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The Anti-Targ

Job Guarantee vs UBI

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Why are certain segments of the political spectrum so hot on UBI but cold on a job guarantee? A job guarantee comes (or should come) with a better income and because you are employed you are a better hire prospect for the private sector. The Yang UBI proposal (USA) was $1000 per month, which is the equivalent of US$5.76/hr on a full time job. A job guarantee would need to pay at least minimum wage, which is more than $5.76/hr, even after tax I would think. The outlay is higher, but then, the person is doing a job and so is being directly productive for the income, rather than possibly indirectly productive with the time afforded to them by being paid a UBI.

A job guarantee isn't "work for the dole". With work for the dole the welfare department is calling you in and saying you have to come in and do whatever work it is we tell you to do and if you don't then your welfare gets cut. A job guarantee is where a person walks into the welfare department and demands to be given a job, and the welfare department is obliged to give them a job, and if they can't find the person a job then they have to pay the person anyway. Practically speaking there's little difference between work for the dole and a job guarantee, the outcome is nearly everyone works, ie. actual full employment as opposed to the capitalist "full" employment, which is 3.5-4% unemployment. The difference is who is coercing whom, thus with a job guarantee the individual preserves their dignity and freedom instead of being threatened with impoverishment if they don't do what they're told.

A Job guarantee is more demanding administratively. But who cares? The whole point is everyone having a job, so you can meet part of the job guarantee goal by having people work in the job guarantee department helping other people get the jobs they want. And when demand for that service decreases some of those people can help themselves find a different job. And it's not like there isn't work out there that needs to be done. It's just that no one is doing that work.

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I don't see how it differs from work-for-the-dole in practice. Presumably you have to do the job the department finds you, like it or not, or you don't get any money? And it would be prone to make-work jobs. If there is work that needs to be done, why not just provide the necessary funding and hire people to do it the regular way? A job guarantee doesn't help with that.

UBI has the advantage that you can supplement it by working as well, but you're not forced to do so if you've got better things to do with your time. And people would generally want to work shorter hours, so the available work could be spread around more people. The more automation of tedious and dangerous jobs, the better!

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There are pros and cons. 

Guaranteed jobs probably do a better job of maintaining productive skills, preserving a sense of worth, and delivering a higher level of income.  But it absolutely is work-for-dole.

OTOH they would leave a lot of people in unproductive drudge jobs for which they are simultaneously unsuited to doing and resentful of.  And those jobs become protected sinecures and entitlements that people are unwilling to give up to take a risk elsewhere.  It costs a lot to pay a full wage for ineffective work, while also crowding out free enterprise from that sector.  There will always be a mismatch — in skills, capability, location, attitude, etc — between the labor pool available and what the govt program could put to work.

UBI has a higher gross cost because of the universal part but, assuming tax sterilization for those with existing incomes, has less net cost to deliver basic income to those with little or no existing income.  The main benefit here is freedom and flexibility on both sides: recipients are free to pursue other interests or sources of income, while the govt isn’t locked into maintaining a large, unwieldy force of unmotivated employees. 

UBI has a difficult needle to thread: too little has insufficient impact, too much means that low skill jobs lose their labor, requiring big price adjustments with negative effects (e.g. fruit and vegetables get very expensive), automation or just lost to the economy.  And the tax sterilization has to be nuanced and graduated. 

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I'm not necessarily opposed to a jobs guarantee in principle. But as has already been pointed out, I'm not sure what mechanism you could use to make sure all of the jobs involved real work that was actually worth doing. You're absolutely right when you say that there's a lot of work that needs to be done that currently isn't being done (caring in particular comes to mind), so in theory a jobs guarantee could channel workers into these areas. But workers aren't a fungible resource, and I'd be very concerned that it would end up being easier to set up make-work rather than try and match particular abilities to particular tasks. And it doesn't necessarily address the inherent power imbalance in worker/employer relations that can so easily lead to exploitation.

