The Answer to the Unemployment Problem Is More Jobs

By L. Randall Wray

Dean Baker, everyone’s favorite progressive economist (mine, too), has an interesting take on our unemployment problem.

Give more paid vacations.

The idea is that if all the employed work less, employers will need to hire the unemployed to produce what the already employed won’t be producing while sunning themselves on Florida’s beaches.

Look, I’m all for shorter work weeks. It is ridiculous that labor’s push somehow got stuck a century ago at the 40 hour work week in the USA. Employed Americans work more hours per year than just about any other workforce on the planet.

lrw1

But, as Joan Robinson once declared, the only thing worse than working as a wage slave is to be unemployed. Just ask the Italians, who now have the highest unemployment rate since they started keeping records. Thanks to the EMU and German fiscal rectitude!

I see shorter work days and more paid vacations as a progressive goal to humanize the work place. More time to enjoy one’s family, recreation, and the arts. More time for self-improvement and community involvement. More time for our wage slaves to enjoy the life of leisure long pursued by the leisure classes.

However, last on my list of arguments for a shorter work week would be the claim that it will create more jobs for the unemployed.

“Job sharing” as a cure for employment makes as much sense as “sandwich sharing” as a cure for the problem of hunger.

As my colleague Pavlina Tcherneva points out, for every social problem except unemployment, progressives advocate a direct solution.

How do you solve the problem of lack of access to healthcare? The progressive advocates single payer.

(Not, of course, Obamacare, which is just a scheme to turn more of your income over to Wall Street’s insurance industry.)

Hunger? Food stamps.

Homelessness? Public housing.

Old age poverty? Social Security.

But Unemployment?

More vacations. Pay the employed not to work.

Unemployment compensation. Pay the unemployed not to work.

Or, more ludicrously, BIG (basic income guarantee). Pay everyone not to work.

What is missing? Jobs. The unemployed want jobs. But progressives will not give them jobs.

Progressives offer hand-outs to the unemployed. Or paid vacations to the employed. Or BIG to everyone!

But no jobs for the unemployed.

Why not? Progressives offer up a variety of excuses. The most common argument against creating jobs for everyone who wants to work is that this is not politically feasible in the USA.

Why? Oh, it would cost too much. Estimates put the cost of a job guarantee with a living wage at 1% to 3% of GDP. Progressives argue you’d never get that much spending through Congress.

Of course, the federal government alone already spends about 3.4% of GDP on anti-poverty programs—mostly to deal with poverty that is in large measure caused by unemployment, involuntary part-time unemployment, and poverty-level wages paid by the nation’s undertakers like Wal-Mart.

lrw2

Of course, that 3.4% does not eliminate poverty; indeed it barely even scratches the surface. As we’ve ramped up social spending, the only group that has seen a significant reduction of poverty rates is the nation’s seniors—thanks to Social Security.

I do not begrudge our seniors their Social Security. Reduction of poverty among our aged is a shining achievement of Roosevelt’s New Deal.

But we’ve failed all other groups—most notably Americans of working age and their children.

lrw3

Why? Because we are too afraid to push for jobs-for-all.

Instead, our progressives dismiss job creation and push instead for the supposedly more politically palatable paid vacations, unemployment compensation, and BIG.

Call me crazy, but I think that Americans are far more likely to line up behind paying people to work, than behind a scheme to pay people for more vacations.

Especially if a job at a living wage would eliminate the need for most social spending plus huge subsidies and tax breaks already paid to businesses–trying to coax them to create a job or two.

In one stroke, a job guarantee at a living wage not only eliminates the need for most anti-poverty spending, but it also ensures private sector jobs will pay decent wages. And it eliminates the myriad of public policies that impoverish our local governments as they give tax breaks and subsidies trying to bribe corporations to relocate their factories and warehouses.

Baker points to Germany as an example of the successful use of work-sharing to prevent unemployment from rising. The government pushes firms to reduce hours worked by employees, and then makes up lost wages by essentially using funds that would have gone to pay unemployment benefits. As a result, Germany’s unemployment rate is only 5%–obviously very much lower than the average rate across all of its EMU neighbors.

