The Case for a 21st Century New Deal – The Jobs Program

WPA 1The Economic Bill of Rights

FDR’s January 11, 1944 message to Congress:
...It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty. …”

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  • The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

One of the great American industrialists of our day — a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis — recently emphasized the grave dangers of “rightist reaction” in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop — if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called “normalcy” of the 1920s — then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.

I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights — for it is definitely the responsibility of the Congress so to do. Many of these problems are already before committees of the Congress in the form of proposed legislation. I shall from time to time communicate with the Congress with respect to these and further proposals. In the event that no adequate program of progress is evolved, I am certain that the Nation will be conscious of the fact…

That was 70 years ago
Today, the country faces a situation as bad or worse than the Great Depression of FDR’s time, and the political leaders will not act to fix it.

Instead of putting people to work, they want to argue the ideological merits of deficits while they cut social programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and unemployment benefits, still preserving tax cuts for the rich.

All this while people are losing their jobs and livelihoods, their homes, with a growing number of adults and children going hungry.

The political leaders have displayed a hypocritical, cynical, and callous attitude towards voters, blaming them for the problems, all the while defending the rich, big business, and their ruthless brand of winner-take-all capitalism.  It is clear for all to see now that they do not serve the people of this country.

We don’t have time for this anymore!  

It is time to make FDR’s plan for an Economic Bill of Rights for all citizens a reality.

We need a new approach rather than sending the same old tired dogs to Washington to give more handouts in the form of tax cuts, subsidies, and laws that benefit the rich and big business.

It is time to focus on the nation’s problem and its’ people.

The Jobs Program – How it Works
The NDP’s jobs program proposal is very different from the Republicans and Democrats. It creates 28 million jobs in a variety of public works programs and industry.  We have outlined the areas and the number of jobs to be added here and here.

This may not fix everything, but at least it is a major step in the right direction.

Instead of tax cuts and handouts for the rich and corporations, we need to invest in creating American jobs that can get people to work immediately.

That’s the only way.

People don’t have the disposable income to buy things, which causes weak demand and leads to companies laying off more people. 

The rich and big business have determined they do not want to hire Americans and invest in America; they want to send jobs to the lowest wage countries, collect their profits, and then hide their money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes.  They want all the tax advantages of being US-based, but none of the responsibility of being part of this country.  It is time to stop this.

This is how we will do it
All industry sector and related jobs (Auto, Aviation, Bicycle Initiative, Energy, Financial, High Speed Transportation, Media, Medicine, Pharmaceutical, Shipbuilding, Telecomm, and Utilities) will be home-grown businesses owned and operated by its’ employees and the government will maintain a stake in those companies until they are self-supporting. These companies will be non-profit and will provide much needed competition in the marketplace.

We specifically stake out certain industries like Auto, Aviation, Financial, Media, Medicine, Pharmaceutical, Shipbuilding, Telecomm, and Utilities that need competition in the marketplace.  In the Auto industry, they have spent decades fighting against higher fuel efficiency, pollution standards, and the switch to electric cars; they have no competition.  In Aviation, the market is controlled by a couple of big carriers, which is why prices and ridiculous charges keep going up; they have no competition.  In the Media industry, everything is controlled today by a handful of conglomerates and it is literally all the same stuff; there is no competition.  In Pharmaceutical, they charge ridiculous prices, hire doctors to recommend their products despite conflicts of interest, and then spend ridiculous amounts on advertising; there is no competition.

The rest of the jobs (Arts, Community Libraries, Education, Emergency, Environment, IP/Copyright, IRS, NASA, National Historical Preservation, National Infrastructure, Open Border initiative, Peace Corp/Americorps, Post Office, Public Defenders, and Regulation) will be direct or indirect government hires of public sector union employees. These are crucial services that need to be provided and performed in order to renew trust in the government and make people understand that we are doing the right thing.

Military Veterans will be able to find good-paying jobs in either area.

Companies currently in the marketplace will continue to operate in parallel with the new companies, but because of their unethical and bad behavior, people will start to turn to the new companies for products and services. This means existing companies will be forced to change, or abandon the US marketplace.

