Matt Bruenig: More Job Guarantee Muddle

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By Matt Bruenig, who writes about politics, the economy, and political theory, with a focus on issues that affect poor and working people. He has written for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The American Prospect, In These Times, Jacobin, Dissent, Salon, The Week, Gawker and at his home base of sorts: Demos’ Policy Shop. Follow him on Twitter: @mattbruenig. Originally published at his website

The Center for American Progress wrote a post today advocating for a job guarantee. As with similar posts written by others sympathetic to the idea, the CAP proposal was muddled and failed to offer any plausible jobs that could actually be offered in a JG program.

When you clear out the bloat, the proposal is as follows:

  1. There will be a “permanent program of public employment and infrastructure investment.”
  2. There will also be publicly-funded training to help people get private sector jobs.
  3. The program would target a certain employment rate, meaning that it would hire until the employment rate is hit.
  4. It “would not compete with existing private-sector employment.”

To better understand how this sort of JG program should work in practice, consider the following graph:

In the graph, blue represents permanent public sector jobs. This refers to things like teachers, health inspectors, police, and other similar jobs. The defining feature of these jobs is that they are permanent, meaning that they will always be filled by someone. These jobs will not come and go based on the condition of the private sector. They will always exist and always crowd out the private sector.

The red represents the private sector. As you can see, when the red starts to shrink, the orange expands. That represents the job guarantee filling the gaps left by the flagging private sector and keeping the employment rate steady at 80 percent.

The key to the JG is finding jobs that are nice to have, but are not strictly necessary. You need jobs that can go unfilled when the private sector picks up.

Yet, here are all the jobs mentioned by CAP in its JG section: 1) home care workers for elderly people, 2) home care workers for disabled people, 3) child care workers, 4) teachers’ aides, 5) emergency medical technicians.

Do these seem like jobs that can go unfilled when the private sector picks up? Should child care and assistance for the disabled disappear when the economy is booming? No. These are blue jobs not orange jobs. They should exist on a permanent basis, not as a temporary home for dislocated workers.

This might seem like a nitpick, but it is not. Time and time again, popular advocates of the JG (not referring to the actual academics behind it) make this exact same mistake. They talk about how the JG would be a great way to wipe out unemployment and then they turn around and advocate for jobs that are not appropriate for a job guarantee program. CAP is right that we desperately need more public care workers, but that is precisely why those jobs would not work for a JG program.

Conceptually, the entire discussion around job guarantee would become so much clearer if people were made to distinguish between 1) ideas they have for permanently expanding the size of the public sector workforce, and 2) ideas they have for flexibly absorbing workers when the private sector workforce contracts. Right now, (1) and (2) are crammed together, creating a muddled debate that is mostly incoherent.

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  1. Left in Wisconsin

    I think this is CAP trying to stay “relevant.” I don’t think see any evidence that they truly support full employment, much less full employment via good jobs.

    1. diptherio

      Of course they don’t support full employment…their proposal (as I understand it) is to have a JG up until some arbitrary unemployment figure is hit (like, say, 4.5%). A real JG employs whoever wants a job, regardless of the unemployment rate. So no, they are not concerned with full employment, unless we agree to use the neo-classical economists rather disingenuous definition of that term.

      1. lambert strether

        So it’s not really a “Jobs Guarantee.” It’s an “Unemployment Doesn’t Hit Some Macroeconomist’s Number Guarantee.”

        Kinda like “Forward Guidance,” but for working people, maybe?

        1. diptherio

          Yes. And, of course, the “natural rate of unemployment” would no doubt play a role in determining what that number would be. You know, the “natural” rate that turns out to magically be whatever the current unemployment rate is….

          1. jmkiru

            so… this is less about CAP supporting a Jobs Guarantee than it is them preemptively taking the knees out from any honest attempt at one.

            The ‘Sensible Center’ strikes again…

            1. craazyboy

              I’ll bet babies to bullets it’s a National Guard recruitment plan. Prolly followed up with privatization…ya know, cut costs and benefits.

              The Authoritah!

    2. Left in Wisconsin

      Apologies/respect to Lambert for repeating what was said in the post yesterday, which I just saw.