Nice story, but Baker ignores the real reason for Germany’s success. Germany has pursued the most ruthless “beggar thy neighbor” policy the world has ever seen. It has held its own wages constant since unification, destroying industrial production throughout the rest of the EMU. In other words, Germany simply exported all of its unemployment.

So America is supposed to follow that strategy? To whom should we export our unemployment? Mexico? Canada? This will be much harder since they have not joined a US Dollar Union. Germany’s advantage is that its neighbors cannot depreciate their currencies since they’ve adopted the same Euro.

I’ve noticed that in many of his pieces, Baker mentions dollar depreciation as a possible solution to America’s unemployment problems. The idea is that if the dollar fell against the Euro and the Chinese RMB, we could capture some of the prized manufacturing jobs.

Indeed, “bring back factory jobs” is a nearly universal progressive rallying cry.

I was recently at a conference in Europe where an economist from a highly respected US progressive think tank made exactly that argument. I decided to play along with her. OK, I asked, how many factory jobs do you think we could bring back from China if the RMB appreciated significantly?

“3 million.” Well, I responded, we need about 25 million jobs.

“Yes but there will be a multiplier—the 3 million factory jobs will create demand for output of other sectors.”

Right, I said; so let us say the effect is double—we get 6 million jobs total. That leaves us 19 million short—give or take some millions. What about the rest?

“Well, it is a start.”

I decided this was a chance to talk about a job guarantee…. What about providing a job for everyone who wants to work, at decent pay?

“That’s a nonstarter. With the Republican Congress coming in, you’ll never get that through.”

OK, wait a minute. So you are arguing that we have a better chance of getting the Chinese to appreciate their currency in order to destroy their own manufacturing sector to the benefit of American jobs?

“Uhhmmm. Yes.”

You mean that the progressive position is that it is better to lobby Chinese politicians to act in the interest of the American people, than it is to attempt to lobby American politicians to act in the interest of their own voters?

“Uhhmmmm.”

Such is the sorry state of American progressives. They dismiss the political feasibility of the obvious in favor of supporting second- or third-best solutions with zero chance of success.

To be sure, I am not claiming that a job guarantee is an easy sale. It is hard. It is damned hard.

But it is far more consistent with American values. As readers know, I’m a big fan of George Lakoff.

As Lakoff says, “Cognitive scientists study how people really think – how brains work, how we get ideas out of neurons, how framing and metaphorical thought work, the link between language and thought, and so on. But other academic fields have not been using these results, especially, political science, public policy, law, economics, in short, the main areas studied by progressives who go into politics. As a result, they teach an inadequate view of reason and “rationality.” They miss the fact that our brains are structured by hundreds of conceptual metaphors and frames early in life, that we can only understand what our brains allow, and that conservatives and progressives have acquired different brain circuitry with the consequence that their normal modes of reason are different. What progressives call “rational arguments” are not normal modes of real reason. What counts as a “rational argument” is not the same for progressives and conservatives.”

More paid vacations as a solution to our unemployment problem might seem “rational” to a progressive, but it violates “normal modes of reason”. How is taking more paid vacations contributing to our community? Why should government pay for your extra vacations?

Why won’t the unemployed go out and get their own jobs, rather than forcing me to share mine? How do I know my employer won’t just make me do 40 hours of work in 25 hours? What if Congress reneges on the promise to make up my lost pay? And what if my employer likes you more than me, so that I get sacked and you get my full-time job?

So here’s my puzzlement. Why won’t progressives try to help develop the moral framing to support jobs-for-all? At decent wages.

There is no better anti-poverty program than jobs for those who want to work. Offering a job is a hand-up not a hand-out. Working promotes community. It allows for shared prosperity. We all benefit when everyone works. It is consistent with American values.

We have a half-century of experience with hand-outs instead of hand-ups. Hand-outs have not reduced poverty. If anything, poverty is worse. Inequality is worse. Joblessness is worse.

Hand-outs are not consistent with American values. Hand-outs come with strings attached. Means testing. Drug tests. Sanctions on children. And hand-outs are always kept meagre, consistent with American values.

Putting our nation’s fate in the hands of Chinese politicians is not an answer, either. Truthfully, I do not believe the manufacturing jobs will come back to the US, no matter how high the RMB goes. China is losing millions of manufacturing jobs, too. There will always be a lower cost producer. And it won’t be the USA. In any event, robots take away more jobs than Chinese ever will.

