) to make sure they make something of themselves?

          As for women, being a wife has social status and a wife lives on her husband’s income. Even so, you seem remarkable unaware of how much physical labor it took to keep a house before the creation of labor-saving devices like washing machines and vacuum cleaners. My great grandmother scrubbed clothes on a washing board and wrung them out by hand. If you are busy, you don’t have time to get depressed. By contrast, the feminist literature of the 40s and 50s, was explicitly about women having a lack of sense of purpose about their lives, and it was in part a result of housework becoming partly mechanized and therefore less important, and women having more unstructured time on their hands. Now many “busied” themselves with hugely valuable social work, others went and did more social/intellectual amusements, but some women looked at their lives versus men’s and started questioning role assignments.

      3. Massinissa

        Isnt the depression mostly linked to unemployment, and not to not having a job?

        Theyre not the same thing.

        Alot of the population is already employed in useless makework that creates no value. Why increase the number?

        1. Lambert Strether

          Useless makework that creates no value like the public works under FDR? I really wish people would stop repeating that the JG is useless makework. It’s a Big Lie. There are certainly honest arguments against the JG, but this is not one.

          1. Paul

            Mr. Miyagi gave Daniel LaRusso Makework waxing his car — with awesome results; work for any reason beats anti-work! Skill atrophy, social disintegration, swelling criminal element that’s what happens in the meantime. People learn by doing, when their not doing they’re unlearning.

      4. washunate

        I would really encourage you to look into the actual practice of HR/OB, not just the theory of academic economists.

        Work is actually much more closely associated with stress and depression and general poor health than non-work.

        1. vidimi

          i would also add that, in france, after fully vesting their Contrat Durée Indéterminée, workers, especially those in the public sector, have very high rates of despondency and a small number don’t even bother showing up for years at a time. obviously, voices on the right like to amplify these cases to justify enacting laws that would make it easier to lay people off, but i’ve spoken to enough people to know that these cases exist.

            1. Ben Johannson

              He’s not familiar with work supporting your argument because the link you provide doesn’t support your argument:

              The ways in which work is organized—particularly its pace, intensity and the space it allows or does not allow for control over one’s work process and for realizing a sense of self-efficacy, justice, and employment security—can be as toxic or benign to the health of workers over time as the chemicals they breathe in the workplace air.

              Why, that’s exactly what the JG remedies by giving workers the option to quit when the job sucks or to demand better conditions.

              1. washunate

                Ben, what are you talking about? Those are exactly the kinds of things causing health problems in the workplace.

                But more generally, this line of argument has reached comical levels. People take vacations, sabbaticals, holidays, and retirement to get away from work in the formal economy. If people were so happy to go to work, there wouldn’t be huge efforts to monitor and enforce compliance with company policy. Employees would do it themselves.

  8. Jesper

    Once upon a time not so long ago people dreamed of a time when automation would allow us to work less. Now we’re there. Automation and standardisation has reduced the numbers of hours that needs to be done and now we have:
    -people who are stressed and suffering stress-related illness as a result of working too much, and it is the rational choice as working too much is preferable to not working at all
    -people who are suffering from the stress of not having enough money to pay for food and shelter as they are unemployed, their stress leads to stress-related illness
    -people who can’t fathom that most people don’t live to work

    Longer vacations reduces the number of working hours an employer can squeeze out of employees. The result is that employees get a stronger negotiating position & if there is no slack in employment then there’ll be an upward pressure on wages. In current times, with high unemployment, wages are unlikely to increase much.
    Not sure why there is a claim that government pays for vacation, it is the employer who pay for longer vacations. How much of the economy now goes to company profits? How much goes to the employees?

    Commodisation of labour is a prerequisite for lowering of wages and also for work-sharing. We’ve seen the lowering of wages, time to also get the work-sharing.

  9. diptherio

    I have to say, Wray’s puritanical ranting against a BIG is a little annoying. “Paying everyone not to work”–piffle! It’s making sure everyone has enough to get by. Experiments (with control groups and everything) in India found that health, nutrition, and entrepreneurship all increased with a BIG, as compared to needs based programs. A BIG is also simple, requiring little in the way of intermediaries–direct deposits to bank accounts avoid any corruption or patronage that might otherwise occur. The best evidence seems to point to the fact that a BIG is more effective and less expensive overall than needs-based welfare programs.

    A Job Guarantee is great, and I support it–but what of those who are unable to work? What about those single parents who would prefer to actually be able to raise their kids without choosing between having an income and being physically present for their child(ren)? A Basic Income Guarantee takes care of all these concerns.