  2. hemeantwell

    Good point. But Bruenig omits how the muddle is primarily determined by the “need” to avoid giving workers an option that might create wage “inflation.”

    The plan reflects the same negotiation of the choppy political waters of government market “interference” that military Keynesianism navigates. Military Keynesianism is politically possible because it’s harder to object to so-called defense spending than other forms of expenditure. The CAP JG jobs are, sorta, the civilian equivalent.

    1. jsn

      Wage inflation is exactly what is required until such time as the wage share of total income recovers its losses of from past productivity gains entirely captured by the profit share, and wages begin to track productivity growth going forward as they did from 1946 to 1976

      1. hemeantwell

        Macro-wise that’s fine, but employers tend not to think in terms of the macroeconomic good, as we’ve abundantly witnessed. They want a low wage norm.

    2. jrs

      not really, it’s just a question of what should the jobs be, and how some jobs we really do ideally want to be permanent.

  3. Lee

    An infrastructure public works program seems more appropriate way to do a job guarantee. Yes, we always need to keep up our infrastructure, but roads are ridiculously bad right now in Michigan that catching up would require a huge number of people.

  4. Romancing The Loan

    Yeah, especially when appropriate job-guarantee jobs aren’t exactly hard to think of.

    Why on earth wouldn’t you go straight for fixing our nation’s water, power, and transport infrastructure, and retrofitting our buildings for energy efficiency? Clearly it isn’t urgent (since it wasn’t done years ago) and it can be done piecemeal as circumstances allow.

    1. Romancing The Loan

      It’s such a huge task that it’s an effectively ongoing project that nonetheless has both immediately visible and long-term beneficial effects (Flint can drink from the tap, reduced dependence on foreign oil, prep for effects of climate change), everything in the country is near the end of its use-life and waiting until it fails completely will just make it more expensive, skills from laid-off factory workers might carry over somewhat, and you could buy off the deplorables super cheaply with 40k jobs that give them some dignity and a reason not to shoot up.

      Call it Repair America, it’d go over ridiculously well. Combine it with single payer and the politician who enacted it would be more popular than Putin in Russia.

    2. jrs

      but is everyone or could everyone be qualified to do that? Because otherwise that’s a jobs program, but not a job guarantee it seems to me. Those jobs might take a lot of training (power infrastructure I definitely don’t think is easy stuff), but they also seem traditionally male as well.

      Of course there is a lot more historical evidence for jobs programs even in this country than job guarantees, so nothing wrong with them at all, but they are what they are.

      1. PKMKII

        They also are not necessarily long-term jobs, which is the general problem with infrastructure spending as a Keynesian panacea for unemployment and low wages. A new structure requires a lot of upfront labor, but once completed the number of full-time employees needed for maintaining it is a lot lower. So the employment boon has a built-in expiration date.

        1. redleg

          While maintenance does feature fewer people, the things constructed will be used for a very long time (if done properly). Much of the WPA and CCC constructed public works are still in service today, speaking from my own experience with water, sewer, and parks. The materials specified/used in these projects was some of the highest quality I’ve worked on over my career. Those public works have been in use since the 1930’s, and there is value in using a public system. Put another way, those public works have only required operations and maintenance resources for the last 80 years, not capital improvement resources, which allows resources to be devoted to other things.
          Not all of the WPA projects were built by government run labor and design teams- many were contracted to private companies. (I’m not sure of the %, or how these were bid)
          But the design life of a water main (e.g.) is 75 years. We should have a WPA-type program to replace the WPA vintage public works using similar quality standards.

      2. paintedjaguar

        The WPA didn’t just fill certain jobs that needed doing, it literally created a lot of them, for instance hiring writers, artists, and scholars to do projects that could enrich society in various ways. They produced murals, plays, data compilations, and histories on a variety of subjects. That’s a sort of infrastructure too. They even produced public relations campaigns.

        A lot of the wonderful stonework that can still be found in government facilities and parks, was built by unskilled labor but supervised by experienced stonemasons. And many of those unskilled workers ended up knowing how to be a stonemason, so we got job training as a bonus, without financing the kind of useless “training” that’s so popular now, and so good at draining public money; into private coffers without producing the putative desired results.