I've previously started a thread about bullshit jobs. I'd be very worried about a jobs guarantee reinforcing the phenomenon.

UBI has the potential advantage of giving everyone the ability to say "fuck you" to their employers. If anyone can in theory walk away from their jobs without losing the ability to feed and house themselves and their families, employers suddenly lose a lot of bargaining power. Hopefully it would mean that the only employers able to retain workers would be the employers actually worth working for. Of course, in practice I imagine there would be other complicating factors, but the basic thrust of altering the balance of power between employers and employees still strikes me as a good thing.

 

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My state has a seasonal economy - used to be real extreme, less so now.  Back in my youth, the common practice was you'd work in the fishing industry or construction or the oil patch during the summer, then kick back and collect unemployment during the winter months.  If you were feeling real ambitious and got lucky, you might get a BS job behind a counter or washing dishes or some such.  I went both routes.  Being on unemployment made me feel about three steps lower than dirt.  The BS jobs sucked, but not near as bad.  

Hence, the 'guaranteed job' bit gets my vote, even if it is BS.  At least you are doing something.  Further bonus - this is something that presented correctly, those on the right might actually buy into.

 

UBI, you get a lot of people with lots of time on their hands, low self esteem, and no purpose - a recipe for social catastrophe. 

 

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11 minutes ago, ThinkerX said:

My state has a seasonal economy - used to be real extreme, less so now.  Back in my youth, the common practice was you'd work in the fishing industry or construction or the oil patch during the summer, then kick back and collect unemployment during the winter months.  If you were feeling real ambitious and got lucky, you might get a BS job behind a counter or washing dishes or some such.  I went both routes.  Being on unemployment made me feel about three steps lower than dirt.  The BS jobs sucked, but not near as bad.  

Hence, the 'guaranteed job' bit gets my vote, even if it is BS.  At least you are doing something.  Further bonus - this is something that presented correctly, those on the right might actually buy into.

 

UBI, you get a lot of people with lots of time on their hands, low self esteem, and no purpose - a recipe for social catastrophe

 

Strongly disagree with this 'idle hands' stuff.  People are capable of living full and rich lives that have nothing to do with whatever job they do or however they pay the bills.  I live for the times I can do anything other than work.  

My work is also seasonal, until about 5 years ago I worked April-December and then saved enough to take the winter off.  (Last few years I've been working at a ski mountain).  I loved those times - I'd catch up on reading, play music, and hike and ski.  

I'm sure there are some people who when they retire just rot and waste away.  Not going to be me.  Not how I spend my time outside of work.  And I think the assumption that most people will just waste away or do bad things or feel like shit if they don't have some floor to sweep or beans to count for somebody else is absolutely bananas.

Edited by larrytheimp

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22 minutes ago, ThinkerX said:

If you were feeling real ambitious and got lucky, you might get a BS job behind a counter or washing dishes or some such.  I went both routes.  Being on unemployment made me feel about three steps lower than dirt.  The BS jobs sucked, but not near as bad. 

I don't want to turn this into a reiteration of the BS jobs thread, but I do want to address this. I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing when we talk about BS jobs. Washing dishes isn't a BS job. Washing dishes is useful; it needs to be done. It's not particularly pleasant. It's not particularly prestigious. But it is at least useful. BS jobs are jobs that don't need to be done. And my own personal experience is that being forced to do "work" that you know is useless, and that the person supervising it almost certainly knows is useless, and you each know that the other knows, and having to pretend that it's useful anyway, is vastly more damaging to self-esteem and mental health than doing nothing. At least doing nothing is honest.

And, as larry said above, I don't buy into the narrative that not having paid employment is the same as doing nothing. There's plenty of real work to be done. Useful work. Fulfilling work. It's not being done now because it doesn't make profit for capitalists. And people don't, for the most part, do it anyway because they're obliged to waste most of their time chasing a wage to stave off starvation.