    It’s a little disappointing to hear Wray waxing so judgmental about a system that will not require people to work or starve. Perhaps he should consider that, from an environmental perspective, the more we sit around and don’t do anything, the less of a “footprint” we have. It would be a boon to our ecosphere if more of us did a lot less (most of what we do now is just busy-work, or actually destructive, anyway).

    We need JG and BIG, imnsho.

    1. Jesper

      Francis Coppola seems to agree with you:

      “So to me, at any rate, it seems that basic income and JG would be likely to have similar economic effects.* I find it surprising therefore that the debate between the two sides becomes so heated. It seems to me that the fundamental difference between JG proponents and supporters of basic income lies not in their economics but in their view of human nature.

      JG proponents are essentially managerialist. They think that people have to be told what to do or they won’t do anything useful. Basic income supporters, on the other hand, are liberals: they believe that if people are supported and their basic needs are met, they will find useful and productive things to do.”

      1. Lambert Strether

        Hmm. The consumer economy doesn’t “tell people what to do” and is, apparently, not “managerialist.”

        But a JG, with democratically controlled wages and working conditions, does, and is.


        1. vidimi

          a lot of things in government are, in principle, democratically controlled. all of them are managerialist.
          somebody would have to make decisions on which jobs to create and where and to whom to assign those jobs.

          furthermore, democratic control is not the same as individual control. i know which i’d rather have over my employment.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Did you miss that these jobs are for people who want a job? Moreover, job listings would have to be open. So pray tell how do you not have control? You have more control than in a market where you send out hundreds of resumes and never get a call back, which happens to large swathe of unemployed. How is more choice bad?

      2. Calgacus

        Except that it doesn’t come down to “their view of human nature”. I commented on that Coppola post a long time ago, before you posted it in a reply to me. It comes down to clear and careful thinking, logical arguments, informed by centuries of experience over many countries. The MMT thinkers reason carefully and understand the economics, the accounting. Coppola and most JG opponents do not. The problem is not with their hearts, but with their heads. To the extent anyone, including Wray here says the opposite, they are wrong.

        Poor people, plutocrats and good economists understand that the naked BIG, “welfare” is and must be an authoritarian, top-down, control-freak, managerialist non-solution. The JG is, can be the pro-freedom, “shockingly liberal” real solution. That’s why poor people always and everywhere have supported a JG – a real job – to the fraud of BIG/welfare-as-a-solution-to-poverty. I do wonder if people who think a BIG is dandy, a “solution” and a JG is crap have ever had any poor or homeless friends or acquaintances. Finally, all MMT writers support a “BIG”, welfare for people who cannot work; as Wray says, they are “bleeding-heart liberals.” The problem is that so many (comfortable, middle class) people have “had their heads fuddled with nonsense for years and years” (Keynes) and get things exactly backwards.

    2. Lambert Strether

      Adding, isn’t there a pretty basic distinction between a program that supports private consumption (BIG) and one that supports public goods (almost by definition, since the JG are ones that the market has failed to provide)?

      I think that could be the distinction hidden under Coppola’s rather tendentious “managerialist.” Sheesh. She might as well have said “Nanny state!”

      1. Ben Johannson

        This is the same woman who claimed only a few months ago that MMT had no theory of inflation.

      2. vidimi

        sure, that’s one valid distinction. another one could be that the BIG is pro-individual freedom whereas the JG has a more authoritarian streak (presumably, if you don’t want to work, you don’t get a wage).

        1. Ben Johannson

          It’s authoritarian to not gift money? This is the left equivalent to “taxation is theft.”

        2. skippy

          If Milton Friedman was pro BIG – “pro-individual freedom” had nothing to do with it, at least, in the generalized meaning imbued in that little head shrinking trope.

          Skippy… when one understands that the term “economic libertarian” is just a tarted up bit of kit to reduce humanity to a **consumer choice** singularity in a full immersion market wonderland, individual freedumb becomes an oxymoron.

  10. vidimi

    i like the job-sharing idea best: a 6-hour, 4-day work-week has some serious appeal. it would also give people more time off to contribute to economic groaf.

  11. CuJo

    Wray nails it – advocate the most direct solution first. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to advocate other programs, and they may even have positive effects on employment, but aim for the most direct solution first.

    Another necessary improvement: increasing the minimum wage.

    Pie-in-the-sky: A retrofit stimulus jobs program.