  5. diptherio

    This is a very good point, and one I’ve not seen made before, even when we’ve had discussions here. Food for thought.

    However, I still think that those kinds of care jobs (with the exception of EMTs), which are simply going unfilled now, would be better off filled via a JG than not at all.

    I think the best system would be to allow municipalities to determine what work would be given to JG employees, preferably through some type of participatory-budgeting procedure.

    1. jrs

      I’m not sure full time caretaking jobs are good jobs, not even if they paid well. Taking care of children isn’t necessarily that bad maybe, but there is lots of evidence of caretakers for say Alzheimer’s patients having a much shorter lifespan due to having performed that caretaking duty. Of course I do suppose someone has to do it anyway (and usually it’s family -and women – who are not compensated for it and thus may suffer greatly economically as well). I don’t know, ideally we’d all work less and so had more time to do this for family members, even though it still would take a toll.

      1. diptherio

        I don’t know, ideally we’d all work less and so had more time to do this for family members, even though it still would take a toll.

        Hardship is an unavoidable part of life. The question is not how to remove hardship, but how to make it the least-unpleasant. I agree with you that a more holistic solution is what is really needed.

        Hence, ecovillages that provide eldercare as both a social function and a revenue generating activity. A nursing home will set you back $5,000+/mo…I have a hard time believing that a couple of nurses couldn’t figure out how to provide better care for cheaper in a community setting. I know someone who is already doing this on a small scale (just one household), but it would work much better if more people were involved.

        Like this:

      2. diptherio

        Another thing on the holistic solutions tip: it’s not just caretaking jobs that probably shouldn’t be full-time occupations. Heck, I doubt there’s anything that it is actually healthy to do 8 hours a day. My buddy, who is under 40, now has chronic shoulder problems from painting houses. Repetitive motion injuries are not something that our “primitive” forebearers had to contend with (nor boredom, nor hypertension, etc.). Our industrial society is, strictly speaking, inhuman, being based not on human biology, but rather on the requirements of machines. It is unsurprising that negative health outcomes are a consequence of this arrangement.

        1. knowbuddhau

          While I agree re: the hours, I disagree about the injuries, esteemed brother. A couple examples just off the top of my head.

          Repetitive stress injuries go back at least as far as the Neolithic. It was the invention of farming that put the neo- in Neolithic. And with farming came grains, and with grains came the original “daily grind.” Distinctive lower back injuries are associated with grinding or quern stones.

          And the hard lives of the salt miners of the Hallstat and La Tene cultures in NE Europe are etched in the deformed bones of their shoulders, hips, and other joints.

          I completely agree about the inhuman nature of industrial society, though. IMNSHO, we moved into a mechanical model of the universe so long ago we’ve forgotten it’s an assumption. Sure, we can treat the universe at large and the environment in particular AS IF they were a great big mechanism, which we master with our STEM, and it’s amazingly powerful to do so, but that doesn’t make them so.

          Just like you can treat your own mother as just a natural resource to be exploited. And make a bundle. And call it “pragmatic,” and “realistic,” lauding yourself for a willingness to “face hard facts.” And rise to the top of Wall Street, who knows. But that devolves us all the way back to bacteria.

          The way we treat Mother Nature should be every bit as repugnant as resource-extracting our own mothers to death.

        2. redleg

          The water and sewer records from ca. 1900 that I’ve reviewed include invoices for rum, whisky, and beer. Excavating around these structures turns up large amounts of old bottles. The labor, it turns out, was drunk.

      3. knowbuddhau

        If there’s “lots of evidence,” can you share some with us? Sounds fishy to me.

        How’d they control for every other influence and single out caretaking? Specifically, the soul-crushing, back-breaking effects of working at a dying-wage level (if it’s not a living wage, what else to call it?) in a deliberately understaffed environment?

        When I worked as a dementia-care certified nursing assistant, I loved the work. But I hated the job.

          1. knowbuddhau

            Very cool of you, thanks.

            These are the latest results from a nearly three-decade-long program at Ohio State investigating the links between psychological stress and a weakened immune status.

