by Philip Harvey
We have good news to report regarding a new and improved version of HR1000, the proposed federal Jobs for All Act! We expect a new version of the bill to be reintroduced in Congress this spring. The bill is still undergoing revisions, but we believe its main feature will remain unchanged— direct government job creation modeled on an updated version of the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA).
This program would provide useful, living-wage employment for all job seekers who are unable to find work in the regular labor market at any particular moment in time. That means employing a larger workforce during a recession and a smaller workforce at the top of the business cycle. The goal of HR1000 is to achieve true full employment– availability of decent employment for all job seekers– at all times!
This guarantee of good jobs for all would not interfere with the Federal Reserve System’s ability to combat inflation by increasing the cost of borrowing and thereby reducing business activity. The difference would be that instead of forcing blameless workers to bear the cost of these anti-inflationary measures, the cost of inflation would be borne by businesses. And laid off workers (along with other unemployed individuals) would be employed by the government’s job creation program–until their labor is once again needed by the private sector.
In addition to eliminating involuntary unemployment, this HR 1000 would generate a host of other benefits:
- Provide several hundred billion dollars a year of additional public resources to address a wide range of societal needs, including:
- the rehabilitation of dilapidated housing units, the upgrading of below-standard housing units, and the construction of new housing units with the goal of making good-quality affordable housing available to every household in the country;
- increased investment at the neighborhood and community level in projects and programs directed at increasing climate sustainability;
- making good quality childcare and early childhood education programs available to every working parent in the country;
- ensuring the availability of in-home care services for frail elders who want to age at home as well as adequate support services for persons of any age who are constrained by opportunity-limiting health conditions or impairments;
- remedying the unequal supply and inadequate quality of both quality-of-life-enhancing public infrastructure and public services in economically disadvantaged or depressed communities;
- making work study employment available to post-secondary students who would not otherwise be able to find suitable employment to cover the cost of their education.
- Put pressure on private sector employers to match or surpass the program’s living wage standard, thereby:
- rendering minimum wage laws largely self-enforcing; and
- protecting employers who adequately compensate their employees from unfair competition from employers who, either legally or illegally, pay substandard wages;
- Eliminate poverty attributable to involuntary unemployment and inadequate wages by ensuring the availability of living-wage employment for all job seekers, including those who need accommodations in order to perform their jobs adequately;
- Make it politically easier to provide truly adequate income support for individuals and families that cannot or are not expected to be self-supporting, because formally limiting public aid to such persons would largely neutralize the most common justification for providing inadequate support to recipients of means-tested public benefits—namely, the “concern” that providing more “generous” benefits would disincentivize work on the recipient’s part; and
- Reduce the most important source of popular resistance to climate change mitigation by reducing the fear of job loss attributable to them (which typically will occur locally even if a larger number of new jobs are created somewhere else in the economy).
More information should be available soon, and will be posted to the NJFAN website at www.NJFAC.org
Philip Harvey is Professor of Law and Economic, Rutgers Law School and Counsel to the Board of NJFAN. He is an internationally recognized authority on the right to decent work promoted by FDR and recognized as a universal entitlement in international human rights law.