  12. Jimmy Elliot

    I have a problem with a number of “Assumptions” incorporated in most main stream political and economic theories. One assumption I am thinking of is the idea people need “jobs”. Another assumption is that creating more jobs will make the world more wonderful. Bucky Fuller was onto this in the 60’s.
    “We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”
    ― Buckminster Fuller
    Like Fuller, I have a problem with the possibly evolutionary morality that discriminates against “free riders” and how that gets used by those that “have” against those that do not have. In terms of “having”, I’m talking about health, intelligence, education, vision, hearing, physical appearance, size, sex, race, nationality, age inherited wealth; all of these being “gifts” and virtually 100% unearned. In public discussion, the moral issue of “free riding” gets very mixed up by the “haves” in a self-serving and illogical way. The wealthier, justify their wealth and blame the poor for not working hard enough. This moral position gets mixed with the ridiculaous religious idea that Wealth is a sign of God’s approval. More paid vacation sounds like a move in a good direction. I’ve suggested paying people – not to commute – to not work – to go surfing – to pursue education.

    1. bdy

      Rent-seekers fear free-riders because of projection. Putting his money to work extracting as much as it possibly can, the rentier can’t imagine someone who takes only as much as he needs. As though people would stay on the train and pass through their stop, or stay an extra week in a hospital bed.

      Nice with the Bucky Fuller. Obnoxico has taken over.

    2. TheraP

      There’s “work” as a moral imperative (example, the Protestant work ethic) and work as meaningful activity (think how even hobbies, sports, going to the gym, playing games, posting a comment here… Involves meaningful “Work”).

      So let’s separate Morality from the Value of any activity we call “work” – in such a way that we neither denigrate working nor elevate it into moralistic duty.

      Maybe I’ve just restated part of what you said… But it occurs to me that the opposite poles of this continuum describe the working poor (those deemed undeserving of a living wage or sane conditions) and overpaid CEO types (those deemed more godly and dutiful and thus deserving of a godly lifestyle far above the rest of us poor slobbering sinners).

    3. Ben Johannson

      There you go again. A world where no one need work will not happen. A world in which people earn enough not to be thrown out of there homes is, however, quite achievable.

  13. tim s

    Welfare is the most destructive of all of the options to a culture. Money for nothing is corrosive. It stops the evolution of the culture in its tracks, allowing any fool to “succeed” and breed on an equal footing as a more responsible and/or industrious person. The natural world does not work this way, and neither does ours.

    Honest work for honest pay is the best option. Govt jobs can provide this as well as services to the community, but this should not be the only solution.

    We desperately need to make it less burdensome to start and maintain a small business. I think that the data shows that large corporations have the advantage with tax rates & ability to avoid paying taxes, as well as lower average health insurance payout for employees (and having insurance tied to employment in the 1st place), thus giving them the advantage and even stifling the competition from small business. Make the playing field level again and small businesses will flourish – unemployment will drop, as will dissatisfaction with jobs. It’s easy to do, once you remove the greed and corruption from the equation (which is of course the root of many of our issues). All other options are status quo BS relative to this.

    1. Massinissa

      The wealthy get money for nothing yet you deny this to the poor and middle class.

      Furthermore, what is ‘success’? Why is your definition of success only measured by how much money one makes?

      Currently, any fool CAN succeed, if hes born in the right family and become a ceo that adds no value to the rest of society.

      1. tim s

        My wording was poor and too mainstream and I expected this rebuttal. I wish to deny money for nothing to the rich as well, especially. So many of them are horribly corrupted because of the massive amounts of less-than- or dis-honest work. That they have wrangled this for themselves in no way justifies it for them or the poor.

        Success is simply having a life that you want and are able to feed & breed (of course, this can be construed to mean anything). in other words, not dying because of poor choices. Success as I mean it has nothing to do with western success, which is why I put it in parenthesis, and is independent of wealth above and beyond the essentials. A person of very modest means can be completely successful as I intended it to mean. Many of our SUCCE$$FUL by western standards are miserable bastards. I don’t consider them worthy of envy. Our corporate welfare recipients and/or stacked deck beneficiaries need to be knocked back where they belong, on an even footing with everyone else. They resist this because this game is all that they know, and would likely fail otherwise.

        I fully agree with your last statement, and stand by the gist of my original statement.

    2. Left in Wisconsin

      I wouldn’t call it “money for nothing” and I wouldn’t say people who receive gov’t support because they are very poor are “winning”. Virtually every poor person I’ve ever known to be receiving benefits was either working a low-wage job or wanted to be working, and the bureaucratic BS + assault on self-worth that comes with receiving benefits is definitely not “nothing”. And not a one viewed themselves as “winning,” nor would any objective observer.

