Bernie Sanders is back, this time with a job-guarantee proposal: Every American would be assured a job with the federal government (working, for instance, in infrastructure or child care) paying $15 an hour, along with the "retirement, health, and sick and annual leave benefits" received by all federal employees.
Sanders' proposal is, for the time being, more conceptual than concrete. "The goal is to eliminate working poverty and involuntary unemployment altogether," said a pro-proposal economist at the New School — which is both forward and backward looking, in that it's reminiscent of the New Deal: "This is not a radical idea," the economist added. "It was well-couched in the Democratic platform that existed during [FDR's terms]. I'm glad Democrats are trending back to their roots." The plan would indeed create millions of jobs and raise the overall standard of living, but ...
How to pay for it? There of course is the rub, as with most of Sanders' proposals. A spokesman said the plan had not yet undergone a cost estimate or funding-path analysis, saying those are still in the works. Citing a similar proposal drafted for the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Vox opted for understatement: "It would be expensive." In fact its price tag would "[rival] the size of Medicare," wrote Vox, "which will cost $707 billion this year." (A Sanders-something jobs program is estimated at $543 billion.)
At least two other presidential hopefuls are on board with the Vermont senator's plan, which signals a rather strong-left, Democratic 2020. One of them, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, asked the age-old question a week ago:
Because one way or t'other, Republicans are in charge until 2021 — that's why — and Republicans don't give a damn about "regular Americans" or bettering local communities. There are far too many plutocrats in dire and desperate need; so desperately needy, they're willing to fork over millions of dollars to Republican officeholders to improve their impoverished lot.
The other Dem vying for the early-stage, activist primary vote is Sen. Cory Booker. Last week he proposed The Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act, which would create a three-year pilot program — again, similar to Sanders' — for 15 local areas, both urban and rural. I expect other Democratic hopefuls to sign on to vague federal jobs programs, which, any way one cuts them, will still be more explicit than Trump's vaporous jobs humbug of 2016.
The appeal of Sanders' proposal (its personal appeal, I should say) is that it gets back to Rooseveltian basics, which are too often dismissed by pundits as hopelessly obsolete. We haven't the money for them, privatization is the future, the 20th century is by definition outdated, they say. To which I say, Joe Bidenlike, malarkey. Forty years of Republican misrule and its dunderheaded supply-sideism don't obviate a return to humane, sensible, middle-class economics. We can still save ourselves. The other appeal of Sanders' (and others') plan is that as conceptual-over-concrete as it is, it's still more solid than such unachievables as single payer and free college. In time, those will come. But first will come a guaranteed jobs program of some federal ilk.
Because it gets back to basics: New Dealism, my first political love. (So perhaps mine eyes are blinded.)