Push a Job Guarantee Pilot Program in Reconciliation

A "Shorism" policy everyone might agree on

With Congress scrambling to delete programs from the Build Back Better bill to meet Manchin-Sinema demands, it’s unlikely a whole additional program gets added, especially one as costly as a national jobs guarantee policy.

However, Cory Booker proposed a pilot program a couple of years ago to provide grants to fifteen communities to test the policy in fifteen communities. That would obviously help workers in those areas but would also create a testbed for working out the most effective approaches for scaling it up to a national program in the future.

And Booker’s bill, S. 2457, was cosponsored by one Kamala Harris, so there might be an advocate for including such a pilot in the reconciliation bill as they work out final details. Such a pilot would not crowd out any other big programs and Manchin might even be prevailed on to tack its price onto whatever amount he holds out for in final negotiations since it at least fits his “everyone should work” mantra.

Now, I don’t necessarily buy every detail of Shorism - to the extent that David Shor has consistent policies now associated with his “popularism” approach. But I fully agree with Shor, as he argued in this tweet yesterday, that a job guarantee fits any reasonable version of a policy program that both addresses key concerns of racial and economic equity on the left, while also polling consistently at high levels among the public.

Shor has been pushing this for a couple of years and is as interested as I am in its success in India. As I detailed in my post on the India policy, the program seems to raise wages overall in the rural workforce NOT just for the recipients. And Shor picked up on a study back in 2019 I hadn’t seen, which he retweeted yesterday, on that result.

One point is that the Job Guarantee is in many ways a radical policy which corporate interests hate PRECISELY because it gives workers a greater ability to refuse jobs with crappy wages and job conditions. So is a good example that, whether Shor is correct in all his prescriptions, that he is not some version of the Third Way. His “moderation” is about looking for the most radical policies that also appeal to swing voters and even GOP voters in some cases.

Launching fifteen job guarantee pilot projects in fifteen states in 2022, generating stories of workers getting jobs as of right in those places, could create a whole burst of stories highlighting where Dems want to go if they keep and expand their control of Congress.

This raises a bigger strategy point on message. The Right is far more effective in taking policy they enact locally and making that part of their national agenda. Across the board, progressives need to be thinking about how to leverage stories about local policy results based on Biden recovery bills in the 2022 midterms. A jobs guarantee pilot program would in terms of messaging be a massive bang-for-the-buck return on political investment on that score.