      1. tim s

        I agree that there are many poor who are receiving gov’t support would rather be working. The problem lies with our working environment as I originally stated in the last paragraph of my post.

        This working environment is largely captured by the large corporate subculture that has tilted the playing field toward them in no small part by capturing the government that is supposed to keep the field level. As much as people want a job, what they really need to do is work toward an alternative to this corporate-government behemoth. There is more than enough to do for everyone living at this task. Making a “living” doing this will be challenging, to say the least. The problem is that they are still enslaved to the system and are begging for crumbs from that which is killing them in the 1st place (and may be dying slowly itself).

        Sure, this is easily said, not so easily done. That does not make it less true. The time is now to rise to the challenge. Those in desperate conditions have the most motivation and impetus to do just that. If they are are not up to the challenge, then their end may be reasonably estimated as not so pretty. If they ARE up to the challenge, their end may also not by so pretty, but will be much more honorable, and may help lay the foundation for a better time.

    3. bdy

      Yes welfare is the basest human evil. Aggressive wars are terrible but not so bad as food stamps. Those folks in Guantanamo should be thankful we didn’t just give them all $600 a month like we could have.

      1. tim s

        I didn’t say that it was an evil, just corrosive – very different. As poorly worded as my original post was, some peoples interpretation is even worse.

      2. Kurt Sperry

        Indeed, if welfare is corrosive to society, then inheritance and trust funds and the parents paying for their children’s college are by the same logic equally so–and of course an endowed retirement as well. And needless to add, most welfare money always goes to the rich rather than the poor.

    4. vidimi

      “Money for nothing is corrosive. It stops the evolution of the culture in its tracks, allowing any fool to “succeed” and breed on an equal footing as a more responsible and/or industrious person.”

      this seems to me as a dogmatic statement without much in terms of support. relativism and competition are the greatest drivers of our nature: humanity is all about keeping up with the joneses. almost nobody will take the BIG and say, that’s it, i no longer have to do anything, because she/he will have to compete against the overwhelming majority who will still strive for more. the real difference will be that more people would be able to compete.

      there are many valid philosophical arguments against a BIG, the question of inflation looms especially large, but an argument based on the competitiveness of human nature isn’t one of them.

    1. Massinissa

      We arnt going extinct, we are just entering a period of slow civilisational collapse.

      I am not willing to predict we will have this kind of program before we enter the final stages of civilisational collapse, but we will see.

  14. Left in Wisconsin

    The advantage of the job guarantee over BIG is that you immediately disable the moral claim that poor people are lazy (mostly not true but hard to convince many of this). That said, let’s see some specifics. Who runs it, DC or the states? What kind of work? Does it have to be a conventional “job” or can it be volunteer? Can you get paid for raising your own children? A thousand questions about how to actually do it. Can you start with a pilot project or is it all in? A proposal ambiguous on the details is at best a starting point, at worst a diversion.

    1. Massinissa

      AGreed, Wray never addressed where the ‘jobs’ will come from. The Government is largely unable to provide them and the wealthy are unwilling to provide them, even as they slosh around in cash and rising profit margins.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Go look at the history of the Great Depression. The government had no trouble creating tons of work.

        We have crumbling infrastructure. Underperforming kids in inner-city schools who would benefit from after-hours tutoring. Park creation and maintenance. How about more free/low cost day and elder care? I’m sure readers could think of more.

        Here is some of the work done by the otherwise unemployed during the New Deal:

        The government hired about 60 per cent of the unemployed in public works and conservation projects that planted a billion trees, saved the whooping crane, modernized rural America, and built such diverse projects as the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh, the Montana state capitol, much of the Chicago lakefront, New York’s Lincoln Tunnel and Triborough Bridge complex, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the aircraft carriers Enterprise and Yorktown. It also built or renovated 2,500 hospitals, 45,000 schools, 13,000 parks and playgrounds, 7,800 bridges, 700,000 miles of roads, and a thousand airfields. And it employed 50,000 teachers, rebuilt the country’s entire rural school system, and hired 3,000 writers, musicians, sculptors and painters, including Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.


        Escanaba, Michigan, one of the places I lived when growing up, has a beautiful (and large) lakefront park that was another WPA project. It’s the single most important public amenity in that town to this day.