This is the investment we are proposing
Businesses owned and operated by bread-and-butter American workers, that are not beholden to Wall Street and do not have overpaid and underperforming CEOS and their appointed Boards. Over the long-term, the investment will pay off in security and stability for the country and its people.

This will be a 4-8 year plan with investment costs spread out primarily in the first 4 years. After that, the investment money can repaid.

All unions should take a stake in these new companies. It provides them with a secure strategy to grow union membership, help provide strategic & tactical direction, and take an interest in the new companies to provide American-made products and services. It also provides an opportunity to implement and evaluate a range of new ideas such as using the 28-hour workweek as full time to replace to the 40-hour workweek.

There are four primary reasons to use this approach
First, if we have learned anything the last 30+ years, it is that global corporations have no loyalty to the United States, and they especially have no loyalty to their workers, which are considered expenses to be cut. By making these employee-owned companies, we restore some trust, sanity, and ethical behavior to the business sector that has been sorely missing for a long time. They have had an extremely aggressive vendetta based on lies and underhanded methods against workers and unions while they stole people’s pensions and benefits to enrich themselves.

Second, there is a lack of competition in the marketplace in almost all sectors. We have witnessed a marketplace run by companies that have so much concentrated power, that in effect, they have raised the barriers to market entry so high that it is impossible to have any effective competition. Much of this power came from lobbying and getting laws passed that favor them. They can raise the prices on a whim, create shortages, and be as unresponsive to customers as they want. And the government in its current form endorses this behavior with a wink and a nod. Competition is exactly what they need.

Third, based on past experience, it would take too much effort and pose too much risk, financial and otherwise, to get existing companies to add new jobs. They are not going to do it based on self-interest, and their self-interest is not necessarily what’s best for the country. We could never be 100% certain they wouldn’t just take the money without following through on their end. They have demonstrated contracts don’t mean anything and they will break them whenever they like even if it means paying a small fine.

Last, corporations have demonstrated they can’t be trusted with their self-centered behavior. They have a warped view of capitalism they use to justify enormous CEO salaries and perks at the expense of everyone else. Many companies have engaged in criminal behavior without any significant punishment and small fines along with no admission of guilt. They have no loyalty to anyone, and therefore, deserve none from the people.

Enhancing Workplace Rights
If you look at the NDP’s platform on Personal Income and Workplace Rights here, you will notice it modernizes the workplace from top to bottom.

Most notably is the 28-hour work week. Considering technology advances, it is time to move on from the 40-hour workweek to one that offers more work-life balance (28 hours of work, 28 hours of free time).

Even though flex time has made inroads into the workplace the last couple of decades, it is usually followed by additional workloads on people as a result of layoffs, which means people are donating a lot of unpaid time under the guise of being classified as “management”.

To promote job security, the NDP has proposed:

  • Eliminate all H-1B work visas
  • Eliminate all “at will” workplace firings
  • Eliminate all workplace subcontracting
  • Ensure all workers have the right to join a union
  • Raise the minimum wage to $17.75 plus benefits (insurance, vacation, etc) with annual COLA
  • A national retirement program
  • Require businesses to share 17% of their profits with workers
  • Require businesses to pay workers’ severance if they lose their job for any reason
  • Give workers the right to continue running factories that employers decide to stop operating
  • Implement 100% paid parental leave of 120 days for both parents with 1.5 hours per day for nursing mothers upon return

It is time to make this a more fair economy with financial security for workers. They are the ones who do the work and who make it all possible. In the past, they have been the ones that get hit first and hit the hardest. Recently, UAW workers were asked for concessions to save GM when it went bankrupt, even though it was management’s decisions that caused the trainwreck.

During the past 30+ years, worker productivity has soared because of their willingness to adapt to technology and process improvements, but the rewards have primarily gone to the CEOs and their management teams. Instead workers have gotten layoffs and wage reductions and benefit cuts as a reward.

It is now time to move past the “management as god” worship and give workers more of a say in running the businesses, along with a share of the profits, rewards, and security.

We cannot afford to do otherwise.