A federal job guarantee

We support true full employment through federal jobs programs that guarantee every worker a socially-useful job.

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.” We believe it is high time to make Roosevelt’s vision a reality for American workers.

Legislation has not yet been introduced in Congress, but is coming soon:

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has announced that he is planning to introduce a Full Employment Act that would have the federal government guarantee a job paying $15 an hour and health-care benefits to every American worker “who wants or needs one.” While we wait for the act to be introduced, here is a link to an overview provided by an article in The Washington Post.

We strongly endorse such a bill. We anticipate that support for this bill will, as usual, come exclusively from Democrats in Congress, with little or no support from Republican members.

 The major party platforms on this issue:

From the Democratic Party platform:

“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.”

“We are focused on creating good jobs in communities across America.”

“We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union.”

The Republican Party makes no mention of this approach to full employment. The Republican-controlled Congress passed the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” in December of 2017. This bill represents the primary Republican approach to increasing employment – tax breaks for corporations and billionaires based on the theory that they will use the extra money to invest in a way that will create jobs and increase wages.

Polling on this issue:

A Full Employment Act that would guarantee that any American who wants to work gets a job on projects like repairing bridges and roads, wiring rural America with high-speed Internet, and other critical long-term investments was supported by 70% of voters, with 18% opposed and 11% neutral. This included 83% of Democratic voters, with 7% opposed and 10% neutral; 64% of independent voters, with 26% opposed and 9% neutral; and 60% of Republican voters, with 24% opposed and 14% neutral. (From a poll by GBA Strategies.)

Our view – the benefits of true full employment.

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.

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.