A Federal Job Guarantee is the BEST. IDEA. EVER.
The idea of a Federal Job Guarantee is this: everyone who wants to work gets to work. Guaranteed. The federal government will hire anyone who applies, and put them to work.
BUT AT WHAT COST?
The first problem people think of is the cost. Would it cost a lot? Absolutely. Would it break the bank? Lol no. Right now there are approximately 7,600,000 people in the U.S. who want work, are looking for work, and can’t find work. At $12 an hour, 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, the baseline cost of employing one person is $24,000. The baseline cost of employing all 7,600,000 people would be 182 billion dollars; that’s less than a third of our military budget. That’s 5% of our current federal budget. Even if you assume administrative costs double the price of the program, it’s still manageable, and besides — the administrative costs wouldn’t be as high as you think. Need someone to calculate the payroll? You’ve already hired all the unemployed accountants. Need to build working space? You’ve hired all the unemployed construction workers. There are certain to be additional costs, especially at the start of the program, but here’s my point: it’s not a fiscal fantasy. We could start implementing a Federal Job Guarantee TODAY!
What could we possibly do with so much labor?
Fix our crumbling bridges and roads. Upgrade our internet infrastructure. Increase public happiness and welfare by building more parks in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Build better schools for inner-city kids. Build fresh new houses for those living in slums. Hire more policemen to keep the streets safe, if that’s what you’re into. Build massive arrays of solar panels to power our cities in an environmentally friendly way.
We’d be paying them more than minimum wage! What’s to stop workers at other companies resigning to join this new government workforce?
Wow, this is a problem. I guess companies will just have to pay their workers fairer wages… Such a pity. But hey! Suddenly 7.6 million people will have a secure job and money to spend! Lower stress levels will mean less money spent on health care, and less economic anxiety will mean that even already-employed workers will feel more comfortable spending.
What happens if there are more people than we can find work to assign?
First: as this program gets going, more people will be spending more money and companies will need to hire more people to keep up with the growing demand. This will provide an opportunity for people working under the Federal Job Guarantee to migrate back to the private sector. Unlike time spent unemployed, time spent working under the Federal Job Guarantee won’t lead to a loss in relevant job skills.
Second: if we find ourselves with an overabundance of workers, we could identify the best and brightest amongst this population and provide them with further education and training. This would add cost to the program, but it would do much to provide opportunity to the disadvantaged, and as entry-level jobs become progressively automated we’ll need the skilled workforce.
What about the vast masses of people who aren’t counted as unemployed because they’ve stopped looking for employment?
This program is the best way to draw these people back into the labor market. If you’ve spent years unemployed, and have just stopped searching for a job, you’ve lost hope. With a Federal Job Guarantee, you know you’ll get a job again. These people, the ones who’ve lost hope, won’t flood the program all at once, but even if they did — even if we had to employ 76 million instead of 7.6 million — we could still afford it. How? Think about it: a Federal Job Guarantee would basically eliminate poverty, more effectively than any other program ever could. The government runs a number of other social programs with the goal of helping the poor, and putting Federal Job Guarantee into place would mean that millions of people would find themselves off other forms of welfare. In addition, by increasing the labor pool available to federal agencies, a Federal Job Guarantee would reduce the efficacy of the entire governmental bureaucracy as a whole.
Would this program hire people with criminal records?
It must! Private companies are already unwilling to hire those with criminal records — if no one will hire a criminal, what option do they have but to return to crime? If we truly want to keep people with criminal records from committing crimes in the future, what better way than finding meaningful work for them to do to improve society?
Wouldn’t this just be unwelcome government intrusion?
If you don’t have a job no one’s forcing you to work — they’re just inviting you to work. And if you do have a job no one’s forcing you to leave that job to go work for the government. Some companies would find themselves faced with higher labor costs, since they’d have to pay workers more to stay, but this would be counter-balanced by the enormous increase in demand.
What about the threat of inflation?
In order to reduce the shock to the economy, we could start the program slow. The first year, applicants to the program would be accepted by lottery. Over the next few years we could slowly ramp up the portion accepted. This would give the market time to compensate for the increased demand for goods and services by increasing the supply, and the need to increase supply would provide jobs to some of the rejected candidates, thereby reducing the number of people the Federal Job Guarantee will have to eventually employ. It’d be a virtuous cycle. An increase in demand won’t be accompanied by inflation if the market is given time to compensate by increasing supply.