Edited by Liffguard

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26 minutes ago, larrytheimp said:

Strongly disagree with this 'idle hands' stuff.  People are capable of living full and rich lives that have nothing to do with whatever job they do or however they pay the bills.  I live for the times I can do anything other than work.  

My work is also seasonal, until about 5 years ago I worked April-December and then saved enough to take the winter off.  (Last few years I've been working at a ski mountain).  I loved those times - I'd catch up on reading, play music, and hike and ski.  

I'm sure there are some people who when they retire just rot and waste away.  Not going to be me.  Not how I spend my time outside of work.  And I think the assumption that most people will just waste away or do bad things or feel like shit if they don't have some floor to sweep or beans to count for somebody else is absolutely bananas.

then we disagree.  I had many peers who turned into alcoholics or druggies from the tedium of unemployment (others went the religious fanatic route).  Crime, petty, and otherwise skyrocketed during those periods.

that said, yes, some people do make positive adjustments.  A great many, though, do not.  

And a BS job will at least keep a person occupied.  More, it shows other prospective employers that you are at least willing to show up, which is half the battle even with many non-BS jobs.  

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2 minutes ago, ThinkerX said:

then we disagree.  I had many peers who turned into alcoholics or druggies from the tedium of unemployment (others went the religious fanatic route).  Crime, petty, and otherwise skyrocketed during those periods.

But there's a difference between being unemployed within a broader social environment in which you're still expected to rent yourself out to survive, and being free to choose your own work in an environment in which everyone receives the means of survival as a basic right. How much of the negative response was due to living and growing up in a culture that constantly hammers that the inability to "earn" money makes one worthless?

I'll admit, that culture won't change overnight. And I suspect the culture may have to change in order to usher in a UBI rather than UBI leading to a change in culture. But I personally see a major psychological difference between welfare (which is frequently seen as an overly-generous sop to those incapable of providing for themselves), and UBI (which will be a universal and comprehensive right).

I do believe that UBI will need to be framed as a right in order to be successful. It can't just be a privilege to be revoked when inconvenient, or largesse from the powerful to keep the masses passive. It needs to stem from a widespread acceptance that no one should be forced to rent themselves out in order to live.

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2 minutes ago, Liffguard said:

But there's a difference between being unemployed within a broader social environment in which you're still expected to rent yourself out to survive, and being free to choose your own work in an environment in which everyone receives the means of survival as a basic right. How much of the negative response was due to living and growing up in a culture that constantly hammers that the inability to "earn" money makes one worthless?

I'll admit, that culture won't change overnight. And I suspect the culture may have to change in order to usher in a UBI rather than UBI leading to a change in culture. But I personally see a major psychological difference between welfare (which is frequently seen as an overly-generous sop to those incapable of providing for themselves), and UBI (which will be a universal and comprehensive right).

I do believe that UBI will need to be framed as a right in order to be successful. It can't just be a privilege to be revoked when inconvenient, or largesse from the powerful to keep the masses passive. It needs to stem from a widespread acceptance that no one should be forced to rent themselves out in order to live.

I shall be blunt:

to those on the right -and many on the center (or the vast majority of those dwelling in the US) - UBI = welfare with attendant negative social consequences.  That situation will not change for decades.  Guaranteed jobs, though, presented correctly, are acceptable to a majority of those in the US. 

Given the state of the economy and upcoming travails on the Climate Change and Oil Depletion fronts, UBI might not happen at all.   

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Both unemployment benefits in general and a potential UBI have the problem that they are only financially sustainable as long as most people don't use them, and are net payers into the systems. Hence they need to be options of last resort, not attractive alternatives to working a normal job. 

The same is true for a job guarantee. If you are going to provide made up, low productive jobs to anyone who asks, then you need to make either the pay or other conditions bad enough that most people don't want them anyway.

 

 

Edited by Khaleesi did nothing wrong

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UBI might be even more critical if Climate Change gets really bad. Like if millions of US citizens are suddenly displaced and the arable lands start undergoing desertification, feeling like shit because you don't have a job is going to be the least of anyone's concerns and as 'fantastic' as the free market is at weathering massive, systemic shocks, I don't see it providing a useful, dependable solution right away.

