A full employment act

 The benefits of true full employment.

In his 1944 State of the Union Address, President Franklin Roosevelt proposed an Economic Bill of Rights, which included the right to a socially-useful job, that paid enough to insure not just “adequate food and clothing”, but also “a decent home…adequate medical care…and recreation.” He cited the necessity of this second Bill of Rights by saying, “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.”

That idea is echoed in the 2016 platform of the Democratic Party, which says, “we are committed to doing everything we can to build a full employment economy, where everyone has a job that pays enough to raise a family and live in dignity with a sense of purpose.”

Initially, the primary focus should be to move to clean energy and mass transit as rapidly as possible. Once we have done all we can to minimize the consequences of climate change, the focus of public sector employment should shift to helping workers who are not needed in the private sector to be self-sufficient to the greatest extent possible, with the goal of avoiding or minimizing the need to redistribute income or wealth to support them.

In his 1944 State of the Union Address, Roosevelt also said, “I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights- for it is definitely the responsibility of the Congress so to do.”  Nearly three quarters of a century later, Congress has still not found the means to make Roosevelt’s vision a reality. There is only one way to fully secure the right to socially useful employment for every worker and that is to make the federal government the employer of last resort.

Among the reasons our government was founded, as listed in the Preamble to our Constitution, is to “promote the general welfare.” We agree with President Roosevelt that it is the responsibility of Congress to act on this critical issue. The guarantee of a job for every worker, that pays enough to live in dignity, would dramatically improve the quality of life for tens of millions of American workers and their families.