We need policies consistent with American values of work, initiative, self-sufficiency, and productivity. We need policies that promote community-building. We need policies that are within the sovereign power of our own nation—which do not require other nations to operate against their own self-interest. We need policies that can be supported by progressives and conservatives alike. We need to find common ground.

Here’s Lakoff, again:

“Not everyone functions with just one worldview in every aspect of life. Many, if not most, people are primarily either strict or nurturant, but partly the other in some areas of life. I call them bi-conceptuals, since they have in their brains both worldviews – each inhibiting the other – and applying those worldviews to different ranges of issues. With respect to political issues, those who are mostly one, but partly the other, are called “moderates.” But there is no one shared moral or political ideology of the moderate. Moderates differ on what they are moderate about and what their primary worldview is.

The existence of bi-conceptuals is hopeful. Conservatives who hold some progressive policies that are governed by the nurturant worldview, can have that nurturant worldview appealed to and strengthened. But that requires hearing progressive language and thinking progressive thoughts that will strengthen the progressive worldview already there in his or her brain.

In personal interactions, as over the Thanksgiving table with conservative relatives or in your social or business life with colleagues and coworkers, the first thing to realize is that, for the most part, conservatives believe deeply that they are morally right, that they and other conservatives are operating from the right moral principles. They don’t believe that they are immoral, and they don’t believe that right and wrong don’t matter. As moral beings, they want to be treated with respect. And in personal relationships, respect is appropriate.

The question is whether they are bi-conceptual, whether they have partly progressive values. So turn the conversation to an issue defined by nurturance: What have you done, or are you doing, that helps other people or helps your community? What makes you feel good about it? And so on. If there is nurturance there, bring it out and magnify it, and respect it. Try to keep conversation focused on such issues. Don’t try to argue against their conservative positions, and certainly not in their language. Listen. Be patient.

If you must discuss political differences, just be positive, starting with your values and with how you understand freedom and how it arises from citizens working together to provide public resources for everyone. Use your language, not theirs. Stay respectful….

There are deep truths that are known about how brains work, how our unconscious minds work, and the effect of language on the mind and brain. Those are vital truths, because only by mastering and using them can you avoid the traps of laundry list truths, truths that don’t add up to the communication of general progressive values, truths that have given us a Democratic Party that seems not to stand for any overriding value. Lists of truths that are not made meaningful by values are destined to be ignored. Make truths matter. Wed truths to values.”

 

35 responses to “The Answer to the Unemployment Problem Is More Jobs

  1. Erick Borling

    I’ve been pining for a Randall Wray article! Hooray!

  2. And don’t forget: “We take care of our own!”

  3. “As moral beings, they want to be treated with respect. ”

    Lakoff is a smart guy. It’s something we’ve all heard before, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”, but it is almost universally ignored by Progressives when they argue against other points of view. Starting with “you’re evil” leaves no room for civil discussion and mutual understanding, much less compromise.

    The idea here, that people working is better than people paid not to work, would be very attractive to Conservatives, if you could only say it without first making the usual vicious personal attacks.

  4. Great stuff, as usual Randy. It is critical that we find the pathways into the various worldviews. There are fertile fields in conservative, Libertarian, and liberal fields – most people are genuinely interested in what helps people. We need new approaches to communicating the facts of MMT in metaphors that resonate with each group to give them a bridge to cross.

  5. Ben Johannson

    The job sharing thing sounds like fighting famine by going on a diet.

  6. Very nice article, Randy.

    I agree with you that the job guarantee would be an easier sell to Americans than the basic income scheme, as the JG is in line with Americans’ general favorable attitude toward the culture of work.

    Just one question: Is there any truth to the claim that a JG could harm private sector employment because a JG would result in employers being less inclined to retain workers during downturns (ie, a JG might absolve employers from keeping workers on payroll when it suits the needs of businesses)

    • Scott Fullwiler

      FWIW, in my simulations the JG had the opposite effect–in downturns, fewer people lost their jobs because the JG put a higher floor under the downturn.

