Market Mad House

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche


America Needs a GI Bill for Essential Workers

America needs a 21st Century GI Bill for the essential workers who sacrificed to get the nation through the Great COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020.

A 21st Century GI Bill for essential workers could pay America’s debt to the essential workers and help the nation avoid civil unrest and political upheaval. Moreover, history shows that a new GI bill could rejuvenate the middle class, increase prosperity for all Americans, and ensure stability for generations to come.

America enjoyed five decades of prosperity because of the first GI Bill for World War II veterans. Historians credit the original GI Bill with almost doubling the number of college graduates in America and turning the United States into a nation of homeowners.

What was the GI Bill?

The original GI Bill; or Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, was an enormous package of benefits for World War II veterans. The GI Bill was revolutionary because it made low-cost, no-down payment mortgages, tuition-free college, and unemployment benefits available to millions of Americans for the first time.

The GI Bill was not part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (D-New York) New Deal as many people think. Instead, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 was the creation of the American Legion, a veteran’s group, and newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. FDR signed the law because he wanted to be reelected in 1944.

Strangely, fear and not loyalty to veterans was one of the primary motivations behind the GI Bill. To explain, in 1944 many people were afraid that mass unemployment, civil unrest, and political upheaval could occur when the 16 million Americans serving in World War II came home.

Many Americans feared that unemployed and disillusioned veterans could join Fascist or Communist groups and become a threat to democracy. Recent history justified those fears. Most of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Blackshirts and Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Brownshirts were World War I veterans. Indeed, Hitler and Mussolini were both World War I veterans.

The fear was that an American demagogue could form unemployed veterans into a private army to usurp democracy. Many Americans remembered the Bonus March of 1932; when unemployed World War I veterans poured into Washington DC and fought with the Army.

To prevent that dystopian nightmare, Hearst and the American Legion’s leaders proposed a large package of benefits to help veterans return to civilian life. Most of the American Legion’s members were World War I veterans who remembered the poverty, unemployment, loneliness, and despair they experienced after returning home.

The GI bill provided tuition-free college or trade school for most veterans. Consequently, college admissions grew by 49% between 1945 and 1947, estimates. Around eight million veterans went to college or trade school on the GI Bill.

In addition, the government guaranteed loans veterans could use to buy homes, businesses, and farms. The GI Bill drove the exodus from cities to suburbia as millions of veterans bought homes in corporate developments such as Levittown. Historians estimate around 30% of veterans used the GI Bill loans to buy homes.

They called the program the GI Bill after Government Issue or GI a popular nickname for US soldiers. One nickname for a US soldier was GI Joe; which inspired a popular toy in the 1960s, and a cartoon and comic book in the 1980s.

Overall, the GI Bill created the American middle class and fueled postwar prosperity. The American Legion estimates that the original GI Bill added $7 to the US economy for every dollar spent on veterans.

Essential Workers need help

During the COVID-19 pandemic 50 million frontline essential workers risked their lives to keep America running, the Brookings Institution estimates.

The essential workers workers kept the food processing plants, healthcare facilities, grocery stores, fulfillment centers, power plants, power grid, and utilities going while the upper middle class stayed home. Essential workers went out and exposed themselves to Coronavirus while the affluent locked down at home.

COVID-19 killed thousands of essential workers and will leave many essential workers disabled for life. Yet the Brookings Institution estimates 19 million essential workers earn less than $15 an hour. Disgustingly, Congress refused to pass a hazard pay program for essential workers.

A few states gave some essential workers a raise or a cash bonus. For example, Maryland gave public employees in 24/7 jobs a $3.13 hour raise and New Hampshire gave nursing home workers a $300 a week bonus. In addition, Virginia gave home health workers who serve Medicaid patients a $1,500 bonus.

A few states gave some essential workers a raise or a cash bonus. For example, Maryland gave public employees in 24/7 jobs a $3.13 hour raise and New Hampshire gave nursing home workers a $300 a week bonus. In addition, Virginia gave home health workers who serve Medicaid patients a $1,500 bonus.

Thus, essential workers, like World War I veterans, risked their lives and received little or nothing in return. Consequently, I predict we will see a wave of anger, frustration, and radicalism among front-line and other essential workers.

The radicalization of essential workers could lead to violence or worse. If only 5% of essential workers become radicalized that will create 2.5 million radicals.

Remember, just a few hundred angry radicals almost seized the US Capitol and nearly killed members of Congress on 6 January 2021. What happens if tens of thousands of angry radical essential workers march on Washington? We could see violence that makes January 6 look like a picnic in comparison.

We need a New GI Bill

Therefore, America needs a 21st Century GI Bill to help essential workers to prevent radicalization, violence, and civil unrest.

What an Essential Workers’ GI Bill could contain:

  • A federal guarantee for a no-down payment, low interest home mortgage for up to $500,000 for all essential workers. Credit scores, income, and employment status will not affect mortgage eligibility. The mortgage will cover the primary residence only.
  • Up to $1 million in low-interest business loans for essential workers.
  • Up to $5 million in low-interest loans for essential workers who want to purchase rental properties and become landlords.
  • Federal government will pay up to $200,000 in tuition for essential workers at a college, university or trade school.
  • Federal government will pay off up to $100,000 in student loans for all essential workers.
  • Federal government will pay off up to $250,000 in student loans for healthcare professionals.
  • A $1,500 a month stipend for essential workers who want to leave their jobs and go back to school. Stipend will last for up to five years depending on degree.
  • $2,000 a month in Social Security Disability payment for any essential worker unable to work because of COVID-19 side effects.
  • A  cash bonus for essential workers who worked through COVID-19. Each worker will receive $1,000 in cash for each month they worked during the Pandemic.
  • Allow all essential workers to buy into Medicare for $100 a month.
  • Allow essential workers to buy into Medicare for their children for $25 a month per child.
  • Allow essential workers to buy into Medicare for their spouses or partners for $100 a month.
  • Allow employers to buy Medicare for their essential employees, and essential workers’ families for $100 a month per person.
  • Free Medicare for all essential workers disabled by COVID-19.
  •  Implement a 27% wealth tax on all personal incomes over $5 million to pay for the Essential Workers’ GI Bill. Individual income will include stocks, bonds, real estate, intellectual property, stakes in businesses, venture capital, securities, equities, insurance policies, retirement benefits, salaries, and interest in businesses.

The original GI Bill built the middle-class and laid the groundwork for the greatest economic boom in American history. A modern Century GI Bill for Essential Workers could repeat those effects in the 21st Century.