            For the study, the researchers turned to a population of Alzheimer’s disease caregivers they had worked with before, and compared them with an equal number of non-caregivers matched for age, gender and other aspects.

            [Including job stress?]

            “Caregivers showed the same kind of patterns present in the study of mothers of chronically ill kids,” Glaser said, adding that the changes the Ohio State/NIA team saw amounted to a shortened lifespan of four to eight years.

            Kiecolt-Glaser said that there is ample epidemiological data showing that stressed caregivers die sooner than people not in that role.

            “Now we have a good biological reason for why this is the case,” she said. “We now have a mechanistic progression that shows why, in fact, stress is bad for you, how it gets into the body and how it gets translated into a bad biological outcome.”

            Much of the Ohio State work is now shifting to studies on how to intervene with that stress in hopes of slowing the weakening of the immune system in highly stressed people.

            Still think it’s the stress, not the caregiving. Caregiving is wonderful. The conditions? Hell on earth. Us NAC’s were legally responsible for delivering specific levels of care for which we did not have the staff to deliver ON PURPOSE. No matter how hard or smart we worked, we were doomed from the word go.

            And when a family member would come in and find their loved one in misery, who’s standing there to take the blame? Not the gd suits who designed that particular circle of hell, that’s for sure.

            Give those mothers strong social support, give those caregivers a living wage and abundant staffing and oh, let’s say (to pick just one daily frustration), enough pass keys to do the damn job (there were never enough, people took to taking them home at night, leading to intense infighting), and let’s see what happens.

            1. Marco

              And is the stress resultant of the low pay as the caregivers I know are chronically poor or near poverty line.

        1. Will S.

          “Dying wage” is good. Really good. We should all start using that in regular discussion. If it’s not a living wage, what else is it? Indeed.

      4. Oregoncharles

        A shorter work week would help with a lot of problems, but the transition is tough, as France discovered.

        For one thing, a lot of people have every dollar they make committed. They’d be in trouble if a shorter work week meant less overall pay – as they are when there’s a cutback in hours.

        1. redleg

          But more time for a second job. More demand too, as employers would need to fill the hours.

    2. H. Alexander Ivey

      Ah! Nixon’s revenue sharing strikes again!

      Which I use to think was not such a good idea, until Reagan took it away and I see how things work now. Makes me nostalgic for Old Tricky Dick (hahaha).

  6. Dan Lynch

    Good on Bruenig for saying what I’ve been saying for years.

    However, I disagree with Bruenig giving the JG academics a pass. The JG academics have never satisfactorily explained what JG workers would actually do.

    I would add one general criticism that applies to all JG proposals, not just CAP’s — it’s oversold. I.e., the original ELR promise to “take them as they are, create jobs that match their skills” was always pie in the sky. The reality has always been “take our JG jobs as they are, lower your career goals to match our sorry offerings.”

    I would they rather be honest and call it a “Crap Job Guarantee,” as Rodger Mitchell puts it. Yeah, it would most likely be a crappy dead end job at starvation wages, and that would help some people who currently have no job, so good for them. Just don’t oversell it because you’re setting people up to be disappointed and bitter.

    1. Oregoncharles

      “CJG” is less of an objection if it’s a fill-in during downturns, which is what Bruenig is proposes. It’s been done before – the WPA.

      However: even the military can train people for better civilian jobs once they leave. So could the JG. If it’s doing stuff that’s actually useful, they’re learning how to do something useful.

      It’s “useful” that’s the challenge.

    2. Uahsenaa

      Well, I know Bill Mitchell has said it doesn’t matter what they do, even if they show up in the morning to dig a hole and fill it in in the afternoon. That may not be terribly productive for society, but it does get stimulus money where it needs to be. And I suppose you get a little exercise too.

      Besides, every municipality in the US already has a system for ad hoc labor, it’s called community service. Except, instead of providing people credits to absolve them of their misdemeanors, we could simply pay people. Clearing trash from sidewalks, tending to public greenspaces, visiting with the elderly, stocking shelves at food banks, etc. These are all things people on community service currently do. They could easily be converted into ad hoc jobs for a JG.

