What is the Minimum Wage that Will Employ Everyone?

By Carlos Maciel, a member of the first class of the Levy Institute MS program. His thesis work is a framework for a environmentally friendly Job Guarantee program. Originally published at The Minskys.

It is official, the unemployment rate in the US has dropped to its lowest level in 16 years. Economists all around the country must be tapping themselves in the back and buying each other drinks in congratulations, right? Wrong. Despite the official drop in joblessness, we have a decline in labor participation, an increase in the “skill gap” in the labor force (i.e. unemployed workers’ skills do not match those needed by open jobs) and, arguably most importantly, wages that fail to rise fast enough.

For starters, the latest reports show that the year-over-year wage growth rate has been stagnating; it reached 2.5 percent since last year, which is just marginally above inflation. It is difficult to determine exactly why people drop out of the labor force, but we can speculate that some do so because of the lack of pay increases. Whatever the reason, the dropout is a significant part of the declining unemployment rate—e.g. the May report shows that 429,000 people dropped out of the labor force. A nation with a population that is actively leaving the labor force and that deals with stagnant wages is a nation facing serious socioeconomic problems.

The problem at hand, then, is a question economists have been dealing with for ages: how can we increase earnings and employment at the same time? Common economic understanding would argue that we have to choose between higher wages and more jobs. The main argument against minimum wage hikes is that it would increase unemployment. That claim is factually untrue (just look at Seattle) and there are a number of ways to address the issue. At The Minskys we have tackled this topic several times, and shown that a decent minimum wage does not have to reduce the number of jobs out there. One way to have both is with a Job Guarantee (JG) program.

One of the more interesting consequences of a JG program is that it would create a de-facto minimum wage without the need of actually raising the minimum wage. The JG wage would become the minimum wage for the entire economy. Workers receiving less than the JG wage would be inclined to take a JG job, and employers would have to raise their salary offers in order to keep their workforce. Given the impact of the pay offered by the program, it is important that the JG wage rate be thoroughly discussed.

The JG literature has a large number of works focused on the topic of wages. Some suggest the pay to vary with skill-level. Others advocate for JG wages to be the same as they would be in the market. But having multiple compensation packages would make the logistics and application of a JG program much more complicated.

To find the best wage rate for JG jobs, a few parameters should be considered. First, the JG framework is to create jobs that provide at least a minimum “subsistence” rate, so that workers can live a decent life. As such, it is clear that the JG wage should at least be the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Second, the goal of the JG is not, and should never be, to replace the private sector. So, the JG wage should not exceed the average wage paid in the private sector ($25.31 in 2016). This creates an upper limit.

With these lower and upper limits in place we can raise the floor or lower the ceiling, ultimately arriving at the proper wage rate paid by this full employment policy. Recent polls show that Democrats, Republicans and Independents—in their majority—all support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which suggests that there may be widespread political support to increasing the minimum wage.We can raise the lower limit further after we consider the per capita income in the US, which would put the fair minimum wage at $12.00 an hour. The lower limit of $12 an hour is appropriate since it is marginally above the poverty rate of $11.53 for a household with two children where only one of the parents is employed.

A good point within that range is the $15.00 hourly wage rate. Legislation regarding this wage rate has recently been approved in cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles, and the state of New York. There is also a movement by workers demanding that it becomes the floor in the fast food and retail industries. It seems appropriate, therefore, to follow these cities and movements by determining the going wage rate for a JG program to be set at $15.00 an hour. After all, a national JG cannot pay less than locally established minimum wages. On the other hand, the guarantee of a job in, for example, Seattle paying $15.00 per hour, while surrounding areas are offering lower pay could saturate one area in detriment of another.

As previously discussed, the JG wage would become the minimum wage to the entire economy. Consequently, workers who currently earn less than the $15.00 an hour rate would receive a raise. In total, accounting also for the ripple effects faced by workers in the $15.00 to $19.00 range, roughly 64.7 million workers would receive a wage increase, which means 43.5 percent of the labor force would see their wage income go up. To avoid inflationary pressures, allow for seamless implementation, and contain possible—albeit historically improbable—negative employment effects from the minimum wage hike, the transition to this wage through the implementation of the JG program will have to be done incrementally.

The Job Guarantee is an effective way to solve the three major problems currently facing the American labor market: the skill gap, the dropout of workers from the labor force, and most importantly the stagnant wages. We have empirically observed that wage increases not only do not increase unemployment, but they also serve as a catalyst for economic growth and towards social equity. The US economy has plenty of needs that can be fulfilled by giving well-paying jobs to its unemployed. The $15/hour wage is not only fair, it is a necessary measure to ensure the prosperity of this nation.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Jeff

    A recurring question pops up in my mind each time I see an article on JG: what jobs are we guaranteeing?
    Where are we going to employ millions of people now, while these jobs go unfilled if (not when) eg D. Trump would bring back an industrial base?

    1. Tomonthebeach

      One thing countries like Bulgaria do is to maintain superfluous jobs. Though technically a capitalist country, BG has many jobs which have been long ago robotized in more prosperous countries. For example, multistage car washes like ones seen across the US, not the little gas station squirters, but those that really clean the car, are quite rate. At most Bulgarian car washes, you pull in, and 5 guys hit the car for about 15 minutes.

      When you pull in for petrol, there is a guy (occasionally a gal) who comes out and pumps your gas and, and, he cleans your windows — all of them!
      Most museums have a chain of admissions personnel who take your money, make change, issue a ticket, tear the ticket, and then watch (I assume) to make sure you do not steal anything.

      My favorite superfluous job is “pinker.” This is a person who at some large stores stands at the end of the checkout, and runs a pink (sometimes yellow) magic marker line through your receipt before you can leave the store. There is always the ubiquitous security guard who hovers over the checkout lines – usually a few paces behind the pinkers.

      In appliance stores there is also the “warranty stamper.” Before you leave, you must validate your warranty at a desk where they take the purchase out of the box, make sure it runs, then stamp the heck out of the warranty paperwork. I guess this proves it worked when you left the store?

      It is unclear why the BG private sector supports jobs that machines do more efficiently and economically. Maybe there is a tax incentive or something. I speculate that it is insufficient capital. Regardless, Bulgaria still has a 7%+ unemployment rate, but it is measured differently than they way the US does it. Greece, bordering to the West, has a 23% rate, although Romania to the north is at 5%.

      1. MoiAussie

        So Bulgaria has jobs that probably could be eliminated, but chooses not to, and enjoys an unemployment rate 1/3 of nearby Greece. And that is a bad thing, why exactly?

