Some 95 percent of Americans identify as part of the middle class and working poor. Wages, adjusted for inflation, have stagnated for over 40 years and good jobs have left our country to places where labor costs are cheaper.
Work is not a “fair game”. People have to work to eat, and a business only hires if it thinks it can make a profit. It’s a huge power disparity, where real wages will stagnate unless there is some support for labor.
Until about 40 years ago, unions provided this support. They got their power from strong companies that had pricing power to pass on wage increases. With international competition, companies have lost their pricing power and unions, and consequently, their power as well.
And with these changes, the middle class and working poor have taken a real hit with little political power – our “representatives” are looking after them. So many Americans were devastated by losing their jobs at $ 25 an hour or more in the 1980s and were forced into lower or minimum wage jobs due to a failed public policy that did not support full employment income and expenditure levels.
So that got us thinking with all this untapped political power, why not use it? Our middle class could unite around an idea that has the potential to recreate high wages and good benefits.
Create a care economy
This idea is to create a “care economy”. The idea isn’t just ours – Stony Brook University economics professor Stephanie Kelton explains it pretty well in her recent book “The Deficit Myth”. Kelton envisions the creation of a Federal Employment Guarantee (FJG) that financially supports millions of potential jobs with Americans serving the needs of our population in a wide range of part-time and full-time jobs. This, she suggests, can be achieved using the principles inherent in modern monetary theory supported by Congress.
$ 600 billion seed grant
A care economy could be financed by a block grant shared with each state and subdivided within each municipality. Kelton suggested that our economy has about $ 600 billion to spend without affecting inflation and without needing to raise anyone’s taxes.
This money would be shared equitably among states based on identified needs. From the outset, this program will be evaluated for its effectiveness and overall impact on our society. With a positive evaluation, additional funding may be required to fully fund this program.
The federal government would work hand in hand with the states. States would work hand in hand with each municipality in their state to administer local needs assessment surveys.
On the basis of these surveys, jobs would be created to meet the needs of the population. The funds should be devoted to the creation of online survey portals on locally administered needs assessments. A 21st century conservation civil society could be created with these funds by creating community gardens and orchards to feed the food insecure people. The child care needs of families could be met and funded by this initiative by hiring people to provide free child care. The elderly would receive the care they need at home.
These surveys will be designed to gather as honest an assessment as possible of the current needs of Americans. According to Kelton’s estimate, some 24 billion hours of care could be provided to the citizens of our country. A printed version of these surveys should also be sent to each household. This data would be used by local governments nationwide to determine needs and formulate jobs and wages.
Block grant money administered by the Ministry of Labor will be sent to municipalities across the country with few strings attached. Already existing organizations that aim to help those in need can help with the process of data collection, job creation and administration of some of these programs.
All of these jobs, part-time and full-time, would come with benefits including sick days, vacation days, and full medical coverage through a low-cost buyout of Medicare coverage. These jobs, regardless of what part of the country they are created, should provide an income that meets basic monthly needs for affordable housing, food, transportation and utility bills.
A vibrant new middle class returns to America
By creating an FJG for everyone who needs a job, we would increase the wages and standard of living of potentially millions of Americans overnight. As a result of the attack on unions in America, unskilled middle class workers have little or no bargaining power. Now the government, by offering decent-paying jobs across the country, would actually leverage private sector workers, “automatically” raising wages for many.
The private sector may need to develop more flexible jobs for work-life balance, like the European model in many countries.
And when the situation is not ideal for a low paid job, an FJG frees a person to quit their job and work for the government in a way that is meaningful to their interests and wants and linked to the needs of each community. . .
The government is good and oh, by the way, we are that governmentt
The idea that government cannot create jobs is wrong. Just look at the US military as a prime example. We Americans employ over a million people to defend ourselves at home and around the world. Let us add all the police, firefighters, teachers, postal workers and countless other government departments to recognize the huge role our government is already playing in sustaining our economy for so many millions of Americans. It is a public infrastructure that serves a public purpose.
Adding more workers to the pool do not ruin this economy; on the contrary, the economy will experience spectacular growth. In addition, as a currency issuer, our government can always pay its bills and never go bankrupt.
If you have no money to spend, like the middle class and the working poor have for the past 40 years, then you will have a weak, slow growing economy. Add, for example, a million more workers to the economy with decent wages and benefits, our economy will be that much stronger.
Already, most European societies already have some version of a care economy in place. Michael Moore’s documentaries “Where to Invade Next” and “Sicko” detail many such innovations in place in countries such as Italy, France, Finland, Norway and Portugal, to name a few. companies presented.
For example, in France, government workers help families help mothers raise their families as cooks, nannies and babysitters, among other roles.
Switch to autopilot
Once Congress votes to both support and fund this idea, the system will go on autopilot.
We need a solidarity economy more than ever.
Covid-19 has shown just how precarious the economic situation is for millions of Americans today. And there are millions more – those who have not been officially counted because they are among the long-term unemployed who would also benefit from this program.
By creating this benevolent economy, we would in effect be eradicating poverty in America and thereby strengthening the fabric of our economy. Our safety net, which has weakened over the past 40 years, will be strengthened. So many other possible changes should also occur, such as an overall reduction in crime.
How can you help promote a care economy? Be active now by joining coalitions across the country that support the creation of such a public initiative. Elect candidates who commit in writing to support this concept and supporting legislation.
Vote Is matter.
Unified citizenship is the way forward to rebuild our middle class and the working poor by developing a more vibrant economy.
Let’s harness the power of the vote and introduce change agents who are committed to supporting such an economy.
Democracy is not a spectacle sport. A population focused and determined to make real change can break out of the deadlock and inaction that have marked our politics so much over the past 40 years. The middle class and the working poor must unite to restore our once healthy economy.
Robert Buonaspina is a member of the board of directors of New York Progressive Action Network, elected board member of Long Island Activists, and professor of history and economics at LOcust Valley College / High School.
Warren Mosler, father of modern monetary theory and president of Valance Company, Inc., contributed to this article.
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