But yes, you are probably correct, I don't think most in the US will support a UBI until after it's needed. It's the American tradition of ignoring problems until they start affecting suburban, upper-middle-class families.

 
 
 
1
3 minutes ago, Khaleesi did nothing wrong said:

Both unemployment benefits in general and a potential UBI have the problem that they are only financially sustainable as long as most people don't use them, and are net payers into the systems. Hence they need to be an option people choose as a last resort, not an attractive alternative to working a normal job. 

The same is true for a job guarantee. If you are going to provide made up, low productive jobs to anyone who asks, then you need to make either the pay or other conditions bad enough that most people don't want them anyway. 

Yes, unemployment is made to be temporary and relatively unattractive as it currently exists. UBI would fill a different role and would require some pretty significant changes to the US (and other countries) economy, along with a cultural change, so it need not necessarily fall prey to the same views that people hold of unemployment.

Some sort of job guarantee would likely require even more money to manage than UBI. Like if you are paying someone to do a bullshit job that doesn't need to exist, wouldn't you also need to pay a bunch of people to manage those bullshit jobs and make sure people show up for them and do them even if they're pointless? And for the jobs to have any meaning, they would likely need to pay well above the minimum wage; otherwise, what's the point? Someone does a bullshit job and then has to get a second bullshit (or real) job to be able to afford food and housing? It seems needlessly convoluted to achieve a relatively straightforward goal.

I do think there are plenty of non-bullshit jobs that could be on a job guarantee program (infrastructure maintenance/repair, for example). Still, not everyone is going to be able to do that kind of work, whether because of a lack of knowledge/training or because of physical issues. So not a perfect solution.

Like all solutions to potential problems, UBI likely will have some underlying issues, both with its implementation and underlying effects. Still, IMO, it's a far more elegant solution than a job guarantee program, and at least it's a real attempt at a solution as opposed to just waiting for the free market to fix it.

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14 hours ago, felice said:

I don't see how it differs from work-for-the-dole in practice. Presumably you have to do the job the department finds you, like it or not, or you don't get any money? And it would be prone to make-work jobs. If there is work that needs to be done, why not just provide the necessary funding and hire people to do it the regular way? A job guarantee doesn't help with that.

UBI has the advantage that you can supplement it by working as well, but you're not forced to do so if you've got better things to do with your time. And people would generally want to work shorter hours, so the available work could be spread around more people. The more automation of tedious and dangerous jobs, the better!

That's the key difference between work for the dole and a job guarantee. Work for the dole is coercive on the worker in that they have their dole cut if they don't agree to work. A job guarantee is coercive on the welfare dept to find a person a suitable job and the welfare dept is "penalised" if they can't find the person a suitable job by having to pay the person anyway.

A problem with UBI is that it places no onus on the welfare dept to help people find work. It abrogates that function entirely to the worker by effectively saying to them "we're paying you X, it's up to you to find gainful employment if you want to earn more than X".

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You can use the minimum wage system and UBI in tandem to lift a ton of people out of poverty and serfdom. Just to throw some round numbers out there, start with a 500/month UBI and a 20/hour federal minimum wage. And none of this destroys the current system. It's a ton easier to administer than a jobs program. 

The 500/month wouldn't be enough to fully live on. But, it'd be massive to people in deep poverty. It would supplement the wages of the working class. Also, it'd open up the option of people pooling this in groups.

This wouldn't be the end of people working. Even shitty jobs would become somewhat attractive if the wage was high enough, especially with combining it with the UBI. And a large family could have many people doing this and combining wages/UBI to do great things for their families. What would happen is more people leaving and going from the workforce. This is something people already do. It would just increase the amount of people that have this freedom.