        Guys get to work at a car wash, and presumably take home enough to feed their families. Some probably take pride in their work. They still have “full-service” garages (as they still do in Japan) long gone from the west. These give young adults a paying job, and a chance to learn some skills. My second student job was pumping gas, and I saved enough to buy a rather decrepit car, which I needed to get to school, and learned a bunch of other skills.

        We still have “pinkers” here at the warehouse hardware places, whose job is actually to check that you paid for what you’re carrying out the door. Automated checkouts, by contrast, have led to a surge in petty theft from supermarkets.

        They may not be great jobs, but I’d rather do any of these than work in an Amazon warehouse, and I’m sure Bulgarians are grateful for the opportunities they provide. Perhaps Bulgaria actually has a rather better idea about how societies should function than the west.

        1. Comradefrana

          I’m confused by this discussion. Seems to me you are looking for some kind of intent where there is none. Bulgaria is simply a poor post-communist country with cheap labor, degree of automation will (hopefully) increase with rising income and with additional investment.

          Also, vis a vis unemployment, unlike Greece, Bulgaria hasn’t been made into a debt slave, that definitely helps matters.

          1. MoiAussie

            From the previous comment:

            It is unclear why the BG private sector supports jobs that machines do more efficiently and economically.

            Maybe economic optimisation should not be an end in itself. Maybe suboptimality delivers real benefits in terms of robustness and social cohesion.

            1. John Zelnicker

              @MoiAussie – “Maybe economic optimisation should not be an end in itself. Maybe suboptimality delivers real benefits in terms of robustness and social cohesion.”

              Ya think!

              The US could sure use some additional social cohesion. The neoliberals have been intent on destroying it since Reagan.

            2. Comradefrana

              “Maybe suboptimality delivers real benefits in terms of robustness and social cohesion.”

              I think that’s backwards. It’s possible that a country enacting legislation to better social well-being makes it economically poorer in aggregate, but that is not true in reverse. That a country is economically poor only tells you that the country is economically poor.

        2. jrs

          at some level it is hard to take pride in work one knows is basically useless, but it does beat starving and homelessness any day.

          1. Ian

            Imagine how the people who’s work is societally destructive and negative and the comprises that they must deal with. Useless would be a step up from much of that, which is also often quite legally done aswell.

      2. Carla

        Bulgaria apparently operates according to the theory that it’s good for the country if people are employed. I wonder what the jobs situation is in Slovenia, which just tied with Norway as the best place in the world to be a child:

        Just a hunch, but I would think that if things are good for kids, life for adults is probably pretty decent in Slovenia, too. If Melania reads NC, maybe she’ll clue us in.

        (BTW, although the Save the Children report clearly states that Norway and Slovenia are tied for first place in its ranking, almost all the U.S. news reports just list Norway first and if they even mention Slovenia, place it second. Discrimination = inaccuracy. The U.S. ranked the 36th best place to be a child out of 172 countries. Nations in sub-Saharan Africa are the worst places.)

    2. Anti Schmoo

      Yes, good question.
      Trump will not bring back manufacturing to the U.S.; that is a cruel myth.
      Any new manufacturing businesses will employ the latest robotics such as 3D printing technologies. I was in manufacturing for 30+ years; I know of what I speak.
      Given the failing, crumbling, infrastructure within the U.S., it would seem obvious that, that would be a rich source of employment oportunities; offering decent paying jobs.
      What is the reason behind not creating the 21st century WPA; look at what that did for unemployed Usian’s; not to mention the beautiful roads (Columbia River Hwy.) and Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood.
      Get rid of the bloody politics and get to work America…

      1. Moneta

        Lots of crumbling infra… who gets to choose what gets propped up and what becomes ruins for future archeologists?

        It all looks easy until you need to form a committee to make some choices.

        Everything is political when resource and energy distribution are involved.

        1. skippy

          Moneta if you look at the links above and use the past discussions on NC about PPP deals et al I can’t agree with your perspective.

          In my experience and observations the only choices involved is what private sector mobs gets the funding and how that provides the energy for the public private revolving door.

          1. Moneta

            Yes. In today’s world you are indeed right.

            My point is that of a dream world where we’d actually have a committee evaluate the merits of different projects… We would need to choose and make sure we have the right choosers who are all knowing. They would need to know how to be fair as well as what needs to be improved and what needs to go. Quite a feat!

            1. Susan the other

              I don’t think this will be an unusual step, politically or economically. What is unusual is that we tried to run an economy (the free market debacle) without government stimulus which had always been there. And here we are. The government has always promoted industries it favors. So the thinking probably won’t change. If we are smart we will create jobs that need to be done, promote the efficiency of those jobs and industries so they are viable into the future and at some point they will be quasi state owned enterprises. Since environmental cleanup isn’t exactly a profit-making industry, that is an excellent place to start with a JG program. And there are lots of social service jobs as well. I think the only reason we haven’t already started with this is the TINA mindset we imposed on ourselves, which turned into a world-wide depression, which was made worse by prescribing austerity and trade surpluses for all and etc.

              1. Left in Wisconsin

                Excellent comment until here:

                And there are lots of social service jobs as well. I think the only reason we haven’t already started with this is the TINA mindset we imposed on ourselves, which turned into a world-wide depression, which was made worse by prescribing austerity and trade surpluses for all and etc.

                I have a long comment below on why social service jobs should not be residual JG jobs.

                I also take issue with the “we” of the TINA. We (as in “us”) need to always distinguish ourselves from “them,” who are neither “we” nor “us.” No one can simultaneously hold to the notions that 1) the USA is the greatest country that is or ever has been and 2) TINA to the sh1itty world we now live in, without copious amounts of cognitive dissonance that provide an opening for political education and new ways of politics. Yes, it will be a very long and hard slog to “change” what “we” think. But “we” as in “us” can absolute beat “them,” who are not “we.”

            2. jrs

              somehow this all kind of worked once though. It did work during the New Deal to get great things built, to employ more people (not to employ everyone, that might be a fantasy and it seemed to take a war, but to increase employment above what it otherwise would have been). So it has worked at one point. And all without omniscience or any other things we are told couldn’t ever exist because TINA. No miracles were needed.

            3. skippy


              I remember past conversations which invariably come down to a view about government[s over other means of organization. I should think its not necessary to point out the fundamentals about that or the histrionics behind it, sorta like a residual memory carried forward.

              That said I think its reasonable to say the results are in on the neoliberal project, which imo was sold as a solution to the problem you worry about. When in fact the project was a targeted agenda against a system of organization [social democracy] which sought to address your concerns about “Picking and Choosing Winners or Losers”.

