The Federal Job Guarantee Is Not Just “Better” Than a Universal Basic Income. It’s the Only Reasonable Option. Universal Basic Income Is Sinister

Yves here. Another way to think about the warning of this post is: Beware of Silicon Valley libertarian billionaires bearing gifts.

By Naked Capitalism reader aliteralmind, aka Jeff Epstein, an independent and progressive journalist with Citizens’ Media TV who was a finalist with Brand New Congress, was one of around forty candidates in the country to be personally endorsed by Bernie Sanders during the 2016 primary, and was a pledged delegate for Sanders at the DNC. Originally published on Citizens’ Media TV

This article was inspired by the tweet at the bottom of this article, and the discussion in this Facebook thread, and in particular, the comments of Steve Grumbine.


No. That’s not right. The Federal Job Guarantee is not just better than Universal Basic Income, it’s the only good option. The UBI is a Trojan Horse for the reduction and elimination of wages and safety net programs for the powerless. UBI is sinister.

Universal Basic Income: ??☠?????‍♀️??

UBI adds money to the economy without increasing production or output. This is how you cause inflation: The creation of money without consideration of the real resources available to you. (Sure, everyone can have a pony, but not tomorrow!)

If the government is now paying your salary, even if you are performing poorly, even if you are not working:

  • This incentivizes private industry to further reduce wages, which logically extends to the reduction – or elimination – of minimum wage laws.
  • Then what’s the point of social safety net programs such as welfare, food stamps, subsidized housing, Medicaid, Social Security, etc.? These programs would necessarilybe eliminated.
  • Then what’s the point of fighting so hard for free healthcare and free tuition and lower prescription drug costs and so on? Now people can, at least somewhat, at least temporarily, afford the private industry alternatives. The fights for these progressive programs would just…end.
  • Now, all of the sudden, everyone can afford shit. All at the same time. Competing with everyone for the same stuff, with no increase in productive capacity. UBI is therefore, by its very definition, inflationary. This governmental salary, this “negative tax” for those at the bottom, is instantly devalued. At best, income and wealth inequality is not reduced.
  • Would this increase or decrease the incentive to get or keep a job? At least at first…

Here’s the true sinister plot behind UBI: Picture a future and less-friendly Congress, after all these safety nets have been reduced or eliminated. They come in and eliminate or dramatically reduce the UBI program because “these deadbeats want everything for free?!” Our nation is instantly plunged into a private corporation slave-wage hellscape. No wage or workplace protections, no safety net programs at all.

UBI risks putting the United States into a much much worse position than it already is today…. Well, that is, if you care about the powerless.

The Federal Job Guarantee: ??✊???????

FJG adds money to the economy by increasing productivity and output. This is how you avoid, or greatly reduce the severity of, inflation. It forces private industry and the military to up their game, in order to be competitive with the FJG: better than bare-minimum living wage, benefits, and working conditions. It takes away the excuse of “I’m not hiring you… You’ve been unemployed. Ewww.”

If a future, less-friendly Congress were to come in and eliminate or reduce the FJG program, then those FJG job people would indeed once again be unemployed. But everyone else would still have those better jobs with better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Yes, without the “public option” FJG to compete with private industry, these things will start to degrade. But we would revert back to a position still substantially betterthan we are today.

Two Final Points: Busywork and Robots

If the FJG creates “busywork” pointless jobs, it is not a problem of the FJG itself, but rather a reflection of poor implementation of the FJG at the local level. There are basically an infinite number of genuinely useful things to be done at the local level, throughout the country.

The fear of automation is nonsense. We should embrace automation. Robots can cook our cheeseburgers, wash our cars, and accept and dispense cash better and faster than humans. But robots cannot take care of our children or seniors, they cannot entertain us, create works of art, write our books, or be our primary care physicians or psychologists. Leave the more physically taxing and repetitive drudgery work to the robots. Leave the infinite number of more satisfying and productive jobs for us humans.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    So when the Universal Basic Income acts as a wage subsidy, is that like when people work at Walmart and Amazon but aren’t paid a livable wage so Federal Government has to step in and make up the difference? Would that become the new norm if the Universal Basic Income was introduced?

    1. TG

      The Rev Kev: Absolutely! Spot on!

      I have nothing against social welfare programs per se, but if we are not careful the rich can corrupt anything and make it do the opposite of what was promised.

      A UBI could easily be used to subsidize below-subsistence wages for the working class. To some extent we are already seeing this in California: the state is subsidizing health care costs for illegal immigrants – but, really, aren’t they subsidizing low wages for the big agribusinesses?

      By taking money from what’s left of the middle class, and subsidizing sub-poverty wages, the rich could basically flatten the income curve so that, instead of being anchored at subsistence at the bottom, the mean for most of the working class is locked at subsistence. Big profits!

    2. Jamie

      Yeah, but that’s the problem with the logic in the above article. So, if SNAP is already acting as a wage subsidy, then SNAP must be just as “sinister” as UBI, and logically the author ought to campaign to eliminate SNAP. Yet in the twisted world of the author, “social programs” like SNAP are good and are threatened by UBI. Only UBI is evil.

      Now, all of the sudden, everyone can afford shit. All at the same time. Competing with everyone for the same stuff, with no increase in productive capacity.

      I’m OK with calling out Silicon Valley billionaires who propose defective UBI plans for nefarious purposes. But every proponent of UBI that I am familiar with works on the assumption that a government stimulus will increase demand which will lead to increased productive capacity. What is the logic behind claiming that giving people more money will leave productive capacity untouched? Moreover, what if it happens to be the case that we currently have unused productive capacity because too many people have been priced out of the market? Are we actually using all of our current productive capacity? Should we be using all of our productive capacity?

      I find the article to be pretty simple minded and divisive. For certainly at the present moment both the UBI and the JG are nothing but pipe dreams. So why should one group of idealists turn machine guns on another group? What is this kind of polemic rant supposed to accomplish? It is not going to harm the right or the oligarchs. Any actual JG program is just as susceptible to subversion as any UBI. The price of good government is eternal vigilance, no matter which policy one prefers.

      1. aliteralmind

        Thanks for the feedback. I have more to learn before I can more fully respond, but some things come to mind:

        The FJG explicitly increases demand and production simultaneously. UBI increases demand only. It MAY lead to more production, but that’s not inherent in its design. UBI will obviously lead to a sudden crush of new demand, and it seems that the existing private industry will be the vast beneficiary of that new business. Obviously (it seems obvious that) the public will have more benefits from the demands under an FJG.

        Regarding “SHOULD we be using all our productive capacity?” Just want to make the point that some things are appropriate for buffer stocks, such as corn, wheat, and human labor, some not, like perishables.

        Programs like SNAP are not a catch-all program that indiscriminately pours money into EVERYONE’s pocket. It fulfills a very specific purpose (that is only necessary because of our unjust society). It may necessarily go away under either program, but that does not make it in any way sinister.

        (Yes, I chose to write this with less objectiveness and more opinion and attitude than I usually do. Maybe I’ve gone too far. At the moment I don’t think so. I’ll consider this as I write again.)

        1. Jamie

          You make some good points about the limited mandate of SNAP and the use of buffer stocks. My comment concerning whether we should use all our productive capacity is more directed toward the idea of stewardship and sustainability on the one hand, and the concept of eudaimonia and how one defines “the good life” on the other. I hope implicit in my comment is the understanding that “productive capacity” is neither fixed nor optimized under our current regime. I understand in reality there is a fixed productive capacity at any given moment of time, but there are many policy options for influencing it other than increasing labor, and our goal ought to be to optimize, not maximize, productivity.

          The point is that we do not necessarily need more production. What we need, and desperately, is more equitable distribution of the benefits of production and some political input into what and how we produce.

          The FJG explicitly increases demand and production simultaneously.

          With all due respect, you are assuming an unspecified qualification of JG. Many comments below make the point that JG is associated (in many minds) with pointless government busywork that, by definition, is not productive. It has been my experience that proponents of JG often have a long list of qualifications they add, not always made explicit, that make the proposal more attractive, but then contrast that to an unqualified version of IG.

          I am willing to accept the qualifications JG needs to make it attractive. And I agree that an unqualified UBI is less attractive. But I see a qualified IG as a valuable policy tool. At the very least talking about it stretches the Overton window. Getting people to think about why a particular UBI proposal might or might not work can lead them to ideas such as rent freezing and food security.

          I actually think much more in terms of a guaranteed standard of living than a guaranteed income. That can include low cost public housing and SNAP (or something better) and I see no reason an income subsidy would necessarily lead to the elimination of those programs. But I do take your point that the opponents of those programs could use a bad UBI proposal as a vehicle for their elimination.

          1. aliteralmind

            Agree with much of that. One thing I strongly disagree with:

            The FJG explicitly increases demand and production simultaneously.

            With all due respect, you are assuming an unspecified qualification of JG. Many comments below make the point that JG is associated (in many minds) with pointless government busywork that, by definition, is not productive.

            Any busywork created under the federal job guarantee would not be a flaw of the program itself, but rather a poor implementation at the local level.

            1. Jamie

              I think you are missing my point. Any busywork might be a poor implementation at the local level of the FJG program as it exists in your mind, but not necessarily in the minds of many other people. You were clear that your vision of FG excluded busywork in your original post. That didn’t keep people from bringing it up in the comments. That’s because there is nothing inherent in the idea of government provided jobs that precludes it. The track record in the U.S. for devolving power to local communities is not very encouraging.

              I will concede the important point, that a well designed JG would be directly productive (even if implementation were spotty) while even a well designed BIG is at best indirectly productive. But I’m not sure how much weight to give it.

    3. Eric377

      There is really no evidence that Walmart or Amazon or any other employers consider social welfare payments in their compensation strategies. Yes such supports are part of the labor market environment, but in that sense they subsidize all employers, not simply those with considerable numbers of lower-paying jobs. But even if you think that somehow these might subsidize Walmart in some obscure way not sure what the objection is to that.

      1. nihil obstet

        The objection is specific to the JG-UBI discussion. Anti-UBI advocates make as a major argument point that a UBI would subsidize low wages, making employers richer and leaving workers poorer. Anyone who doesn’t object to social welfare payments now has a consistency problem arguing that a UBI would enable lower pay. In this discussion most people seem to envision changes in the way resources are created and made available that they don’t really articulate, so we end up talking past each other. I see either a JG or a UBI eliminating need for decent and enforced labor law. I don’t care what you say about a JG eliminating the need for good labor law, I think we’ll still need minimum wages and all other labor protections.