    3. Wandering Mind

      This is pretty close to my thoughts. As I understand it, the JG advocates want local control over the spending of the federally provided funds.

      So, theoretically, this means that communities decide what jobs need to get done with this money and do them. Bruenig seems to be saying that the local communities can spend the money on anything they want except for jobs that might actually be useful to the community on a long-term basis.

      In the end, any 100% job guarantee is a re-ordering of the power relations between the private sector “job creators” and the people they employ.

      If the money devoted to the job guarantee is to be put to any useful purpose, this implies a basic shift in the way citizens decide how the vast resources of this country are used.

      I don’t see a way to avoid that type of confrontation and political work.

    4. paintedjaguar

      So that’s one reason you need a Basic Income as well as Guaranteed Jobs. It isn’t one or the other. But the real fly in the ointment is rentier behaviour that over time transforms living wages into dying wages.

  7. Fool

    Good piece (and great to see Matt on NC!). The impermanence of the JG seems to be the point: it frames the guaranteed-employment — emphatically, of “1) home care workers for elderly people, 2) home care workers for disabled people, 3) child care workers, 4) teachers’ aides, 5) emergency medical technicians” — as essentially a form of charity filling the holes that the private sector doesn’t cover as opposed to the building of a better society.

    The CAP Democrats view this as a concession (because to them government spending is charity), and it’s important to push back. Push hard enough and then they have to fall back on the (increasingly unpopular and discredited) politics of budget-hawkery. Good. In the end, The People care more about useful jobs and respectable wages and a society that can support them than they care about — to the chagrin of the Geithners and Summerses — the formalisms of “capitalism as we know it.”

  8. vteodorescu

    In the UK, to be able to work around children and medical facilities requires some serious background checks, to make sure you are not a pervert, and so on. Not sure how it is in the US, but I suspect that there are lots of traps on the way to this plan.

    I am with Rodger Mitchell on the JG plans, it seems like the wrong solution to the problem. Do massive infrastructure spend and things will be better for everyone.

    1. Kukulkan

      Same in Australia.

      I currently work as a volunteer at an organisation that provides services to disabled kids and, even though what I do is mostly admin, sitting in a office, and the closest I get to any kids is seeing them and their parents walking across the car park when arriving or leaving, I still had to go through two separate police clearances to certify that I could be around children.

      Currently, there’s also a scandal around the mistreatment of the elderly in an aged care home with calls for a full blown inquiry into the entire elderly care industry. I believe that people who work in such facilities are also carefully vetted, needing police clearances.

      Unless standards are radically different in the U.S., the idea that these areas could be used as general purpose jobs to absorb excess numbers of unemployed is just ludicrous.

      Beyond that, not everyone has the temperament for that kind of work. I know I don’t. That’s why I volunteer to do admin, so the people who do have that sort of temperament (and training) can devote themselves to doing that job rather than wasting their time doing clerical duties to justify their funding.

    1. HotFlash

      Yup. Do things now that last, where the good will go on. Bridges, parks, forests, houses, landscaping, food-foresting — they don’t take PhD-level skills, and they last and last after the bad times are gone. Can be done again when bad times come again, as they most likely will. Ank knowing how to make a good sidewalk is a skill that may be needed, you know, if it *all* goes pear-shaped.

      My worry is more that 79% employment will be considered enough. I hold for 100%.


    The other thorny problem here is that a permanent public job typically isn’t just permanent in an abstract purpose, but in a literal sense as a guarantee from the civil service system/union. Which means that if jobs that should be “permanent public” are getting filled via a jobs guarantee, isn’t that just a way for the government to bypass the civil service system?

      1. JTFaraday

        Only less sexy.

        And not that this means anything, but Bernie Sanders didn’t take the bait either.

  10. vlade

    Hallelujah. As I keep saying, the devil is in the detail.

    How, and who for, JG or BI work depends entirely on the details of the implementation, and on how it is administered. The problem is that a badly desiged one can destroy the idea for a generation if not more.

  11. Oregoncharles

    Addressing his “nitpick:” the proposal appears to assume that there is a permanent level of unemployment to be addressed with relatively permanent jobs. It’s actually right about that.