              To summarize:

              “Neoliberalism is an anti-human economic prescription for life. It is an ideology which denies the existence of community, society and even humanity, reducing life on earth into decimal points on a balance sheet. It is a series of ones and zeros in a computerised market system in which we exist only to serve the financial ends of multinational corporations. Any benefit, financial or otherwise that we derive from work is purely coincidental. Paraphrasing economist Bill Fink, Neoliberalism believes that markets are more efficient than humans can ever be. It believes corporations can do no wrong, and celebrates inequality, claiming it encourages productivity because people envy the rich and try to emulate them.

              Neoliberalism is a form of economic nihilism, an ideology designed to rationalise our humanity. An anti democratic system that thrives on our confusion, despair and desperation. All that is left now is the pursuit of profit.”

              So if one agrees with the above, one would have to acknowledge that the government[s is just a reflection of the dominance of this attitude and not an intrinsic quality of government[s. Personally I see the second paragraph as a stark reminder of not only many comments on this blog, but pervasive throughout much of society. Mission accomplished I must say.

              That said there is so much that can be done on a local and regional level with the management of a JG [yes have to include some sort of UBI to make it palatable for everyone] under a social democratic administration. That should diminish the worst of “Picking and Choosing Winners or Losers”, because the process demands more compromise from all involved. This does not mean increasing energy or material consumption on the scale that some suggest. It does not have to be based on materialistic consumption [primitive accumulation (ego)] or supply side monopolies.

              disheveled…. I find it curious when some talk about “WE” would need to choose and make sure we have the right choosers who are all knowing…. when there was no choice involved with making neoliberalism the dominate sociopolitical paradigm… lest we forget.

    3. Uahsenaa

      I’ve said this before, when this question comes up, but it bears repeating.

      In the US all municipalities already have a stock of ad hoc jobs that people move in and out of: it’s called community service. Jobs like picking up trash along the highway, doing landscape maintenance, assisting with the elderly, etc. are already assigned to people working off minor criminal punishments. Take away the punishment and actually pay the people, then voila! You have a JG program.

      If the numbers needed to increase, you could easily add any number of work tasks that need to get done but simply aren’t. Point is, the infrastructure is already there, it would just need to be adapted (e.g. set up payroll, benefits system, etc.).

      1. Anon

        Jobs like picking up trash along the highway, doing landscape maintenance, assisting with the elderly, etc. are already assigned to people working off minor criminal punishments.

        Assisting with the elderly, and landscape maintenance do require training (and supervision); trash pick up, not so much. Municipalities don’t much like maintaining records on ephemeral work positions.

        My community has evolved a partial alternative. It employs the developmentally challenged to do the less challenging work (keeping the Harbor area clean for the tourists) and a seasonal landscape maintenance work force (locals) supervised by trained staff. (This system is also used for certified lifeguards–young locals.) The system keeps many busy and productive, and avoids the cost of hiring contractors ( who are efficient, but usually take the money and run).

      2. Left in Wisconsin

        Not to be snarky but a program that puts people to work looking after the elderly when there is slack in the economy but then takes them away from that into the “real economy” when there is no slack (i.e. when McDonald’s is hiring) is not going to work, either for the elderly or the existing “care economy,” and is certainly not socially progressive in my understanding of what that means. (But, yes, picking up trash would work. You would just have a lot more litter when the economy was good. I guess you could extend that analogy by comparing “dead old people” to “litter.” – but see previous post, which I didn’t see while composing this.)

        Which gets to me the central point: since this is a master’s thesis, and thus the writer is likely young and at the beginning of a long and fruitful career, could I suggest they NOT accept current economic categories of things like “work” and “labor force” and “the economy.” None of these terms are remotely “scientific;” they are all “political.” The notions that a) current unpaid caregiving is not “work” and has no impact on “the economy” (so much for “social capital” being a real, economic thing) or b) that currently low-paid caregiving (child care, paid elder care, etc.) is “work” that thus has some economic “value” that corresponds to the wage rate or c) that b) is not true and thus we can raise everyone’s wages to $15/hr unproblematically (with presumably “market-friendly” adjustments) is all simply more non-sensical and elitist fantasy thinking that I guess qualifies one to be a “real economist.”

        Anyone that really thinks a $15/hr minimum wage is easily attainable in the here and now should talk to a pre-school or day care or elder care provider. (Of course, all the actual $15/hr laws don’t get there until way in the future, when “$15” really means “$12.” And even then, I would guess virtually no thought has been giving to what this will mean for child care and elder/disabled care.) Yes, everyone working these jobs “deserves” this much and more. But, no, such a world is not possible now without blowing up the entire caregiving “economy.” (Which I would be all in favor of doing but only with some thought actually being giving to what we were doing.)

        What is wrong with current versions of the JG, including the MMT version, is the notion (consistent with both neoliberal economics and liberal neoclassical economics) that caregiving jobs are somehow residual jobs that can be filled when there is slack in the “real” (McDonald’s) economy and left empty when there isn’t.

        I guess this post is meant to be a challenge to “conventional” economics and economic policy but to me it is simply more “inside the bubble” theorizing. Should be good for foundation funding, though.

    4. Ann

      I have no idea how a JG would actually be implemented, but it seems to me that much of what we consider to be volunteer work in the United States really ought to be paid. Picking up litter in parks, teaching illiterate adults how to read, visiting people in hospice care–these are all honorable pursuits, and certainly are worth paying for, societally speaking.

        1. Ann

          Oh, no doubt. But I think restructuring an economy to include a job and/or basic income guarantee requires an attitudinal shift anyhow.

  2. catsick

    I think a major effect of all the QE asset repricing is that a lot of workers in their 50’s are finding they have a decent pool of assets and are pulling the plug on work which has become a major pain in the ass to them and not worth the not increasing wages, this results in lower participation but not higher unemployment, it also reduces taxes paid and overall consumption in the economy. I dont think this is a positive but it does sort of free up jobs for the young, I see it all around me, the wealthier 50-65 age group have plenty of assets and no longer feel the need to add to the pile, the young will never be able to accumulate assets to the same degree. The UK election is a warning shot that the young will engage and vote to tax these piles of assets that the middle aged have built up …

    1. Yves Smith

      Huh? Those assets yield nada in the way of income. Most people I know (and I’m in that age cohort) have greatly increased the amount then think they’ll need to live well or adequately in retirement because there are no decent income producing assets to be had. The result is most people I know are planning to work well beyond normal retirement age. The ones who are retiring voluntarily either have sizable net worths (over $6 million) or very solid pensions (the World Bank’s are egregious).

      1. Catsick

        Its a wealth effect not an income requirement, if your net worth doubles in a short space of time then your willingness to add to the pile is reduced as it has a reduced utility, I am in this cohort and there is a great divergence in behavior depending on how well set up you were going into this ….

