Could Guaranteed Government Jobs Close the U.S. Wealth Gap?

There’s been an ongoing debate on the left about the relative merits of universal basic income versus a government-guaranteed jobs program. Both options have their merits, and either policy would be a huge step forwardin terms of reducing poverty and improving the economic and social health of the nation.

Rather than pushing one strategy at the expense of the other, I would suggest supporting any bill or movement thatcombats income inequality. But lately the idea of a government jobs program has been gaining traction – and one advantage of this approach is becoming obvious: It’s hard for Republicans to shoot thispolicy down.

With midterms and the 2020 presidential race on the horizon, the basic political salability of the program is a major advantage. It’s been noted that a number of potential Democratic presidential candidatesfor 2020 have either explicitly mentioned a government jobs program or have usedsimilarlanguage.

A lot of today’s most prominent, wealthy Republicans don’t really support this kind of program — but it’s also pretty hard to argue againstthe policy without opening themselves up to criticism. Traditional conservative thinking lauds “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” approaches, and decries an overlarge social safety net,claiming that it encourages laziness.

The basic assumptions of this view are in conflict with the facts, but it’s nevertheless popular with a certain kind of politician –generally the kind that never had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Many GOP politicians have supported work requirements for those receiving any kind of social assistance, including food stamps — and, in fact, this is one aspect of a partisan bill now working its way through the House. But the idea of the government promising employment to any personin need of a job isn’t a stepthat Republicans have been willing to take. It’s not the cost, as any honest assessment will reveal.

And common sense reveals as much: Surely, if the patchwork services provided through government and private funding of nonprofits, government assistance programs and other sources were to be replaced by a job with a living wage, how could we possibly be worse off? The only difference is that more work is beingaccomplished and more dignity afforded society’s most-overlooked members.

Some Republicans argue that everyone should be working to support themselves and their families without relying on the government for hand-outs — but they have no response when citizens come armed with facts that full-time work at livable wages is not always available. Trump and his cronies — including millionaire and soon-to-be-retired House SpeakerPaul Ryan– argued that good jobs and working/middle class tax relief were their priority, yet they gavemost tax cuts to the extremely wealthy, with absolutely no strings attached.

Ryan and his ilk would like to imply that government is wasteful and inefficient compared to the private sector. Meanwhile, Trump, who promised to drain the swamp, bragged about the loopholes he had taken advantage of as a sleazy businessman and would close after taking the presidency. But clearly the private sector has failed to providenew jobs, improved pay andan end tothe ever-widening equity gap.

For too long Republicans have won office by shouting “jobs, jobs, jobs” and thenonly catering to the rich. This time they may actually be forced to get on board with a genuine jobs policy — or move aside as a blue wave sweeps them out of office and finally fulfills that so easily-broken promise.

Photo credit: Tomas Castelaza

63 comments

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld4 months ago

Brian F.,
Yes, some households will end up with a higher tax bill. Namely, those with the most deductions and tax shelters. No, the tax cut did not disproportionately benefit the wealthy. The following report sheds more light on what tax cuts people can expect to receive. Overall, 65% of households can expect to see a tax, while 6% can expect an increase (the remainder will see no difference). By all accounts both the middle class and the wealthy got a tax cut, with over 80% receiving a tax cut, and less than 10% seeing an increase. Who benefits the most, depends on how you play with the numbers. The middle class can expect to see a 1.4% increase in after tax income, while the 1% can expect a 2.2% increase. If you compare the amount of tax paid, the 1% will see the least benefit, as their tax bill decreases an average of 4.5%, while the middle class will see a reduction of 9%.

https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/effect-tcja-individual-income-tax-provisions-across-income-groups-and-across-states/full

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Brian F
Brian F4 months ago

Dan B So the Republicans add 1.5 trillion dollars in debt to our already astronomical 20 trillion dollar debt, to produce a tax cut that will disproportionately benefit the wealthy, and you defend it? The Republicans always complain about the 20 trillion dollar debt, and yet they add 1.5 trillion dollars to it. This demonstrates how corrupt the Republicans and this crook Trump are. BTW corporate CEO pay is 373 times the average worker and getting worse. The average S&P 500 company CEO made 373 times the salary of the average production and non-supervisory worker in 2014, up from 331 times in 2013, according to the AFL-CIO.
www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/senate-passes-tax-bill_us_5a21da79e4b0a02abe91412e
https://www.cnbc.com/2015/05/18/why-corporate-ceo-pay-is-so-high-and-going-higher.html

