Tuesday, September 19, 2017

[NJFAC] What if we had a job guarantee

What America would look like if it guaranteed everyone a job Dylan Matthews 
Imagine if a well-paying job, with benefits and a high enough salary to pay for rent, transportation, and food, were a human right.

Imagine the US federal government established a policy whereby anyone who didn't have a job and wanted one could go into a local office for a government agency — call it the Works Progress Administration — and walk out with a regular government position paying a livable wage ($15 an hour, perhaps) and offering health, dental, and vision insurance, and retirement benefits, and child care for their kids.

Different people would do different things: teaching or working for after-school programs or providing child care or building roads and mass transit or driving buses and so on. But everyone would be guaranteed a job, including during recessions. Involuntary unemployment would be a thing of the past. No one who works would be in poverty.

That's a truly radical policy idea. But it has deep roots in the Democratic Party's past, from the New Deal's emergency employment programs to the Humphrey-Hawkins Act, a 1970s proposal that, as originally written, would have given unemployed Americans the right to sue the government.

Today, there are even some actual proposals on the table. In May, the Center for American Progress issued a report calling for a "large-scale, permanent program of public employment and infrastructure investment."

....

An effective job guarantee that eliminated unemployment and boosted wages without negative side effects could be a very good thing. But an ineffective job guarantee that amounts to a welfare check plus onerous work requirements wouldn't just be bad policy — it would also be politically toxic.

Why liberals are flocking to job guarantee plans in 2017

It might seem strange to be debating how best to solve mass joblessness at a time when the US unemployment rate is 4.3 percent, the lowest in over a decade.

....there are both political and policy reasons for why the job guarantee is suddenly a hot topic.

In the wake of the 2016 election, liberal commentators have latched onto the job guarantee — an idea pushed by some left-wing economists for years — as a way to forge a cross-racial working-class coalition. They need a plan that appeals to both to the white Wisconsin and Michigan voters who switched from Obama to Trump and to black and Latino workers left behind by deindustrialization. The ideal plan would both improve conditions for lower-income Americans while supporting Americans' strong intuition that people should work to earn their crust.

"A federal job guarantee is both universal—it benefits all Americans—and specifically ameliorative to entrenched racial inequality," Slate's Jamelle Bouie notes.

"The job guarantee asserts that, if individuals bear a moral duty to work, then society and employers bear a reciprocal moral duty to provide good, dignified work for all," Jeff Spross adds in the influential center-left journal Democracy.

"If Democrats want to win elections, they should imbue Trump's empty rhetoric with a real promise: a good job for every American who wants one," writes Bryce Covert in the New Republic. "It's time to make a federal jobs guarantee the central tenet of the party's platform."

But there's also a policy rationale for the idea's resurgence. Many experts think the unemployment rate makes the economy, or at least the labor market, look better than it really is. The unemployment rate only counts people looking for work, and the most recent recession and slow subsequent recovery forced some people out of the labor force. In January 2007, 80.3 percent of people ages 25 to 54 were employed; in July 2017, only 78.7 percent were.

If the rate had stayed at its prerecession peak, there'd be 2 million more people employed today. If the rate were at its all-time peak (81.9 percent, in April 2000), there'd be 4 million more people employed....


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June Zaccone
National Jobs for All Coalition
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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

[NJFAC] update on employer who set $70,000 wage


....There had been bumps in the road, notably a dispute with his brother who also held some Gravity stock. Two experienced employees quit, because their raises weren't as big as those for people lower on the scale. A few customers cut their ties, as well.

The upside, though, was far greater. The publicity landed Price many new customers. Revenue and profits went way up, plus Price was flooded with thousands of applications from talented job candidates.

Another year has passed, so now it's time to check in again. The news continues to be strongly positive on two different fronts. On the business side revenue continues to grow, as the company has rapidly expanded its customer base. The number of employees has climbed by 40 percent.

I recently asked Ryan Pirkle, Gravity's head of marketing, how it is that they prosper, in spite of their higher labor costs. "We don't compete solely on price," he said, (though they charge significantly less than the industry average.)

"We're old school," says Pirkle. "No robots. No telephone trees. Instead, real people are our infrastructure." The key to the company's success is a dedicated, engaged support team. When one of their customers—a restaurant, let's say—is having credit card problems on a busy Friday night, its manager will talk directly with a knowledgeable Gravity person who can solve their problem.

In the long run, it's not just a matter of landing more customers. Keeping them is the critical factor. And Gravity's retention rates are very high.....

