One of the first things I learned as a registered Washington lobbyist, (yes, I admit it, I was a lobbyist in the 1990s), is “you can’t be something with nothing.” That’s a Washington insider’s way of saying that if you don’t like an opponent’s policies, it’s not enough to moan and complain about them and throw insults. You have to come up with a policy of your own that appeals to voters and can be offered to the public as an alternative.
This has been a problem for Democrats lately. They can’t stand Donald Trump and insult him all day long, but they won’t prevail in major elections scheduled in 2018 and 2020 unless they offer the voters something other than constant ridicule of Trump.
A few smart Democrats, including Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, have figured this out. Their alternative to Trump’s policies is a government guaranteed job for every American who wants one.
This may sound odd coming at a time when the official unemployment rate is 3.9%, the lowest in almost twenty years. Unemployment is 3.7% for adult white men and 3.5% for adult white women, while African-American unemployment is approaching historic lows. Why roll out a jobs program now?
The answer is that the official unemployment statistics are highly misleading. They do not count approximately 10 million able-bodied working age adults who have simply given up on work. Adjusted for those “missing workers,” the real unemployment rate is about 10%, a depression level figure.
As this article states, interest in the guaranteed jobs program is high. Critics say the program will destroy incentives and undermine the traditional work ethic. Supporters say it will help to raise wages because private employees will have to match the wages being offered by the program itself in order to compete with the government jobs.
In that sense, this is really a backdoor way to raise the Federal minimum wage and increase benefits. Whichever side you’re on, get used to hearing about this debate in the years ahead.
Who knows, maybe Trump will end up supporting it. Trump is not a traditional conservative, but he is a shrewd politician who may just steal his opponent’s best idea. You can’t beat something with nothing.
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