A Full Employment Act

“We are committed to doing everything we can to build a full employment economy, where everyone has a job that pays enough to raise a family and live in dignity with a sense of purpose.” – Democratic Party platform

This is the most powerful single sentence in the Democratic Party platform, with language that echoes the “Economic Bill of Rights” proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1944 State of the Union Address.  The fulfillment of this platform pledge would make FDR’s vision a glorious reality.

The only way to build a true full employment economy is through a federal job guarantee that would put people to work on socially-useful projects.  Senator Bernie Sanders is about to introduce a full employment act that provides for the federal government to guarantee a job paying $15 an hour and health-care benefits to every American worker “who wants or needs one.”

The Democratic Party platform has a great deal more to say about job creation:

  • “Democrats believe we are stronger when we have an economy that works for everyone – an economy that grows incomes for working people, creates good-paying jobs, and puts a middle-class life with reach for more Americans.”
  • “We are focused on creating good jobs in communities across America.”
  • “We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union.”
  • “Democrats reject the notion that we have to choose between protecting our planet and creating good-paying jobs. We can and we will do both.”
  • “To create good-paying middle-class jobs that cannot be outsourced, Democrats support high labor standards in clean energy infrastructure and the right to form or join a union, whether in renewable power or advanced vehicle manufacturing.”
  • “Americans deserve the jobs and security that come from becoming the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.”    

True full employment offers many important benefits:

  • It will maximize production (Gross Domestic Product) by ensuring that every able-bodied worker is contributing to economic output.
  • Combined with a universal basic income for the disabled and for retirees that is also sufficient “to live in dignity,” true full employment is the key to eliminating poverty.
  • Economic insecurity is eliminated, making people truly free, and increasing the chances of success in the pursuit of happiness. This, in turn, will reduce crime, drug abuse, domestic abuse, and random acts of violence.
  • Much of the cost of providing socially-useful jobs will be offset by reductions in expenditures on various forms of welfare.
  • A federal job guarantee serves as an automatic stabilizer, countering the effects of economic cycles (“boom and bust”) that plague market economies.With workers free to move at will between jobs in the public sector and jobs in the private sector, public sector employment will grow during recessions and contract when the private sector expands.

It is time for Congress to make President Roosevelt’s vision a reality by passing a Full Employment Act that guarantees every worker a job that pays a living wage.