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June Zaccone
National Jobs for All Coalition
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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

[NJFAC] The Affordable Care Act as a Job-Creation Program by Frank Stricker

         Despite conservative assertions, there is not much evidence that employers decided not to grow their businesses because of the mandate that all but small businesses provide health insurance. Nor does it seem that employers disrupted their organizations by shifting employees from full to part-time to limit the reach of the mandate. There is at least anecdotal evidence that Obamacare made it easier for some people to work as independent entrepreneurs because they did not have to join a large company to get a deal on health insurance. 
 
        The big-picture on jobs is that the ACA can be considered as something of a model of a centrist job-creation program. First, it subsidizes useful activities that improve the quality of life for dozens of millions of people. Second, in a saner political atmosphere than the one we inhabit today, the ACA would have broad appeal, even to centrist-conservatives. It does not eliminate private-sector insurers and it includes mandates that were once championed by the extremely conservative Heritage Foundation and by Republican Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts. Third, the left should be happy that the ACA is partly financed by progressive taxes on the wealthy; from the most affluent it takes dollars that may be doing nothing useful and uses them to expand health care access and create new jobs. And that brings us to the fourth point: the ACA gave an already expanding job sector a shot of adrenaline, adding as many as 500,000 health-care jobs.  
 
         On the profoundly negative side is the fact that the ACA did nothing to control the costs of health insurance, drugs and medical care. And as a job program the ACA creates many good jobs for nurses and doctors but also many that are not so good. A $15 federal minimum wage would be a good start here and it would help many more people than trying to open a couple of coal mines.  Democrats ought to present a program to lift health care workers, control the cost of drugs, and lift the income levels at which families get a subsidy of some kind. Some day the Trumpian dirt and dust might settle. Democrats ought to be ready. They should be broadcasting a strong message about the minimum wage and about useful reforms to Obamacare in preparation for the 2018 elections. Not having much of an economic program did not work in 2016. 
  
Notes: Nelson D. Schwartz and Reed Abelson, "Health Act Repeal Could Threaten Job Engine," New York Times, May 7, 2017, 1, 14; Dan Mangan, "500,000 Jobs Added to Health-Care Sector under Obamacare, Goldman Sachs Estimates," March 23, 2017, accessed 8/5/2017, at cnbc/2017/03/23/500000-jobs-added-to-health-sector-under-obamacare-goldman; and Vann R. Newskirk II, "Repealing Obamacare Could Kill Jobs," The Atlantic, January 10, 2017, accessed 8/5/2017, at theatlantic.com/politics/archive/ 2017/01/obamacare-economic-effects-repeal.
 
Frank Stricker has just completed What Ails the American Worker? Unemployment and Crummy Jobs: History, Explanations, Solutions.  He is a member of NJFAC and Emeritus Professor of History, Labor Studies, and Interdisciplinary Studies, California State University, Dominguez Hills.
 

 

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

[NJFAC] The poor need a good job

....

full-time work is responsible for the low-poverty results of the various Success Sequences [Graduate high school; Get a full-time job; Get married before having children] But you don't even need to do that. It's perfectly obvious if you just think about it for a second.

A full-time worker who is paid the $7.25 minimum wage has an annual income of $15,080. If they live alone, the poverty line for their one-person family is $12,486. Since $15,080 is greater than $12,486, no full-time worker who lives alone is in poverty, at least as poverty is measured in the official statistics. What this means is: a person can only be in poverty (1) if they do not work full time or (2) if they live with other people who do not work full time.

If the Success Sequence was not just a vehicle for litigating cultural beefs, what it would really say is that individuals wanting to minimize their risk of poverty should work full time and live alone. Or, if individuals insist on living with others, they should only live with other full-time workers, such as in a double-income-no-kid (DINK) arrangement. Stay away from children, individuals with a work-limiting disability, elderly people, students, unpaid family carers, and those prone to joblessness. If you keep these types of people out of your household and make sure you work full time, you will never be in poverty. That's the truth.

Despite what the Success Sequence says, marriage does not help you except insofar as marrying adds another full-time worker to the family. If it does not do that because the person you are marrying has a disability or some other work limitation, then marriage will actually increase your risk of poverty.

A high school degree does not do much for you either. It might help you get a higher wage, but minimum wage keeps you out of poverty anyways. A minimum wage could leave you in poverty if you have dependents you are caring for (such as children), and in those cases a higher wage driven by a high school degree might pull you out of poverty. But if you have found yourself in a household with dependents, you are already ignoring the most correct wisdom about staying out of poverty, which is to never live with non-workers.

