Disrupting Politics: Jobs and Freedom in a post coronavirus world

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Maintaining the benefits of the Job Retention Scheme

The Unions campaigned for the introduction of the coronavirus job retention scheme (JRS) and the self-employment income support scheme (SEIS). We know that these have been vital in protecting jobs. But now we must push for a job guarantee scheme to kickstarts a post COVID economy supporting employees and employers as the country begins to plan a return from lockdown.

A new plan for guaranteed jobs

The job retention scheme must be extended to minimise the risk of unemployment. But those who do lose their jobs, particularly young people, will face long term damage to their employment prospects unless the government acts to prevent long-term unemployment. We believe that the government must put in place a jobs guarantee.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

“It was obdurate government callousness to misery that first stoked the flames of rage and frustration. With unemployment a scourge in Negro ghettoes, the government still tinkers with half-hearted measures, refuses still to become an employer of last resort. It asks the business community to solve the problems as though its past failures qualified it for success.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his last letter requesting support for the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

Not many people remember that the 1963 “March on Washington” was officially named the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” This detail often gets lost amid the important celebration of the general achievement and highlights such as the memorable Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” oration.

Indeed, while the speech is widely quoted for its hopeful message, we too often ignore the purpose of the speech and the specific demands of the march organisers – to advance the civil and economic rights of not only African Americans but the working class of the entire country, a demonstration of people power in demanding of the powers that be to create good jobs with family-supporting wages for all.

Perhaps no single policy could have as great a social and economic impact on not only the African American community—and the entire country—as a federally funded Job Guarantee for every person ready and willing to work. This is a policy approach that was explicitly supported by Dr King, and that is currently receiving attention in economic and policy circles of today.

The theme of job creation runs through Dr King’s writings and was one of the most important aspects in the attempt to bring about equality.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Dr. King wrote that: “We call our demonstration a campaign for jobs and income because we feel that the economic question is the most crucial that black people, and poor people generally, are confronting.”

The march was successful in pressuring the administration of John F. Kennedy to initiate a strong federal civil rights bill in Congress.

The Job Guarantee is a progressive vehicle for change

Work is intrinsic to human existence. We seek to transform nature to live. Certainly, history has evolved to the stage where the organisation of that effort – Capitalism – is oppressive and the anathema of liberation, despite the wage form making it look as though we have freedom to choose.

But we need to separate the specific form of work organisation from the intrinsic meaning of work for people. People will still seek ways to “work” and will have to work, even if we liberate ourselves from the specific yoke of Capitalism.

The result of a Job guarantee policy could well have been the single most life-changing initiative for the working class, vastly reducing economic poverty while providing dignity in work and money to spend. In turn, bringing demand for more production to supply the products a newly economically liberated working class would demand. This again would be self-fulfilling in the creation of more jobs to meet the demand.

What is a socially inclusive minimum wage?

The Job Guarantee model meets these conditions within the constraints of a monetary capitalist system.

It’s tricky to put a number for a minimum wage into an article like this that is intended as a motivator for a practical solution and incentive for pressure groups grassroots movements to take, but basically a socially inclusive minimum wage means you have enough money to take care of your basic needs, then consume some of the output you produce.

An example is that if you’re working full time at a factory that makes widgets, then you have enough money to pay for housing, food, clothing, utilities and buy a widget every now and again. Another way of putting it is that a socially inclusive minimum wage is one that allows you to fully participate in the economy and society by taking part in social activities that cost money (such as meeting a friend at a cafe and not having to ask them to buy the coffee every time)

If studies are to be believed a Job guarantee and a favourable income would also reduce the social negatives poverty and unemployed bring in in both crime and anti-social behaviour. Bluntly if people have jobs and an income they tend to become more productive and better citizens

How would the government pay to employ everyone?

Several modern economies such as the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and the UK are what’s called “Monetarily Sovereign“. This means they issue their own non-convertible currency on a floating exchange rate. They don’t run a gold standard, they don’t peg their currency to a foreign currency, and they don’t issue debt denominated in a currency they do not issue.

These countries are not financially constrained, but rather are constrained by the output available for sale in their own currency. Thus they can afford to hire anyone currently unemployed without increasing taxes, cutting spending or “borrowing” in private bond markets. These countries can run deficits indefinitely. The school of macroeconomics that provides the theory that backs this up is called Modern Monetary Theory

Coronavirus economic effects and jobs

Social attitudes take time to evolve and are best reinforced by changes in the educational system. The social fabric must be rebuilt over time. The change in the mode of production through evolutionary means will not happen overnight, and concepts of community wealth and civic responsibility that have been eroded over time, by the divide and conquer individualism of the neo-liberal era, have to be restored.

However, necessity is a great motivator, the coronavirus outbreak offers not only real would loss of life and economic turmoil but its effects will continue to impact local and the world economy for the foreseeable future. In any crisis those that move first often have the best chance of survival.

Research by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex has warned that more than 6.5 million jobs could be lost due to the economic fallout from the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, according to a new study.

This would equate to about a quarter of the UK’s total jobs, with more than half of the positions in certain sectors being lost.

Accommodation and food services are predicted to be worst affected, with 75 per cent of jobs – about 1.3 million positions – lost, while some sectors referred to as “other services” are predicted to lose 50 per cent and “wholesale, retail and repair of motor vehicles” is predicted to lose 47.6 per cent.

About 700,000 positions (44 per cent) in the transport and storage sector could be lost and 26.5 per cent of jobs in “administrative and support services” are expected to go as well, the study said.

The impact of such job loses would be devastating to the working class, while we are witnessing the biggest transfer and in some cases theft of public wealth into the private sector the government should be pressured to us some of our money to ensure jobs. If people have money to spend a viable business only problem would be meeting the demand.

A job guarantee (JG) is an economic policy proposal aimed at providing a sustainable solution to the dual problems of inflation and unemployment. Its aim is to create full employment and price stability, by having the state promise to hire unemployed workers as an employer of last resort.

The Future Jobs Fund, set up in the last recession but scrapped by the Conservative-led government, showed the scheme delivered clear benefits for participants, employers and society. And these schemes are common across Europe.

Prior to the coronavirus the government promised significant investment in infrastructure, pledged to put £3bn into a new National Skills Fund, and committed to a shared prosperity fund to replace the EU structural funds. It should look to use these commitments to help fund the job guarantee scheme.

A job guarantee scheme is a vital part of a new plan for jobs. But it must sit alongside decent social security. Avoiding catastrophic falls in income helps people to avoid debt and protects against the worst impacts of unemployment.

Information is the first step in any organisation is the instrument of change. This is part of our ‘Challenging Power’ series: You don’t have to win power to make change happen

Disrupting Politics: You don’t have to win power to change the system

Related articles:

Power Anywhere Where There’s People

Life after the Labour Party: Activist are challenging the status quo. Grassroots movements are growing.

People Power – Building For Systemic Change

Leaving the EU and entering a new economic paradigm

More on Jobs Guarantee scheme from the unions

More on MMT

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