GUARANTEED JOBS AT A FAIR WAGE
Publicly guaranteed jobs is our key to achieving true economic opportunity in this country. It is an idea once advocated by FDR, renewed by some of our greatest civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Corett Scott King, and Bayard Rustin, and recently endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders.
Today, millions of Americans who want to work full time have either no job or part-time employment. The market has failed them - in particular, women - by simply not providing full time jobs with fair wages to everyone who wants one. We can close this gap with a Federal Job Guarantee where our government fulfills the true right to work by offering jobs at a fair wage to all willing and able adult residents in need of employment. A fair wage should begin at $20 an hour and keep pace with inflation as well as the rising tide of our national prosperity.
These jobs don’t compete with private companies. Rather they supply goods and services our communities need that no one else provides. This includes boosting clean energy; bringing broadband internet to all residents; replacing substandard housing with modern, environmentally sound, affordable housing; bringing quality public transportation to urban and rural areas; improving public health, educational and recreational facilities; staffing child and elder care services; and bringing arts and philosophy to the public.
This is how we can make generational poverty and racial inequity a thing of the past. This is how we can replace the fear of unemployment with promise. Young people who haven’t earned their GED or pursued further education will no longer suffer economic insecurity knowing that they can still earn a living. We can end the school to prison pipeline by guaranteeing young people a fulfilling, legal way of supporting themselves and their families. Individuals coming out of prison will know they can escape recidivism with the opportunity of employment serving their community. Veterans returning from military service will no longer face destitution and homelessness, for they too will benefit from a federal job guarantee on which to build a secure future.
For those who are already employed, the job guarantee will put everyone in the strongest position to bargain for better wages and working conditions. People who feel like they’re on the edge can finally plan vacations, breathe easy with paid sick leave, and expect raises. And without the fear of joblessness, no one need be afraid to blow the whistle on sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation for asserting one’s rights.
Anyone who is unable to work due to disability or old age should be entitled to an equivalent income replacement. This is how we replace dependency with economic independence and security.
The disadvantages people face stain our nation - this is how we overcome them. At one blow, we can wipe out unemployment, poverty wages, and poverty income in general by enacting a Federal Job Guarantee with fair wages and equivalent income replacement for the disabled and retirees.
Full employment provided by a job guarantee benefits businesses by maintaining the greatest possible consumer demand and reducing the fluctuations that fuel recessions and depressions. Employers and small entrepreneurs will no longer pay poverty wages and suffer the high employee turnover this entails. Instead, employers will be able to retain their employees, who can now thrive at their jobs. Since paying fair wages will be required of all enterprises, this mandate will put no business at a competitive disadvantage. Further, with a Super Medicare for all, all businesses are relieved of having to contribute to healthcare costs. It would be a truly a transformative measure.
Too many Americans work not just 1 but 2 or 3 jobs and still cannot make ends meet because we tolerate poverty wages. Guaranteed jobs may eliminate unemployment, but we must ensure that all breadwinners can support themselves and their dependents beyond the minimal necessities. We all deserve a wage that ensures we benefit from America’s growing national prosperity.
Since 1973 average wages have stagnated, no longer rising in line with America’s increase in productivity and wealth. American workers’ standard of living has not increased while the cost of living continues to rise. This has led to an increasingly unequal distribution of wealth and a sharp decline in the growth rate of the economy, because income has shifted to the richest Americans and left more and more of our national wealth in financial and luxury hoards, instead of recycling back into the economy.
So that everyone shares in our national prosperity, we must establish not simply a “living wage” but a fair minimum wage. If we adjusted the 1968 minimum wage not just for inflation but also productivity gains, we would have a fair minimum wage of more than $22 per hour. Let’s start at an even $20/hr as a new fair minimum wage. This will raise the floor of annual earnings, based on a full-time 40 hour work week, to $41,600.
There is plenty of income available to bring the minimum wage to a fair wage, allowing all to benefit from our national prosperity. Our national income is over $18 trillion dollars. Yet only 7% of US breadwinners earn $100,000 or more each year. We are living in a time of extreme income inequality and social disadvantage. Together with guaranteed jobs and equivalent replacement income for the disabled and retired, a fair minimum wage provides a key foundation for eliminating poverty and the generational inequality that plagues our nation.