Posted on July 7, 2016 by Earthman
The number of unadjusted jobs reported for May was 144.592 million. The estimated adult population of the US is over 250 million. That is over 100 Million more people than jobs. There are not enough jobs for them all. That’s not my opinion or a political talking point. That is a fact. (http://unemploymentdata.com/charts/current-employment-data/)
Only 59.2% of American adults have a job. The labor-force participation rate, the real number of employed people (including those can’t work, don’t want to, or want to but have given up trying) fell to 62.4% last quarter. The highest it has been in my lifetime was 64.7 in April of 2001. Just that one month. (http://data.bls.gov/pdq/SurveyOutputServlet)
There are not enough jobs for everyone. The promise of the industrial revolution was that there would not be enough work for everyone to do 40, even 30 hours a week. We’ve blown past that. Just as the cotton gin put people out of work, computers and robots continue to make human labor obsolete.
We currently place to much importance on how economically productive a person is; how much do they make; how much do they make their employer; how easily replaced are they. The fact is that we are all replaceable, eventually, if profit continues to be the biggest motivation. We need it not to be, or humanity will devalue itself out of existence.
There are two things we could do to address this:
Continue to value people by productivity, but give up technology. We could all be Amish, and use only the minimum tech needed to get along, while reserving the largest portion of labor for humans and animals, so that they retain their value; so that they retain their “pride”.
The other solution is to abandon the idea that human beings need to earn their value. Give up the idea that some people are worth more than others because they are capable of more on some level. We can start valuing humans just because we are humans. We can set up a standard of living that no one is allowed to fall below, and we can focus our resources on maintaining that basic level of humanity above individual profit and prestige. We tax people and, especially, corporations with money to support individuals without.
The gains of the second option are many. The few tests on such programs show that people are healthier, better educated, and (because they can do work they love rather than taking work for food and shelter) they are actually more productive. They know that they can innovate, create, and enjoy life and that they will have a place to sleep and steady meals, making it possible to choose to invent, start a business, or create art.
So, put me down as a supporter of some kind of minimum income/reverse income tax. I will let economists and sociologists sort out the details before I pick a plan, but it seems to me that we have a need to change how we value human beings, and that we need to address it soon. This, to me, is the more reasonable and optimistic answer. I will admit that the Amish seem to have something that works for them, though.