      2. Whiskey Bob

        The objection also applies more broadly to capitalism’s exploitation of the public for private gain. Why pay workers a decent wage if the government can be relied on to pick up the tab? The private companies can exploit workers more and earn a greater profit margin, while shifting the costs of maintaining those workers onto the government. The companies are really earning profit off the backs of everyone else and giving little in return.

        This isn’t done intentionally but rather it is derived as a result of the capitalist system continually seeking profit growth and exploiting whatever it can to achieve that. The equilibrium turns out to be that ALL employers of low paying jobs benefit from this phenomenon.

        The core of the issue really is the basic social relationship in capitalism, of that the capitalist and the workers. The capitalist offers the workers a wage in return for their labor, but it is within the capitalist’s interest to keep wages low. This is why Walmart and Amazon doesn’t really think about how government welfare affects their business, because they’re concerned about the balance of wages and a labor pool that’s beneficial for their business. If welfare has an effect, it will show up in how the job market shifts.

        There’s also that there’s a donut hole where if a particular worker earns too much and it’s not much more than the earning limit, that worker will lose social welfare and in turn be rationally worse off than making less than the limit and keeping benefits. This artificially keeps workers tied to low paying jobs. From an employer perspective, they’ll find a large employment pool under this limit and have little incentives to increase those wages. A more universal welfare system or at least a sliding scale system would go to help resolve this issue.

        It helps to remember that the logical exteme of the private sector exploiting the public being a part of outright fascism. In that system, workers have little rights and are forced into labor despite the poor working conditions, but they enjoy socialized benefits (if they are deemed eugenically fit.) Not that we’ll go fascist, but the example more serves to demonstrate that there needs to be a proper counterweight to private power and their exploitation that’s in the public interest.

  2. Indignant Idgit

    And if the UBI is paid for out of progressive taxation? Or even a wealth tax instead of income tax?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I haven’t seen the numbers for the US, but they have been run in the UK. A UBI at a living wage level is = to the entire GDP. You can’t tax enough to pay for it, and if you “printed” without increasing productive capacity, you’d get huge inflation. This is what its advocates don’t want to admit. If it were ever implemented, it would never be at a remotely adequate level to serve as a true “basic income”.

      1. johnnygl

        Jacobin did a piece not that long ago on UBI that talked about the massive taxes required just to cut a check to everyone for $5k a year or something miserly. It was a really large intervention in the economy. FJG arguably accomplishes more while taxing and transferring less.

        My biggest argument is around power. There’s much more power in production than in comsumption.

        1. aliteralmind

          Economist L. Randall Wray: “Taxes are not needed to “pay for” government spending.”

          Economist Bill Mitchell: “Taxpayers do not fund anything.”

          “The fiction of dangerous deficit spending rests upon the false assertion that federal income taxes are used to pay for U.S. government spending.”

          A seminal paper by economics professor Stephanie Kelton (née Bell) from 20 years ago:

          “After carefully considering the complexities of reserve accounting, it is argued that the proceeds from taxation and bond sales are technically incapable of financing government spending and that modern governments actually finance all of their spending through the direct creation of high-powered money.”

          1. jsn

            While these are all true within their domain, they don’t address power. Jounygl is right that there is more power in production than consumption and there is not shortage of public good that needs to be created.

            Between pensions, health care, education and the environment there is enough work to employ everyone one that wants to work.

            When you start talking about upgrading the industrial base to make it sustainable, a properly regulated market could draw all the best talent to solving the real problems of feeding and housing 7B people well while reversing environmental degradation. A tall order, but what is necessary and UIB doesn’t even start to address the key activities required.

          2. YankeeFrank

            Its not that taxes directly fund govt spending but that increased spending without increased production causes inflation. The taxes fund govt spending line is a cudgel, like the debt to GDP cudgel: used to justify govt spending cuts on social programs (but never on bank bailouts or military spending).

      2. JEHR

        Yves, I thought that a sovereign government could pay for whatever it wanted or needed. If the UBI was wanted, then the government could afford it. I thought taxes are not collected to pay for services as NC has said many times and in many ways. All public government salaries are from the government and they don’t create inflation any more than private salaries do. You have totally lost me on how inflation can be created from income that is basic (i.e., not wealth-inducing).


        1. kramer

          The government can’t run out of dollars, but it also can’t ensure those dollars will retain their current purchasing power. Every dollar the government spends has some inflationary force, but there are also many deflationary forces. (taxes, automation, loan defaults). MMT does’t say that government spending isn’t inflationary. A UBI not only creates lots of new dollars without creating more production, but it would result in many people working less (until inflation destroyed their new spending power and left them begging the boss for more hours). This would reduce production and also be inflationary. A UBI guarantees you a certain number of dollars. It can’t guarantee you housing, healthcare, or food.

      3. Blue Pilgrim

        Let’s look at inflation for a moment. There are at least two sorts: the kind resulting from a shortage of goods with some people being able to pay more for it — which is based on the distorted ‘market’ system to begin with, and also the sort caused by greed and manipulation of power, such as we see in the immense increase in prices and gouging for drugs. We also see inflation from artificially created shortages, and demand produced by artificial planned obsolescence (such as equipment not working because of incompatibility with newer systems).

        Plus, as other have pointed out, taxes are not needed to pay for government spending in a sovereign fiat economy. Inflation from creating fiat will occur only if the new money is used for non-productive, or counter-productive, purposes (such as wars, or silly-ass laws and bureaucracy). The big danger now is debt deflation where increasingly bigger numbers of people are laid off because not enough people have money to buy what might otherwise be produced.

        UBI would increase the availability and circulation of both money and wealth, acting like an infusion of blood and nutrients into someone with anemia and insufficient blood volume.

        If we consider increased production by increased efficiency and robotization, then the workers who had produced those things could sit home if they got the same salaries with no macroeconomic effects, but they might choose to do things to improve the culture or create innovations.

        Basic assumptions and system modeling, like about inflation, supply-demand curves, and other establishment economics need to be questioned and revised or discarded.

      4. giantsquid

        This seems like a remarkably large number. The entire GDP? According to a study done at MIT, a living wage in the United States was $15.12 per hour in 2015, before taxes for a family of four (two working adults, two children). In 2015, there were about 129 million adults living in the US. Using those numbers to make a first approximation, a UBI in the US at a living wage level would have a total cost of about four trillion dollars, much of which would be captured as federal taxes. This suggests that a living wage UBI would cost about 20% of the GDP. A considerable amount to be sure, but well short of the entire GDP.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          While we don’t have to tax to pay for UBI (government spending is not funded by taxation), we can tax to remove money.

          In this case, we can tax the rich to remove some of that money.

          And we can cut down on military spending to further remove money from the economy.

          Neither will be easy. And UBI or JG will need the people to work hard to make it happen…not easy either.

      5. J Sterling

        You couldn’t tax enough to pay for it if the UBI disappeared into space. But you can tax enough to pay for it each year after the economy is increased by the size of each year’s UBI distribution. The GDP is just money, not production. You can’t take production in tax, but you can take money. Money’s all you can take in tax, it’s practically the definition of money.

        Anti-UBI arguments go in circles: they claim UBI would cause hyper-inflation through not being balanced by tax. Then they claim UBI couldn’t be “paid for” by tax for some reason. But the only reason for hyperinflation is if money is not being destroyed by tax as it should be. It’s the primary function of tax, to destroy all the money that is being created in order to keep the stock of money constant.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Help me. Taxing 100% of the economy is politically unacceptable. That should tell you this will never happen.

          And fiscal stimulus is based on NET spending. So taxing 100% of the economy and paying it back out results in NO net spending. There is absolutely zero stimulus in your scenario.

          1. Blake Kelly

            Taking 100% is unacceptable but 10-30% would still equitably redistribute an enormous amount of wealth. Net spending can be controlled by dialing up taxes(I would prefer carbon) or down either spending or the UBI, allowing the state to efficiently shift both income inequality and stimulus levels to maximize growth. Raising interest rates can also help control inflation I think, limiting speculative bubbles.

      6. james wordsworth

        ” if you “printed” without increasing productive capacity, you’d get huge inflation. ”

        Have you mentioned this to the Fed or the Bank of Japan recently?

        Personally I would take UBI over FJG. The last thing I would want would be a requirement to work for some job I did not want to do. UBI would I think be far better for the planet (less consumption – more concentration on what is important in life). No driving to work, no keeping up with the Jones, just a simple life focused on internal development.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Wikipedia is wrong here.

            From Quantitative Easing, Wikipedia:

            Quantitative easing (QE), also known as large-scale asset purchases,[1][2] is an expansionary monetary policy whereby a central bank buys predetermined amounts of government bonds or other financial assets in order to stimulate the economy and increase liquidity.[3][4] An unconventional form of monetary policy,[3] it is usually used when standard monetary policy has become ineffective at combating too low inflation or deflation.[5][6][7][8] A central bank implements quantitative easing by buying specified amounts of financial assets from commercial banks and other financial institutions, thus raising the prices of those financial assets and lowering their yield, while simultaneously increasing the money supply.[9][10]

            The references [9] and [10] refer to

            [9] Elliott, Larry (8 January 2009). “Guardian Business Glossary: Quantitative Easing”. The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 January 2009.

            [10] Bank of England (27 May 2013). “Quantitative easing – injecting money into the economy” (PDF).

            And the same Wikipedia article, there is this on QE for the People:

            In response to concerns that QE is failing to create sufficient demand, particularly in the Eurozone, a number of economists have called for “QE for the people”. Instead of buying government bonds or other securities by creating bank reserves, as the Federal Reserve and Bank of England have done, some suggest that central banks could make payments directly to households (in a similar fashion as Milton Friedman’s helicopter money).[134] Economists Mark Blyth and Eric Lonergan argue in Foreign Affairs that this is the most effective solution for the Eurozone, particularly given the restrictions on fiscal policy.[135] They argue that based on the evidence from tax rebates in the United States, less than 5% of GDP transferred by the ECB to the household sector in the Eurozone would suffice to generate a recovery, a fraction of what it intends to be done under standard QE. Oxford economist, John Muellbauer, has suggested that this could be legally implemented using the electoral register.[136]

            On 27 March 2015, 19 economists including Steve Keen, David Graeber, Ann Pettifor, Robert Skidelsky, and Guy Standing have signed a letter to the Financial Times calling on the European Central Bank to adopt a more direct approach to its quantitative easing plan announced earlier in February.[137]

            In November 2015, more than 65 economists supported the campaign ‘Quantitative Easing for People’,[138] claiming that “Instead of flooding financial markets, money created through QE should be spent into the real economy, on essential public investment such as green infrastructure, affordable housing and/or distributed as a citizens’ dividend to all residents.”