        1. jimmy elliot

          I agree in principle and think the government is probably the only possible agency that could put a lot of people to work. And since the depression days, we are encumbered with regulations on every level from Federal to Local that make it impossible to go out and build projects that worked for 100 years with the technology that worked back then. Profit and Politics are built into every layer of regulation. Nearby, we had local contractors that were willing to volunteer to to rebuild a lighthouse and also at least one local bridge – It’s just not doable given the regulations, laws, union contracts and it’s not likely to change. I’m not sure we can even have people pick up litter in the streets without helmets, safety glasses and reflective jackets (made in China). I think I’m inspired to carry this farther…

        2. susan the other

          Yes on tutoring. It is very one-on-one labor intensive. It could put lots of people to “work”. I’ve done it a few times and always found myself so mesmerized by the way my pupil thought about things that I almost became the pupil. Betcha that immediate but indirect (not really verbal) connection isn’t just the key to communication but to all learning.

  15. Massinissa

    I like how the opinions on this article are basically split down the middle. Reading the article I was afraid that everyone would agree with this nonsense.

  16. TheraP

    Paying attention to Lakoff – and therefore to language – one thing that’s needed is a work-week term or work-year term that is akin to the concept of Living Wage. A term or set of terms which announces a highly desired value, the absence of which implies a blighted life. As, I think, the term Living Wage does.

    Work provides dignity. Even menial work, under conditions where that work is valued and appreciated and makes a meaningful difference, can be uplifting and psychically integrating. And I have no doubt that such work could be provided along with a guaranteed Living Wage. There are so many ways to caretake in our society, for example. So many relationships could be forged through that.

    But I think we’re talking about two things here. One is to humanize work conditions, work environments, work flexibility in view of the Dignity of each worker as a human being. The other is to provide a guarantee that each citizen has a right to that Dignity through a job (along with humane working conditions / work environment and whatever terms we can come up with that signify the Value of a “fully integrated life” as also a right: thus guaranteed vacations, a guaranteed limit to hours worked, living wage and so on).

    Pie in the sky? Of course! But first we need those terms, those Metaphors, which uplift the goals being sought. So that those goals appear as necessary, even essential for a fully human life. And conversely, so that the absence of such valued goals appears as a blighted, truncated, abhorrent, inexcusable travesty.

    Put your thinking caps on!

  17. NoBrick

    We need policies…Policy this policy that. More than not, gov seems to be no more than the proxy for capital.
    The executive committe of capital, distribution of resources and lies.
    I tried changing the foil of my hat, but it didn’t change the “rumors” under my hat.
    Rumors-Jobs are an outgrowth of sales, which are a function of aggregate demand. Jobs follow demand. Policies enabling the exodus of jobs require the validation of demand. Blame the policies while shooting
    the foot, seems to follow the clusterduck formed by thinking “power” establishes socially sanctioned entities to diminish or share power. The sailors of the USS “success for whom” aren’t as dumb as they look.
    They couldn’t be! Those in the same boat, won’t bore a hole in it.
    I’ll change the foil again, to red and green. Santa Claus is coming to town…

    1. jimmy elliot

      Jobs equate to Sales ? – Worked for Henry Ford. But, give someone a job, then require that they pay for Social Security, and that they pay for Obamacare (private insurance), and if they want transportation (In my neighborhood) they have to pay for fuel tax and registration and for police that are required to look for violations and collect fines. The add a tax on estimated Tips for restaurant service workers – and then loan them money to go to school so they can get a better job (so corporations don’t have to train people) and take away the ability to go bankrupt? It’s probably like years back when people couldn’t buy houses so they bought Cadillacs – Now it’s cell phones so they can text while driving Kia’s.

  18. Noni Mausa

    Just as “health care” and “health insurance” became conflated in the US, creating an artificially gated resource, so “work” and “jobs” are similarly linked, creating gated sustenance whose gatekeepers are not especially interested in the wellbeing of the workers. (Or unemployed, as the case may be.)

    Yes, people need to expend their effort in constructive, culturally approved ways, and also people need sustenance and care. But when the gatekeepers decide that millions of Americans’ lives and effort are not wanted, and their wellbeing is unimportant, then you enter a world where the population is corralled like livestock, to be tapped as desired but otherwise neglected.

    The real question is, what are people for? To live their lives, or to serve as resources for a tiny minority?

  19. peteybee

    I respectfully disagree with some of the analysis.

    The problem is NOT insufficient sandwiches.
    The problem is that there are now enough sandwiches, and more sandwiches are not needed. Unemployment of sandwich makers is a symptom of this. Hence sandwich sharing is more logical than attempts to increase sandwich demand.

