Likely 2020 Democratic Candidates Want To Guarantee A Job To Every American

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"My impression is it may have been the shock effect of Trump's election and the recognition that there are a host of policies, projects, that we previously didn't think were imaginable or reasonable that are being considered on the other end of the political spectrum," said William Darity, an economist at Duke University and a proponent of job guarantee programs.

On top of that, even before Trump won the presidency, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders also showed that voters could be won over by a "Democratic socialist," as he describes himself, who proposed massive, progressive policy overhauls that opponents also derided as being unfeasible.

Proposals like a job guarantee, Medicare for all, and tuition-free college have moved from the policy fringe on the left toward the mainstream in the Democratic Party, embraced by some of those interested in challenging President Trump as the party tries to give voters a clear, memorable outline of what Democrats stand for.

U.S. Unemployment Drops To 3.9 Percent — Lowest Since 2000
So here's a primer on jobs guarantees — what they are, how they'd work, and why we're hearing about them now, when unemployment is already really low.

What is a jobs guarantee?

A jobs guarantee program can take different forms, but the basic idea behind any program is the same, according to Darity:

"Under the conditions of a federal job guarantee, everybody would be assured of getting to work if they were seeking work. So in effect, the unemployment rate would be zero," said Darity. "In an ideal world, if I lost my job in the morning I could walk over to what we would now truly call an employment office and have new work by the afternoon."

This separates it from a job subsidy program, he added, in which the government would help boost the number of jobs — perhaps massively so — but neither create all those jobs itself nor guarantee the jobs to job-seekers.

The idea is that the job guarantee program could be what economists call an "automatic stabilizer" — a program that grows when the economy is in a downturn and shrinks when things are going well.

But many job guarantee programs are about more than just assuring a certain quantity of jobs; they also focus on quality.

Several plans — one co-designed by Darity, a proposal from New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, another outline from Sen. Bernie Sanders — also would provide wages much higher than the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25) and benefits that are unheard-of for many current low-wage workers.

"The idea is that we would then drive bad jobs out of existence," said Darity, "because no one would be obligated to take those jobs since they would have a superior option."

All of which is to say, this is a big policy idea. Implementing a job guarantee would make the federal government the employer for potentially millions — or even tens of millions — of Americans.

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