            Those ideas were also discussed at the European Parliament on 17 February 2016.[139][140]

            A variant of QE for the people is People’s Quantitative Easing, a policy proposed by Jeremy Corbyn during the 2015 Labour leadership election, which would require the Bank of England to create money to finance government investment via a National Investment Bank.[141]

            QE for the People sounds like UBI, or a variation of it.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Wikipedia doubles down on the same ‘more money’ claim, in the same article:

            A central bank enacts quantitative easing by purchasing—regardless of interest rates—a predetermined quantity of bonds or other financial assets on financial markets from private financial institutions.[5][13] This action increases the excess reserves that banks hold. The goal of this policy is to facilitate an expansion of private bank lending; if private banks increase lending, it would increase the money supply, though QE does directly increase the broad money supply even without further bank lending. Additionally, if the central bank also purchases financial instruments that are riskier than government bonds, it can also lower the interest yield of those assets (as those assets are more scarce in the market, and thus their prices go up correspondingly).

            This time, without citing any referece for the claim.

        1. JTFaraday

          Theoretically, the FJG as advocated by MMT-ers et al could empty out every retail store for miles around, including all grocery stores, a low margin business.

          Why would Congress ever do this? The answer is it wouldn’t. It would kill the health insurance industry first, and it doesn’t want to that either.

          1. JTFaraday

            The worst thing about this debate is that it always takes place amongst a bunch of ideologues who don’t even think about what they’re saying, who can’t map anything to the real world.

            And there’s a constituency for killing the health insurance industry. There’s no constituency for killing the local grocery store, (other than Jeff Bezos).

      7. Andrew Dodds

        That doesn’t actually make sense.

        First, the living wage level is a VERY high bound for a UBI – about £17k a year. Even so, multiplying that by the adult population gives us a figure of c £850 billion a year, less than half of GDP.

        A more realistic figure would be perhaps half of that – so c. $425 billion, which would also act as a replacement for the basic state pension (~100bn), and many other benefits (also c.~100bn). So as a ballpark estimate we increase taxes by c. £225 billion a year at the same time as giving taxpayers £225 billion a year.

        No one I know of is suggesting that a UBI is simply printed into existence.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Yes, it does make sense. A UBI is not a “basic income” if it is not a living wage. The discussions in the US overwhelmingly presuppose that people can live on it, hence a living wage.

          Second, you need to bone up on MMT. All spending by the fiat currency issuer IS “printing”. Taxes serve to drain spending and provide incentives. They do not fund government. The US government spends by debiting Treasury’s account at the Fed. That is why we never have to worry about where the money for the next bombing run in the Middle East will come from. All this Treasury bond issuance is a gold standard holdover which does have a separate use, which is giving investors a risk-free asset. But it otherwise serves to fool the rubes into thinking we need to balance budgets and thus have official excuses for not having decent social services.

  3. Fresh OH

    Always good to see different perspectives on FJG and UBI and estimates on how the economy will mysteriously inflate or deflate. And those unknown future congress decisions to revoke and/or rework laws.

    UBI has many issues but unlike social safety nets. UBI should be an optional choice for U.S. citizens making below poverty wages and/or along with investment income.
    A citizen may not choose to be laid off but the option and implementation of social safety nets including a UBI could act as a buffer while that citizen seeks employment above the poverty level.

    FJG also has issues: give every citizen a spoon to dig ditches, they will all have work and be employed. The “busywork” will be such that improvement that may lead to private or productive employment may not occur.

    As to the fear of automation and that an AI robot can not entertain us….

    Sure there would be local level “busywork” that can/needs to be accomplished.
    A continuing issue missed by this statement “It forces private industry and the military to up their game, in order to be competitive with the FJG”.
    This is instantly negated by the $700 billion in annual funding for the military.

    That $700 billion amount could make “community and university college tuition free”.

    Oh, that’s right we all can’t have a PONY, today!

    Just because there is work in taking care of seniors, children and write our books, or be our primary care physicians or psychologists.
    A working citizen is not compensated for taking care of their seniors and/or children.
    YOU, the working citizen, have to take time out of your schedule (or compensate someone else) to care for seniors and/or children.
    Oh, a UBI would provide a base income to provide the funding to care for a senior that is not physically capable to work. (the assumption being that the senior have not saved properly for retirement …. ). Just like the inverse concerning child labor laws. If a stay at home parent is provided a UBI to properly care for their child. How much would that aid in improving society as a whole?
    Since private industry puts business profits over family concerns.
    Since military industry puts war and interventionism over family concerns.
    I’m not saying the U.S. military shouldn’t be funded or appropriately protect the countries citizenry. But does the U.S. military practice LEAN SIX SIGMA or follow GAAP concerning the budget.
    imo, We all can’t have a pony, or misplace that pony, or misappropriate that pony.

  4. Tomonthebeach

    You can lead a horse to water, but….

    There are many reasons why people are unemployed, and lack of jobs is only one of them. Some people are too disabled physically and or mentally (both IQ and mental health). Some people lack self-discipline and show up late for work, or stoned, or otherwise self-incapacitated. They disrupt production. Some people have serious incapacity to control their emotions, and are either insubordinate or react violently to perceived slights by co-workers. Their presence in the workforce is ANTI-productive. Others like to pilfer and re-sell what they can steal from their job sites. Then, of course, there are the criminals who see work as being for suckers, and crime as more immediately profitable. Your least-preferred co-worker is likely to be unemployed more often than working.

    What UBI does is to ensure that those who are not capable by character or capabilities have income for a roof over their heads and food to eat without disrupting or undermining productivity.

    1. Norb

      This is blaming the victim, and trying to find a seemingly rational solution to a deteriorating situation.

      The root cause is that if you have an economic system that rewards criminal behavior, you eventually end up with the successful, and most capable criminals filling the top slots and determining future policy. Inequality will rise since it is built into the system.

      As you point out, just as the article intends, a UBI is a cynical form of safety valve for the status quo. It is a form of bribe. It will function as a payoff which will defuse any attempt at CHANGING the fundamental social relationships between people.

      Disrupting and undermining productivity is what is needed today, not maintaining its present, dysfunctional form. Productive at what should be the question. A basic jobs guarantee would democratically allow local authorities to begin asking and answering that question by making funds available locally. Then the private sector could be engaged on multiple levels. A win-win for everyone.

      With a Jobs Guarantee, every Citizen would be free to choose the level of work participation they wanted to engage in. If society was organized around collective subsidies for basic necessities- transportation, housing, power generation, water, heating- in order to make them affordable- a dynamic social system could be built and maintained. There would be a multitude of possibilities individuals could settle into and make a life for themselves.

      Right now, the collective we are headed for a future of unfathomably wealthy and the abject poor.

      1. kev4321

        “If society was organized around collective subsidies for basic necessities- transportation, housing, power generation, water, heating- in order to make them affordable. . .” Society is presently organized around the requirements of the banking cartel money system and the necessities to make large corporations profitable. Inflation supports the existing debt payments while infrastructure, military power, and costly “externalities” are covered by the taxpayer. This article and, in general, the debate between FJP and UBI, does not account for the fundamental power orientation in favor of a ruling class. Either program can be turned to the oligarchs’ advantage, so the points that need to be made are not between the two programs, but rather between the ruling class and the rest of society.

        1. Norb

          It seems the conflict is always with the ruling class and their goals. It also seems logical that social democracy is the ideal middle ground politically. Some sort of social safety net must be provided in order to curb poverty and destitution, along with offering a mechanism to deliver gradual social change. Otherwise, Revolution is the only alternative.

          Is having control over the means of production the only form of true political power? It seems like it is. Without control over a means to sustaining a livelihood, one just varies the level of bondage, and how much pain people will accept.

          Worship of those in power is the default mode of existence, cultivated by every means available.
          When the worship falters, violent upheavals and chaos are next.

          A level of humility needs to be injected into the body politic, or I fear violent extermination will prevail.

    2. aliteralmind

      The entire country should not have a terrible, sinister, and insidious program (UBI) imposed upon them because of a miniscule minority. Show me evidence that these “not capable by character or capabilities” people are even a remotely high enough percentage of the population, to consider permanently screwing our future for their benefit.

      FJG is not meant to be perfect. No program is meant to be perfect. FJG will help the vast majority of Americans currently being exploited by the Masters of the Universe. There are other programs to help those who can’t or shouldn’t work.

      1. jrs

        How do we know that a job guarantee doesn’t lead to the elimination of other programs like welfare, food stamps, subsidized housing, Medicaid? Oh right … it’s just assumed. But really in what world would having a job guarantee NOT lead to eliminating what exists of food stamps and welfare since you can just earn the money for such necessities? Not the U.S. at present.

        1. Spring Texan

          This list of principles stipulates that any decent job guarantee is one where that does not happen. Principle 8: “Protect the Safety Net: Ensure no loss of social safety net programs.” You are right in your caution though.

          They also state: “We simultaneously call for the rejection of job guarantee proposals that use public resources to produce private profits or that impose work requirements that seek to discipline the poor. In addition, we acknowledge that other supportive policies are needed to realize the full promise of a job guarantee including but not limited to immigration reform and universal health care and family care for all.”

          1. Michael Fiorillo

            Also, as Marx and others have noted, work organizes people’s lives, so that there would be an immense constituency to protect the safety net for when (not if) people can no longer work.

            A UBI is the polar opposite – a reason why sectors of the Overclass prefer it – since it isolates and weakens people by cutting off their relationship to production and power.

      2. lyman alpha blob

        There already is a program to take care of the “not capable of work” cohort – I believe most people who fall in this category can get Social Security disability. These people are paid without increasing production but I’m guessing the overall total is small enough to be non-inflationary. So this program could be kept intact if there were a job guarantee for the rest without causing a problem.

