A Modest Proposal: Ten Steps to a Democratic Economy, Step 1
A Modest Proposal: Ten Steps to a Democratic Economy
by John J. Fitzgerald
I propose Ten Steps to a Democratic Economy. Starting with this column, I would like to explain and defend my proposals. I invite commentary and analysis.
1. The Right to a Job ““ Every person should be guaranteed a job. If the private sector cannot help them, then a public sector job should be available. This could include working on a mass transit system to replace the interstate highway system. Maintenance of public parks, fully staffing public schools and public hospitals could be other areas of employment. We should also publicly fund an alternative energy policy to end our dependence on foreign oil. The model to follow here would be Sweden.
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Every person who is not significantly handicapped should be able to work for a living. I define a decent job as one that pays at least $10.00 per hour, for a 7 hour day, 5 days a week, with decent working conditions, health care and Social Security coverage. If the current market can not supply those jobs, then the government should. This program would be similar to what Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal meant in the 1930’s, except it would not wait for an economic depression to get it started. I would like to see this expand and contract as the situation required. For example, maintenance of public parks and recreation areas would be an ongoing effort. Maintenance of public buildings, schools and hospitals which are historically neglected because of budget concerns would be fully funded, thereby creating a supply job market that will always be present to match demand. Creating a mass transit system would require a huge workforce just as the interstate highway system of the 1950’s and 1960’s did. Converting from an automobile based transportation system would ease global warming and end our dependence on oil from the Middle East. Converting from petroleum and natural gas to wind power, solar and increased hydro would also require new construction and manufacturing jobs.
Shortening the work week to 35 hours will also create more jobs. It would increase leisure time and thus would promote jobs in that sector. We would also have to make over-time illegal. One should be able to survive and flourish on the income generated by one job. The goal is to create more jobs. The whole idea is to get away from a profit making system to an economy that puts people first. Another name for this is democratic socialism.
To attain this goal we need to start discussing it as a goal. Some people are already close to doing this. This past month, [December, 2006] AFL-CIO President John Sweeney outlined his federation’s vision for stopping what he called, “the senseless slaughter” of good American jobs.
In a speech to the National Press Club, Sweeney described how America’s workers have struggled over the past 25 years as “a perfect storm of outsourcing, off shoring, tax evasion, layoffs, work speedups, wage cuts, health care cuts, pension cuts, shifting risks, bashing unions and short-changing communities”
has swept across the economic landscape.
Sweeney talked about some of the immediate actions Congress and President George W. Bush can take to stop the erosion of good jobs in
“¢ Guaranteeing America’s workers the freedom to form unions and
bargain for a better life.
“¢ Giving workers the same protections as corporate interests in
our trade policy.
“¢ Making it illegal for companies to buy or sell products made
in sweatshop conditions.
“¢ Repealing tax laws that encourage companies to send jobs
“¢ Passing universal health care coverage.
“¢ Telling corporate America to rejoin our national community by
investing more in workers and less in their executives.
“¢ Doubling the money we spend on education and job training.
“¢ Raising the minimum wage.
Sweeney is making proposals within the context of a corporate-capitalist-labor union system. I think we need to move beyond this approach and for that we will need to get involved with political parties and political campaigns. A good start might be found in a progressive movement within the Democratic Party.