        1. Left in Wisconsin

          I think you are dead wrong. For 90% of the over 50s, the only real asset they have is their house, and house price asset appreciation is entirely location dependent. (And of course you have to buy housing when you sell.) We just sold my dad’s house in a nice suburb of Albany for $225K, which represents about 300% price appreciation from what he bought it for in 1968 but hardly the stuff to fund retirement. My brother, smack in the middle of that 50-65 age cohort, figures he could maybe get $80K for his house in Syracuse. His defined benefit pension was frozen/eliminated a decade or more ago and his current defined contribution plan could fund maybe a year or two of middle-class retirement at best. He lives in constant fear that is employer will decide he is too old and expensive and replace him with a cheap young person.

          My brother is exactly median income and my dad was well-above when he retired.

      2. Normal

        If you plan to live past 79, you have to find a way to generate income until 70. Do the Social Security math.

        One of many threshold effects in US economic policy.

      3. Steve

        I totally agree. In our mid fifties most of the people my wife and I know are planning on working for much longer than we originally planned. Graduating college in the 80’s (when there were no jobs) left us behind on starting any retirement savings. Even with trying to put away the max percentage of our earnings the last ten years have been terrible for any type of fixed asset (IRA,CD, etc) retirement investment. A very common line I hear all the time from people my age (very end of the baby boom) is “we are going to be working until we die”.

          1. JTMcPhee

            So, what’s the fix, and qui bono from the suggestions that might be offered, like “kill the olds and take their stuff,” commonly heard from other mopes who would then become just more fodder for the looters, and world destroyers in their own special right?

            “We” are one stupid, vastly klutzy-designed species… Not a clue about how to even defer gratification, generally, much less derail all the self-pleasing or looting-generated behaviors that just go along with “continued survival…” No collective idea of what even “a genteel sufficiency” (does that include manicures/pedicures/spa/massage/bespoke suits and shoes, as part of “living well” or an “adequate” life, as one runs out one’s personal thread?) let alone “living on” at the level of the residue of mopes making up the population of New York in that wonderfully rich dystopian vision titled “Soylent Green…”

            Can’t make a meal that sustains, out of food for thought… But maybe it’s a good thing that all the incentives and drives and drivers and vectors and momentum sure seem point in the direction of a mass die-off — while along the road to complete ruin, mopes with a little bit of “Stuff” will be dispossessed and terminated by mopes with a little less, or practically no, “Stuff,” while the serious Looters look on with a laugh and a sneer at how stupoid (sic) the cattle are…

            1. Left in Wisconsin

              Sigh. All this species talk of “we” is really self-defeating. I can’t understand how a person can look at how much the world has changed (for good and evil) in the last 200 years and then go on about how “we” are obviously a failed species with no hope.

              I guarantee you that the “they” who currently run the world don’t think this. And the one thing they live in mortal fear of is the notion that the “we” who oppose them are starting to make progress in convincing others of the value of working against them.

              1. JTMcPhee

                Why are “they” who currently run the world so eager, so many of them, to emigrate from this world to one yet un-looted? or failing that, among the tech set, figuring out how to migrate their precious essences to either a “cloud” or some AI-mech new “indestructible” body? And of course, prepping like all get out, with “secure hidey-holes” where they will be spared the horrors that the surface dwellers would have to endure if the less optimistic prognostications about climate change and, oh, nuclear oopsie war, prove actually predictive? That is, if “they” aren’t concerned that the biosphere might be rendered untenable, thanks to the processes and vectors and momenta they have so assiduously set in motion and from which they display zero interest or intent in backing off on, let alone reversing the effects of. And of course most of “them” probably understand they are mortal, with a best a few decades of decadence before their telomeres terminate them, so why should ‘they’ care a whoop about what comes after they are beyond retribution or reparations, gone gently with the best of caring care into that good night?

                On the other hand, this week I gave my grandkids the materials for them to start a little food garden of their own, and a fun book on how to raise chickens and goats in suburbia…

                And I have my own raised beds, small scale, and enjoy my tomatoes and garlic and peppers and such. And I take Navy showers, and feel guilty if my aging brain forgets to direct me to shut off the sink faucet after I fill the cup of water I limit myself to, to brush my teeth.

                And so “we” coast along, with some busily chopping the frames and planking out of the ark we all live in, to sell for “a profit,” while others scramble to put up the cofferdams, http://www.dictionary.com/browse/cofferdam, and rebuild the hacked hull and bail out the drowning water the profiteers let in.

                The death wish may not be universal, but which set of humans will prevail in the race between looting and preserving…?

                1. Left in Wisconsin

                  Excellent concept. But, as you point out, leaks (of all sorts) would have to be a constant threat. (Just keeping the potable water inside would seem to be a serious technological feat.)

                  It’s true they have a big head start. But it’s also true that almost everyone is an “us,” not a “them.” And so, given reasonable “rules” of democracy and/or “violent revolution,” we don’t actually need to convince all the mopes to join our side, just a working majority (or one sort or another).

        1. MoiAussie

          Given the choice between working till I die (which might be hard to distinguish from working myself to death) and retiring while I still have the strength and the faculties for at least a few years to do some things I want to, read and reflect, grow some veges, and climb some hills just to enjoy the view from the top, I am choosing the latter.

          I suspect I’ve lived through what is arguably the apex of human civilisation – the decades from the 60’s through the ’80s. I didn’t suffer the hardships and class obstacles that my grandparents and parents did, and will avoid the struggles and threats facing my children. I’ve enjoyed throughout my adult life a level of individual freedom that most members of previous generations were denied, and thrived, starting from zero, without having to sell my soul to anyone. I’ve also enjoyed the best music of all time, and the best cinema, things which now seem lost to most of the population. I’ve traveled. Not being very acquisitive, I live for quality of life, not quantity, and would rather make or renovate something than buy crapified modern stuff.

          Financially, it’s anyone’s guess how long I can last, as there are too many uncertainties. But somehow it doesn’t really worry me. When money or health or competence seem to be running out, I’ll be happy to exit this world – it’s a beautiful place, but my species has been a major disappointment, and I’ve never seen the point of soldiering on to 80 or 90 and becoming a burden on others just to see how far one can go.

          1. Left in Wisconsin

            Having come of age in the 1970s, my clearest memory is of me and all my friends saying, “If this is as good as it gets, kill me now.” And yet, weed was so cheap we could share it freely at concerts, even with people we didn’t know, and we had the Allman Brothers. (And Led Zeppelin for those with bad taste.) And there were still cars with tail fins (though already lots of plastic) and 29C/gallon gas.

