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Economic Justice Financial Justice

Job Guarantee: Economic Justice Cornerstone?

| Steve Clark |

The notion of a Job Guarantee is on a lot of lips these days, led by modern monetary theory (MMT) proponent Pavlina Tcherneva, whose short book (128 pages!), The Case for a Job Guarantee, has captured widespread acclaim. In my opinion, it’s must-reading for anyone trying to define a truly transformative agenda for the period ahead. MMT proponents consistently back this demand, and it’s also a demand of the Poor People’s Campaign. And its roots go back much further.

When he ran for president in 1932, FDR saw the need of a federal job guarantee and called it a human right. Yet, he and the Democrats failed to push it through. When the postwar boom ended in the early 1960s, unemployment returned with a vengeance, creating an ever-larger echelon of precarious workers with depressed incomes alongside a stagnant stratum unable to find any job at all (and dependent on inconsistent and inadequate government support). 

In retrospect, the failure to include a federal job guarantee in the New Deal social contract stands out as a crucial revolutionary failure of the 1930s popular uprising against the Great Depression’s version of US corporate capitalism.

This time around, we have to do better. With ecological catastrophe a mere decade away, American society cannot save itself — nor make the necessary contributions to saving the world (that our country has long dominated) — unless it provides the economic security of alternative, life-sustaining, transition employment to every worker who sacrifices a petroleum-based job in order to save our planet. A job guarantee is no longer merely a human right — a mere matter of justice — it has become an ecological and social necessity‚Ķand one with no time for delay. 

Coming out of the economic devastation of COVID, our newly-cleansed economy must rebuild along steeply modified lines; it will be a wasted opportunity if we fail to keep polluting industries in lock-down. To this end, the Biden Department of Labor should implement a permanent, federal Job Guarantee and provide block grants to state, local, tribal and territorial governments to fund — at $15/hour plus vacation, healthcare and child care — as many full-time jobs as necessary for anyone forced or willing to leave ecologically destructive employment (or finds oneself unemployed for any reason). At the same time, Biden should establish a Green New Deal industrial policy to create an array of employment opportunities in sustained, public and private investments aimed at achieving zero carbon emissions (and other ecological necessities) by 2025.

Below are some additional links to articles and videos on the subject.

There’s a Simple Solution to the Unemployment Crisis: Offer Everyone a Job

JG FAQ, In These Times, Rachel M Cohen, (10 Jun 2020)

Australians deserve a job guarantee, Noel Pearson (28 Sep 2020)
Residents of small Austrian town promised work for 3 years in world’s first universal jobs guarantee (2 Dec 2020)

Tcherneva Philly DSA (2 Jul 2020) [1:31:10]

Tcherneva at NY Society for Ethical Culture (18 Oct 2020) [38:04]

Tcherneva acTVism Munich (18 Jun 2020) [22:00]

Tcherneva New Economic Thinking (11 Jul 2018) [15:15]
Tcherneva JG in Argentina Michabo Sustainable, Harmony, (8 Aug 2020) [4:00]