    Bruenig is right that it fails altogether to address the business cycle. That would require a list of “would be nice” projects or jobs that can be addressed during downturns – which is also counter-cyclical, though not all that automatic. That was a core feature of the New Deal.

    Economists don’t like to address the business cycle, because it isn’t allowed for in their theories.

    1. Nell

      Except that the Job Guarantee was explictly developed to address the ‘business’ cycle. It was put forward as a replacement for unemployment which goes up during recessions and comes down during booms. So JG would operate in the same fashion – except that rather than having people lose their skills and have their self-esteem destroyed in the downturn, they would be able to maintain a decent income and keep up their skills engaged in work for their community. JG goes even further and one of the developers of the the theory Randall Wray (I have had to opportunity to hear him lecture on JG) advocates that all citizens take on a JG job at sometime during their working life so that they can also make their own working contribution to the public good.

      1. jrs

        people don’t really lose skills in a downturn anyway, jobs they have done for any period of time are much more like riding a bicycle. What they lose is the ability to convince employers to hire them if they have been long term unemployed for awhile. The losing skills stuff is a myth, I mean if one is decades out of the workforce etc. maybe, but that’s not “losing skills in a downturn”.

    2. Oregoncharles

      A corollary is that communities would be encouraged to save up jobs to do during a downturn; it might actually discourage prompt repairs of infrastructure, or encourage deferred maintenance. So would things deteriorate until there’s a recession?

  12. Adamski

    Yves, glad you gave this a separate post. Have to say I would prefer a JG programme to a UBI but dunno how you can get around Bruenig’s objection that they wouldn’t be permanent public sector jobs that need doing. Solution may just be full employment policy with a good welfare state

    1. HotFlash

      Maybe some sort of hybrid? For instance, a person or group could pitch a project and see if they could get JG funding. Teaching chess to middleschoolers, learning how to prune fruit trees, decorating walls, fixing bikes, cross-teaching programs, as in, you teach me how to rap or skateboard, for instance, I will teach you how to suck eggs or ferment kim chi. The world is a better place and we both get paid :).

      OMG, a JG coop!

  13. skippy

    Quickly… somethings I like about a JG:

    a. Human dignity

    b. Democracy

    c. a – claim – to a share of productivity and capital formation

    d. ZOMG a real life “labour market” and not some fungible arbitrary number

    e. anything that stops the over supply of crappy MBA’s and financial sector bloat by young vulnerable minds [ think of the kids – !!!! ]

    disheveled… Tis a short list… off to work thingy….

  14. Marco

    Are JG workers allowed to organize and form unions and maybe go on-strike from time-to-time? And I’m talking about a JG on planet MMT.

  15. funemployed

    Y’all have gotten at the core issue here better than Bruenig, IMO. If we accept the proposition that necessary jobs should be blue, not orange, then we must also accept that a JG involves paying people to do work that is not strictly necessary, but would be “nice” if someone did them. Cleaning up that park. Organizing festivals. Making natural areas more accessible in ways that doesn’t harm them, etc. It’s no accident that the WPA spent many bucks on a Federal Arts Project. Arts are vital to community, but not necessarily in the way economists think of “jobs.” And any such projects means funding a lot of art that turns out to be useless and crappy, because the good stuff is the exception, not the rule, no matter how much difficult-to-quantify value it produces.

    I have doubts that any academic or higher up can determine what would be nice, but not necessary. IMO this involves the devolution of resources and decision making authority to the local level. I.e. allowing communities to determine what they would like to be able to pay their unemployed people to do that would be nice, but are not necessary for that community’s health. Or that may bear foreseen or unforeseen fruits in the future, but very likely won’t. Call me a skeptic, but I rather doubt that the CAP luminaries are willing to countenance genuine power sharing of that sort.

    1. funemployed

      Some people’s skills and compulsions won’t even fit into that. Imagine a person who’s obsessive compulsive and needs to make sure all the signs in a community are perfectly level, or that all the bird feeders are full and contain the right kind of bird food. Why not pay that person to do those things instead of institutionalizing them or letting them wander around hungry in their own piss and feces? The implications of a true JG are radical indeed.