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Brian F
Brian F4 months ago

Dan B You're the one here who is putting out false rhetoric. This crook Trump promised a tax cut for the middle class, and instead gave a tax cut to billionaires like himself. The big winners in the GOP bill that the Senate recently passed, are corporations and the wealthy. Trump himself ― a self-proclaimed billionaire ― stands to gain millions through the elimination of certain taxes (though we don’t know exactly how much because Trump won’t release his tax returns). Far from being a middle-class tax cut, the measure is a massive corporate giveaway, a bill that recycles decades of Republican ideology on trickle-down economics and trusts that executives will hand over their new gains to average-income workers. For most Americans, the legislation is still indeed ― at least in the short term ― a tax cut. Those cuts are due in large part to Republicans approving $1.5 trillion in added debt over the next 10 years. But of that pie, the wealthy disproportionately benefit, and some households could wind up with higher tax bills. The richest 20 percent of households reap 90 percent of the benefit of the tax cuts over that time period, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/senate-passes-tax-bill_us_5a21da79e4b0a02abe91412e

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld4 months ago

Brian F.,
You need to stop with your false rhetoric about the tax cut. It benefits the vast majority of people who pay federal income tax. The only ones who will see a tax increase are those with extensive tax deductions, which have been eliminated. A recent survey by Equilar found that the median CEO pay was 140 times the median worker pay. This survey include many of the largest corporations, and only includes 356 companies. As more corporations are included in the total, the ratio falls.

http://www.equilar.com/press-releases/94-equilar-ceo-pay-ratio-survey-results.html

Yes, Bernie is the most popular, but part of that is the fact the belongs to neither the Republican nor Democratic party.

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Brian F
Brian F4 months ago

Eric Corporate CEO pay averages 300 times worker pay. This pay disparity is way to high. The fact that you would defend this, is sickening. We also need to raise taxes on the rich. The horrible Republican tax plan that you support, only benefits the rich. Austerity means cutting back on badly needed programs. We all live within our means, and the poor don't need a lecture from you. Stop embracing failed Ayn Rand Republican policies that only favor the wealthy. You sound like that crook Paul Ryan who is extremely wealthy, and only cares about the rich. Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America. It's time you educated yourself about his popular policies.

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Eric Lees
Eric Lees4 months ago

@Brian
"Also lowering corporate CEO pay from 300 times worker pay to 5 times worker pay will help our workers. The greedy CEO of Walmart makes 20 million dollars a year while the Walmart workers make $19,000 a year, and live in poverty. This needs to change. Nobody can survive on the low pay that most jobs pay today because these greedy CEO's are taking too much money."

Yes your favorite cherry picking again. Your only looking at the extremes, most CEOs do not make that much. The same can be said of actors, professional athletes, musicians.

And what do you think would be the consequences of a blanket forced upper pay limit?

Think, don't just regurgitate Leftist rhetoric!

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Eric Lees
Eric Lees4 months ago

@Brian
"The government put people to work in the Great Depression, and it needs to do that again. "

Government intervention is what caused the great depression greatly prolonging the suffering. Plus they actually had a surplus so were able to ramp up government spending. We can not do that today.

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Eric Lees
Eric Lees4 months ago

@Brian F
"Eric Austerity failed in Spain and never works. Instead we need to cut our bloated military budget, and use that money to create a government jobs program that employs people rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and building low cost housing for the poor and homeless. "

Brian, why do you refuse to educate yourself on economics? How many times have we been through this?

Austerity, is living within your means. If you or I overspend and max or credit cards at some point we have to under spend and pay down those credit cards. That is Austerity. It's no different for government, yes the FED inflation can allow them to kick the can down the road for a while but eventually the bills come due.

Where does all the money come from?
How long can we keep the credit cards maxed out and keep getting new credit cards?
At some point the rest of the world is going to cut off our credit and the cost to borrow is going to skyrocket. Yes we need drastic cuts to military as I've said many times but we can not afford to grow the welfare state either.

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Brian F
Brian F4 months ago

Paul B We spend 700 billion a year on our military, and have 900 world wide military bases. We could cut military spending to 300 billion a year, cut our military bases to 30, and use 400 billion to put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling bridges and roads, building solar power plants and wind farms, and building houses for the homeless. Why do Republicans like you support Trump's horrible tax plan that only benefits the wealthy, and the USA's bloated military budget? Republicans like you and corporate Democrats are the problem with this country, because you have no vision. This is why we need a third party and Jill Stein.

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Paul B
Paul B4 months ago

IT will never work. It seems like a plan of shifting one kind of freebie for another while adding layers of overhead and additional expenses to manage all these new government workers. Those that don't want to work still won't work and get the same freebies they always did. This is no incentive to work, its just incentive to get more free stuff.
We don't have the money, without raising taxes to pay for this program. And the ones who pay the most will be the middle class, lowering their incomes. Too many Dem policies aren't about raising living standards for everyone, its about redistributing middle incomes to lower incomes so everyone is poorer.

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