    The solution to a 12 hour work day was the 10 hour work day.
    The solution to a 10 hour work day was the 8 hour work day.

    1. jimmy elliot

      You make a sandwich for me, I make a sandwich for you..You provide childcare for my kid, I provide childcare for yours. If I work 9hrs including breaks and I commute for 2 hrs and pay for the commute – and my wife does the same – and I have to pay someone to clean my house, raise my kids, wash my car, do my taxes, where is the benefit? Most humans are running on a “hamster wheel” and surviving while rentiers are “competing” to skim as much as they can off the top while investing in ways to skim even more. My guess is that if the folks who do this were paid 50% of what they are paid now, they would do the same thing – I don’t think they have a choice.

      1. Ben Johannson

        Then you’re in luck. With a Jobs Guarantee you won’t have to make sandwiches or babysit, because you csn do something else. You won’t have to commute for hours, either, as a job will be created for you locally.

  20. impermanence

    If your point of departure is that the purpose of an economy is to provide some sort of social fairness framework, then one has the opportunity to speculate on exactly how this might take place, but it seems quite apparent that the primary purpose of social man is developing systems that transfer labor-value earned from the many to the few.

    The rest is rationalized [by those who occupy various stations] by the best and brightest to keep the majority confused and subservient, particularly the intellectual class, always happy to take a spin on the hamster wheel of knowledge.

    Nobody [of any consequence] gives a rat’s ass as long as the pilfering goes on without a hitch, aptly demonstrated by those who teach in universities and colleges who have [with nary a peep] enslaved the next generation of Americans, or those in the health care care system who watch the horrors of corporate health care take their tolls each and every day.

    If people would simply come to grips with the reality that all systems are scams, then at least the breath and width of these destructive institutions could be attenuated, or perhaps eliminated in many cases. Otherwise, people continue to look for shadows in the night, ignorant of the fact that turning the light on is a fear much greater than remaining in the dark.

  21. Schofield

    “So here’s my puzzlement. Why won’t progressives try to help develop the moral framing to support jobs-for-all? At decent wages.”

    Duality of human nature is the short answer. Ask a conservative whether they subscribe to the reasoning behind a marriage vow that you should “love, honor and cherish” your spouse for a successful human relationship and in theory they’ll agree. Such a vow is akin to George Lakoff declaring in his book “Moral Politics” page 122 that “empathy and nurturance….are the most profound forms of moral behavior” and yet conservatives struggle to extend this approach to human relationships beyond kin, friends and business and non-business activity associates but so do progressives. Part of the answer to this can be found in the following article:-


    especially see the Discussion Section where the mechanism lying behind “between-group competition” is explained.

    We all retain a “tribal” approach to life which is perhaps hard-wired since access to resources when we were at the hunter-gather stage of human evolution was far more critical than today when we can use agriculture and animal husbandry to create more reliable food sources. However, modern life requires access to far more resources than food and our desire for security both emotional and physical/material limits rightly or wrongly our extension of empathy and nurturance to “others.” The way to tackle this duality of human nature has to be putting in place assurances of access to resources which also tackles issues of free-riding. A tricky task for progressives to think through to convince those of Strict Father Morality as Lakoff calls this particular mind-set.

    1. jimmy elliot

      I think you pretty much got my drift. Separating the moral imperative that anyone has to suffer to be ok from the principle that humans don’t like to be indebted or enslaved to others and need fairness is important for me. My political inclination is to provide everyone with a basic survival level of health care, food, shelter, public transportation, education and let them find their place. Much of the “work” I have done in my life I just flat out enjoyed and learned from – I’m not a “job” person and have chosen to take my chances on my own – I realize that most other people are not like me and I don’t need them to be.

  22. elbridge

    Isn’t it wonderful snuggled into the progressive comfort zone of JG or BIG, of FLSA and wage based incomes?
    Dr. Wray forgot to say what it was going to cost and where the money would come from.
    MMT stands behind the “spend til everybody’s working’ metric, which would be fine if it weren’t also, at the same time, “BORROW until everyone’s working” metric as well.
    Lerner’s approach called for government ‘printing money’ when the deficits funded public purposes.
    Either the public or the private bankers are going to fund the next progressive policy action.
    Why does MMT not advance the Lerner money-printing assumption?

    1. Ben Johannson

      Why does MMT not advance the Lerner money-printing assumption?

