PBS NewsHour, August 27, 2014
LEAVE ASIDE the fact that creating millions of new jobs in a globalized, automated economy is a lot harder than it sounds. The deeper difficulty with the jobs panacea is that crappy jobs won’t sustain a large middle class — and most of the jobs we’re creating these days fit that description.
In the heyday of America’s middle class, jobs at IBM and General Motors were often jobs for life. Employers offered decent wages, health insurance, paid vacations and defined pensions. Nowadays, such jobs are rare. Workers are expendable — often they’re literally contractors — and their benefits are shrinking. And that’s unlikely to change.
It’s also unlikely that the jobs of the future will pay more (adjusted for inflation) than today’s. In unionized industries like autos and airlines, two-tier contracts are now the norm. This means that younger workers get paid substantially less than older ones for doing the same work.
Nor is the picture brighter in other industries. In the Labor Department’s latest list of occupations with the greatest projected job growth, only one out of six pays over $60,000 a year. The question that leaps from these numbers is: where are the millions of good-paying jobs that are needed to sustain a large middle class? The Labor Department doesn’t say. Nor does anyone else.
The question that needs to be asked is: from where might the middle class get some non-labor income?
There are two possibilities. One is to raise taxes on the rich and distribute the revenue using some kind of means test. The other is to pay equal dividends to everyone from wealth we own together.
I BELIEVE the latter approach is better because it’s based not on redistribution but on shared ownership.
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