        I do lean toward a job guarantee over a UBI for the reason this article brings up – if the billionaires are embracing it, it can’t be good for the rest if us. Here’s a little thought experiment though. Consider the fact that we have entire industries right now that exist by not paying people a fair value for their labor. So for a JG to be effective it would have to pay a living wage. And as Yves and others have suggested, the JG jobs shouldn’t be just busy work, but needed things like child and elder care, maintaining infrastructure, etc. So what happens if the program is implemented and people start signing up for these jibs en masse, because the new jobs are more satisfying and pay much better than the retail or fast food jobs they had previously, of which there are literally millions. And these are industries that can’t survive, at least not in their current form, by paying people good wages and benefits. The Amazon and WalMart workers are already relying on gov benefits to supplement their crappy pay.

        In that scenario, a JG would have what I would consider an added benefit – wiping out many of businesses that aren’t really doing anything useful already. Just how many corporate chain coffee shops and burger barns do we really need anyway? I’m so old I remember when there wasn’t a Starbucks on every single street corner and that world wasn’t such a bad place.

        The tricks is the jobs created by the guarantee would need to equal to or greater than the number of McJobs displaced. Otherwise you still end up with a pool of workers with nothing to do.

        What I would like to see is the elimination of most of the busy work jobs we currently have – did anybody grow up thinking they wanted to work in any marketing department anywhere? – but it may be that in doing so there simply aren’t enough essential jobs for everybody.

        I do think some sort of combined JG and UBI might work, but the JG might need to be more of a job requirement so that if there aren’t enough jobs to go around, everyone works some minimum amount in order to get full benefits. And if we are worried about a program that pays people not to work being inflationary (and it would be), could that be counteracted by decreasing the incentive to charge more through taxation, which MMT posts is what gives a currency value?

        1. marym

          Amazon, corporate burger chains, etc. are already attempting to automate more of the work. Isn’t that one of the factors making talk of UBI/JG more mainstream?

          If the commitment is to doing the work that most of us can agree needs to be done – from big infrastructure, to health and care services, to beautiful public parks, etc… there should be tons of jobs, at all skill levels.

          As in the final frame of the graphic, Amazon and Walmart and fast food corporations should figure their non-automated staffing issues out for themselves – provide adequate bathroom breaks maybe, and better pay and benefits.

        2. jsn

          If you take seriously the goal of sustainability, from where we sit now there is plenty of work for anyone who needs it for the foreseeable future. A jobs guarantee directed towards the innumerable issues around sustainability that markets as currently configured don’t address could soak up all the slack in the labor force almost immediately with basics like insulation, electrical upgrades and infrastructure maintenance.

          Add to that a beneficent Medicare with Teeth and sustainable agricultural practices and you begin to run up against positive real resource constraints that would make destructive behaviors like air travel economically non-viable: if you structure a political economy to provide universal benefits of good quality, obscene luxury becomes both unaffordable and embarrassing.

        3. jrs

          if people could really get jobs locally many people currently commuting 2-3 hours every day might also quit their current job. It depends on if they are paid more and how much more at the “long commute job” of course, but yea it could be mass workplace defections (not that those companies absolutely couldn’t hire local either, I don’t know, it depends on the skillsets I guess).

          1. jrs

            this might be very good of course, it’s a lot less carbon if people commuted less, and those wishing to hire people might have to pay more to get local talent if few want to commute anymore. It does show the effect is wide ranging though.

    3. divadab

      True there will always be malingerers. But I think you underestimate the power of social networks to identify and discipline them. I think a better way to look at this problem is consider a poorly-performing employee as a management problem – is the problem the person or is it the job or is it the person in the job? Leadership can and should consist in organizing things to get the most out of people. People with poor social skills, perhaps somewhere on the autism spectrum, can always be found independent work like repairing items, building fences, invasive species control – where they do not disrupt the more social work activities where others thrive.

      Great accessible article. A highly successful application of this principle was the New Deal – implemented through the WPA. The country is full of projects built under this program – from the Hoover Dam to town halls throughout to National Park infrastructure – lasting monuments that put people to work for the good of all.

    4. Michael C.

      There will always be loafers and deadbeats in any workforce, and without hard facts to support such a cynical view about human nature in regard to the makeup of the workforce, I would prefer putting people to work in the community to improve the community. Of course, just how well this system would be set up is of great importance. I still see WPA projects still in place that were worthwhile, and why not art and theater projects to build community and a sense of shared interest, the latter of which has been systematically and purposely dismantled over the last 50 years around an ideology of self interest.

    5. kramer

      What UBI does is to ensure that those who are not capable by character or capabilities have income for a roof over their heads and food to eat without disrupting or undermining productivity.
      A UBI does ensure they have dollars, but it doesn’t ensure they have a roof over their heads. Most of the “unemployable” people I’ve known could and would gladly spend several hours a day doing something productive if they found it to be worth doing (perhaps providing housing for the poor). They just can’t bring themselves to do menial work to serve a corporation.
      The success of a Job guarantee depends on a very democratic process. People will need to have a say in what the jobs will be. A Job guarantee would certainly give people a powerful reason to take control of society away from the oligarchs.

    6. Summer

      These concerns would call for a skilled department that matches jobs to temperments and locations as well skills.

      But it also makes me worry that FJG jobs would be stigmitizing or be made stigmatizing or onerous in ways not seen in the private sector. That would be important to guard against because it would only increase the morale issues you’ve pointed out.

    7. Summer

      Which brings to mind: The FJG shouldn’t be so stigmatizing or onerous that it also inreases the morale and other issues you describe.

    8. Yves Smith Post author

      What utter crap. How about people at acquired companies? People in departments that got downsized due to a management fad…outsourcing being high on the list? Older people (look at IBM). Minorities. Oh, and straight shooters are very unpopular….for all the wrong reasons, like they’ll expose bad practices. But you treat running them off as virtuous. You ought to be ashamed.

      I know tons of very capable people who aren’t working and would rather be working. Your thesis is Ayn Randian garbage.

  5. Henry Moon Pie

    I believe that it’s important from a philosophical and moral standpoint to sever the connection between holding a job and receiving what humans require to live and thrive, e.g. food, shelter, health care, education. Otherwise, we remain on right-wing turf where a twisted understanding of Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians–work or don’t eat–holds sway. Advocating for JG by attacking UBI seems to me to be reinforcing the philosophical underpinnings for Republicans’ push to attach work requirements to every federal benefit.

    1. polecat

      I have neither a day, or a night job .. in the paid monies sense, but I work to produce, as sutainably as is possible within the confines of our single city lot, at least some of the food we consume on an annual basis. I’m the maintainence man, the plumber, the electrician, I’m mr. fix-it when something breaks, or breaks down, I’m the arborist and the beekeeper. I use, reuse .. wasting little. I drive maybe 2000 miles a year, if that ! I give to others some of what I produce .. gladly. I was a stay-at-home dad, for years, before being one was hip, and in doing so lost income. I’ve wanted to start a small biz for years, but due to income bracket, derived from the mrs.polecat (not fantastic by any means) we find ourselves in that purgatory taxed ‘sweetspot’, where, I deem it not worth the hoop jumping just to break even. We don’t get much in the way of tax ‘breaks’, and we’re not on ANY gov. assistance. So in my case, a ubi would be adventageous, as I already do ‘work’, just not what society in the main considers valid !

      1. Carole

        Thank you polecat: ” I already do ‘work’, just not what society in the main considers valid” [or valuable]

        Marilyn Waring’s seminal book “If Women [People] Counted” 1988 discusses the difference between “cash-generating capacity” with “productive capacity” when evaluating policies.

        Childcare and eldercare of family, food growing and food preparation, maintenance of home, volunteer work in community – all what I consider to be “productive” work which leaves me without a financial safety net (e.g., pension) when I am no longer able to continue “producing.

        How would the Job Guarantee help people like polecat and me?

        Should we all stop doing “unpaid/unvalued work” and become part of the “paid/valued work force”?

        1. jsn

          The work of “cultural reproduction” largely happens outside of markets and where markets intrude they tend to erode the values of the culture being reproduced. All of the things you list fall into the category of “cultural reproduction” and are essential to all healthy societies.

          “Markets” systematically devalue these things in order to expropriate the real wealth that is health, community and solidarity, by imposing on them a monetary form that distorts and demeans their real meaning, much like pollution of the environment is the market’s way of turning waste into money profit.

          A properly designed jobs guarantee would recognize the social value of cultural reproduction and ensure through housing, education, nutrition and healthcare policies that there was space, time and economic support for this essential human work. If you look at each of those things, housing, education, nutrition and healthcare as human rights rather than market commodities, the role you describe for yourself is central to a healthy society and must be validated and rewarded as such. In an equitable society where the above human rights were met, that validation would be in prestige, but material economic support must be forthcoming to get to that future.

          Social Security should be a viable pension for everyone, it currently is not. There is a fundamental value shift inherent in the Jobs Guarantee. The central value would be strong, healthy communities with rising real wealth in the form of health, education and general welfare rather than money incomes.

    2. jsn

      To be alive all animals must feed and house themselves as suits their species. As fire burning social animals, humans have exceptional physical needs: we are very frail and week by the standards of our primate cousins and we can’t sustain ourselves in isolation or without cooking, a technological and social dependence.

      Human subsistence as individuals is not sustainable but as societies becomes increasingly comfortable with scale. The current scale of our society requires vast, integrated industrial supply chains and energy intensive logistics. This creates the illusion that all we need is money to engage with the output of this system, but the system neither nor maintains itself.

      To the extent we have money and live off this system, we are free riders living off the labor of others. While the worst offenders in this regard have made an ideology of accusing the least offenders of their own sins, that does not change the underlying reality that real production somewhere has to underpin final consumption of goods and that giving more money to end consumers without increasing overall supply within the system will be inflationary.

      A just society cares for those who cannot care for themselves, but equally requires everyone who can to participate in the creation and maintenance of its bounty. A healthy one would judge the current epidemic of conspicuous consumption, waste and environmental degradation by energy rich life styles as the world killing sin it is and require all the homeless to be housed, the hungry fed and the ignorant educated before the next private jet could take off.

    1. Disturbed Voter

      The modern West is a product of ancient Athens and Rome. So of course we will repeat every mistake of Athenian democracy and Roman republicanism. What we will get will be unstable gigantism and authoritarianism … and when it implodes, the barbarians on the outside will become the barbarians on the inside. Oh … seems the end game is already happening?

