The Job Guarantee: A Series of Contradictions

H/T Charles ‘Kondy’ Kondak

This analysis (it may turn out to be the first of my own series) will be based on the latest Proposal from the Levy Institute (4/18/18) entitled: “Public Service Employment: A Path to Full Employment” (PSE) which is linked below.

Let me begin with a little background. The “Public Service Employment: A Path to Full Employment” is the third rebranding of the Job Guarantee (JG) of which I’m aware. I have seen some formal academic work on it dating back to the mid-90s and beyond, chiefly by Paul Davidson of the University of Tenneesee.

The first popularization of a guaranteed Federally funded job I saw was in 2011 during the depths of the Great Recession. It was called the Federal Government as the “Employer of Last Resesort (ELR)”. It had a more transitional and temporary flavor to it. The suggested wage for the ELR was a very modest $8/hr in 2011, with some minimal benefits. At $8/hr most would likely have qualified for existing Federal Social Safety Net Programs, like Medicaid. We could have loosened the income restrictions for other Federal programs like food assistance, and increased the amount, but in my opinion we should be doing that anyway.

For a 40hr work week $8/hr amounts to Gross Earnings of $320/wk and would not be a huge threat to the current Unemployment Insurance program as the ELR wage is quite substantially lower than the maximum unemployment benefit in my State ($400/wk).

Actually, this incarnation is quite good and doesn’t come with many of drawbacks of the later more robust Job Guarantee proposal, especially if the temporary nature of the ELR is emphasized. This ELR proposal actually augments the current Social Safety Net, not threaten it. One has to wonder if the author who wrote the proposal, Warren Mosler, had this in mind when outlining his ELR proposal.

The next incarnation was a massive expansion of the ELR. It became known as the Job Guarantee. I won’t get into much detail as the link to the new rebranding of the JG called: “Public Service Employment: A Path to Full Employment (PSE)” report covers it. Briefly though, the JG wage is set at a “living wage” with liberal benefits. A person could stay in the Job Guarantee Program as long as they wanted, selecting from a smorgasbord of jobs at the one stop Employment Office. To quote the Eagles, “You could check in and never leave”. And if you didn’t like your JG assignment or grew tired of it you could select another.

This brings us to the first contradiction of the study. It begins right off the bat with the title: “”Public Service Employment: A Path to Full Employment (PSE)”. I spent almost my entire career working in State Government in Public Service Employment, it’s called a Civil job. Why are we talking about creating a second sub-class of Civil Service Worker with the PSE. A sub-class second rate Civil Servant. Current Civil Servants get little or no respect by some already. Who wants to be a clerk at the DMV? A job funded by Government is a Civil Service job, period!

Anyone hired temporarily or not should be hired into the existing Civil Service System at the current wage scale. That is to say a Civil Engineer hired temporarily should be paid the existing the wage scale for that position. The State does have some Temporary CE positions left, but not nearly as many as in the past. Goodness knows my State and the country could use Temporary Civil Engineers working for the Public Purpose. This goes all the way down the Civil Service job skill and pay scale, like teacher aides. Don’t freaking insult Private sector workers Civil Workers with your 15/hr, $600/wk JG job. Which by the way is higher than the maximum Unemployment Benefit in my State. Say Good-bye to the Unemployment Insurance Program so don’t claim the PSE will not replace the current Social Safety Net, but be an add-on.

To think otherwise is living in a fantasy world!

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