To be clear, I am not actually saying people should pursue a life where they either live alone or only with other full-time workers. My personal view here is that our economic institutions, and especially our welfare state, should be designed to ensure that nobody is in poverty and that people can form the families they would like. But in our current economic system, it is the no-dependent lifestyle described above that actually minimizes your risk of poverty, not the lifestyle envisioned by the Success Sequence.

What About the System?...

 the way we have set up the economic system to distribute income in society is a necessary cause of any observed poverty.....

Fifty years from now, conservatives will write op-eds saying the real trick to staying out of poverty is a college degree, cohabitation, and delaying child birth to age 30. No Success Sequence will stay around if it stops describing most middle class lives or if it begins to describe too many poor lives. The goalposts will shift constantly but the conclusion will always remain the same: the poor did this to themselves and the rich should be spared from higher taxes.

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June Zaccone
National Jobs for All Coalition
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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

[NJFAC] 80% of US households had stagnant incomes from 2005 to 2012-14

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

[NJFAC] Are Real Wages Finally Taking Off? By Frank Stricker

Are Real Wages Finally Taking Off?                                            By Frank Stricker
            Journalists keep searching for an affirmative answer, and sometimes they find a little evidence and sometimes they cannot.           What are the facts, measuring real (after-inflation) pay from June to June in recent years?  Since 2008, when the Great Recession began, real hourly wages have gone this way: a little jump in 2009, stagnation or decline from 2010 through 2013, and then increases of almost 2% a year until this last year. From June 2016 to June 2017, real average hourly wages increased 0.9%. That's better than falling wages, but surely, at less than 1%, it is nothing to write home about.
            And there is so much catching up to do. When we look at the bigger picture, things are about as bad as many people feel they are. Despite recent increases, the average wage for average workers in June of 2017 was about $22 an hour. Not great, not terrible. But dozens of millions of people are below even that so-so level of pay. And the story is worse if we look at the historical evidence. In terms of an hour's worth of purchasing power, the average worker is earning almost exactly what he or she earned in 1972. It's true. No progress for workers in forty-five years. Despite brilliant successes for the minimum wage movement, despite the fact that we are beginning the ninth year of economic recovery, and in part because high income households have been doing very, very well for decades, average workers are right where they were in 1972.
******************************************************************************
Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, including "Current and real (constant 1982-1984 dollars) earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls, seasonally adjusted," and the annual Economic Report of the President, for historical tables including "Hours and Earnings in Private Nonagricultural Industries."
Frank Stricker is on the board of NJFAC and has just written What Ails the American Worker? Unemployment and Crummy Jobs: History, Explanations, and Remedies.
 
 
 

 

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

[NJFAC] Economics of the populist backlash, Dani Rodrik

Rodrik uses some interesting economic theory to undercut the story that globalization benefits everyone, and those who object to it are misinformed. j
Economics of the populist backlash Dani Rodrik 03 July 2017
....The Stolper-Samuelson theorem assumes very specific conditions. But there is one Stolper-Samuelson-like result that is extremely general, and which can be stated as follows. Under competitive conditions, as long as the importable good(s) continue to be produced at home – that is, ruling out complete specialisation – there is always at least one factor of production that is rendered worse off by the liberalisation of trade. In other words, trade generically produces losers. Redistribution is the flip side of the gains from trade; no pain, no gain.
Economic theory has an additional implication, which is less well recognised. In relative terms, the redistributive effects of liberalisation get larger and tend to swamp the net gains as the trade barriers in question become smaller. The ratio of redistribution to net gains rises as trade liberalisation tackles progressively lower barriers.....


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June Zaccone
National Jobs for All Coalition
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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

[NJFAC] Fwd:

