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American Ideals and Full Employment

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The American dream of a prosperous, secure life through rewarding work has turned into a nightmare of insecurity. All actual economic systems: slavery, feudalism, capitalism, social democracies, communism, have been ones in which capital is produced by an ever larger class of property-less workers but accumulated under control of an ever smaller capital controller class, whether they are priests, slave owners, nobles, entrepreneurs, or government officials. The capital controller class always accumulates more capital and power. Over historical time population and productivity increase. Workers themselves improve productivity - enhancing tools as means of labor saving. Eventually instead of enabling more goods - producing labor, this eliminates needed labor.

First more workers are put into surplus production such as building palaces, temples, pyramids, armies, etc Under capitalism workers are eventually put into paper shuffling jobs, and war production. Now the controllers of capital also eliminate need for labor by automation and exporting real goods production. So government must just give an increasing group of unneeded workers transfer payments.

Maybe such uneven accumulation is inevitable. Left and Right theorists have a sterile debate over whether private wealth holders or government is more to blame. The reality is that there is a shadow "corporate government," call it "GovCorps, or "corporatism," run by "financial politicians," including lobbyists, who come alternately into and out of the spotlight as they go through the revolving door between visible government and less visible private corporations.

Any economic system, under endless population and productivity increase, will develop a surplus labor problem. Eventually there won't be enough full day's work producing real goods and services. Outmoded ideas about needing "full-time" work to deserve goods aggravate the problem. It's nutty that overtime is institutionalized as "cheaper" rather than hiring additional workers. A billionaire, Pete Peterson, and media henchmen, claim the U.S. and its transfer programs are "bankrupt" or "going broke." They advocate Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid cuts, and raising the retirement age. They mislead so they won't have to pay more taxes. GovCorps can create credit and cash and hence cannot go bankrupt. What they can do is propagandize enough Americans to let them cut benefits without voters removing them from office or somehow taking away their access to mass media for propaganda.

Our Congress made full employment a national goal in acts of 1946 and '78 codified in 15 USC sections 1021 and 3101. But these laws did not connect this goal to fundamental American ideas. Let's do so. The Declaration of Independence holds that we are endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness (previously "property.") The Preamble to the Constitution mentions 6 purposes for it, at least 5 of which, excepting provision for the common defense, more or less imply that providing for full employment is a public good. Those purposes are "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, "promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." The fewer jobs available, the less perfect is our Union, the less Justice, the less is our domestic Tranquility, the less general is the Welfare, [the dignity, independence, security] of our people, the less we can enjoy liberty and pursue happiness (or even property.)

We are in a fourth "jobless recovery" in a row, each slower and weaker than the last. There should be an honored place for everyone in society. Any human labor requires a brain, not just hands and a strong back. American ideals are sufficient reason to institute mandatory shared work. Jobs for all is the reason for being of the National Jobs for All Coalition. It should be regarded as impeachment worthy disloyalty to our ideals that BushBama bailed out investment banks without instituting shared work. France enacted a 35 hour work week. Some EU countries have instituted mandatory 4-5 week vacations. The U.S. should take the payroll cap off Social Security taxation, raise it, disallow overtime and allow earlier retirement.

While millions are unemployed and being foreclosed meaningful work is needed, on an emergency basis, tearing down blighted housing and abandoned factories, rebuilding our infrastructure, and creating national rail roadbeds and electric grids. It's disloyal to American ideals that unemployment "benefits" are "offered" rather than work. These ideals, especially with energy conservation needed to retard man-made climate change, cry out for large scale temporary New Deal like programs for workers using retro-technological, labor-spending work. These could involve unskilled, labor spending, energy- conserving "Armstrong motors," principally hand tools with recycling of salvaged materials. For a less visionary, tax incentivized example of such work, see the proposal for deconstruction of blighted housing by the National Center for Craftsmanship (NCC DeConstruct Program Draft White Paper, 11-4-09).

Long term, shared, paid work, as the principal basis of a guaranteed annual security income is the solution. If our foreign creditors, China, Japan, etc., don't like our providing public goods to our citizens and inflating our way out of unemployment and debt, what, realistically, can they do about it? Stop selling us running shoes and Toyotas and face mass unemployment themselves? Dump the useless U.S. bonds they are piling up? Who's going to buy them? Acceptance of the confusing, misleading rhetoric of deficit concern, benefit-cutting neo-Hooverism by Americans of average means is self sabotaging and will lead only to our own further impoverishment.

 

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The author, born 1940, is a white male American retired college professor of philosophy raised as a secular Jew by professional parents. He is a long-time minor activist in the civil rights, anti-war, profeminism movements and taught critical (more...)
 
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This is about 900 words, but can easily be cut for... by Robert Cogan on Monday, Apr 12, 2010 at 1:28:14 PM
This part is patently false:"Any economic system, ... by Scott Baker on Monday, Apr 12, 2010 at 1:37:58 PM