    • I don’t think Scott entirely answered your question. My answer is that there is some truth to that idea since in a relatively small number of cases employers make sacrifices in order to retain employees even though retaining them is damaging to their business, and they are less likely to do that if there is a JG. However, this effect, is not a macro-level effect. It happens at the micro-level in a relatively small number of cases. At the macro level the floor on aggregate demand that would be created by the JG would be much more important on a system-wide basis than the absolution effect you mention. The floor on demand, much higher than that provided by unemployment insurance or a BIG for that matter would prevent many jobs from being lost in the first place, and that’s the result reflected in Scott’s simulation.

  7. “I do not begrudge our seniors their Social Security. ”

    Which rather suggests the obvious other solution – lower the retirement age.

    I do find it amusing how mainstream economists moan endlessly about the problems of looking after an ageing population when there are millions in the unemployment queue.

    • Scott Fullwiler

      Yes. Brilliant.
      Job Sharing + Basic Income < JG + lower retirement age.

      Let the unemployed of today "share" the jobs of those that would be able to retire with a lower retirement age. Add a JG at a living wage and raise SS payments.

      • Pass the JG at a living wage averaging $16.00 per hour across the US and double SS payments. That would certainly get things going!

    • financial matters

      Yes, I think a more useful ‘BIG’ would be to offer the security of a decent retirement, single-payer healthcare and affordable education.

    • J Christensen

      The only problem I can see with this is that a lower retirement age might leave us with a real resource shortage by leaving certain industries short on skilled workers. Is it actually possible to move a signiicant portion of the existing workorce into retirement without consequence to the public good? Can we cherry pick which workers get to retire early?

      • financial matters

        I think alleviating financial panic by providing some basics is a good start. I think many people will want more than that.

        I think Jesse Myerson has some good ideas including :

        Guaranteed Work for Everybody

        Unemployment blows. The easiest and most direct solution is for the government to guarantee that everyone who wants to contribute productively to society is able to earn a decent living in the public sector. There are millions of people who want to work, and there’s tons of work that needs doing – it’s a no-brainer. And this idea isn’t as radical as it might sound: It’s similar to what the federal Works Progress Administration made possible during Roosevelt’s New Deal, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. vocally supported a public-sector job guarantee in the 1960s.

        Social Security for All

        But let’s think even bigger. Because as much as unemployment blows, so do jobs. What if people didn’t have to work to survive? Enter the jaw-droppingly simple idea of a universal basic income, in which the government would just add a sum sufficient for subsistence to everyone’s bank account every month. A proposal along these lines has been gaining traction in Switzerland, and it’s starting to get a lot of attention here, too.

        A Public Bank in Every State

        You know what else really blows? Wall Street. The whole point of a finance sector is supposed to be collecting the surplus that the whole economy has worked to produce, and channeling that surplus wealth toward its most socially valuable uses. It is difficult to overstate how completely awful our finance sector has been at accomplishing that basic goal. Let’s try to change that by allowing state governments into the banking game.

        There is only one state that currently has a public option for banking: North Dakota. When North Dakotans pay state taxes, the money gets deposited in the state’s bank, which in turn offers cheap loans to farmers, students and businesses. The Bank of North Dakota doesn’t make seedy, destined-to-default loans, slice them up inscrutably and sell them on a secondary market. It doesn’t play around with incomprehensible derivatives and allow its executives to extract billions of dollars. It just makes loans and works with debtors to pay them off.

        http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/five-economic-reforms-millennials-should-be-fighting-for-20140103

  8. “You mean that the progressive position is that it is better to lobby Chinese politicians to act in the interest of the American people”

    Careful Randy. You’ve just broken the unwritten code of conduct amongst economists – only ever look at an economy from that economy’s point of view and abstract away everything else into the God like concept knowns as ROW.

    Bringing American jobs back to the US is all about praying very hard to the God of ROW, which is a divine being that acts with a single mind, despite consisting of dozens of competing entities, and is never influenced by feedback loops.

  9. Macrocompassion

    The way our jobs are going, there will be more of them being paid less. Doesn’t that mean that the need to eliminate unemployment results in substituting it for somethging worse? — slavery!
    As we approach the problem of too much unemployment it must be recognized that this problem should not be isolated from the reductions in salary, so that the amount of money being exchanged for the work that is put into produce and services is comparatively less. In the longer run this means less demand for goods unless their prices are reduced in parallel to their total production cost plus profits. I don’t see this happening, most producers/capitalists/monopolists see the profit motive as dominat and share-holders as the ones to satisfy with higher dividends and not to meet potential demand, which is not being met.

