Friday, June 04, 2010

New Jobs Report Shows We Need to Re-work "Work"

The new jobs report is disappointing. Well, what else is new? Here's a reality check: There's not enough jobs for everyone. There never was, and there never will be. The problem is exacerbated now during this deep recession, but there have always been millions of people who can't find work.

We need to re-think the whole concept of having a job, and we need to re-work "work" if we are to win real economic justice in America.

Job losses will only get worse as the 21st Century really gets going. Global capital will continue to move jobs to places on the planet that have the lowest labor costs. Technology will continue to improve, eliminating countless jobs.

The trend toward part time work will continue, as well as treating workers as independent contractors. The days of having one job with one company for the majority of your life are long gone.

Service sector jobs, which account for 77% of all American jobs and 96% of all the jobs that will be created in the next ten years, are mostly bad jobs that don't pay enough to raise a family on, don't provide affordable benefits--and don't even think about retiring.

The real problem seems to be that the nature of jobs and work has been changing over the past 30 years, but we are still stuck in a 20th Century system of work where the vast majority of people are reliant on their jobs for all of their income and most of their benefits.

We desperately need jobs, but they don't need us. Or the corporations that create jobs don't need us. We need to adjust to this fact if we are going to have any semblance of economic justice and equality.

Jobs and work still dominate American life. We need to bring "work" down a notch or two, from an institution that takes up most of our waking hours and our energy, to something that we do less of and need less but still do a lot and still get a lot of satisfaction from.

We need to change work from an all or nothing operation. Right now either you have a job (or two) that provides you with all of your income, or you are on unemployment, where you get a check from the government for not working, and that check stops coming if you get a job.

Instead of that all or nothing, 20th Century system of work, we should establish a basic income--enough to at least get by on, just above the poverty level--for all working people. This basic income would establish an income floor, and we would work for whatever amount of income we want on top of that.

A basic income would provide economic freedom and income security to working people. We'd have to freedom to work less if we wanted to, or work the same amount and save or spend that money.

It would provide a direct stimulus to the economy, which would help create more jobs. More jobs + less of a desperate need for jobs = a reasonable adaptation to our changing global economy.

We could pay for this by eliminating all of the old all or nothing, 20th Century programs like unemployment, welfare, food stamps, section 8 housing, etc., and by making the rich pay their fair share in taxes, taxing carbon pollution, closing loopholes that allow hedge fund managers to be taxed less than their secretaries, etc.

Think of it as the opposite of trickle down economics, where we gave huge tax breaks to the rich and corporations, and cut programs for the rest of us. Rise Up Economics makes the rich pay their fair share, and provides income directly to the rest of us.

Or you could think of it as a trust fund for working people. There could be some requirement to pay into it for 5 years before you're eligible. Or you could do it through the tax system, everyone who has worked and paid taxes for the previous 5 years would be eligible.

Or it could be through Social Security. Instead of paying into it all of your life and only getting some of that money when you're 65, you could start getting that money back after 5 years by lifting the cap on the amount of income that's taxed, and all the aforementioned program cuts and tax increases.

There are plenty of ways to set it up. The bottom line is that we need to change the way our economy is organized to adjust to the changing nature of work and jobs. We can't remain reliant on jobs that either suck or aren't there or won't be there in 20 years.

They don't need all of us to work. We need an economic system where we don't so desperately need their jobs.

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