Democrats' next big idea: Guaranteed employment

According to the NY Times, Democrats planning to run for president in 2020 are considering a big new idea: Promise everyone a guaranteed job. You’ll be shocked to learn that the plan involves raising taxes an unknown amount to cover the cost of providing these jobs.

The “job guarantee” plans, many of them pressed by Democratic White House hopefuls, vary in scope and cost, but they all center on government-sponsored employment that pays well above the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage — a New Deal for a new age, absent the bread lines and unemployment rates of the Great Depression. The most aggressive plans seek to all but eradicate unemployment and to set a new wage floor for all working Americans, pressuring private employers to raise wages if they want to compete for workers.

How such guarantees would be paid for is still largely unresolved…

Many conservative economists, and some liberals, fret over the plans’ often large costs, which some Democrats would cover by repealing pieces of President Trump’s signature tax cuts. The plans could force private companies to compete with the government for workers, distort an already tight job market and push some firms out of business, they warn.

Most of all, they question the need for any government jobs program when unemployment has dipped below 4 percent.

“I don’t know if the Democrats have noticed, but jobs are doing very well,” said Larry Kudlow, the director of Mr. Trump’s National Economic Council. He said the administration would oppose such plans.

That last point is the real kicker. Even the U-6 unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers and part-time people looking for full-time work, is back at the level it was before the 2008 recession. The plan is so daft that even the director of the Progressive Policy Institute calls it, “a very large hammer in search of a nail.” But the need here isn’t practical so much as it is political, i.e. Democrats need more freebies to offer voters (on top of the free health care and free college they are already offering):

Behind the stampede is Democrats’ desire for tangible programs to offer to working-class voters, which they could contrast to Mr. Trump’s racially divisive immigration appeals to white workers.

“We are living in a world where Trump and Trumpism is trying to drive wedges between people,” said Neera Tanden, a former adviser to President Barack Obama and to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, who is the president of the Center for American Progress. “It’s important to the country and the progressive movement that we have ideas that matter in the lives of working people who are black, brown and white.”

The Times reports that some versions of this socialist proposal would cost “hundreds of billions” over ten years. They would pay for this by repealing parts of Trump’s tax cut, i.e. by raising taxes again. Naturally, the most expensive version of this plan is probably the one being floated by Bernie Sanders, but Sanders’ people say his proposal isn’t complete and so can’t be scored yet. That’s convenient. These things are a lot harder to sell if you show people the price tag.

You may recall that Sanders proposed a Medicare-for-all version of single payer in 2016. That plan was scored by the Urban Institute which estimated it would cost $32 trillion over 10 years. I’m sure his guaranteed jobs program will be a bargain by comparison.

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