  10. What if the unemployed lack jobs because of a skills gap? More vacations for the working will do nothing to solve that problem.

  11. Both houses of Congress are about to be controlled by the GOP. A Job Guarantee is fantasy while the servants of corporate America are in power.

  12. Great and important post Randy. Good to hear from you at NEP, especially on this topic.

    Something that struck me as I was reading it–especially as you discussed Lakoff’s work and its application in our day-to-day interactions–is that a “putting Americans to work doing useful things that help their neighbors and strengthen their communities” message seems likely to resonate with a good portion of “bi-conceptuals” that tend to lean conservative on a lot of issues (including economic ones).

    In my mind, this is tied to the word “dignity,” and Robert Fuller’s work related to it (see, for example: http://www.breakingranks.net/ ).

    I think it’s fair to say that most people, including “bi-conceptual conservatives,” can appreciate the “dignity of work” and the value of making a contribution to one’s community (local and/or national). My sense is that (“deficit fears” aside for the moment) only those so steeped in resentment, fear and prejudice that they can’t see others (e.g., of different races, genders, religions, sexual preferences) as human beings with inherent dignity (and worthy of being treated as such) would reject a Jobs Program that was grounded in the values of “human dignity,” “the dignity of work” and the social value (and just plain common sense) of “putting Americans to work doing useful things that help their neighbors and strengthen their communities.”

    And my guess is that the percentage of the population with this deeply ingrained inability to accept the dignity of “others” is small and getting smaller as time goes by. That’s good news, at least in the long-term (assuming us humans have a long-term to look forward to).

    From this perspective, what makes sense to me is a policy and communication strategy that STARTS with (and, as Randy suggests, stays grounded in) these dignity-based values and value statements. Once that shared sense of value is established (and maintained), the logical question is “how best can we make this a reality in today’s economy?”

    That’s where a clear and concise explanation of MMT–especially if it maintains this dignity-based value framing–can be especially potent. In my view that explanation should be as simple as possible and (at least initially) explain only as much key details as is necessary to elicit an “aha moment” regarding the fundamental difference between a sovereign currency issuer and “the rest of us” when it comes to terms like “spending,” “budget deficit,” “debt,” etc.

    Seems to me that, if those listening to an explanation of MMT and its policy relevance were pre-primed to listen through what Fuller might call a “dignitarian” emotional/perceptual filter, they would be more patient and receptive to explanations that initially and at various points in the explanation seem to conflict with their conservative “we need to stay within our budget” value frames (which my experience suggests are actually shared by a lot of mainly “liberal/progressive” citizens).

    Thinking about this reminds me of Ken Burns’ recently released “Roosevelts” documentary, especially the segments about FDR and Eleanor. I found their leadership and communication skills, exercised during a period filled with immense national challenges, deeply impressive and inspiring–and very relevant to today’s reality–and I suspect that most other viewers of the program did as well.

    In terms of language, I’d suggest leading with “putting Americans to work” rather than a “job guarantee.” Though the latter follows naturally and powerfully as MMT is explained, I think the former is more likely to travel unimpeded into the conceptual frameworks of bi-conceptuals who lean conservative in their reaction to words like “entitlements” and “guarantees” vs. “making your own way,” “nothing’s guaranteed except for death and taxes,” etc. This isn’t so much a matter of logic as it is a question of words that trigger value frames and emotional reactions…and, too often, the shutdown of logical thinking.

    For those who watched the Roosevelt series or are at least vaguely familiar with the New Deal’s history and significance, perhaps the message would be that, in today’s “modern monetary” system, we can now more fully realize the vision of the New Deal, an approach to public policy (and political leadership) that allowed this country to emerge from the Great Depression and a horribly destructive World War into a period of unprecedented expansion of prosperity.

    To the extent we can stimulate this “reclaiming and updating the New Deal” patriotic vision and harness its emotional power to the explanatory power of MMT, we can develop a public policy vision that is both rousing and rational, one that provides a potent alternative and antidote to the apathy, cynicism and pessimism bred by the “austerity is a harsh but necessary solution” school of economic policy.

