Do You Have Job Fear? That’s Why We Need Full Employment.

Dave Johnson

Giving unemployment benefits to unemployed people keeps them from going to your boss and offering to do your job for half what you are paid. Better yet, asking government to make sure everyone has a job means your employer has reason to keep you happy and well-paid so you don’t leave. Working people want a “buyer’s market” for labor. Employers want a “seller’s market.” That is why the billionaires and their giant corporations are paying Republicans to block jobs programs.

Job Fear

Americans are suffering from job fear. So many people are precariously perched in jobs that they are so afraid to lose… sometimes hundreds of applicants for openings… And the new jobs that do open up pay much less than the jobs that the corporations are shedding.

There is a labor surplus. This means there is a buyer’s market for labor and employers can practically name their price. “You’re lucky to have a job at all, so shut up.” This gives employers all the power and leaves the employees with no power. And this in a nutshell is why there is a continuing labor surplus.

We Can Fix This

There are many things that We the People, through our government, could do to improve the unemployment situation. But we are being blocked — obstructed — at every turn.

For example, we could finally start maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure. It is estimated that we need to spend $3.6 trillion to get our roads, bridges, rail, ports, water systems, etc. up to par. Obviously doing this would employ millions in construction, engineering, design, planning, technology, supplies, etc. And when it is done we would have a modern, competitive infrastructure. This has to be done anyway, so why not now?

We could decide to retrofit every building and home to be energy efficient. Doing this would mean hiring millions, plus all the ripple effects from buying the supplies and equipment… And when the project is completed our economy would be so much more energy-efficient. It wold be so smart to do this so why not do it now?

We could increase minimum wages. This would raise the floor, which would raise wages across-the-board not just at the bottom. Raises at the lower end have a high “velocity” which means the money is quickly spend locally, which increases demand for more workers at clothing and grocery ad other retail stores, the increased consumption means suppliers have to hire, etc. Obviously this would help people and the economy, so why not do it now?

And while we are at it, boost and extend unemployment benefits so people don’t have to take the nastiest, lowest-paid job that comes along. This reduces wages across the board. And it sends people after your job, offering to work for half what you make. People with income buy things, which boosts the economy. So why not do it now?

We could decide to balance our trade, currently draining almost $400 billion a year from the economy. Do the math: $3-400 billion a year would hire … how many? If American workers were not pitted against exploited workers in non-democracies, wouldn’t wages be higher? (And why does it seem our trade deals are the way they are in order to drive up unemployment and drive down wages? See Job Fear From Trade Deficit Is What Happened To Jobs And The Middle Class.)

Our government could stop “contracting out” which only means that good jobs are replaced by low-paying, low-benefit jobs.

We could promote labor unions and encourage labor organizing, which would bring higher wages and benefits, which boost the economy.

There are so many things We, the People could do to promote full employment … all blocked, all obstructed.

Full-Employment Policy

What would “full employment” mean to all of us? First, of course, it would mean rising wages and benefits for all as employers had to compete to fill job openings. And those job openings would be there because so many people would be shopping, etc.

This is why it is used to be the policy of the United States government to promote full employment. The Employment Act of 1946 declares that is the policy of the United States “to promote maximum good quality employment, production and purchasing power.” The 1978 Humphrey–Hawkins Full Employment Act declares it is “the responsibility of the Federal Government to use all practicable programs and policies to promote full employment.” Full employment — it’s the law.

The (ignored) 1977 amendments to The Federal Reserve Act give the Fed a dual mandate to maximize employment and fight inflation, specifically “to promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices and moderate long-term interest rates.” Maximum employment.

While the country’s (We, the People’s) policy of promoting full employment is currently ignored and obstructed, it has been done before. Under President Bill Clinton the unemployment rate was below 5% for 40 consecutive months — hitting 3.9%.

Let us not forget the results: The unemployment rate for African Americans went from 14.2 percent in 1992 to 8.0 percent in 1999 and the unemployment rate for Hispanics fell from 11.6 percent in 1992 to 6.4 percent in 1999. GDP per capita (in 2011 dollars) increased from about $38,000 in 1994 to about $45,000 in 2001. Real wages grew; the bottom 20% of earners saw their wages rise by 24% and the median household wages increased from $661 a week to $700 a week, adjusted for inflation. And, of course, the budget went into surplus — we would have paid off the entire US debt by now if we hadn’t elected Obama. (Don’t get mad, click the link.)

Full Employment Just Makes Everything Easier

While the policy of full employment is currently ignored by Congress, the administration and even in our national discussion, it just makes everything easier when there are enough jobs. Jobs fix deficits because people are paying taxes instead of relying on the safety net. Jobs fix wages because companies have to compete for workers. Jobs fix all kinds of things.

Call your member of Congress and your Senators and demand that they address jobs. Especially if you are represented by Republicans. Tell them stop obstructing and fix JOBS!

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