            And yet, it is entirely reasonable now, as you say, to consider this the “apex” of civilization. Which I think says more about “us” than it does about the 70’s.

            1. jrs

              if consumer paradise was such a paradise mid-century social commentary wouldn’t be as full of discontent as it is.

              Nonetheless, that discontent seems so hopeful nowadays, it was not yet despair, there was an assumption that things would stay at least as good and keep improving if only people realized how unsatisfactory things were and worked to change them (hahaha).

      4. Damian

        The article states the following objective for the program: “…….provide at least a minimum “subsistence” rate, so that workers…. can live a decent life


        start with substituting the word “worker” for the word “human being” – so you are creating human beings for a life of “welfare” – lets call it what it is.

        my understanding (which may not be valid for everyone) but sex is engaged between two people for FUN.

        The FUN is free will – no third party is demanding the FUN be pursued.

        The FUN is the: risk, responsibility, benefit for those engaged in the FUN – no third party was “asked” for permission.

        If the FUN can result in Recreation – and / or – Procreation based on empirical data for millions of years – it is the conscious risk of those engaged – no one else!

        Therefore the FUN is the responsibility of those enabling the FUN.

        “can live a decent life”

        if there are finite resources in the world, why is there unlimited FUN?

        why is “decent” the standard, if the FUN was not licensed?

        If you are acknowledging the “Procreation” has no value at the margin or else someone would bid for it as a worker – then why produce – or – reproduce?

        I put forth the proposition, the ultimate critical path is not global warming via fossil fuels but to many humans and the danger they create.

        Methane in garbage dumps all over the world produce 10x the pollution of fossil fuels and are completely dependent on the derivative….people. No people no garbage!

        Instead of carbon taxes or minimum income – the time has come to pay for:

        Vasectomies / Tubal Ligations – $10,000 each – 1 million per day for 10 years / 365 days a year or 3 Billion plus to reduce the worlds population by 3.5 Billion from the present 7.5 Billion.

        forget raising the cost of living via energy taxes or minimum income – get to the source of the problem ………………….FUN

        1. Anon

          Procreation is not driven just by FUN. There are cultural issues involved, too. Jared Diamond’s, “Why Sex is Fun” (1997) is an insightful perspective that you may find good reading.

          Agree that the human population is too large for the planet, but the major impacts are caused by some 5-10% of the inhabitants.

        2. Left in Wisconsin

          You make some good points but miss the big one: absent the capitalist money economy, lots of FUN would be free or very cheap. Smoking weed, making and listening to good music, and having baby-free sex, for example. There is no intrinsic reason why FUN needs to destroy the cliimate.

        3. Comradefrana

          “Methane in garbage dumps all over the world produce 10x the pollution of fossil fuels and are completely dependent on the derivative….people. No people no garbage!”

          According to this: http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ftp/ndp030/global.1751_2011.ems
          global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels in 2010 were:
          (1,698 + 3,100 + 3,832) * 3.67 = 31,672.1 million metric tons of CO2

          According to this: http://www.globalmethane.org/documents/analysis_fs_en.pdf
          estimated global emissions from methane in landfills were:
          6,875 * 0.11 = 756.25 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent

          So in fact, not 10x more pollution, but more than 40x less.

          There are good arguments for a lower world population, this is not one of them.

    2. Marco

      “Those assets yield nada”

      Who says they plan on living off yields? Perhaps they eat (some) principle to get them to 62 or 65 or whenever they want to collect the SS benefits. I think some people are that desperate. Their old jobs are gone and horribly crapified new jobs await.

      1. Moneta

        Most jobs that pay well now require that you leave your ethics at the door… If you’ve got a spouse making decent money, why would you keep on facing traffic and slugging away at a job with Sisyphean tasks or destroys the economy?

        1. Moneta

          I’m not retired but if I were in my late 50s and early 60s, I definitely would.

          The level of soul destruction required in most high paying jobs is a health hazard.

          In university, I thought I was working my butt off to get good jobs so I could contribute something positive to the world. Now I realize it was mostly to get on the empty materialism bandwagon.

          And when I try to find a life that reduces my carbon footprint, most of what I see is a vow of poverty.

          1. cnchal

            I have never had a high paying jawb and thankfully avoided that health hazard entirely. The society I live in decided that even though the type of work I did was low pay, it was still much too high compared to Chinese sweat shop labor.

          2. Moneta

            In some perverse way, I wish I had no skills. Then I’d feel I have no choice but to put food on the table. Now I’m stuck with cognitive dissonance in everything I do.

      2. Marco

        Ugh! In my previous comment above “Says” should be “said” and “principle” should be “principal”

        Adding that I know of someone in their early 50s (another colleague in IT) who cashed out of his home in a gentrified neighborhood in chicago and now lives on about 25% of his former income. Granted he has no children so yes just an anecdote. Also his job is being replaced with someone in South Asia and NOT some young American.

      3. jrs

        well the desperate people who can’t find work after a certain age and burn whatever assets they have to get to (unless one earned 6 figures usually a fairly low income especially if they take it at 62 with) Social Security aren’t exactly the same people choosing to leave paid work because they have tons of assets.

        I suppose it might help the former to pretend they are the latter, but I don’t think it makes it so.

        So they can say: “I don’t work because I am retired” rather than the truth of something like: “I looked for work for 3 years and nada” .

  3. expat

    The argument is not really an economic one, though this article demonstrates it should be. Republicans and the right-wing have based their dogma on the notion that providing for the People is not one of the principles of American democracy. In their view, it is preferable to have people starve or suffer rather than have a minimum wage. If people deserve minimum wage, they should earn it. If they can’t get it, they don’t deserve it. QED.

    It’s easy to be a millionaire Senator with a solid base of campaign support from industry and believe this. What baffles me are the millions of working class and unemployed white Americans who believe this. I think it’s a problem of education and religion. Intelligence and comprehension are not valued in the USA, quite the contrary.

    1. washunate

      What baffles me are the millions of working class and unemployed white Americans who believe this.

      Do you have empirical data on that? They aren’t the power structure. They didn’t support media consolidation. They didn’t support bank bailouts. They didn’t support a global empire. They haven’t supported anything that’s going on. They’re not even really part of the conversation. Social insurance programs are some of the most popular programs in all of government. Everybody loves quittin’ time and weekends and vacations. It’s five o’clock somewhere. Etc.

        1. Left in Wisconsin

          Not evidence. For most US voters (which is barely a majority of US adults), the presidential election was a choice between two flawed candidates, each representing a “party” which is a coalition of disparate interests, one of whom was going to end up president. The election of Trump proves nothing, other than that in a 2016 US presidential election with the two worst candidates in history occupying the two major party slots, one of them is going to win.