    I think Randy’s post helps point us in that direction, both as an intellectual/political movement, and in our daily interactions with friends, family, colleagues, etc.

    • I agree with all this as a long-term strategy that will bring change. But I emphasize the long-term. We’re looking at 8 years at least to make a dent even if we follow this approach. We need actions that will bring home to people some of the core lessons of MMT about fiat money, the impossibility of involuntary Federal Government insolvency, and the lack of any need to issue debt in order to deficit spend. Those actions involve the Administration issuing one high value platinum coin with a face value of $100 Trillion now, and forcing the Fed to credit the Mint’s account with the$100 T. That will teach the lessons of fiat money, Federal Government solvency, and lack of any need to issue debt overnight. And when people see the debt subject to the limit being rapidly repaid that further lesson that the debt was always a faux problem will also be taught. After that the way will be open for a second New Deal because the political world will have shifted on its axis.

  13. Susan Anderson

    Interesting discussion!

    Right now there is a “job” for which the marketplace has demonstrated a strong need (both on the supply and demand sides): Internships. What if we were to relabel them “apprenticeships,” and subsidize the wages through a tax credit? and then take a comparable action at the high end of the experience span, and subsidize part-time “mentorships”?

    As for health care, cutting the age of Medicare eligibility would not only cut overall health care costs, it would do a lot to reduce age discrimination. There are lots of factors pushing against re-employment of 55+ workers, but the fear that they’ll drive up a company’s health care costs is one of the biggest.

    • “Right now there is a “job” for which the marketplace has demonstrated a strong need (both on the supply and demand sides): Internships. What if we were to relabel them “apprenticeships,” and subsidize the wages through a tax credit? and then take a comparable action at the high end of the experience span, and subsidize part-time “mentorships”?”

      First, “the marketplace” has shown a need for labor, not “interns.” However, since the economy is one in which we don’t have tight full employment, certain firms, against whom the minimum wage laws aren’t enforced, can persuade people who are well-educated and can’t find
      paid work in a field to take jobs at no pay or pay under the minimum wage by selling to prospective employees the idea that they will benefit in the future from the experience and qualifications they can claim after they’ve performed such internships.

      But the truth is that the firms involved do need these interns and they would pay a fair wage for them if the choice of the prospective “interns” were not either the internship or unemployment. In view of this I don’t think the JG should subsidize such firms and contribute further to their profits. What a JG program should do on the other hand is to pay a living wage and good fringe benefits for the labor of JG program enrollees to perform socially valuable work defined in collaboration with local non-profit organizations?

      Forget the law firms and their “interns.” The internships will disappear and the law firms will find the money to pay living wages to people they need to get their work done.

  14. Love it! Great post.

  15. I disagree that unemployment is the only instance where most progressives fail to offer a direct solution. Cap And Trade is a highly indirect solution to climate change.

  16. A couple of things occur to me with this talk about the difference between the conservative and liberal mind:
    1. It seems to me more like an an excuse for the inability to find common ground and hence, solutions to problems that need attention.
    2. Doesn’t the “phenomena” of conservative versa liberal cognition merrily represent a snapshot in time rather than a permanently fixed view; that is to say won’t changing circumstances over time alter perception in a substantial way? An example might be the way we view criminality since bankers decided that crime pays (and very well), don’t we all see this in a similar way regardless of whether one is conservative or liberal, that we agree it is wrong? Why has there been no discussion of this fungible property as it relates to the problems we face. Doesn’t perception change over time and is influenced by events. It is clear to me that political propagandists, and the sales and marketing types find it highly efficacious to make use of this fungibility of perception while we wring our hands.

