I don’t know if this writer has heard of MMT, but he calls for an MMT-style “jobs guarantee.”
It remains as silly as ever.
Lately some have promoted the notion of a Universal Basic Income (UBI). To the extent that a UBI were funded by redistributing wealth from those at the top to those below – a principle that is by no means guaranteed by the concept – a UBI could be a positive reform. But a UBI is no substitute for a guarantee of jobs for all. Why not?
Because labor is power. The only power that can counter the concentrated riches of the ruling oligarchs is the collective organization of millions of every-day working people, who produce all of society’s wealth. The root of working class power is the fact that the labor of millions of people generates the riches enjoyed by those at the top, as well as the considerably smaller share currently allocated to the majority. By withholding their labor en mass, working people have ultimate veto power over any government policy. Guaranteeing jobs for all strengthens the ties of working people to production, maximizing the number participating in the labor force and, thus, the number who have a hand on the lever of society’s productive apparatus. A UBI by itself, by contrast, does nothing to reinforce people’s connection to work – that is, to the fundamental engine of wealth creation.
This comment makes four basic errors.
 Since the U.S. government does not run on loans or on tax revenue, there is no need to fund a UBI by “redistributing wealth from those at the top to those below.” We can simply create the money. The rich would never allow redistribution anyway.
 Power rests not with labor, but with money, capital, and ownership. This is why the 1% rule laborers. Give workers a UBI, and they will have more power. At least they will not have to submit to awful jobs with rock-bottom pay. They can wait until they find better jobs. They will not need employers as much.
 Ever-increasing automation and self-service operations are making workers more irrelevant in any case. Furthermore, actual unemployment is much higher than the official figure. For every worker that strikes, there are ten workers eager to take his job (assuming the job has not already been taken by a robot).
 The writer does not understand the difference between the financial economy (i.e. Wall Street) and the real economy (i.e. Main Street). He says that, “every-day working people produce all of society’s wealth.” No. This may have been true a century ago, but most wealth today (or at least most of the money) is made in the financial economy, which has little use for workers, and is also made by ownership, meaning the lower classes must pay rent whether or not they have jobs.
The author lives in a nostalgic past when rich people needed workers far more than they need workers today.
In addition, the rate of any UBI will necessarily be too low. There is a built-in imperative for a UBI to be small enough to encourage people to work. In order to induce people to work at all, the UBI has to be inadequate (or “barely adequate”) to live on by itself. But in the absence of guaranteed jobs for all, “encouraging people to work” means compelling them to compete for an insufficient number of low paying positions. When the supply of labor exceeds its demand in available jobs, wages are driven down, all other things being equal. And if the UBI is to be low enough to encourage people to work, it must ultimately follow wages downward. So, contrary to the assertion of UBI boosters that it would exert upward pressure on wages, a UBI without a job guarantee is just as likely to lead to a race to the bottom.
Wrong. This author, like all “jobs guarantee” proponents, hates ordinary people. He thinks that the lower classes are all lazy, and that they would sit around doing nothing if they had a UBI. In reality the Mincome experiment in Canada proved that people with a UBI tend to work more, not less. People with more freedom and flexibility become more daring and enterprising. With fewer money worries, they have more spiritual energy. And since they would be less desperate for jobs, employers would have to raise salaries to get workers.
Suppose you are working for minimum wage, and suddenly you are given a UBI equal to the minimum wage. Would you stop working? No, you would enjoy the doubling of your salary, and you would have more money to spend. This would boost the real economy. The rich don’t want this because, in a world where money equals power, the rich want the lower classes poor.
In today’s automated world, power rests not with physical labor, but with money, and with spirit — i.e. the freedom to dream, explore, experiment, create, and innovate.
This author wants mass strikes so workers can get more money. I say just give workers more money via Universal Social Security.
A UBI is also susceptible to other kinds of manipulation. If a UBI is used to justify cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment compensation and other social programs, it’s all too easy for the programs replaced to be inadequately covered by the UBI, or for some sectors of the population to benefit at the expense of others.