          HRC winning in a squeaker also have done nothing to prove or disprove your point.

          1. washunate

            Agreed. I would love to hear a substantive response from expat about the thought process. Without explanation, though, it appears to be the standard Dem tribalism of blaming everyone other than the actual decision-makers. The policy areas I listed were examples purposefully chosen as being pushed while Democrats were in power in DC.

  4. washunate

    The problem at hand, then, is a question economists have been dealing with for ages: how can we increase earnings and employment at the same time?

    On the contrary, as some of us would critique, the old problem of aggregate material scarcity has largely been solved. The contemporary problem at hand is how to more equitably distribute the earnings and employment we already have. We don’t need moar; if anything, working less would be best for both the environment and restoring a healthy democracy.

    One of the more interesting consequences of a JG program is that it would create a de-facto minimum wage without the need of actually raising the minimum wage.

    That’s neoliberalism in a nutshell. Direct government regulation to help workers = bad! Instead of a simple law, let’s create a complicated program that requires lots of technocratic administration. Also, instead of hiring permanent, professional staff onto public programs, let’s hire lots of temporary workers at low wages.

    …the “skill gap”…

    lololol…no but seriously, a JG is going to get people out of prison? How about we just end the drug war directly and all the other oppression instead of pretending that an employment program can address our deep-seated problems that cause marginalization and injustice?

    1. Moneta

      The problem of material scarcity has not been solved. Actually thinking this way implies that the problem has gotten worse! It means that one believes today’s consumerism is not peaking but will continue and that the planet can support this forever.

      The reality is that most depend on their house to build wealth. This is one reason why houses are getting bigger or more expensive. If houses are getting bigger and financed with debt it means that a lot of people believe the future will keep on financing this overconsumption.

      From my vantage point this material abundance is a waste of resources, regional and a blip in history.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        The “problem of material scarcity” is a tough nut. It seems obvious that virtually everyone in the world, given their druthers, would own a car, a refrigerator and, in most climates, air conditioning for warm months. Yet, given our current energy profile, this seems impossible with making much of the currently habited planet seriously unlivable for humans. So we do seem to have a pretty fundamental conflict between “the material economy” and democracy. I can see why many people see a technological fix as the only way out.

        OTOH, if we begin to rethink what we mean by “the economy,” other potential solutions appear. My current thinking revolves around care-giving so that is how I approach things. (Being a care-giver and trying to be an academic, a profession that defines itself based on the illusion that its most noble practitioners are too important to be caregivers themselves, will do that to you.)

        All of our current thinking about “the economy’ is delusional when it comes to care-giving. A considerable amount of “social capital” is generated by the unpaid caregiving of middle-class and up spouses and the low-paid nannying provided by working-class women from foreign countries (whose labor is in many ways “stolen” but whom nevertheless support “economies” back home by remitting a considerable portion of their post-expropriation and alienated wages) and middle-class and up young women who do nannying instead of Uber or working at McDonalds, or working-class women, who do low-paid caregiving as work but very often have to leave their own children in unpaid care provided by more or less distant relatives who provide more or less good care.

        And that is just one piece of it. Elder-care, disabled-care, making people work at McDonald’s so other people can raise their children. NOT TO MENTION THE ENTIRE HEALTH CARE INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. All of our economics represents this in either a fundamentally inaccurate way or not at all.

        If one starts from the premise that care-giving, like K-12 education, is a fundamental social good that should be provided publicly by the government, and works backwards to first, what that implies about the jobs (that they should pay comparable to public-school teaching and require comparable skill/credentialing), then one ends up with a considerably different-looking economy that has a considerably larger public sector. All without yet getting to a JG or BI.

        Given that MMT theory (as opposed to the fact of bank-created money) seems to suggest that worthwhile government spending is only constrained by inflation, one would hope that there would soon be a branch of MMT, or perhaps a more public-sector friendly alternative to MMT) devoted to developing real ideas for a care-based economy.

        Getting back to material scarcity, economic support for family-caregiving seems to me to be closely connected to a world with much less long-distance commuting and much more inter-generation living, which could shrink the need for suburban single-family housing, cars, home furnishings, etc. Whereas I do think that in a world of continuing expansion of cars, refrigerators, and air conditioning, we probably await either a new technological savior, a massive expansion of nuclear (and all that entails), and/or a very warm climate.

      2. washunate

        Hey Moneta, I’ve been thinking through your comment and I’m not quite following your train of thought.

        The problem I refer to is the economic problem of how to create enough wealth as a society in aggregate to meet the basic needs of everyone. We have that. In fact, we have more than enough. That some people live in car dependent McMansion sprawl while others have substandard housing is an issue of distribution (or allocation or whatever word one prefers), not insufficient aggregate resources. Housing wealth is the preponderant form of household wealth because public policy actively allocates resources that way, not because some economic law naturally makes it so.

        Generally, the western field of political economy has been concerned with how to make more in aggregate, make ‘the economy’, however exactly one defines that, ‘bigger’, however exactly one defines that. But by the middle to late 20th century, we had reached a point of being ‘big enough’. Now the interesting questions of political economy are not how to ‘grow’, but rather, how to ‘distribute’, primarily around questions of fairness and sustainability (both in terms of social cohesion and environmental capacity).

        This is basic Keynesianism I advocate, the understanding that compounding productivity growth means we human beings have the option to spend most of our time doing things other than working to produce the material necessities of life. Now of course, authoritarian busy bodies who like to control others and amass wealth for themselves don’t like the idea of the masses having free time to pursue activities that are not easily subject to predatory rent-seeking behavior. But that’s a political decision to organize society, not a situation dictated by insufficient resources in aggregate.

  5. financial matters

    Great article! Nice to see some fruit from this institution.

    One of the saddest things I hear at various places from young employees is that after they are done there they are going to their next job. Especially sad when viewed in the context of wealth inequality and an increasing precariat.

    We need a good counter story to the standard line that American leadership, especially economic leadership, is a global force for good. The question is for whose good?

    “”The U.S. empire is a global force for the good of a parasitic elite at the apex of U.S. society which derives the bulk of its income from rents, profits and interest, or to put it more precisely, U.S. leadership of the global economy on behalf of U.S. business interests.””

    “”As long as business is free to invest or not invest – as long as it makes the economic decisions – the government has to structure the environment to serve businesses’ profit-making imperative; otherwise it will face a serious economic crisis. The only way to circumvent this structural constraint is to deny private business the freedom to make economic decisions, which is to say nationalize them, so that capital cannot be relocated or made idle and is mobilized in the interests of a majority of people, rather than a wealthy minority of owners.”” (Stephen Gowans in ‘Washington’s Long War on Syria’ 2017)

    A job guarantee at a living wage is a modest effort to deploy capital in the interest of the majority.