    2. Oregoncharles

      For “not necessary,” try substituting “not urgent.” Though they’re closely related.

      The necessities just make life possible; the luxuries make it worthwhile. Consequently, they’re very important.

      The JG could also be doing things that are normally done by the private sector, but get neglected when money’s short – though going back might be difficult. Again, probably maintenance and beautification.

  16. watermelonpunch

    I don’t know if anyone else thought of this, but it seems perfectly obvious to me the goal here.

    When I saw this:
    1) home care workers for elderly people, 2) home care workers for disabled people, 3) child care workers, 4) teachers’ aides, 5) emergency medical technicians.

    Of course the idea here is that when times are good, the government and others will pay privatized private sector companies to make pots full of money off these services.
    But when they decide it’s not profitable enough for them, then the government will step in and do them much more cheaply and affordably, when the private companies aren’t willing to spend or risk it.

    It’s a perfect set up for socialized losses and privatized profits, isn’t it?

  17. TomDority

    Maybe I am a bit jumbled in my thinking but, I will give it a go.
    Speaking about a jobs guarantee or an infrustructure program, absent consideration of it’s impact upon asset inflation that the rentier/financial system, unchecked by law, taxes or morality will inflict upon civil progress… it will hobble the horse straight out of the gate.
    The financial system will see a guaranteed bottom dollar pool for which to lend against and, I would expect to see housing and commercial space costs, rent lease own expense, to shoot up enough to consume any benefit to progress and standard of living. The speculative side, the stock buy backs and borrowing to pay dividends etc. Will need to be taxed into use full service. The only thing done by bailing out the financial sector with its criminals was to stop over-inflated asset prices from falling and to thus make it more expensive to live and do business. It’s this servicing of odious debt that is causing anemic progress and a complete reversal of increased standard of living and global competitiveness creaping in about 30 odd years ago.
    So, without addressing both the above issues the aim will land far from the mark.
    Guess that’s my two cents

    1. jrs

      That’s a general problem with increasing basic wages though, trying to make sure all the wage increases aren’t eaten up by rent. So the wage floor in the previous job guarantee article, yea but it’s no more guaranteed not to be eaten up entirely by rent than a basic income is, which people like to use an an objection to a basic income, but actually it could happen in lots of scenarios including having a base wage for the job gurantee.

      And we can talk about rentiers in general but I don’t mind just plain old talking about housing rents, because those alone are killing people or at least driving them to homelessness.

      But it’s a general problem that applies to lots of things. And yes the policies we have had recently to prop up asset prices do seem to have made things worse.

    2. HotFlash

      I would expect to see housing and commercial space costs, rent lease own expense, to shoot up enough to consume any benefit to progress and standard of living.

      Yup, that’s how it often goes. So why not use JG to build, buy and maintain affordable rental space, for residential, commercial and non-profit use, and to maintain existing owned properties? Would this be a pain to administer? Possibly, but administration could also be JG, and the decisions could be made cooperatively, by the community. See Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust, for instance.

      Proposed projects include a neighbourhood eldercoop, so that all of us who wish to can live in our own homes until we die. Neighbours, with or without a JG, can look after one another. It is sort of like the intentional community that diptherio referenced, but the community came first, the intention afterwards. An example of this is Beacon Hill Village.

      1. Paul Lebow

        Yes – you are thinking outside the box of the present discussion which seems to be missing the point – people are suffering and living unfulfilling lives due to the complete failure of capitalism to provide what society really needs. Gov’t spending or a JG program to provide more of those scarce necessities of life is critical for progressive fiscal policy not to be instantly inflationary. I can’t raise the rent if there is more housing made available to compete – not a problem with a well thought out program.

  18. robnume

    Thanks for following up on this, Yves. I’ll not be holding my breath for any “jobs guarantee” coming from any political party in this solar system!

  19. TomL

    A guaranteed jobs program, if administered locally, would require auditors. I can’t imagine the program working without adequate controls to discourage corruption. I have read that the relief programs in the 30s were virtually corruption-free. Roosevelt encountered so much political resistance in establishing them that he felt that the programs would be in serious jeopardy if the public became convinced that money was being stolen.

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