A UBI could not be used to justify any cuts if this author (and most other people) accepted the facts about federal finances. But why face facts when you can escape into the “jobs guarantee” dream world?
A UBI can be used to pit employed workers against those without jobs. And, a UBI would do little to address conditions on the job or provide more than a palliative remedy for the unjust distribution of gains from increased automation and productivity.
Huh? With a UBI, if there are not enough jobs, you can survive without them. If the rich continue to get richer, at least you won’t be starving on the street.
A job guarantee is different. It would establish a principle that strengthens the hand of working people as a whole. And the concept of “jobs for all” is automatically adjustable: As productivity or the relative size of the work force increases, the workweek can be reduced from 30, to 25 or fewer hours to spread the remaining work around. That’s what a rational society, freed from profit-driven tyranny would do.
A UBI would also provide freedom from profit-driven tyranny. The “jobs guarantee” is like Russia-gate. It sounds plausible on the surface, but when you look at the particulars, they all dissolve. There are too many questions.
The next time some pundit or politician tells you we can’t guarantee jobs for all, recognize that they’re playing you for a chump. They’re drawing an artificial box and counting on you not thinking outside it. Remind them that their assertion is only true if profits are prioritized over human needs. Explain that 30-for-40 solves the problem handily, at great benefit to the vast majority. And who knows? With guaranteed jobs for all, even narrow-minded pundits and politicians might be able to find socially useful work.
This author is the one in an artificial box. He thinks like a peasant. He thinks that money is scarce, that people are lazy, and that worker strikes still have meaning.
Ironically, some highly paid CEOs, (especially in the high-tech industries) agree that with increasing automation, we need a UBI.
We can’t guarantee jobs for all, and we don’t need to. We need a basic income guarantee.
TRIVIA: If you have to go to jail in the USA, which is the worst place to be? I was a state prison guard for 2.5 years. Everyone who has been in “the system” will know what I’m talking about. Here they are, starting from the worst.
 City jail
 County jail
 Privatized state penitentiary
 State penitentiary
 Federal prison
City and county jails are awful because they are always starved of money, and must therefore scrimp wherever they can. Privatized jails are awful because their owners want to cut costs in order to boost profits as much as they can. State pens are slightly better, since people are there for long terms, and facilities are more permanent.
The best in terms of food quality and living conditions are federal penitentiaries because, being federal institutions, they have limitless money. If you doubt this, ask anyone who has been in a federal pen to compare it to the other places. Jobs are available, but inmates don’t work for private contractors. Below, federal inmates sew uniforms for U.S. soldiers. Again, work is a privilege. Note how they don’t wear the orange jump suits. Everything in the federal pen is more professional. Even the Bureau of Prisons web site is the best of any prison in terms of ease of use.
Some federal pens offer college courses. Most federal inmates are there for money-related crimes such as credit card fraud, bank fraud, bank robbery, organized crime, corrupt cops, corrupt public officials, etc. You rarely find rapists, murderers, etc. However inmates cannot get packages from outside, nor have conjugal visits with spouses.
The one exception to this might be Alcatraz, a maximum security prison that operated from 1934 to 1963 on an island that was only 22 acres which, if it was a perfect square, would only mneasure 692 x 692 feet. Alcatraz was shut down because its structures had deteriorated from wind and salt air.
Another exception are people like Joaquín Guzmán Loera (“El Chapo”) who are tortured in federal prison because they made fools of corrupt politicians. El Chapo is in solitary confinement in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal prison in lower Manhattan. His cell light is always left on, and he is fed through a slot in the door. There is no clock and no window, so he doesn’t know if it is night or day. He is let out one hour a day for solitary exercise in another cell that contains one treadmill and one stationary bicycle. On weekends he is not allowed out at all.
(Among average people in Mexico, Guzmán is a hero.)