To end the race to the bottom in wages and working conditions, we must transform national politics. National jobs programs lay the foundation for international solidarity by building bases strong enough to end the global race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.
Regardless of race and class, voters consistently rank “jobs and the economy” as their most important issue. A platform that forefronts public investment in well paying and stable jobs is a direct response to these concerns. Equally importantly, a jobs program can transform the political terrain by practically demonstrating the power of a progressive platform to address everyone’s concerns. This will be highly favorable to all progressive priorities--including those not usually considered "economic," such as criminal justice reform and environmental protection.
In America, people no longer believe that anyone who "works hard" can earn a decent job and a better future. And they have good reason. Since the rise of neoliberalism in the 1970s, there has been virtually no wage growth except for the wealthiest few. In the last decade, things have only gotten worse. Jobs created since 2008 have overwhelmingly been part-time, temporary, unstable, low-paying, with no opportunity for advancement. For this more than any other reason, the neoliberal status quo has lost legitimacy with American workers and progressives.
The current progressive economic platform responds to these problems by arguing for the need to increase public contributions from the wealthy and corporations. This analysis should continue to be a central part of our platform: it allows us to mobilize the progressive base, to make the case that corporate power is the key obstacle to a fair economy, and to take on corporate power in the financial, health insurance, pharmaceutical, and fossil fuel industries.
This analysis must be part of a broader platform that links wealth redistribution with job creation and inclusive economic growth. Voters are looking for a positive vision of how to restore the link between work and a better future. For this reason, a massive jobs program that combines significant investments in public goods with a clear vision for economic, racial, and social justice is essential.
A Progressive Infrastructure Plan
In May 2017 the U.S. Congressional Progressive Caucus announced a bold new progressive infrastructure plan called the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs. This bold proposal would invest $2 trillion over 10 years, employing 2.5 million Americans in its first year, to rebuild transportation, water, energy, and information systems, while massively overhauling the country’s unsafe and inefficient schools, homes, and public buildings. Key progressive organizations around the US, including People's Action, are rallying around this proposal as a platform designed to win big. Learn more about the proposal >
NATIONALISM CAN'T "BRING JOBS BACK"— BECAUSE THE MAJORITY OF JOBS WERE LOST TO TECHNOLOGY, NOT OUTSOURCING
We sympathize with the political desperation born from economic suffering. But economic nationalism is a doomed strategy. Whether on the right or the left, nationalism is based on a flawed analysis of the global and national economy. It cannot improve condition of working people, and it doesn’t bring jobs back for the simple reason that those jobs don’t exist anymore. Between 2000 and 2010, the US lost about 5.6 million manufacturing jobs, but nearly 88 percent of those jobs were lost to technology and automation, not other countries.
In fact, manufacturing employment is trending down globally, as manufacturing productivity rises while demand stagnates due to poor wage growth. In 1980 it took 25 jobs to generate $1 million in manufacturing output in the U.S. Today it takes five jobs. This gap will only continue to increase as automation advances across sectors. Under these conditions, protectionism means fighting for a larger piece of a rapidly shrinking pie, which can only end disastrously for workers in all countries. Instead, we need to focus on taking back the massive wealth produced by automation for the workers whose jobs have been replaced.
The history of labor unions in the U.S. testifies to the need for an international progressive movement. From the 1950-70’s, U.S. labor unions focused on protecting the interests of a narrow group of workers, even at the expense of other workers in the U.S. and abroad. This strategy has led to massive losses in labor power since the rise of neoliberalism in the 1970’s. As a result, unions have been unable to address losses from what little outsourcing there has been at the same time as they failed to ensure that the massive wealth produced by automation was distributed to the workers whose jobs were replaced. The fall of American unions since the 1970s has directly corresponded with a fall in the job opportunities and real wages of American workers.
We cannot afford to repeat these mistakes. Instead, we can and must build international solidarity between working people and progressives across borders to transform the rules of the global economy. Only a bold, progressive internationalist platform that combines jobs creation with global labor standards can build the power necessary to constrain corporate power worldwide and lift all people out of the insecurity and despair that has been produced neoliberalism. The fate of workers in rich countries like the U.S. is not at odds with workers in economically poorer countries, but intimately tied up in it.