    1. JTMcPhee

      …and of course “rents, profits and interest” all are based on the larger economic frame, which is “Looting and Extraction without consideration of externalities, because who cares? IBG-YBG, Apres nous le deluge and all that…” Ain’t much chance of changing or fixing that from my vantage point — it’s baked into the species’ wiring and the range of possible political economies, at least as displayed by what is “winning…”

      1. MoiAussie

        While I agree there are a lot of baked-in species behaviours that are highly counter-productive to the goal of “living in balance”, I believe that our current situation was not inevitable. If real education was valued, and undertaken rather more responsibly and wisely and generously, human societies might have found some rather different strange attractors in the chaotic churn of possibilities. Many people can rise above their baser instincts, given the right opportunities, incentives, norms, and sanctions. Humility, and a sense of debt to those who came before and obligation to those who come after, has been a feature of past societies. We simply haven’t been smart enough to fight hard enough against our trajectory, and to collectively constrain or eliminate those who act from nothing more than self-interest.

  6. Eureka Springs

    15.00 was too low nearly ten years ago when first I heard of it as JIG number. It certainly is too low now. At the least 15.00 (roughly 28k) should be a BIG (basic income guarantee, including SS, Disability recipients, etc.) minimum. Somewhere in the low to mid twenties (roughly 55k) should be a JIG number, imo. Remember in this income range taxes ( from Fed to State to sales) are numerous and significant… unlike taxation on the rich. Ol Trump doesn’t skip a meal or co-pay when he pays 35 million in fed taxes. I know people in the 30k range who spend months each year trying to catch up just on Fed taxes. Why should the FED collect a dime on 30k?

    I’m thinking of these numbers as I live in and observe what it takes to get by with a fresh vegetable on the dinner table without a pile of collection and cut-off notices as your place mat out here in deplorable flyover country. We are still talking bare bones survival numbers, not, you know, something where one gets ahead, buys a new-ish car, installs some solar panels, or takes a vacation beyond their county border.

    And I don’t care if we/government competes with or blows privateers out of the water by providing better wages. To me that old stumbling block is just a non-starter… rather than thinking about/insisting upon somewhat decent living standards and what tasks (including no task at all) are best suited for a healthy society.

  7. Greg Taylor

    Guaranteed jobs need to produce something of value. I’d like to see more thought put into the types of projects that could make use of JG labor and how to make the people in those jobs productive.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Please offer enlightenment on what metrics are suggested for determination of “value” and “productive.” The Rulers already have working definitions in place, producing the “outcomes” that are being discoursed upon here today.

      I’m sure there will be mechanisms suggested as to how to come to functioning agreement on what constitutes “worthy” and all that, and how to make the legitimizing processes, the ones that constitute that monopoly on the use of force, go forth and implement those policies that are agreed upon, leading to “goodness for all…”

      Nothing to it…

      1. Greg Taylor

        In democracies, the key metric used to establish the value and productivity of JG work will be the extent to which that work is supported by voters. The value of the work and where jobs are located will be essential in establishing and maintaining support for a JG program.

        1. JTMcPhee

          “Democracy” assumes facts not in evidence. Big time. Does not even start to capture how such metrics are established and enforced in our great Empire, or anywhere else where there is supposed to be that “democracy” thing in effect. But it’s a nice myth… comforting.even…

          1. Optimader

            The notion everyone wants to work is a myth as well. So there you have it. So the notion that there is a quantifiable “minimum wage” with said objective is a paradox

        2. Left in Wisconsin

          At least we are getting somewhere. “that work [that] is supported by voters.” Which suggests that we need parties/candidates that support “public works” or “public goods” if we are using econ-speak or social values (“caregiving” to the same extent as “public schools,” not giving into TINA or “we can’t afford it”).

  8. WobblyTelomeres

    There are several unaddressed reasons for non-participation. Obesity epidemic (diabetes, hypertension, kidney failure, other vascular issues, all leading to disability), aging population (with the beginnings of age-related infirmities, arthritis, knee, hip, eye, coordination, declining acuity), and many who are simply worn out.

    In that last group I count an acquaintance who has worked HARD all his life as a house painter, but now at 50 is a broken run-down worn-out shell of who he used to be. But, since he is a house painter, he doesn’t have much money, so he has to work. Watching him climb a ladder is a very sad thing. If he makes it to 62, he’ll be one who grabs desperately at a diminished income. I know that many fall into this group – factory workers whose pension has been gutted or robbed, construction workers (roofers, electricians, painters, framers, concrete workers, welders), all completely demolished by their work but with austere budgets find themselves unable to qualify for disability.

    1. JTMcPhee

      “Let them eat oxycodone/fentanyl…”

      There’s a skein of discussion amongst the medical profession about “assisted death,” and when it’s warranted and ethically supportable or fiscally “wise.” In my clinical training, I did a stint in a pediatric intensive care unit. A resident was conducting rounds, which included a comely young girl of about 6 who had an intractable brain lesion that resulted in something far beyond “status epilepticus.” Her condition was basically one prolonged seizure, and she had spent a large part of her life in that same PICU according to the nurses. Surgeries and brain stimulators and medications had had no effect. Parents reported as distraught but exhausted.

      The advice given by the resident to the five or six new doctors trailing along, awkward hands in the pockets of their new white lab coats, all ears and nerve endings, was that the patient should be given morphine, and the dose “titrated upward until her respirations ceased.” With some discussion of the ethics of what seemed to me to actually be the treatment that was going to be prescribed. Apparently it does happen… http://allnurses.com/general-nursing-discussion/morphine-doses-while-340238.html

      And I’ve linked before to the intrusion of venture capitalists into the hospice arena, turning what used to be an eleemosynary activity into “for profit,” with emphasis (like in restaurants) on “turnover,” which I wonder exactly what that might portend?

