National Jobs Guarantee
Massive disruptions in our economy are coming thanks to climate change and automation, and because our corporate-controlled politics can't see past the next election cycle or the next quarterly report, the United States isn't ready. According to a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute, between 16 million and 54 million Americans may need to change occupational categories by 2030 due to automation alone, to say nothing of the jobs disruptions coming from changes in the energy economy and displacements caused by climate change.
The same McKinsey report warned that automation would worsen income inequality unless we make wise policy choices about public spending.
When millions of people are unemployed, underemployed, or employed in jobs without living wages, we all suffer.
College for All will be essential to ensuring that people can acquire new skills and education, but it won't be enough on its own, especially since we will face a disruption more forceful than the Industrial Revolution. To be prepared for massive job losses and churn in the labor force, we need a national jobs guarantee.
The concept of a national jobs guarantee is simple: utilizing and expanding upon the existing network of federal one-stop employment centers, the federal government would maintain a "bank" of worker-ready projects solicited from municipalities and local NGOs and other groups in each community. The projects would be administered locally, but funded by the federal government.
The jobs filled by the national jobs program fulfill a public purpose, and would favor jobs that can't be easily automated away, such as infrastructure jobs, "care" jobs, neighborhood cleanup, and public works . And, if the job banks prioritize work necessary to transition to a carbon-free energy economy, we can create good-paying jobs that can help mitigate the climate crisis. The jobs bank could be bolstered by deep investments needed in home weatherization to help increase energy efficiency and bring down short-term carbon emissions.
The federal government would set the minimum pay and benefits for jobs administered through this program, and by paying people a living wage ($15/hour, indexed to inflation), the program would inject wage competition into the job market and buoy all wages and benefits as employers worked to attract workers.
It's imperative that we get ahead of the massive changes coming to the workforce due to automation and climate change. A national jobs guarantee, along with College for All, can help us prepare.
This proposal draws heavily from the work of Dr. Pavlina R. Tcherneva, Associate Professor and Chair at the Department of Economics at Bard College.