  6. TomDority

    The largest amount of work to be done is, in my opinion, that of enabling the planet to heal itself through public works aimed at increasing biodiversity and reversing the pillaging and sterilization of the environment through our waste. . It would need to employ an army.
    Further, if we do not disinsentivise speculation through financial parisitism in land, production and resources via tax or some other mechinism……all gains in the productive side of our economy will be lost to the parisitical side and progress will be lost.
    So if it is a income guaranatee …..witout addressing financial will be inflated away.
    So if it a jobs guarantee…without addressing financial parasitism…it will be inflated away but a degree of progress will be had.

    1. aliteralmind

      Of course. Not just a Green Energy Manhattan Project, but an “Undoing the Damage of the Industrial Revolution and the Takeover of our Government by the Masters of the Universe” Manhattan Project.

      All hands on deck, and the FJG is perfectly suited.

    2. Summer

      That is a major point and challenge.
      Right along with a current federal government that is populated largely with people that mainly knows how to manage and/or procure “public-private partnerships.”

      1. polecat

        In the words of John Micheal Greer …. ‘Human Resources’ = ‘Extraction’
        That equation works as well in a government setting, as it does in private !

    3. Susan the other

      Yes. I like the JG because it will free up corporations to innovate products and industries which are not subject to the idiocies of consumerism. Silicon Valley and the MIC and everybody else with a pulse can focus on the best ways to save the environment without the tyranny of competition and profit hanging over them. And JG can provide a competent, thinking workforce to do the job. So I like the idea of JG almost for opposite reasons – not for maintaining any part of our crappy status quo but for sweeping changes for the better. We’ve got a lotta work to do and we can use all of our productive capacity and then some meeting the demand for trains and solar and wind and passive and clean agriculture, air, water and oceans. and on and on.

  7. Norb

    In order for a JG to be successful, a new form of collective political vision must be adopted FIRST. It must be grounded in a political movement in order to give it power and a means to protect itself against those wishing to destroy the concept of a more equal distribution of the worlds resources.

    Socialism and communism as concepts have been tainted for this very reason- to deny their power.
    Something new must be rekindled. A positive form of collectivism.

    Looting and self-dealing have to be eradicated or any attempt at change will be unsuccessful.

  8. Felix FitzRoy

    Combining a modest UBI with FJG has many benefits over either policy alone – see:

    FitzRoy, Felix; Jin, Jim

    Source: Journal of Poverty and Social Justice

    Publisher: Policy Press



    Unconditional basic income, or a public-sector job guarantee, are usually discussed as alternative policies, though the first does not provide the benefits of an earned income and a good job to the ‘precariat’ and under-employed, while the second fails to assist unpaid home carers and self-employed people. Furthermore, a job guarantee alone cannot support those who are unable or unwilling to work. We argue here that the only cost-effective policy for comprehensive welfare is a combination of modest basic income with a job offer by local authorities at less than the minimum wage.

    1. anon y'mouse

      your job offer/guarantee would have to be AT the minimum level for it to act as an effective floor on wages.

      minimum is minimum. in prison, out, disabled or not, no single person should ever be allowed to work for less than minimum wage. THAT is a direct subsidy to the employer. unless what they are doing counts as “gift” or “volunteering”.

      and the minimum still needs doubling. by the time a $15/hr is implemented, the cost will be closer or above $20. you see, MBA managers by the hundreds march into all of their corporations (no matter what they are selling) every year and bump the prices 10%, then flog the workforce for not being able to actualize 10% more in sales every year. (aside—gee, i wonder who is driving inflation right now?).

  9. yarnover girl

    I’m stuck on the point of productive vs. unproductive and wondering if someone can clarify for me…

    So UBI is bad because it adds money without increasing production and therefore causes inflation. However, the author isn’t worried about automation because it will free us up to perform more human-specific work like child and elder care.

    To me, this raises the question of productive vs. reproductive labor. If earning an income without increasing productivity is a disruption to the economy, then how could an economy based around care work, the vast majority of which is currently done by families for no wages at all, not also be a disruption?

    To be more concrete: if second-wave feminists’ demands of “wages for housework” were ever taken up, what would the implementation look like: would it look more like UBI, or like a job guarantee? I.e., would that type of labor be considered productive or unproductive? I think it’s fair to say that even people receiving UBI wouldn’t do absolutely nothing, even if they tried; at the very least, they’d be reproducing their own lives and those of their family members.

    I see all the arguments against UBI and think they’re valid. But at the same time, UBI seems like the only policy proposal I’ve heard of that could redress the enormous amount of completely unpaid reproductive labor that our productive economy depends on. So I spin my wheels… but I’m really not an expert on any of this stuff, so happy to be corrected.

    1. kramer

      This is a fantastic question.
      I suspect that a UBI of say $15K would cause the bare minimum amount of income needed to eek out existence to increase by $15K.
      What if instead, we paid other people to provide inexpensive housing, food, and education for the caregivers and their families, thus reducing their expenses and also reducing their need to work outside the home for income.
      In my own experience, one of the biggest burdens for the care givers is that the have to leave home and even move away from their aging parents to find employment. If they could have work in their home town or even in their own home, the could stay closer to their extended family and help care for one another. Just eliminating a long commute by itself would free up several hours a week to spend with the family.

    2. kev4321

      To be more concrete: if second-wave feminists’ demands of “wages for housework” were ever taken up, what would the implementation look like: would it look more like UBI, or like a job guarantee?

      It would be like social security for housewives. The result would be increased economic power and respect. The religious right would be in a conniption fit. The divorce rate would decline, and the birthrate would increase.

      IMHO, the arguments against UBI would be more persuasive if they were applied to the banking cartel, military industrial complex, agribusiness, corporate executives, etc.

  10. Spring Texan

    Thought this was really good on a jobs guarantee:

    To me besides the evil intent behind a UBI (to cut every other benefit and then let UBI languish), the most foolish argument is that oh we don’t need the labor anymore so why have a jobs guarantee? I see jobs everywhere that NEED DOING, whether infrastructure, increased staffing at practically every job from nurse to CNAs in nursing homes to janitors (campuses for instance are FAR less clean than they used to be, and park maintenance has gotten very minimalistic, because of worker cutbacks). UBI does nothing to build permanent wealth that will benefit everyone, jobs guarantee does. We could have public childcare and eldercare, rebuilt PUBLIC infrastructure, clean schools and parks, etc.

    Here’s an excellent document about the principle behind a well-crafted jobs guarantee:

    I particularly liked: “We simultaneously call for the rejection of job guarantee proposals that use public resources to produce private profits or that impose work requirements that seek to discipline the poor.”
    If decent, worthwhile jobs are on offer people will come out of the woodwork to take them.

    1. marym

      Thank you for this perspective and the links. Among the 99% probably everyone sees

      jobs everywhere that NEED DOING

      This shared understanding should be the foundation of a jobs program. The 10 Principles are excellent.

      I also agree that the UBI is an excuse to eliminate all other programs and will then disappear.

    2. kev4321

      I do not agree with the argument that UBI does nothing to build permanent wealth. What UBI would do, assuming it is not inflated away by rising rents and prices for necessities, is shift economic power to the public. Whoever receives the money first has the economic power from having money. The UBI money would be spent on things the public values and so much of that that fits your idea of “permanent wealth” would be increased. Also, the ten principals in the link are kind of a feel-good wish list to correct shortcomings of the status quo. The debate between FJP and UBI seems to be which is better at protecting the status quo rather than which leads to a better situation for the public. Both ideas have benefits and problems, but the main problem with both is they benefit the undeserving poor. Either the malingerers get a free ride or the workers are overpaid for doing worthless work. Our unsustainable society cannot be sustained, so how should we change? Leaving the banking cartel in charge does not seem like a very good answer.

      1. Tyronius

        Both ideas have benefits and problems, but the main problem with both is they benefit the undeserving poor. Either the malingerers get a free ride or the workers are overpaid for doing worthless work.

        Your astonishingly self righteous false moral rectitude oozes from every word of this dehumanizing screed.

        Where to begin? How about ‘undeserving poor’? The very notion that any members of our society are as worthless as a used coffee stirrer is abhorrent on its face and betrays any assertions of morality as selfish and mean-spirited. NO ONE is without value and to push the idea just shows the desperation of the speaker to feel good about himself at the expense of others.

        ‘Malingerers’ are usually people who have been treated as without value for so long they believe it themselves. They need compassion, patience and an opportunity to contribute. I’ve met no exceptions and I’m sure I’ve met more of ‘them’ than you have.

        Our society loves to call itself a beacon of hope and trumpets slogans like ‘no one left behind.’ This, while systematically destroying a social safety net built over decades, defunding programs and institutions that care for those who can not do for themselves, we show our true colors as a society that has allowed the privileged few to value human beings solely by their earning power. Hey, why not just militarize and mobilise the police to shoot the poor and be done with them? The neoliberal ‘Final Solution’! Sickening.

        ‘Overpaid for doing worthless work’? If a job is important enough for a human to do it, that job needs to pay a living wage. ANYTHING less is the very definition of exploitation. The monopsony of corporate power over labor is all but complete in America when the very largest employers can routinely be encouraged to use public subsidies to compensate their impoverished workers with the approval of the state- all while allowing those corporations to avoid taxes and give outlandish ‘compensation’ packages to the perpetrators. If Amazon, Walmart and their wannabe imitators paid their share of taxes and were required to pay their employees fairly, maybe we wouldn’t need such programs as UBI or FJG. We would certainly be able to pay for them.

        I’ll bet you think that spending the treasure of our children on toys for murder instead of investing in the health, well-being and the future of our citizens is also a great idea.

        You disgust me.

  11. Disturbed Voter

    The Bourgeoisie … as I saw as early as the early 1990s with NAFTA etc … are the problem. Everyone expects to be a manager or professional with a 6 figure income. All chiefs and no Indians.

    You will have to discipline people, indeed. Authoritarian discipline as was used to build the Great Wall of China. They didn’t need many managers or architects for that project, just a lot of peons worked to death.

    1. Norb

      Without a new enlightenment, the human experiment will not last. Humility is the only way, but then again, the humble are easily dispatched. Catch-22.

  12. Henry Moon Pie

    One criticism of UBI that I do not understand is that it will absorb all other benefit programs. To me, that’s a great plus. The way things are now, one needs three lawyers, a doctor, a chiropractor, an accountant, a life coach and four clones to stand in line and sit on hold in order to obtain any government benefits. Liberals love nudging requirements. Republicans love punitive ones. Requirements and hurdles have proliferated, and it keeps getting harder to obtain anything. A policy change that greatly simplified receiving government benefits, e.g. if you’re a citizen and you’re alive you get $X/month, would be a positive.