      It does. Please research “Dunning-Kruger Effect”.

  23. anone

    “Call me crazy, but I think that Americans are far more likely to line up behind paying people to work, than behind a scheme to pay people for more vacations.”

    Yes of course because it serves the capitalists. And a person is worth NOTHING in this society unless they are slaving away to enrich them. The values of the ruling class as the ruling values and so they are the values in this society. But this does not mean we have no obligation to question these values and hard.

    1. MRW

      And a person is worth NOTHING in this society unless they are slaving away to enrich them.

      At one time, no. At one time labor got a set amount of the value-added from manufacturing production. Labor shared in the profits with owners and shareholders. And the unions protected that participation.

      . . . . And, that was what the Republican party bragged it was protecting in1956, that and having 60 million at work.

  24. financial matters

    I think Jesse Myerson has some good ideas including :

    Guaranteed Work for Everybody

    Unemployment blows. The easiest and most direct solution is for the government to guarantee that everyone who wants to contribute productively to society is able to earn a decent living in the public sector. There are millions of people who want to work, and there’s tons of work that needs doing – it’s a no-brainer. And this idea isn’t as radical as it might sound: It’s similar to what the federal Works Progress Administration made possible during Roosevelt’s New Deal, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. vocally supported a public-sector job guarantee in the 1960s.

    Social Security for All

    But let’s think even bigger. Because as much as unemployment blows, so do jobs. What if people didn’t have to work to survive? Enter the jaw-droppingly simple idea of a universal basic income, in which the government would just add a sum sufficient for subsistence to everyone’s bank account every month. A proposal along these lines has been gaining traction in Switzerland, and it’s starting to get a lot of attention here, too.

    A Public Bank in Every State

    You know what else really blows? Wall Street. The whole point of a finance sector is supposed to be collecting the surplus that the whole economy has worked to produce, and channeling that surplus wealth toward its most socially valuable uses. It is difficult to overstate how completely awful our finance sector has been at accomplishing that basic goal. Let’s try to change that by allowing state governments into the banking game.

    There is only one state that currently has a public option for banking: North Dakota. When North Dakotans pay state taxes, the money gets deposited in the state’s bank, which in turn offers cheap loans to farmers, students and businesses. The Bank of North Dakota doesn’t make seedy, destined-to-default loans, slice them up inscrutably and sell them on a secondary market. It doesn’t play around with incomprehensible derivatives and allow its executives to extract billions of dollars. It just makes loans and works with debtors to pay them off.


    1. MRW

      The whole point of a finance sector is supposed to be collecting the surplus that the whole economy has worked to produce, and channeling that surplus wealth toward its most socially valuable uses.

      No, it’s not. Why should the finance sector care about that? It cares about profits; you slap a morality requirement on the sector (an expectation), you’re naive. Besides, the finance sector answers to clients who have varying concerns and goals including bombing each other up on the international level.

      It’s Congress’s job to use fiscal policy, or a fiscal operation, to ‘promote the general welfare’ of the people–as Wikipedia defines fiscal policy, the “use of government expenditure to influence economic development.” That’s where your socially valuable use starts, but, again, it’s what the people want, not Congress. This isn’t a cast-in-stone-always operation. Congress has to be nimble and on its feet to move quickly to change direction within the year…another meaning of the world ‘fiscal’. They had their thumbs in their bum and their brain in neutral on September 17, 2008. Now, they’re sucking those thumbs.

      1. washunate

        Um, the finance sector is a public sector, from FDIC insurance to individual company bailouts to backstopping of mortgages…

        The reason that the financial sector is not allocating resources well in our society is not because it’s not supposed to. It’s because the government doesn’t want it to. Congress and the President haven’t been sitting on their hands the last couple decades. They have been quite busily involved in creating the system we have today.

  25. kevinearick

    You are at TDC, or BDC, depending upon perspective, and you don’t want to waste time in another empire cycle. A depression is when you are out of gainful employment, and the 10% is getting closer all the time.

    The gatekeepers above the disposable income line live on inflation, enforcing deflation on nearly everyone else, subsidizing living standards with natural resource exploitation until they can’t. In all cases, their solution to the artificial crisis they create is certified State welfare, employed like a vise by the private and non-profit corporations, with arbitrary make-work, the illusion of order printed with fiat. If you look, you will see that their so-conditioned subjects are foregoing basic necessities to remain connected to the drugs, with an outrageous i-phone bill.