 
Another Way To Subordinate Workers                                                             Frank Stricker
            There are so many ways that American employees are disempowered today that it is hard to keep up with them. We all know about employer resistance to unionism, inadequate enforcement of labor laws, and employers' threats to move businesses elsewhere if workers don't knuckle under.  But there's one gimmick that imprisons a fifth of work force and has received less attention: non-compete clauses.  
            New employees, sometimes on their first day of work--that is, after they've said good-bye to other job offers--are pressed to agree in writing that they will not take a job with a competitor for a specified number of years.  The benevolent interpretation of this is that companies have a right to protect trade secrets. But in fact such contracts make it hard for workers to move with useful work experience and improved general skills--not trade secrets--to other companies or even to start their own businesses. Not all states have non-compete laws, but where they exist they tend to keep employee compensation down. If you cannot try for a better job at another company in your industry, you will have to change lines of work, accept what you get where you work, or dig ditches--unless you are a digger who has signed a non-compete clause. And the latter case is not a joke. These issues are discussed in a long, thoughtful piece by Conor Dougherty at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/13/business/noncompete-clauses.html
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Frank Stricker is on the board of NJFAC and is completing a book entitled What Ails the American Worker? Unemployment and Crummy Jobs: History, Explanations, and Remedies.
 
 

 

 

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

[NJFAC] Infrastructure proposals include selling off public assets to finance them.

Trump advisers call for privatizing some public assets to build new infrastructure  May 23, 2017 Wash. Post 

The Trump administration, determined to overhaul and modernize the nation's infrastructure, is drafting plans to privatize some public assets such as airports, bridges, highway rest stops and other facilities, according to top officials and advisers.

In his proposed budget released Tuesday, President Trump called for spending $200 billion over 10 years to "incentivize" private, state and local spending on infrastructure.

Trump advisers said that to entice state and local governments to sell some of their assets, the administration is considering paying them a bonus. The proceeds of the sales would then go to other infrastructure projects. Australia has pursued a similar policy, which it calls "asset recycling," prompting the 99-year lease of a state-owned electrical grid to pay for improvements to the Sydney Metro, among other projects....

This is a version of a failed Australian experiment. Asset recycling may look new and exciting. But it's the last gasp of a failed model, John Quiggan 

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National Jobs for All Coalition
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

[NJFAC] Full Employment and How to Get It

Full Employment and How to Get It                             By Frank Stricker
The President speaks: "Jobs, jobs, jobs, we're gonna give you so many new jobs you will be sick of it."
Bob Right, Faux-Freedom Caucus member, thinks:  "Great! And he'll make sure that the government doesn't start job programs like the WPA and CCC that we had in the 1930s. And thank god he won't be deincentivizing rich people by taking back the trillions of dollars they grabbed in the last forty years. Just the opposite. More tax cuts for the 1%. That's freedom."                                                                                                                   
            Really, Bob?
            The chart below is a slice of wage and job history covering 65 years. It shows how bad things have often been without good-job programs. Wage growth has been mostly terrible since the 1960s, and job growth has been on-again-off-again since 1980. After the 1960s, we had just one period when both wage and job growth were strong. You might conclude, as I do, that deliberate policies had something to do with this bad record.
 
Report Card on Growth in Real Wages and Total Jobs, Five-Year Periods, 1950-2015[1]                                                                                    
                                  Wages          Jobs                 
1950-1955
A+
A
1955-1960
A
B
1960-1965
B+
A
1965-1970
C
A+
1970-1975
F
B+
1975-1980
FF
A+
1980-1985
FF
D
1985-1990
FF
A
1990-1995
FF
D
1995-2000
C-
A
2000-2005
F
F
2005-2010
F
FF
2010-2015
D
B
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total five-year growth in wages and jobs graded thusly: 10% or more = A, 8%-9% = B, 7% = C, 6% = D, under 6% = F, decline =FF.
 
 
 