    As for the always-present possibility that right-wingers will reduce benefits if in power, how is JG exempt from that? Working conditions, pay and benefit could always be made worse as well.

    I’m sorry to see what should be a stimulating discussion on the Left start employing words like “sinister.” Are we supporters of UBI dupes or right-wing trolls?

    1. XXYY

      I think the issue is that existing benefits are paid to a small fraction of the population (let’s say 20% for argument’s sake), whereas UBI will be paid to everyone. So UBI payments will necessarily be 1/5 the size of existing welfare benefits for the same expenditure. This is not a problem for people who don’t need the money and see UBI as a nice income supplement, but is a big problem for people who rely on it exclusively.

      Most UBI experiments I have read about to date have payments in the range of $5-7k per year. This is a very meager amount if it’s all you have, about half of what US Social Security typically pays (itself an embarrassment).

      We could of course envision spending 5x on UBI that we do now on benefits. Difficult, but certainly possible.

  13. Anarcissie

    It seems to me that the UBI and jobs guarantee proposals are about the same thing. There is a idealized notion of ‘job’ in which productive labor is exchanged for money, and the money for the products of some other labor; but a job is also a possession which has to be acquired by an ancillary form of labor (‘getting a job’), and usually because of money or labor provided by someone else. So when some agency guarantees someone a job, they’re letting the guaranteed party skip over all that, in other words, they’re giving them the job-possession, in exchange for some kind of possibly vacuous performance. (Possibly vacuous because presumably no one privately valued the guaranteed work; otherwise the job would not have to be guaranteed by the state.) Since the job is not associated with seriously desired production, the jobs guarantee can be whittled back in the same way as a UBI — the guarantee jobs can be made worse and worse, and less and less money can be paid for them. A UBI has the virtue of at least not requiring as much management and organization as real or pretend jobs. But since both are at the mercy of the higher orders, there isn’t going to be much difference.

    1. LifelongLib

      “presumably no one privately valued the guaranteed work…”

      That’s because they couldn’t figure out a way to make money off it. The work itself could be beneficial, just not in ways that are obvious to somebody trying to make a profit.

      1. jrs

        it might of course be as beneficial and as or more valuable than the work anyone employed is doing, just the field might be flooded and so in that situation who gets hired has a large degree of randomness. So yes a skillset x is valuable up until the point they don’t need anymore people who do x and then at that point it’s not.

  14. verifyfirst

    Based on my experience over 60 years and multiple illnesses, I would take a well-programed robot, current on best practices, over 80 percent of physicians and therapists I have encountered.

  15. Steven Greenberg

    What’s to prevent the cut in salary for the guaranteed job? What’s to prevent the guaranteed job from being useless work or back breaking work? If people with power want to do evil things, they will?

    I think it is rather presumptuous to think you know for sure how any program will perform without having tried it, and without giving people the chance to figure out the loopholes.

    1. JacobiteInTraining

      “…If people with power want to do evil things, they will?…”

      I think this is a thought that is either lost, or glossed over, in so many minds. A horrible system – if run by caring, empathic, hard-working…i.e. ‘good’ people can work fine, if not as efficiently as it could. A really excellent system, if run by psychopaths, sociopaths, and just plain dullards will nevertheless still grind to a halt eventually with sparks flying.

      Socialism is vilified as ‘well, you want to look like Venezuela??’, and yes – if corrupt people take it over sure, you’ll look like Venezuela. On the other hand – places like Denmark, Norway, others…managed to *not* end up like that…and they have been doing the socialism thing for far longer then Venezuela. The same to be said about Capitalism…you can have a fair Capitalist system, or you can have a slippery slope to Feudalism, just as easily depending on you set up and enable to run the thing.

      The trick is understanding what incentives, checks, and balances, the countries that are the happiest manage to implement to keep the psychopaths, greedsters, dullards, and sociopaths…OUT of the system and OUT of control as much as possible.

      I’m simplistic, I think the old concept of ostracism/exile (ala Greek ‘ostraka’ pottery shards) would be a good start. Hence, advocating for more NASA $$ towards one-way pods to the moon and mars where those sorts of people can mine ice, and live in fear of an explosive decompression. Might take their minds off of lording it over underlings for awhile…

      1. LifelongLib

        For all I know, the vast majority of slave owners never whipped or molested their slaves, and gave them decent material lives by the standards of their times. Did that make slavery acceptable? I agree that psychopaths etc. can make a basically fair system much worse. However I don’t think caring, empathetic people can redeem systems that are inherently degrading and exploitative. Some things (e.g. owning another human being) are simply unacceptable no matter how humanely managed.

  16. Eclair

    Other countries, France, Sweden and the Netherlands come to mind, provide a child allowance. It is a set monthly amount, given for each child under a set age (France at one point limited it to 3 children, I believe.) There is no income ceiling; Jeff Bezos’ children, repulsive as that may sound, would get the same amount as the child of a part-time Walmart worker. Or the child of an unemployed homeless person.

    We do somewhat the same thing using the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, both refundable. But, one has to file a tax return, know the rules, and both are subject to fraudulent reporting.

    One can already here the screeches of rage: but the parents would spend the money on meth or casino gambling!

    But the concept is a kind of bridge between UBI and a jobs guarantee.

  17. The Prescription Was Clear

    As is per usual, the argument hinges on mistaking political fight (power of plutocracy, which must be removed) with economy (which is NOT bull**** jobs or personal development or providing comeradeship; but exclusively manufacture of customer-usefull products or services).

    Job Guarantee is a massive bull**** job programme, and it must be so, as we cannot hope to employ everyone in a fordistic, mechanised (and moving to para-automation) economy.

    UBI (never actually universal, of course – yes, it’s just wellfare, surprise!) is no more inflationery than JG, as it adds no less; but what it is – is more ecology friendly as it reduces meaningless waste caused by workers and companies pretending to be working (most bull**** jobs, after all, are in the private sector).

    UBI also fixes the problem of navigating govt. bureaucracies, as the poor, unemployed, etc. simply get it, even if the county sheriff has to drive to their home to give them the envelope; it reduces crime, misery, and helps people to perhaps get their bearings together so as to become members of the community (though this will require extra programmes, not dissimmilar to JG).

    If you fail to remove plutocracy from your country however, then they will not fail to remove YOU, once automation makes you completely redundant (JG or UBI play no role in this).

  18. DJG

    For many years, the U S of A has not had a wages-and-hours policy. The fruits of this include the wage theft and tipping / tax avoidance in restaurants and foodservice, where the depredations by the owners of these stores are notorious. Likewise, the gig economy is partially a result of the lack of commitment to full employment.

    The Fed acts as if full employment will cause Weimar levels of inflation.

    The federal government, and the state governments in tandem, have waged a war on labor unions for a century.

    So: We should have a jobs guarantee. We also have to have a general leveling of the playing field. We have to stop pretending that jobs defined by neoliberals who are out of touch with manufacturing, agriculture, and nature in general are some how the only definition of a job. And while there are many who are truly disabled, and who would then be covered by Social Security, I suspect that some of these “unemployables” would be able to invent their own jobs. Why not build that into the jobs guarantee: “What would you like to do?”

    1. Jamie

      Yes, but I would extend that idea even further… We need to stop thinking in terms that people not currently employed are “doing nothing”. Not just “What would you like to do?”, but “What are you currently doing, but not getting paid for, that you would or could do more of if you didn’t have to “make a living” or devote all your time to navigating the bureaucracy?”

  19. XXYY

    A couple of good things here.

    [A federal job guarantee] takes away the excuse of “I’m not hiring you… You’ve been unemployed. Ewww.

    This is a good point. The last decade has created a lot of people who have been out of work for long periods. As intuition suggests, and as people report, employers are skeptical of people who haven’t had a job for years. Hopefully a FJG would both reduce the numbers of such people, and also provide a hiring function that is biased towards providing employment rather than just towards providing maximal benefit to the employer.

    (This seems like the tricky part of FJG, balancing these two factors. Obviously, you don’t want to hire people who are clearly unsuitable for the job, e.g., illiterates to be teachers, elderly or injured people to do construction, etc. OTOH, the goal is to provide employment *as well as* perform the nominal mission. This is greatly complicated by the fact that people can surprise you: someone who has never done something before can turn out to be very good at it, and someone who has a lot of experience can turn out to have problems that make them work out poorly, e.g., alcohol or drug problems, anger management, poor attendance, etc. So FJG jobs would have to have supervision equal or greater to private sector jobs, and also an effective way to “reposition” people who aren’t working out that is easy for project management and non-stigmatizing for the worker; we want to avoid the situation where the path of least resistance is to just leave people who aren’t working out in place. We have a ton of real-world experience with WPA; I’m curious how this was handled. )

    The fear of automation is nonsense. We should embrace automation. Robots can cook our cheeseburgers, wash our cars, and accept and dispense cash better and faster than humans. But robots cannot take care of our children or seniors, they cannot entertain us, create works of art, write our books, or be our primary care physicians or psychologists. Leave the more physically taxing and repetitive drudgery work to the robots. Leave the infinite number of more satisfying and productive jobs for us humans.

    This was the 1950s vision of the future: Robots would do the drudge work of society and free humans up for more important and interesting things. Unfortunately, modern day capitalism has mostly provided jobs that are drudge work and does not create or prioritize important and interesting work since this does not maximize profits for elites (the only important goal). Thus, in the current world, robots become a threat to the workforce because workers are largely deployed into things that can be rather easily automated, or are kind of on the boundary of what can be automated with current technology, resulting in perpetual anxiety.

    The real solution to automation is to have a society that values the labor of its people for more than low skill wealth creation. I realize this is a tall order.

  20. ChrisAtRU

    Love Patricia’s tweet as the Coda here. It alludes to what I’ve said before, except I’d add that a #JG would get a lot of “employers” OUT OF THE GAME. Every gig-economy-promoting, wage-depressing half-wit with some odious idea of how to “disrupt” some industry would be seriously deterred if they bad to pull people away from a JG wage anchor. Bring back the WPA. Make it even better! Euthanize the gig economy renters!