  17. So many good comments, rather than replying to each one individually, let me just hit a few points. Very much agree with all Mitchell said. We need that kind of leadership! I think I agree with Gregory–am also skeptical of cap-and-trade but it isn’t my field. Susan: I’m sympathetic, but subsidies usually lead to substitution, not to new employment. Employers just replace current workers with the subsidized ones. Tyler: OK so you are in the “lobby China to help us out”. Good luck with that. Such defeatism is certainly defeatist and will lead to defeat. Hope you are not involved with policy making. Macropassion: A JG at living wage absolutely ensures your scenario CANNOT HAPPEN. Jonathon, Geoff and others: yes, help us work out the memes/metaphors/framing. Finally: Scott and Neil: sympathetic but not in agreement with earlier retirement. This is not about finance (of course) but real production. We need more, not less. Our super seniors (90+ age) will be taken care of our seniors (70+) and we ought to be employing them rather than relying on familial relations. Oh, Jonathon: personal attacks? Where? Who? There were none. As I said, Dean is my favorite progressive economist. I disagree with him on this one, however.

    • It’s not defeatism. It’s realism. I’m not involved with policymaking, but I am followed by Betsey Stevenson on Twitter and she only follows 140 people, so she sees my tweets. I tweeted this post to Dean Baker.

      Fifty million Americans are food insecure. We need to fix that as soon as possible. What do the Republicans love? Tax cuts. Democrats should try to get a huge tax cut for the middle class to President Obama’s desk.

  18. Brilliant as always Randy.

    You hit on why this is indeed such a tough sale…the 90s mentality in economics has taken grip so strongly even the true progressives still insist on needing high taxes to pay for it. I guess it could just be false ideology about how government spending works.

    I also love Dean Baker, and while I applaud the bold thought, you are right it’s simply not attacking the root issue. The job program also CAN be “sold” to more Americans than the BIG or Baker’s ideas…IF people can get past the scary idea of government doing something, and listen to how gov spending works, I believe most Americans will love, or at least favor, a job program over more welfare, or prime pumping. It can be sold to right and left, shame both seem unwilling to listen.

  19. Wow.

    When you drop the academic filigree and talk plainly to ordinary folk, you’re powerful. Love the ‘lock n’ load’.

  20. Randy, this post—and the discussion it has elicited—is inspirational! I sense a positive framework for the beginning of a transformative design. The insight that “bi-conceptuals” are the access point—and especially your suggestions about how to feel out and “nurture” their nurturing tendencies—is a powerful concept. Mitch Shapiro picked up and elaborated on that eloquently. This is a wonderful direction to go in. You’ve just given me a lot to think about….Thanks.

  21. justin synnestvedt

    Prof. Wray,

    I too am happy to see you back on NEP, with straight forward and clear proposals – especially your efforts to reframe discussions in a way that will encourage cooperation. Conservatives (like my deceased parents) are as genuine in their beliefs as progressives.

    You quoted George Lakoff. Let me remind your readers of his idea that a “strict father” is often a conservative ideal. Lakoff (and Elizabeth Wehling) discussed this 18 months ago, in TruthOut:

    “Conservatives hold a different moral perspective, based on an idealized notion of a strict father family. In this model, the father is The Decider, who is in charge, knows right from wrong, and teaches children morality by punishing them painfully when they do wrong, so that they can become disciplined enough to do right and thrive in the market. If they are not well-off, they are not sufficiently disciplined and so cannot be moral: they deserve their poverty. Applied to conservative politics, this yields a moral hierarchy with the wealthy, morally disciplined citizens deservedly on the top.” http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/9796-economics-and-morality-paul-krugmans-framing

    Yours truly,

    Justin Synnestvedt, old philosophy prof
    PS Did you get my book and letter I recently sent you at UMKC?

  22. Dr. Wray:

    I think you’d find these two books very relevant:

    _With Liberty and Dividends for All: How to Save Our Middle Class When Jobs Don’t Pay Enough_ (2014), by Peter Barnes

    _Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World_ (2014), by Jeff Madrick

    As I see them, the first book complements the jobs proposal and the second challenges the “free market” thinking that limits Barnes’ vision (essentially he assumes that correction of market defects is all that’s needed to get the country on track).

  23. Has anyone followed the Marion Barry news since his death? Lots of stories recounting how his programs gave poor DC residents their first jobs. Wish I could find out more info about it. Looks like it started with grants from the Dept of Labor in the 1970s then spread to filling firefighter, police, teacher, and other city positions. The result was Chocolate City.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/marion-barry-gave-them-jobs-on-thursday-they-were-first-in-line-to-give-their-gratitude/2014/12/04/a593a334-7be7-11e4-b821-503cc7efed9e_story.html?hpid=z12