The Great Recession was a catastrophe for millions of people in the United States and many other countries, but it did add force to movements organizing for income equality and higher wages. Occupy Wall Street put economic inequality on the front page. Fast-food workers, many with union support, organized and demonstrated. Some states and cities raised their minimum wages, sometimes to levels that had once seemed unattainable. But there's been no increase in the federal minimum wage and no new permanent job programs, unless you consider Obamacare a job program. The Democrats  missed an opportunity to fix lousy job markets. Too little courage, too much faith in business markets.
During the recession everyone talked about unemployment, but as the economy improved and the official unemployment rate fell, less was said about the need for job creation. Mr. Trump talks about saving jobs in the mines and factories and adding millions of infrastructure jobs, but he presents no realistic plans for any of this. He argues that big tax cuts--handouts to rich people and big businesses--will create a lot of jobs. Did the Bush cuts of 2001 and 2003 deliver more jobs? Check the chart.
We are not close to full employment, despite what the experts say. The real unemployment rate is more than twice the official rate. And we have not had sustained wage increases for a long time. Real hourly pay for the average employee is about where it was in 1973. The deck is stacked against employees in many ways and one way is that there are 20 million people who want a job or want to move from part-time to full-time work. So there's a labor surplus that saps employee bargaining power.
If the American people really want more and better jobs--and not just political theatre-- they need to push Congress to double the minimum wage right away and get behind government programs that directly create good jobs. One general job program has been introduced into the House by Representative John Conyers and it is also a project of the National Jobs for All Coalition. It's  HR 1000, The Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act, which establishes a trust fund to create 6 million new jobs. [2] Progressives should also push to create a Department of Public Infrastructure. America's infrastructure got another D+ this year from the engineers.
We can have high-wage full employment. Here's what it might look like in ten years if we start fixing things now.
What Real Full Employment Could Look Like in 2027
1. The federal government guarantees a job for everyone who wants and needs one. That is a way to be sure that we have full employment. At real full employment, the official unemployment rate stays at or below 2%.
2. Securing a new job takes only a month or two--half as long as in 2016. There are real labor shortages and employers routinely raise wages to attract workers.
3. The economy adds 300,000 jobs per month instead of 200,000, as in 2016.  That's a million more per year and 10 million more in ten years. Sound impossible? There's a lot of give in the size of the labor force. In January of 2017, there were 7.6 million officially unemployed, 5.8 million part-timers wanting full-time work, and 5.7 million job-wanters who had not recently searched for a job.
4. The federal minimum wage has been lifted every year until it is $20 an hour. Because of fuller employment and high demand for workers, most employers have to pay more. The average working-class wage, which was $22 in 2017, is $35. Even after inflation, the purchasing power of that wage is up 30%.
5. The national unemployment rate of 2% holds true across the land. Thanks in part to the National Full Employment Trust Fund, which is funded by a tiny tax on stock and bond transactions, more jobs go to high-unemployment areas. Extreme jobless rates for African-Americans in Chicago and poor whites in West Virginia are becoming a thing of the past.
6. Full-employment America includes a dense network of social services to facilitate work, including universal, affordable child care and federal training programs linked to real jobs. Affirmative action is enforced and minorities, poor people, and residents of hollowed-out communities are getting decent jobs. Federal policy and government-supported citizen-groups help ex-prisoners find work. Employers are required to accommodate people with disabilities, and because there are labor shortages, they are more willing to comply.
7. The history of recent decades shows that the private sector thrives on low wages and a labor surplus. That is why real full employment requires federal programs to directly create jobs. So the federal presence has spread. There are thousands of new public- and private- sector projects funded and supervised by the federal government. They range from new parks and better bridges to more and better Head Start schools and more green energy businesses. Some projects are overseen by existing government departments. Many are funded and supervised by the Department of Labor under the National Full Employment Trust Fund or managed by the Department of Public Infrastructure.
8. Employee involvement and opportunities for advancement are increasing. As compensation improves, there is more discussion about reducing the standard forty-hour week.[3]      
            Does all this sound utopian?  It may, but is there anything more utopian than believing that deregulation and more tax cuts to the rich will bring full employment and better wages? 
How has that worked out in the last few decades? Check the chart.       
    Frank Stricker is emeritus professor of history and interdisciplinary studies at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He is on the board of NJFAC, and author of the How America Lost the War on Poverty (2007).                         
 


 
[1]. Data for job totals in the chart come from Current Employment Statistics (CES), at BLS.gov, measured January to January. Thus for 2010-2015, totals are from January, 2010 to January 2015. Real wages are from the annual Economic Reports of the President, including the one for 2016, Table B-15, p. 418, and BLS Economic News Releases, Table A-2, Current and real (constant 1982-1984 dollars) earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls, seasonally adjusted.
2. The National Full Employment Trust Fund is the financial arm of HR 1000. The bill is co-sponsored by several dozen representatives. It is also known as The Jobs for All Act.
 
3. Thanks for suggestions about the meaning of full employment to many people including James Devine, Helen Ginsburg, William Darity, Jr., Darrick Hamilton, Philip Harvey, Trudy Goldberg, June Zaccone, and Scott Myers-Lipton. Harvey's Securing the Right to Employment: Social Welfare Policy and the Unemployed in the United States (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), helped a lot as did Russell A. Nixon, "The Historical Development of the Conception and Implementation of Full Employment as Economic Policy," in Alan Gartner, Russell A. Nixon, and Frank Riessman, eds., Public Service Employment: An Analysis of Its History, Problems and Prospects (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1973), 9-27.
 
 
 

 

 

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