  21. Eureka Springs

    Perhaps I missed it, but so much human activity, including reproduction is destructive. Even the best job guarantee will encourage this. Basic income for doing nothing/having no kids/no car/no second home/no jet/no high income – high consuming lifestyle or close to it as possible may be humanities and this big blue, quickly browning marble of ours the best hope.

    Also I think anything trying to address economic disparity among the lower caste must cap the rich dramatically. There should be no such thing as a half billionaire at the very least.

  22. Summer

    “the “public option” FJG to compete with private industry”

    I just wanted to be sure what kind of FJG was in mind.

    But knowing the workings of the current economic dogmas, how do you keep it from becoming just another program that pays corporations to hire people? I’m getting at how does it not become an unregulated ( or poorly regulated) trickle-down wealth program? Is it going to be a FJG or the federal gov creating extra incentives for corps to hire people?

    Because the FJG competing against private industry is the way to achieve the benefits of the FJG that you mentioned. The biggest challenge is going to rebuilding a federal government of direct action and populating it with people who understand and are ok with that concept.

  23. Raymond Robitaille

    As a part of nature, our basic productive activity is to produce manure and urine, and also to feed ourselves and drink in order to sustain ourselves.
    The modern consumer economy should work the same way. Being productive involves working (whether currently paid or not) and consuming. UBI and/or living wages are essential to allow for everyone to live decently and at the same time fulfill their role as consumers.
    I am personally for a UBI for everyone at something like 40% of GDP per capita Plus free health care and education Plus living wages.
    A back of the envelope calculation of what is lacking to ensure that every Canadian earn this minimum amount of 40% of per capita GDP is around 1% of GDP. At the present time, about 10% of the population earns less than 40% of per capita GDP and in many cases the amount that is lacking is minimal.
    UBI should be paid by taxes on high income. We should return to the corporate and taxpayer taxation levels of the 1950s.

  24. Blue Pilgrim

    We have had, to a great extent, FJG programs all along — it’s called going into the military. Think about it…

    The article has way too many assumptions and is based way too much on the existing configurations of the economic and political systems. Just the word ‘job’ is so underdefined, with so many hidden stings attached, it’s almost meaningless. BI is just an FJG where people can decide for themselves what is useful to society, such as observing, researching, and commenting on what the government, corporations, and culture are doing, or engaging in all sorts of volunteer work. The idea that work must be connected with being able to live is an outdated religious idea, or based on scarcity before we had the technology to so easily over-produce. Many or most jobs now are not productive anyway, or are needed only because things are done so inefficiently.

    If we are think within the box we should at least get a much bigger box.

  25. nihil obstet

    With so much work that needs to be done, why are we not doing it now? With so much regard for compensating labor, why do we hear so much resentment of public employees and their benefits? With so much antipathy towards companies wanting to pay benefit recipients less, why do we provide food stamps, Section 8 vouchers, and Medicaid to the companies’ employees? And why and how are all these questions successfully answered when we adopt a JG?

    The great advantage of a JG would be that all labor is equally regarded — the engineer, janitor, the dentist, the elder care worker would all receive the same pay. Or do its advocates think not?

    Yves explained (in a comment to the Finland UBI post) about not taking unemployment insurance: I still regarded it as a handout and a badge of shame and didn’t take it. You had to go stand in line to a government office and fill out forms to claim it. With a JG, most people looking for the guaranteed job would need to go to a government office, probably stand in line, and almost certainly fill out forms, and would experience the situation according to pre-existing ideas about society and how it works. Some would see it as a badge of shame, and much of current society would be all too happy to reinforce the feeling.

    So much needs to be done to get to either a JG or a UBI that isn’t being addressed that I’ve come to see these discussions as basically an argument not over successful outcomes but over morality.

    1. jrs

      “Some would see it as a badge of shame, and much of current society would be all too happy to reinforce the feeling.”

      sure I mean to think making people work for the benefits will reduce stigma takes the current proponents of the “work ethic” and not taking government bennies for not working at face value. But why assume so and that they are all sincere and that job guarantee jobs couldn’t be stigmatized? They are probably not sincere but often just like to punch down and bully (the more sympathetic just hate their own job and project that outward – but the less sympathetic are bullies).

      Being unemployed any period of time may be stigmatized now but who is to say a future JG world headline won’t read: “private sector employers express a reluctance to hire those who have taken government make-work jobs”. It is already extremely hard to switch between the public and private sectors currently. Of course that assumes job guarantee jobs don’t just replace a lot of private sector jobs, but it could, so then it’s socialism by the backdoor NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. At any rate capitalism is surely neither sane nor working and the young people already know it.

  26. TG

    Many excellent comments here, indeed a UBI could be a bad thing for most of us, especially if it subsidizes sub-poverty wages (the Devil is in the specifics). But I do think the idea that a UBI is necessarily inflationary is perhaps not quite correct.

    We already have a “UBI” – for the big banks! But all those trillions we have shoveled into the banks have been neither inflationary nor grown the real economy, because all that money is tied up in the la-la land of speculative finance. Companies don’t invest in productive enterprises when there is no demand, no matter how much cash they have in hand…

    Now a UBI, as long as it didn’t just substitute for decent wages, would indeed initially be inflationary. But that would stimulate businesses to invest in new production to meet that demand! And in the long run, all that new investment in genuinely productive enterprises (avoiding the potential trap of make-work government jobs that could be no more productive than the centrally-planned jobs of the old Soviet Union) could be a net plus for most of us.

    Sounds suspiciously like… Keynesianism! Which didn’t work out all that badly, when it was fairly tried.

  27. Thomas Hilton

    Interesting list of reactions and ideas. As a psychologist, I see UBI as out of sync with American Culture. Of course that culture is heavily neoliberal – Darwinian even.

    The problem with guaranteed employment is that it likely leads to indentured servitude. It is not as if vocational choice is a key factor in the equation. Thus, it seems to be a case of “Do what you are told for what we will pay, or starve, freeze, get sick and die.” Was that not what serfs lived under?

    The problem with UBI is more complex and has more unknowns. Aside from confronting the US so-called Protestant Work Ethic, there is considerable debate about the costs of UBI – Yves seems to think it is greater than GDP. That I think is very debatable. There are some studies suggesting that UBI motivates upward mobility. UBI would eliminate a ton of bureaucracy (and jobs). Since corporate America and governments create both employment and unemployment, it makes sense to tax accordingly.

    Both notions seemed doomed as impractical. UBI is untested. However, we know that forcing employers to hire people regardless of knowledge, skills, abilities, and character is counterproductive. I have yet to hear a reasoned method for dealing with negative person-job fit situations. Does the government just pass the bad apples along to the next employer in some vicious cycle that can only lead to the very welfare the two notions seek to eliminate?

    Raising the minimum wage has a lot of research going for it, and far fewer downsides that Guaranteed Full Employment of UBI.

    1. aliteralmind

      However, we know that forcing employers to hire people regardless of knowledge, skills, abilities, and character is counterproductive.

      An FJG would not do that unless really poorly managed at the local level.

  28. flashinreno

    This discussion is predicated on a concession to the capitalist’s demand that the necessities of life (roof over head, food on table) be monetized. Thus the very idea of a UBI is a distraction from the more important notion that the necessities of life should be plentiful and provided universally rather than made artificially scarce and expensive.

    We know we have the resources to do this, and we should prioritize the use of FJG labor to do so, so as to make basic income an unnecessary element for basic living.

    Providing food and shelter to everyone rather than basic income is the answer. Let us discuss how to do it, rather than assuming that it is an argument about money.

    1. aliteralmind


      UBI gives a man a fish. It just pours money into his pocket. The FJG teaches a man to fish. They get money only if they are productive…where “production” is defined at the local level.

      1. jrs

        Most of these arguments are weighted on a biased scale. Well maybe not concerns about the cost of a UBI.

        Because a lot of expectations of a job guarantee imagine a completely different society and for the UBI the same society. So we imagine the status quo being unchanged enough that say vicious republicans could come in and eliminate all UBI gains. But we imagine the status quo being so radically changed that 1) federal money is to be manged locally, when currently we don’t even allow this for school funding as it comes with the big stick of better adopt exactly this educational program (no child left behind etc.) the fed government wants. 2) the powers that be being perfectly ok with a permanent switch to a semi-socialist economy. I mean a much larger part of the economy would be the public sector inevitably with a job guarantee.

  29. Alternate Delegate

    The reason that Yves is wrong about UBI is the same as the reason that Friedman and the oligarchs are wrong about UBI: none of them is seeing what comes after capitalism.

    Productivity is NOT the issue. The use of shared resources IS the issue. The correct role of government is to tax the use of those shared resources (that means EVERYTHING, including things currently thought of as private property), and use those tax revenues to pay for three universal benefits: universal education, universal healthcare, and universal basic income.

    Yes, some other government services may go away. No, this is not what the oligarchs want. This will happen exactly because the oligarchs are no longer calling the shots.

  30. Jamie

    I appreciate the opportunity we have here to continue discussing this. My own thinking about it has changed quite a lot over the last two or so years.

    Both proposals (JG; IG) are attempts to mitigate the harms of excessive inequality, harms that are both social and economic. Both of them fall under the larger umbrella of the social provision of a “decent” standard of living for everyone in society, as opposed to the notion that stratification and inequality are necessary, natural and right. Choosing one or the other or both in their best forms could lead us to a more desirable future. But the same choices in their worst forms could lead us to a worse future. This is, I believe, why there is so much passion in the controversy over them.

    But if we recall the impetus to deal with the ills of inequality, we should be able to see that the best implementations of either are not sufficient in themselves, and the worst implementations are not irrecoverable tragedies. Either way that struggle continues. Both proposals are worth supporting, but only when well qualified.

    For the JG, some of the qualifications must be that the “jobs” are not meaningless or counterproductive, not environmentally destructive, pay a sufficient remuneration, etc., etc.

    For the IG some of the qualifications are that it must be more than corporate welfare in a market economy where the cost of housing, food and other necessities are controlled by corporations, it must be a sufficient amount to guarantee that “standard” we deem “decent”, etc., etc.

    Achieving either of these policies with sufficient qualifications to secure the kind of future we would like to live in entails significant social re-organization. Achieving one or both of these policies could help with that re-organization, but won’t hand it to us. These policies don’t give us the re-organization by themselves. Either way that re-organization will require independent effort to achieve.

