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Bernie Sanders to Unveil Jobs Guarantee Plan

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Sen. Bernie Sanders will release a plan for the U.S. government to guarantee a job paying at least $15 an hour, along with health care benefits, to every American worker “who wants or needs one,” The Washington Post reports.

According to The Post, Sanders’ plan would divide the country into 12 regional districts. State and local governments would then submit project proposals to these districts. They would review the proposals and forward the ones they approve (all would offer medical leave and retirement options) to the Department of Labor.

The plan would also task the current 2,500 job training centers and employment offices throughout the country with connecting workers with job training and employment.

The Post continues:

A representative from Sanders’s office said they had not yet done a cost estimate for the plan or decided how it would be funded, saying they were still crafting the proposal.

Sanders joins two other rumored 2020 Democratic presidential contenders who have expressed support for the idea of a jobs guarantee. The push reflects a leftward move in the party’s economic policy, away from President Barack Obama’s use of public-private partnerships or government incentives to reshape private markets and toward an unambiguous embrace of direct government intervention.

Job guarantee advocates say their plan would drive up wages by significantly increasing competition for workers, ensuring that corporations have to offer more generous salaries and benefits if they want to keep their employees from working for the government. Supporters say it also would reduce racial inequality, because black workers face unemployment at about twice the rates of white workers, as well as gender inequality, because many iterations of the plan call for the expansion of federal child-care work.

“The goal is to eliminate working poverty and involuntary unemployment altogether,” said Darrick Hamilton, an economist. “This is an opportunity for something transformative, beyond the tinkering we’ve been doing for the last 40 years, where all the productivity gains have gone to the elite of society.”

The plan for universal employment is expected to face an uphill battle in the Republican-majority Congress.

“It completely undercuts a lot of industries and companies,” said Brian Riedl of the conservative-leaning think tank Manhattan Institute. “There will be pressure to introduce a higher wage or certain benefits that the private sector doesn’t offer.”

Ernie Tedeschi, an economist who served in President Obama’s Treasury Department, said: “It would be extremely expensive, and I wonder if this is the best, most targeted use of the amount of money it would cost.”

Regardless, the midterm elections are fast approaching, and proposals like Sanders’ could give left-leaning candidates a viable issue to promote in their campaigns. Sanders, an independent, is up for re-election and has been vocal on social media about his views on health care and social security in recent months.

The idea for a guaranteed job can be traced to the New Deal era, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt pitched a “Second Bill of Rights” to Congress in 1944, including the “right to a useful and remunerative job.”

Earlier this month, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted that instead of tax cuts, the Republicans might have tried investing in an employment plan. Sen. Corey Booker also recently announced the proposed Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act, which would function in a way similar to Sanders’ plan. Fifteen districts would be formed, each one guaranteeing workers jobs that pay at least $15 an hour.

“This is not a radical idea,” economist Hamilton said of the Sanders plan. “It was well-couched in the Democratic platform that existed during its heyday. I’m glad Democrats are trending back to their roots.”

Emily Wells
​Emily Wells is an Ear to the Ground blogger at Truthdig. As a journalist, she began as a crime reporter at the Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Press-Enterprise...
Emily Wells

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