A Local Half-Time Job Guarantee Makes Sense Economically - and is Better than UBI

My piece in THE NATION today

In my proposal for state and local governments to pursue a half-time job guarantee, published in THE NATION today, I make three major arguments:

  1. A half-time job guarantee is fiscally more feasible for state and local governments.

  2. A half-time job guarantee delivers most of the benefits of a full-time job guarantee, particularly for parents - and for some recipients, it is even better.

  3. A half-time job guarantee delivers most of the benefits of UBI and is more politically viable.

For state and local governments:

Because any state or local government will inevitably struggle with the costs of launching such a program, guaranteeing half-time jobs will be far more economically feasible…federal funding will help offset the substantial initial costs of a job guarantee program—which in time, as multiplestudies of job investment programs show, will substantially offset those initial costs. By raising the long-term income of participants, a job guarantee will stimulate the overall economy and increases local tax revenues.

But can workers and their families thrive on a half-time job guarantee?

Obviously, income from half-time work even at $15 per hour is not going to be a comfortable life, but because government supports have become more generous—particularly with policy changes made during the pandemic—a half-time job guarantee offers a reasonable safety net for working families.

To put numbers on this, half-time work at $15/hr pays $15,060 per year. For a single parent with three kids, that will be supplemented by a $9,000 child tax credit (up to $10,800 if the kids are 5 or under), a $6,728 EITC payment and up to the maximum $10,020 yearly SNAP allotment, yielding a base of roughly $41,000 in annual income.

Perversely, as family incomes rise much above $20K per year, many of these financial supports begin to phase out, partly and at times completely offsetting any income gains…That’s why aiming for a half-time job guarantee makes sense.

And why job guarantees are better than UBI:

One political advantage of the job guarantee is that it links the income of all lower-wage workers together via the minimum wage, so efforts to raise wages for full-time workers would also help those on the job guarantee program—and increasingly make the 20-hour work week an attractive option, especially if we continue to strengthen associated income supports as well.

This shared fate for all low-income families via the minimum wage is also a prime reason the job guarantee is a better policy to pursue than Universal Basic Income (UBI) approaches…

Those on Pandemic Unemployment Insurance were dismissed as undermining the recovery and being just plain “lazy”—leading Joe Manchin and others in Congress to unceremoniously kill the whole program as of Labor Day. Manchin just this week complained that the refundable Child Tax Credit should be linked to work requirements, also highlighting the continual political peril of any UBI-like program.

Read the whole piece here.

Tomorrow I will have some additional points and stories that didn’t fit into the published story.

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Labor Links of Interest

Unions want Democrats’ reconciliation package, and they want it bad •Politico’s Morning Shift Detailing union’s lobbying campaign in support of the reconciliation bill, particularly its PRO ACT provisions.

Here’s What House Democrats’ Budget Bill Would Do for Workers • Bloomberg Law- Summary of provisions in the reconciliation package supporting labor unions.

Power of DOL Administrative Judges Faces Federal Court Challenge • Bloomberg Law - Supreme Court could blow up most of federal labor law if it sides with libertarian lawsuit declaring NLRB administrative judges cannot constitutionally assess fines against employers.

Retirement plan advisers expect Labor Department rules to boost ESG options • Roll Call- Biden admin likely to reverse Trump rules preventing retirement plans from prioritizing investments that promote environmental, labor and other social values.

Ninth Circuit Permits California Ban on Mandatory Arbitration * Labor & Employment Law Blog- In a major blow to mandatory arbitration, the Ninth Circuit declared that a California law banning mandatory arbitration agreements is valid and not preempted by federal law.

Global: WHO/ILO: Almost 2 million people die from work-related causes each year * ILO - Report finds work-related diseases and injuries were responsible for the deaths of 1.9 million people annually in 2016, according to joint report of WHO & ILO.

Italy:  After massive mobilization, Italian unions reach historic national agreement with Amazon * UNI Global Union- Italian unions are celebrating first-ever national agreement between Amazon and Italian unions.

All pain and no gain: Unemployment benefit cuts will lower annual incomes by $144.3 billion and consumer spending by $79.2 billion * Economic Policy Institute - Research shows early, state-level UI terminations significantly reduced total incomes and consumer spending while leading to only the smallest boost in job-finding.