    That is because in some ways both these proposals are attempts to redistribute wealth. And in some ways that are very dynamic and hard to map, any significant redistribution of wealth will also affect the generation of wealth and the overall size of the economy. Both of the proposals need to be understood and evaluated in that context. And they need to be seen, not as polar opposites of a dichotomy, but as only two out of many possible policy options to redress a wealth imbalance.

  31. Michael Q. Rudnin

    Universal Basic Income will become necessary after generalized AI automation takes half the jobs away, resulting in mass unemployment … a federal jobs guarantee is what we need in the interim to put our people to work making our nation greater for the effort … and we’ve got a *lot* of work to do rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and establishing a renewables energy grid, lest our civilization fall to accelerating global warming … #GreenNewDeal #NewNewDeal

  32. vomkammer

    Why choose between UBI and JG, if you can combine the best of both?

    The goverment is able to do a good-enough job at providing some things to the society (health, education, security & defense, infrastructures, city maintenance, etc.). Add some additional ones (e.g. energy, environment care, children & eldery care) and you have a wide JG system (aka. public sector).

    The goverment is however not that good at providing other things (food, consumer goods, housing, enterteinment, etc.). Add a small UBI program, so that people can buy them from the private sector, and you have a round-up system.

    I think that it is an error to simply give an UBI and expect everybody to shop for basic things (like health care) in the private sector. Simply because the private sector is very inefficient at it (i.e. inefficient for the society, not for the rentiers). The size of the UBI would make it impractical, as explained in other comments.

    In the same way, a JG as unique solution is also wrong. A sufficient enough JG would crowd-out the private sector (who would work at a McJob if you can earn twice as much in a JG). At some point, the JG would have to leave parts of the society out, or replace most of the private sector.

  33. Luke

    Not said outside conservatives behind closed doors:

    There would be a LOT more support for UBI and other welfare in this country, if the recipients could neither reproduce nor engage in political activity (not just voting in elections) while receiving it. Someone getting charity arguably should not be in a position to exert any force (which is what government IS) on other people to support them, and this goes trebly for forcing an INCREASE in the amount or duration of that support.

    1. cripes

      “Someone getting charity arguably should not be in a position to exert any force (which is what government IS) on other people to support them”

      When I read that passage I see Jeff Bezos, D. Trump and Bro ‘Bama getting thier food served by attractive young waitresses, cooked by Italian chefs, bussed by Black Americans and toilet cleaned by central american immigrants; all at pitifully low wages.

      Who The F*ck is getting charity?

    2. marym

      Would the enslaved, disenfranchised, and sterilized people still count as 3/5’s for purposes of representation? To ensure the “support” of “conservatives” for social programs?

  34. Eric377

    Lived in Paris many years and those familiar with the city probably have observed the large fleets of smaller green vehicles with men and women also in green uniform. A very important function is to eliminate dog crap. But this has “trained” dog owners to not care very much where their dogs poop. So this government service pretty much got you a nice clean sidewalk at 6 AM and increasingly filthy ones as the day went by. French friends of mine were stunned to visit me in The US and see people picking up their dog’s poop in bags and throwing it out themselves….isn’t that someone’s job they’d ask me. Half or more of the FJG positions will be completely wasted and they’ll need permanent, highly compensated managers to accomplish that.

    1. J Sterling

      Amusingly, it happens in reverse for shopping carts. In America they leave them anywhere, and in Europe they take them back to the rank. Americans ask, aren’t you ashamed to be depriving a shopping cart collector of employment?

  35. Alternate Delegate

    Okay, here’s why FJG is sinister: what will those jobs be?

    Spying. Eight hours a day sitting at a desk watching surveillance. Rewards for catching you and me doing anything we’re not supposed to be doing. Social guard labor. East Germany.

    That’s because PRODUCTIVITY does not need more people at this point.

    The FDR and Perkins approach saved the country in the 1930’s, when a lot of the economy still involved lifting and carrying, and the public lands could use an infrastructure lift for six months here and six months there. That’s not the case now.

    Those FJG jobs will be COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.

    1. marym

      The detail for each of the categories is a bit lengthy for a comment, but click on some of the + boxes. It’s fascinating and inspiring. Updated for our many 21st century unmet needs for new infrastructure, maintenance, caring for people, restoring public services and amenities destroyed by austerity, etc. the list would be far from temporary or counter-productive.

      New Deal Projects by Category

      Archaeology and History (255)
      Art (2241)
      Civic Facilities (3189)
      Education and Health (2908)
      Federal Facilities (1555)
      Forestry and Agriculture (409)
      Information Needed (629)
      Infrastructure and Utilities (4076)
      Military and Public Safety (756)
      No Longer Extant (548)
      Parks and recreation (3374)

      1. Alternate Delegate

        Illustrated, of course, with a mural of lifting and carrying. Not today’s economy.

  36. Anarcissie

    Both UBI and FJG imply to me that the bourgeois system of wealth and social and political stratification are to be preserved. The evils associated with this system will necessarily follow. However, a job guarantee seems more vicious in that the recipients of the (probably sparse) benefits will be required to enact some kind of submissive performance, whereas the UBI recipient can at least skip this humiliation and torment.

    One of the things that has not been mentioned much is that a large portion of the money flows through poor and middle-income people has to do with real estate / housing and the related problems of transportation. The money involved is not going into the production of value in the physical sense, but into games played between rich people. So when income programs are concocted for the proles, most of the money simply flows back to the rich people who own and control real estate, banking, and insurance. Similar considerations may apply to medical care and education, where a large portion of the money flows seem to be the result of rent-seeking and artificial scarcity, rather than the provision of an actual service Neither FJG or UBI is going to solve the problem; the machine is designed to extract whatever money is available in the environment.

    1. Jamie

      I very much agree with you. However, if the JG was directed to produce high quality public housing and the UBI were more of a guaranteed standard of living, not so focused on income alone, then receiving one of these housing units (as an owner, not a renter!) could be part of such a GSL. That could be truly transformative.

      But even then we would have the problem that such programs could be well done or poorly done, and if poorly done might leave society worse off than now. If we could somehow solve the problem of elites’ power to corrupt any program for their own ends, then all of this debate over JG vs. IG would be moot.

      1. jrs

        Building more housing (all the rents don’t even have to be below market or anything – as one reason rents are so high does seem to be actual shortages of housing, not just rent seeking) is one of the most obvious things to spend money on.

  37. Bernard

    the basic assumption that a JG is better than a UBI shows the thinking of that person only. the attitudes towards working, life, humanity in particular and in general, reflect the biases we learn from living in America. America is at present a competitive envy filled Calvinistic grouping of Margret Thatcher’s “there is no such thing as Society. also known a the American Way. a successful result of the anti social creation of the last few centuries of plunder, rape and destruction, which has now been spread the rest of the world via Empire, MIC.

    the concept that humans have an internal value/worth is an anathema to most Americans. We have for the most part no idea of how the rest of the world lives/values and the rest. in other words, our values are America specific, which i see here in the denigration of both the JG and the UBI. Isolationism at its’ finest.

    Calvinism underlies our most basic building blocks of what America is and has been. Worth is measured via Calvinism, aka the Republican Party of today, with their “i’ve got mine and you can go EFF yourself,” or use your own bootstraps to “better” yourself. No Bootstraps? get a better parental lottery ticket!!

    what a skewed sense of values. i see mostly people saying anything that helps someone is going to hurt others. Society is that definition, more or less. pulling together so all can achieve a better “life.” of course there are those who are non social in any sense of that word. and Republicans of today have found a way to use this “meme” to destroy what societal bonds we once had.

    the ability of some to subvert the aims of the “good” intentioned is what matters when it comes to saving “ALL” of us.
    this ship is leaking and will sink unless that hole is fixed. all i hear is “don’t help those freeloaders who ruin it for the rest of us. well, for me, those freeloaders are the price we pay for the “rest of us” living better through societal means.

    working for the Government today is an exercise is demeaning those that don’t have the capacity to fight back. a UBI or JG under the same mindset is just more of the same.

    and who says nontraditional “work” is valueless re the UBI or JG. it is however dissed, denigrated and those who perform such “odd” things are not valued. Poets used to talk about the way life “should/could be” but that was in a different time with different values. Now, however, only those who deem such loudly infer this is the RIGHT way of thinking have the right to profess what is worthy, or rather who is worthy and who deserves to die/be left out cause “that isn ‘t the American Way.” Thanks be to the Ayn Randian way and the Manufacturing of Consent.
    My Way or Else.

    and of course i expect the EVIL one to control both UBI or JG programs, when and if they should happen. that is just how they/ sociopaths work. they don’t call them sociopaths or antisocial psychopaths. they call them “leaders, managers, etc.” the sociopaths are not constrained by the normative social ideas the rest of us live with. that’s why they run things. Rules are for the weak.

    meanwhile the poor get poorer and the “shrewd” manage to “control” the rest of us and bend everything to their manipulations.” Power corrupts so well.

    We have to stand in line for everything anyway. might at least get something for all the mind control.

    Social security disability programs are designed to turn down everyone, the laws are enacted that way. Just your local District Office. as i work in that “gov” agency, i can say without a doubt, that if you can still walk and breathe, you are 9 out of 10 times/claims, definitely not disabled, at least according to government “rules.” the specificity, mumbo jumbo word vagueness ensures the ease with which you can be found “not disabled.” it all makes a mockery of such things as “Disability” Insurance. just further proof how medical “insurance,” like ACA ,doesn’t provide anything other than Insurance. pay for it in taxes, designed to piss of people. the hoops people have to go through and are unaware of in applying for disability/ for their “taxes/money” they will never see. Right about Management being part of the problem, too. the more you make usually means less work the further you go up the Management chain.

    How anyone can not become a Republican voting apparatchik is a statement i wonder after seeing how easy it is to be screwed over in the Disability program. Numbers over people. once again.

  38. Luke

    April 29, 2018 at 4:19 am
    “Someone getting charity arguably should not be in a position to exert any force (which is what government IS) on other people to support them”

    April 29, 2018 at 4:19 am

    “When I read that passage I see Jeff Bezos, D. Trump and Bro ‘Bama getting thier food served by attractive young waitresses, cooked by Italian chefs, bussed by Black Americans and toilet cleaned by central american immigrants; all at pitifully low wages.

    Who The F*ck is getting charity?

    Anyone receiving food stamps, TANF, affirmative action, Head Start, WIC, Social Security beyond return of SS taxes with interest, SSI, SSDI, etc.

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