A basic income scheme would be far more beneficial than the federal jobs guarantee being promoted by Democratic leaders. The basic income would be cheaper, more efficient, more humane, more honest, more moral, and far more effective than a jobs guarantee.
Under a jobs guarantee, the government provides everybody a “job.” In a basic income scheme, the government simply pays people that meet certain criteria a specific amount of cash each month. A popular variation called the universal basic income (UBI) provides every citizen with a cash payment every month.
Basic income and the jobs guarantee have become popular lately because our economy is failing to meet the basic needs of a lot of citizens. Any honest comparison of the two notions will show that the basic income is the better solution.
What is wrong with the Jobs Guarantee?
Here are just a few of the things wrong with the jobs guarantee.
- A federal jobs guarantee like that being promoted by U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), would only help a small number of people get out of poverty. Booker wants to offer government jobs to the unemployed. That would only help those able and willing to take the government jobs.
- Vast numbers of people including the disabled; women with young children, persons caring for elderly or disabled loved ones, rural residents, convicted felons, substance abusers, the mentally-ill, the self-employed, artists, and the elderly, would not be able to take advantage of the jobs guarantee.
- Since it would not help vast numbers of citizens, the jobs guarantee will do little to alleviate poverty.
- A jobs guarantee would make easy for politicians and everybody else to ignore poverty. Conservatives can say there is no need for social programs because there are jobs available for the poor.
- A jobs guarantee would make it easy to demonize the poor as “lazy bums who do not work.”
- The jobs guarantee ignores many of the needs and problems of the poor. It will not address the lack of healthcare, daycare, education, transportation, and access to food and housing many poor people face.
- The jobs guarantee might make poverty worse by diverting resources from other social programs to pay for “government jobs.”
- There is a strong element of coercion in the jobs guarantee. Many people would end up taking the government “jobs;” simply to eat or pay for housing. Others would take them just to get healthcare. This is wrong and dangerously close to feudalism.
- The jobs guarantee would be incredibly inefficient. New bureaucracies would have to be created to offer the job and oversee them. Governments would be forced to buy equipment, build offices, and provide infrastructure for the new employees.
- The cost of hiring one guarantee employee to taxpayers would be far higher than the $15 an hour Booker demands. My guess is the cost of providing the $15 an hour job would be $25 or $30 an hour when all the costs are added in.
- One reason for the high cost would be that government will probably end up having to train or re-educate many of those employees. Training costs money.
- The guarantee will make government incredibly inefficient by saddling it with large numbers of untrained, uneducated, incompetent, and quite probably lazy, mentally-ill, and undisciplined employees.
- Many of those taking advantage of the guarantee will be the persons who cannot find work in the private sector.
- Government agencies would be turned into adult daycare centers for the most dysfunctional members of our society by the jobs guarantee.
- A jobs guarantee would erode people’s incentive for self-advancement and improvement. Many people will ask; “why should I go to trade school or college when there are no-brain and no-work government ‘jobs’ that pay $15 an hour waiting for me right now.”
- A jobs guarantee would hurt the private sector by making it difficult for businesses to find employees and raising salaries.
- A jobs guarantee might make racial, class, and regional divisions worse by creating a vicious competition for government jobs.
- There would be a terrible stigma attached to the guarantee jobs. People would think of those who hold them as lazy, incompetent, stupid, and useless.
- Many people would end up trapped in the guarantee jobs and totally at the mercy of the politicians who provide them. The politicos would become feudal lords with total control over the lives of the guarantee jobs workers.
- The jobs guarantee would promote laziness and lack of ambition by rewarding those willing to sit in a government office and pretend to work with a good wage.
- The jobs guarantee cheapens the whole idea of work by creating a situation in which the government pays people to pretend to work.
Why Basic Income is better than the Jobs Guarantee
Here are just a few reasons why the basic income is superior to the jobs guarantee on every level.
- Basic income is more honest. Under basic income, we are admitting that some people need help and are not trying to disguise the handout as anything but what it really is.
- At the end of the day, a jobs guarantee is a lie. Instead of admitting that the economy cannot meet people’s needs, the guarantee provides a charade of a “job.”
- The basic income would be far cheaper to administer. All we would have to do is send a check or an electronic payment to each recipient each month.
- No new bureaucracy or infrastructure would be needed to distribute basic income. Payments can be sent to recipients through the existing banking and credit card systems or by the Social Security Administration.
- Eligibility for a basic income can be determined simply through the existing tax system. The government can simply send a payment to every household with an income below a certain level. That information already exists at the Internal Revenue Service.
- There is no coercion in basic income. People that do not want to participate can simply refuse the payment.
- The basic income would help people choosing not to work for good reasons. This includes stay-at-home moms, people caring for elderly relatives, those doing volunteer work, entrepreneurs, artists, and small businesspeople.
- Basic income does not demonize those unable to work or take a job. The jobs guarantee would perpetuate the horrendous prejudice that there is something wrong if a person does not have a “real job.”
- Basic income recognizes the fundamental truth that the most beneficial labor often occurs outside of a “job.” For example, a mother caring for her children, an artist trying to create, an entrepreneur attempting to start a business, a small businessperson putting in 12 hours a day, an inventor creating a new device, a volunteer at a church or a charity, an activist promoting a cause, or a son taking time out from work to care for his mom who has Alzheimer’s.
- Basic income can reduce the size and power of government by lessening the need for bureaucrats and bureaucracy.
- Basic income would be cheaper because no new bureaucracies for job training, administration, human resources, etc. would be necessary. A basic income scheme can be easily administered by existing agencies utilizing state of the art technology.
The basic income would be far better than the jobs guarantee, but neither solution is a cure-all for our society’s problems. Serious reform and restructuring of our basic institutions; including government, healthcare, education, social services, law enforcement, communications, transportation, finance, and banking, is needed to address problems like income inequality, economic stagnation, poverty, and technological unemployment.
Without such reform and restructuring, poverty will grow far worse in America even if we adopt basic income or try a jobs guarantee.
A good basic income proposal that would benefit many Americas is made by Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes in Fair Shot: Rethinking Income Inequality and How we Earn Hughes’ simple suggestion is to have the federal government pay $500 a month to every person with a household income under $50,000 – see the book for full details.