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38 minutes ago, The Anti-Targ said:

That's the key difference between work for the dole and a job guarantee. Work for the dole is coercive on the worker in that they have their dole cut if they don't agree to work. A job guarantee is coercive on the welfare dept to find a person a suitable job and the welfare dept is "penalised" if they can't find the person a suitable job by having to pay the person anyway.

But who defines "suitable"? If it's the worker, they can just reject all jobs as unsuitable and get paid for nothing. If it's the Department, it's functionally identical to work-for-the-dole; you do they job they tell you to do, or you don't get any money.

38 minutes ago, The Anti-Targ said:

A problem with UBI is that it places no onus on the welfare dept to help people find work. It abrogates that function entirely to the worker by effectively saying to them "we're paying you X, it's up to you to find gainful employment if you want to earn more than X".

It does reduce the labour supply, though, making it easier for those who want work to get it. The government should be taking steps to ensure that work is available where people live, including alternative off-season jobs in areas with significant seasonal work, but I don't see a need to tie that to an explicit jobs guarantee. And that's messing with the structure of the economy on a large scale, which is rather different from the individual-level assistance a welfare department would traditionally deal with.

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On 2/23/2020 at 11:20 AM, Khaleesi did nothing wrong said:

Both unemployment benefits in general and a potential UBI have the problem that they are only financially sustainable as long as most people don't use them, and are net payers into the systems. Hence they need to be options of last resort, not attractive alternatives to working a normal job. 

The same is true for a job guarantee. If you are going to provide made up, low productive jobs to anyone who asks, then you need to make either the pay or other conditions bad enough that most people don't want them anyway.

What makes you think people need to pay into the system? Do you think govts need to finance expenditure through taxes? They don't, the only reason a govt needs to tax is to preserve the value of the currency, i.e. limit the inflationary effect of its spending. the problem is no one knows how much tax, how and where from a govt needs to collect to moderate inflation. How much inflation a jobs guarantee (or UBI) causes informs how much tax needs to be collected to offset it. A big fallacy that somehow is entrenched in people's minds is that a govt needs to collect taxes to pay for welfare / jobs programmes. They don't, at least not with a fiat currency where the govt has currency sovereignty.

21 hours ago, felice said:

But who defines "suitable"? If it's the worker, they can just reject all jobs as unsuitable and get paid for nothing. If it's the Department, it's functionally identical to work-for-the-dole; you do they job they tell you to do, or you don't get any money.

It does reduce the labour supply, though, making it easier for those who want work to get it. The government should be taking steps to ensure that work is available where people live, including alternative off-season jobs in areas with significant seasonal work, but I don't see a need to tie that to an explicit jobs guarantee. And that's messing with the structure of the economy on a large scale, which is rather different from the individual-level assistance a welfare department would traditionally deal with.

Yes, some workers will get paid for doing nothing, but that is less spending than a UBI. The basic idea is people who want paid work but aren't in paid work turn up on the department's doorstep and say "give us a job, mate." Given those people are self-motivated to work they are not likely to turn down every job that's offered to them.

A Job guarantee would mean some make work jobs, but why is that a problem? A make work job is still achieving benefits for the person that makes them more employable in the private sector: they are turning up daily to do a job, they are potentially doing something that is healthy for them, they will be developing skills or learning or both. They are far more attractive to private sector employers than someone like my brother who in the current system has spent most of his adult life unemployed and on the dole, applying for jobs but never getting an interview.

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57 minutes ago, The Anti-Targ said:

The basic idea is people who want paid work but aren't in paid work turn up on the department's doorstep and say "give us a job, mate." Given those people are self-motivated to work they are not likely to turn down every job that's offered to them.

But are they actually motivated to work, or do they just need the money? Or are you suggesting that the dole would be available for people who don't want to work, separately from the jobs guarantee?

57 minutes ago, The Anti-Targ said:

A Job guarantee would mean some make work jobs, but why is that a problem? A make work job is still achieving benefits for the person that makes them more employable in the private sector: they are turning up daily to do a job, they are potentially doing something that is healthy for them, they will be developing skills or learning or both.

