A Job for Everyone: A federal job guarantee is a good, All-American policy
For Americans, a job doesn't have to be a luxury, it should be a right.
This isn't a new concept, from 1944-1988, full employment was a cornerstone objective of the Democratic Party's policy platform, though a rare act of "historical amnesia" seems to have wiped it off American's minds.
A federal job guarantee – a job for every American that wants one – has deep American roots. In his State of the Union address in 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for an expanded Bill of Rights recognizing economic rights. "Necessitous men," Roosevelt observed, "are not free men." Those "who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made." Real freedom, freedom to "pursue happiness," requires a "second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all."
The first economic right Roosevelt put forth was "[t]he right to a useful and renumerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation." This was coupled with "[t]he right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation…" Together, these rights would ensure all Americans be provided employment at non-poverty wages by the federal government shall the private sector fail to provide adequate employment opportunities.
The federal job guarantee received tremendous support from the likes of Harry Truman, Martin Luther King and civil rights leader Bayard Rustin. The provision of a job for all was a centerpiece to the Freedom Budget, crafted for the A. Philip Randolph Institute. And let us not forget the full title of the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Support for the job guarantee has been making a comeback. The Black Youth Project 100's "Agenda to Build Black Futures" includes a call for "[a]ll adults who want a job should have a right to employment through public or private opportunities through a federal jobs program." The Black Lives Matter movement also calls for "a federal and state jobs program" as part of their platform for economic justice. Furthermore, economists have been fighting for a job guarantee as a matter of rights, and to stabilize the economy during economic downturns, such as the Great Recession.