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Though race and racism are at the top of Americans' public discussion, most white parents don't talk about those issues with their kids.
What would happen if the U.S. guaranteed every citizen a job with a living wage and benefits?
Stephanie Keith / Getty
- A new book from Pavlina Tcherneva, chair of the economics department at New York's Bard College, makes the case for a "Job Guarantee" federal program.
- The program would grant jobs to every citizen who's willing and able to work.
- A 2019 poll found that a majority of Americans would support a federally funded jobs program.
$15 minimum wage and benefits<p>Jobs granted through the program would offer at least $15 per hour, and this base wage would remain flexible to match inflation over time. The Job Guarantee would also provide workers with health insurance, paid leave, childcare, and possibly fewer hours than the current 40-hour standard work week.<br></p><p>Establishing standards like these, Tcherneva argues, would pressure private firms to treat and pay workers better, considering that now they'd have more employment options and wouldn't have to settle for <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2020/06/case-for-job-guarantee-review-pavlina-tcherneva" target="_blank">poor working conditions</a>.</p>
Jobs would be funded federally, administered locally<p>Across the U.S., unemployment offices would be converted into employment offices. The unemployed would be able to enter these offices and "leave with a list of employment options, public-service opportunities you'll be able to access locally," Tcherneva told Vox.<br></p><p>What would those jobs look like? Tcherneva offered some examples: performing weatherization on a local <a href="https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2020/5/4/21243725/coronavirus-unemployment-cares-act-federal-job-guarantee-green-new-deal-pavlina-tcherneva" target="_blank">hardware store</a>, replacing lead pipes on a construction site, helping out at a homeless shelter, or working on local <a href="https://therealnews.com/stories/why-the-green-new-deal-includes-a-jobs-guarantee" target="_blank">alternative-energy projects</a>.</p><p>The federal government would remain mostly hands off, allowing state and local governments to decide which public projects to pursue, and how to allocate resources.</p>
The program would be 'counter-cyclical'<p><span style="background-color: initial;">In the current economic system, unemployment spreads like a virus: people lose their jobs, stop spending money, businesses are forced to shut down, and so on.</span><br></p><p>A Job Guarantee could act as a buffer that absorbs unemployed people before they fall to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. And this could help to stabilize the economy during recessions, assuming these workers continued to spend money. As the economy improves, workers could move back to their previous jobs, or to other employment options.</p>
How the U.S. might pay for a Job Guarantee<p>Tcherneva doesn't deny that a Job Guarantee would require <a href="https://therealnews.com/stories/why-the-green-new-deal-includes-a-jobs-guarantee" target="_blank">massive public investment</a>, but she notes that what's lacking isn't the money, but political will. What's more, she notes the high social costs of having a large swath of the American workforce remain, more or less, permanently unemployed.<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I came to the Jobs Guarantee from a macroeconomic perspective — the realization that we were using unemployed people as a kind of "buffer stock" to control inflation," she told the <a href="https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2020-06-24/forget-ubi-says-an-economist-its-time-for-universal-basic-jobs" target="_blank">Los Angeles Times</a>. "Having unemployed people means that when the economy grows, those people would be there to take those jobs."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"But what if we could use <em>employment</em> as a buffer stock? That's obviously the superior option. I realized that you couldn't just argue about this as a macroeconomic policy, you have to bring in the human rights framework, the moral framework. You have to think about the kind of neglect, the health effects, the pain that unemployment inflicts on people who want to work."</p><p>According to <a href="http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/the-job-guarantee-design-jobs-and-implementation" target="_blank">projections</a> from the Levy Institute, with which Tcherneva is affiliated, the program would cost about 1.5 percent of the U.S. GDP, boost real GDP by half a trillion dollars, and create 3 to 4 million jobs.</p>
8 powerful voices share what it's like to be black in America, and why white people must break the racist status quo.
- Black communities have been telling the nation, for more than a century, that they have been targeted, beaten, falsely accused and killed by the police and other institutions meant to protect them.
- They have not been believed until recently, when the rise in camera phones and social media finally enabled them show and disseminate proof.
- Even after the video of George Floyd's death on May 25, 2020, there remains defensiveness and denial among white Americans and institutions—a defensiveness that prevents change to the root of the problem: systemic racism. In this video, eight powerful voices share perspectives on being black in America, and why white inaction and white politeness must end.
OpenStax reimagined textbooks and saved students $1 billion. Now is a moment to reimagine even more. How can education help students learn more, better, and faster?
- In 2012, I founded OpenStax as a then-radical solution to the Great Recession: Why not make college textbooks free for students? And why not make them open-licensed?
- Now we are faced with COVID-19, another crisis of enormous scale—and one that is once again underscoring the harsh inequities in our communities and accelerating the existing gap between the haves and the have-nots.
- Student engagement and open education are the next frontiers that innovators must address if we want education to live up to its promise as the great equalizer.
Digital versions of OpenStax textbooks.
Photo: Jemel Agulto, OpenStax
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