    All corporations operate at a real loss, subsidized by accounting profit from government, to maintain the FILO bankruptcy queue, which raises the participation threshold cost as natural resource access declines, putting small business out of business, and growing the market share of government, with consumption in a positive feedback loop. The bank makes money on both the resulting inflation and deflation, confiscating purchasing power and stranded assets.

    The old-timers have been in your shoes, and many are now charging four figures a day cash in San Francisco, which is 100% toilet paper, but they exchange immediately for tangible goods. A property owner came to me yesterday with three houses, from dead relatives, which I don’t need, because all the kids approaching him have three problems; they want to squat, they ‘think’ they are going to get rich flipping, and they don’t have the skills to pay the taxes. Probability says that the owner is going to let them go to government, for taxes.

    If you have real skills, you will do well under inflation, and better under deflation. And with experience and mobility, you can choose your rate of inflation or deflation at will. Half of all assets have to be recycled, and the corporations are as slow as molasses, for obvious reasons. Critters hate change and like to wait for someone else to do the work. Look at the demographics and do some actuarial forensics, to discount away the empire filter.

    Do not fear, deflation or anything else, because fear is what locks you into the positive feedback loop between denial and anger, the empire buffer ensuring no change. Faith comes with experience, seeking and finding input that others do not. And that is the problemsolution of peer pressure compliance programming in public education. If government can make you, it can break you, whenever the herd gets anxious, which is always a bipolar, boom and bust, sh-show.

    It’s nice to have and learn to use a brake, but at some point you have to take off the training wheels, and sooner is better than later. The Great Depression / Recession is a problemsolution of government. American government is no better than any other; it just stole more natural resources to exploit prior to frame of reference point zero, relative to the propaganda of other mobs, at the time.

    Have you noticed more and more critters driving by brail, expecting automation to solve the problem?

    Another one just hit my bumper trying to park, and then drove away. Parallel Parking: pull parallel and even with the car ahead of the space, with a foot between cars. Adjust the mirror so you can see your rear passenger tire. Back straight until your back wheels clear the car. Stop. Turn the steering wheel all the way right. Back until the passenger rear tire is two feet from the curb. Stop. Turn the wheel all the way to the left. Back until the car is parallel. Adjust to account for your recognition rate.

    Economics is only rocket science if you choose to make it so.

    Answer the questions, get out of the way and pay the bill, or go to the back of the queue. The number of people that can fix the automated crap is very small and falling fast, because the old-timers are retiring, the engineering is done in an office, not in the real world, and the politicians are trying to make the real world comply with the engineering, with financial leverage.

    Money is not the answer; it’s a problemsolution. The derivatives are an inverse pyramid and its pedestal is a public pension insurance ponzi incorporation, which is imploding, and it is all held together in a lattice by best empire business practice, MAD.

    There’s a reason why the critters can’t figure out the labor market, and always choose to build on false assumptions. Pay my wife or buy another elevator, with an extortion contract. I don’t need secretaries, managers, administrators and lawyers in an office, all fighting to see who can make the most money and do the least work, or a firefighter tearing down the elevator doors pretending to be a hero. If you need to be liked, forget trying to figure out the labor market.

    To help others you must have a surplus. Do not group up on deficit and expect not to be a slave to empire gravity, because labor can’t help you, unless you really want to learn. Begin with your talent and build timeless skills, or don’t. Make deflation your friend, and spend no more than 10% of your time chasing paper in circles, or don’t.

    1. MRW

      In no important order;

      The derivatives are an inverse pyramid and its pedestal is a public pension insurance ponzi incorporation, which is imploding, and it is all held together in a lattice by best empire business practice, MAD.

      Simpler: derivatives are insurance taken out on another asset (just like you would take insurance on your house, or the price of wheat if you were a wheat farmer) except that in a derivative, anywhere from to 2 to 1,000 (actually ∞) others can take insurance on your asset and you don’t know anything about it. Greenspan, Rubin, Summers, and Leavitt (only one who recanted in near-tears in 10/08) convinced Clinton in 1996 that the 2-1,000 (or ∞) insurance buyers could do it in secret, without a clearing exchange because they bet more than $5 million at a time, they were really smart, and these four knew them. These derivatives smarty-pants contributed to the financial crisis of 2008, as did the derivatives desks they worked with.

      To help others you must have a surplus.

      Not the federal government. A deficit is the equivalent of the US Treasury inserting interest-free notes into the economy, into the bank accounts of the non-government sector . . . people like you and me. Debt free to you and your progeny.

      Oops, can’t do anymore. Gotta’ run.

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