Full Employment Is More Than Possible. It Is Essential.

Dave Johnson

Progressives have not only been able to beat back the D.C.-elite effort to cut Social Security, we put the idea of expanding Social Security on the table instead. We pushed LGBT rights and gay marriage and have won significant victories. Sunday’s Climate March will force climate onto the map.

We got the discussion of income inequality going. We have achieved minimum wage increases and paid sick days in several cities and states. The National Labor Relations Board is functioning and we even saw labor-movement gains in the South this week. We have held back (so far) the drumbeat for big cuts in corporate taxes they’re calling “tax reform.”

Now it’s time to put our demand for full employment policies on the table. And guess what – it’s a great way to win elections!

What would it mean in people’s lives if there were more job openings than people? Right now people suffer terrible job fear that forces them to accept pay cuts, benefit cuts, extra hours and other things that increase profits for the giant corporations.

Think about the huge change in the mood and structure of the country if employers had to fight to get employees. If your boss couldn’t find the people needed to do the work and knew that you had three job offers, you might be getting a raise instead of a pay cut – and you would know that, too.

It has been a while, but imagine the situation in our economy if working people had the upper hand. This is what full employment would mean. And it is possible to achieve full employment – but only if We the People decide to just go ahead and pursue this, through our government.

How To Get To Full Employment

There are so many things we could be doing to bring about full employment. For example, this is the record of the 2009 “stimulus.” We were losing more than 800,000 jobs a month in the wake of the 2008 recession, then because of “government spending” we were gaining 100,000-250,000 jobs a month. Look at this chart and think, “No wonder Republicans don’t want more government spending to create jobs.”

Government spending in a democracy is by definition things we do to make our lives better. This chart shows that it can do just that.

In Front Of Congress Now

In front of Congress right now there is H.R. 2821, the American Jobs Act. The American Jobs Act expands on that stimulus package and repeals the sequester. It does a number of things to improve conditions for workers, including cutting taxes for working Americans, restoring emergency unemployment insurance, investing in infrastructure, and helping to put unemployed Americans back to work. First and foremost, it gets started on fixing out infrastructure with grants for airport projects, air traffic control systems, highway and bridge rehabilitation, high-speed rail projects, Amtrak, and various other transit projects.

Republican leadership is keeping this bill from a vote in the House because it would pass. There is a discharge petition to force it to come to a vote. Call your member of Congress ask tell them you want them to sign the discharge petition for H.R. 2821, the American Jobs Act.

I wrote about a previous version of this bill in 2012. That version was also blocked by the Republicans.

In July Isaiah J. Poole wrote about Rep. John Conyers’ Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act, H.R. 1000:

The bill aims to provide a job to anyone who wants one through a variety of means, including direct federal job creation. The effort would be paid for through a financial transactions tax on stock trades. It builds upon the current Humphrey-Hawkins full employment law, which requires the Federal Reserve to report to Congress on its efforts to balance job growth with suppressing inflation.

Go Big And Fix Our Infrastructure

Spending on infrastructure makes our economy better by 1) creating the jobs while the work is being done and 2) providing the public with an improved infrastructure that supports the economy. So let’s fix and modernize the country’s infrastructure. We have been deferring the needed work on infrastructure for decades. We are now so far behind that our roads, bridges, trains, schools, water systems, airports, dams, ports, parks, levees, inland waterways and the rest are literally falling apart. As of 2013 the estimate was that $3.6 trillion in spending is required.

How many jobs would be created if we spent $3.6 trillion on bringing our infrastructure up to par? Think about the construction companies, suppliers, steel companies and all the associated jobs that would need to be filled. Think about all of the stores all those people would visit…

Republicans have been blocking that – even going to the wall by filibustering efforts to fix our infrastructure. Here are just a few examples of the hundreds of filibusters since Obama took office.

2011: “Republicans filibuster Obama infrastructure bill

2012: “‘Phantom filibuster’ blocking path forward for highway bill, says Reid

2013: “Bipartisan Transportation and Housing Bill Filibustered

Addressing Climate Change Creates Jobs

We have fallen so far behind – the result of Republican anti-government policies that have drained We the People (government) of funds to even keep up with the basics. Corporate/conservative propaganda has also have drained us of the understanding that We the People through our government need to address our urgent problems.

Tax cuts aren’t going to repair roads or build levees. “The market” isn’t going to prepare us for the effects of climate change. And the dominant, wealthy industries that fund the Republican Party – like oil and coal and Wall Street – are going to fight efforts to stop putting carbon into the air as well as the higher wages that will accompany the resulting full employment.

Along with a national effort to get our infrastructure up to par, we also need a national effort to address climate change:

  1. Prepare for the impacts of climate change. Hurricane Sandy’s effect on New York City was a warning shot of what’s to come. This is a massive infrastructure effort to bolster ports, levees (especially in coastal areas), and other assets. It will also require enhanced disaster preparedness.
  2. Restructure our energy systems to cut the amount of carbon we put into the air. We have to move away from fossil fuels. This means an all-out effort to build wind, solar and other alternative energy sources. This effort will create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
  3. Retrofit buildings and homes to be energy-efficient. This is a massive effort to insulate walls, install double-paned windows, close up leaks, paint roofs white, and the rest of the things we need to do to stop wasting energy.

Employment Creates Employment

These efforts alone – infrastructure, climate preparedness, transitioning from burning carbon and retrofitting for energy efficiency would create million of jobs. And these efforts would lay the foundation for the economy to boom in the future. But the jobs they create would also create jobs. People would be going to stores. Companies would be buying supplies.

Employment creates employment.

Republicans Love High Unemployment

Republicans just love high unemployment. High unemployment means lower wages and scared people.

How many times have Republicans been able to push their policies through by sing the “create jobs” myth? “Tax cuts create jobs” – they don’t. “Government spending kills jobs” – look at the stimulus jobs chart above. And on it goes.

High unemployment means job fear. Corporate conservative types use job fear as a wedge to get what they want. “Accept a pay cut or we’ll move your job to China.” They also use it to get policies they want. “Give us a tax break or we’ll move our company.”

It Is Time To Demand Full Employment

It is time to demand that our government create full employment. We were able to fight back against Social Security cuts. We were able to fight back against tax cuts for the rich and their corporations. We were able to fight for gay marriage and LGBT rights. We are fighting them on climate. We are fighting for women’s pay and health. It is time to demand full employment, too.

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