  9. John Beech

    Missing from all this is what constitutes an acceptable minimum wage in a metropolitan area is vastly different from that of a rural area. $15/hour in Orlando gets you someone barely motivated, while in south Mississippi it gets someone who will kill for you. And all this neglects the effects of imports. For example, in my business the goods we produce go head-to-head with goods produced in the orient. And courtesy of the USPS theirs get mailed stateside – from about as far as it’s possible to be and still be on planet Earth – for less than it costs us to mail a similar package to Oklahoma!. Thus, if forced to raise wages then I’ll begin outsourcing because the alternative is for my products, already more costly that imports, to increase in price further weakening sales. I’m not unique in this situation so I wonder this; is this what folks really want to have happen? Perhaps a better idea is that when we have a recession, instead of my laying workers off and they apply for unemployment if government were to pick up the slack directly by subsidizing my labor costs so I am not forced to lay them off in the first place. They maintain their job (and pride), and I keep a stable workforce. One able to seamlessly increase production when sales recover instead of having to hire and train in an endless cycle. The added benefit to the economy is they never drop off from the buying end of the cycle like they do when they’re unemployed and receiving subsistence wages. And what will they do when we aren’t producing as much because obviously we’re not buying as much raw material? They can perform maintenance or paint rocks if it comes to it, but they keep a steady wage and we don’t have the economic dislocation we have now. Perfect solution? Above my pay grade but it would certainly ease the burden of the system we have now where grown men are thrown away as if they were worthless.

    1. ScottB

      I agree with your point about metro vs. rural. It will be interesting to see the contrast between California, which is implementing a relatively high statewide minimum wage, with Washington, which approved a more moderate statewide minimum but has the higher minimum in Seattle, and Oregon, which approved a three-tier minimum wage (in 2022, $14.75 in Portland, $13.50 in smaller urban areas, and $12.50 in rural areas). The cost of housing is also a huge factor.

    2. cnchal

      . . . in my business the goods we produce go head-to-head with goods produced in the orient. And courtesy of the USPS theirs get mailed stateside – from about as far as it’s possible to be and still be on planet Earth – for less than it costs us to mail a similar package to Oklahoma!

      Do you really think that USPS is taking a loss to subsidize Chinese business at your expense? I think it’s the Chinese government bargaining and then paying USPS to ship Chinese products cheaply into and within the US. A hidden subsidy.

      The whole triumvirate of Amazon/USPS/China has a rancid deal smell to it. All those contracts between them should be made public to root out where the stench comes from. On a percentage basis, USPS has raised their prices astronomically within a relatively short time frame for exactly what Amazon doesn’t do. Ship long distance. What a coincidence.

  10. unique

    What happens to those of us on a fixed income (Social Security) that do not get a COLA increase and
    can not return to work due to different types of illness’s and increased age.

    My taxes in the City I live in are increasing due to City Employees want raises. Federal taxes are increasing,
    Food prices are increasing, increasing Car insurance, increasing Health insurance, increasing costs of Medication, the list goes on.

    What should we do ?????

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      The fact that all your costs are increasing and yet everyone in power says inflation is either “too low” or “non-existent” should give you some indication of your (and our collective) predicament. My guess is that we have virtually no “economic” problem that couldn’t be solved with a 70% federal income tax on earnings above $1 million or so, with the vast majority of that money rebated to the states to lower property and sales taxes and provide public services.

      Thus, I would argue, we should try to bring about that ASAP. But it is very hard to suss out what the beginning (political, economic, intellectual, cognitive) steps are if you live in an area (i.e. virtually anywhere in the U.S.) where this political program is at present off the table.

      1. Optimader

        I would start with a 10% y on y reduction of pentegan spending until we are reduced to having a Defense Department. This would systemically solve many socioeconomic issues in this country.
        In parallel require proof of legal residency/citizenship to be employed and use public services with real penalties for employers that dont demonstrate codified and transparent employment due diligence process. Cant eliminate fradulent identification perhaps, but can certainly eliminate fraudulent hiring practices

  11. Tyronius

    I have confidence in American ingenuity.

    Once we actually deal with the huge drag of increasing income inequality, the economy would turn around and grow again, because there will once again be customers.

    Part of the solution is a minimum wage that sets the floor and thus raises people out of poverty.

    Guaranteed jobs will help address crime by giving people an alternative to that life.

    Decriminalized drugs with a new emphasis on treatment instead of incarceration will begin to relieve another enormous cost to society.

    Universal health care will help people be more productive and again is a progressive benefit.

    Free college with caps on per student subsidies and mandated accreditation, graduation rates and grades will encourage universities to deliver a better quality core product; educated students ready to work.

    America must cap benefits so the wealthy don’t get a free ride; the mortgage deduction is now more of a subsidy for the wealthy than for average citizens!

    Taxes must be​ progressive and deductions like social security must not be capped. The rich HAVE enough, they aren’t going hungry. It’s time they paid for the prosperity they and their businesses are benefiting from.

    The only people who ‘lose’, and even then only in terms of not earning quite as much as they used to, are the one percent at the top.

    How to enforce it? Outlaw campaign finance. Outlaw intergenerational trust funds with human beneficiaries. Estate taxes that take 50% of all fortunes past the first ten million, or pay 50% gift tax to heirs.

    Our nation has become the very oligarchic aristocracy our Founding Fathers were most concerned with preventing.

    Either this, or we watch the oligarchs wreck our economy, our people, our nation and even the entire planet in their all consuming pursuit of avarice.

    Strangely enough, none of the above can be called socialism any more than the socialism with which we currently protect the fortunes of the ultra wealthy.

  12. Randall Stephens

    Can there be meaningful discussion on an issue of wages without also having a discussion on the unit by which they are measured? In the US that unit is a dollar, or a $. What is that exactly? What is the value of the unit? There was a time that question was answered “A dollar is 371.25 grains of pure silver.” That was a loonnngggg time ago.

    For the majority of my life the value of a/the dollar has not been fixed, or defined, and has been subject to change at the whim of only a very small number of people. And change it has.

    Whether the wage for a fixed unit of time (one hour) is 7.25 unfixed, undefined, illusory units, or 15, unfixed, undefined, illusory units … doesn’t make much difference, does it?

    1. Grebo

      Like everything else, the exchange value of a dollar is whatever someone will give you for it. This is not illusory, merely variable.
      The only people who need to care about the value of a dollar are those with many of them. The rest of us have the more immediate problem of how get hold of some in the first place.

  13. Odysseus

    A nation with a population that is actively leaving the labor force and that deals with stagnant wages is a nation facing serious socioeconomic problems.

    So given that global climate change may require a substantially smaller population in the future, what are we to make of this statement?

    Given that we’ve only known that the Baby Boomers were going to retire for about 65 years now, what are we to make of this statement?

    Economics has to have answers that don’t require constant growth.

  14. ChrisPacific

    The problem at hand, then, is a question economists have been dealing with for ages: how can we increase earnings and employment at the same time?

    We could start by looking at how the current US government and economic policy have managed to get them both to decrease at the same time. Then consider doing the opposite.

    (That would lead into an analysis of the historical balance of power between capital and labour, and also highlight probable sources of opposition to a program of this kind).

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