A UBI makes people who want to work more employable by reducing the supply of labour. And being forced to do a bullshit job is unlikely to be all that psychologically healthy, and there's no guarantee it will be physically healthy either.

If the goal is more jobs being available, I don't think a jobs guarantee is a good way to go about it. There'd be a disconnect between the people tasked with finding jobs, and the people with the power to actually create them, and the former would get blamed. Instead, the government should just provide more funding to departments that could use additional labour, so they can hire more people.

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2 hours ago, felice said:

But are they actually motivated to work, or do they just need the money? Or are you suggesting that the dole would be available for people who don't want to work, separately from the jobs guarantee?

A UBI makes people who want to work more employable by reducing the supply of labour. And being forced to do a bullshit job is unlikely to be all that psychologically healthy, and there's no guarantee it will be physically healthy either.

If the goal is more jobs being available, I don't think a jobs guarantee is a good way to go about it. There'd be a disconnect between the people tasked with finding jobs, and the people with the power to actually create them, and the former would get blamed. Instead, the government should just provide more funding to departments that could use additional labour, so they can hire more people.

The dole has to be available to everyone not currently in full-time paid work. A job guarantee is a guarantee of work if you want it, it's not a demand that you must work.

 

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On 2/21/2020 at 11:57 PM, The Anti-Targ said:

Why are certain segments of the political spectrum so hot on UBI but cold on a job guarantee? A job guarantee comes (or should come) with a better income and because you are employed you are a better hire prospect for the private sector. The Yang UBI proposal (USA) was $1000 per month, which is the equivalent of US$5.76/hr on a full time job. A job guarantee would need to pay at least minimum wage, which is more than $5.76/hr, even after tax I would think. The outlay is higher, but then, the person is doing a job and so is being directly productive for the income, rather than possibly indirectly productive with the time afforded to them by being paid a UBI.

A job guarantee isn't "work for the dole". With work for the dole the welfare department is calling you in and saying you have to come in and do whatever work it is we tell you to do and if you don't then your welfare gets cut. A job guarantee is where a person walks into the welfare department and demands to be given a job, and the welfare department is obliged to give them a job, and if they can't find the person a job then they have to pay the person anyway. Practically speaking there's little difference between work for the dole and a job guarantee, the outcome is nearly everyone works, ie. actual full employment as opposed to the capitalist "full" employment, which is 3.5-4% unemployment. The difference is who is coercing whom, thus with a job guarantee the individual preserves their dignity and freedom instead of being threatened with impoverishment if they don't do what they're told.

A Job guarantee is more demanding administratively. But who cares? The whole point is everyone having a job, so you can meet part of the job guarantee goal by having people work in the job guarantee department helping other people get the jobs they want. And when demand for that service decreases some of those people can help themselves find a different job. And it's not like there isn't work out there that needs to be done. It's just that no one is doing that work.

UBI seems strange to me--it's almost like we're admitting the system is so rigged, here's an extra amount of monthly cash. It ignores the fact that housing markets, utilities, anything we buy, will just increase itself accordingly. 

I like the idea of a job guarantee for a lot of people. Especially considering how, if we're not to doom ourselves, we need to do away with huge industries. If people work in fossil fuels or the private healthcare industry, they ought to be guaranteed a way to transition into other meaningful work, and I think, without any hardship during that transition.

The worry I'd have about a job guarantee is that it fires up the Right even more to insist people work, and they work themselves to the bone. I think a chunk of our population shouldn't be working so much (the working poor), and they ought to be able to spend more time at home with their families. Working three potentially shitty jobs to make ends meet sucks. They ought to work one potentially shitty job, and have plenty of down time, and have discretionary income. A society not structured in this way is inherently cruel.

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UBI and (probably) a JG as well, definitely need universal rent control provisions or property owners will just vacuum it up.

Edited by larrytheimp

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