Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Giving a Handout Job
As the old saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't teach simple math to Bernie Sanders." A saying which is particularly apt in light of the Vermont senator's statement that he will soon be announcing a new federal jobs program which would guarantee a $15/hour job and health benefits to every adult American who "wants or needs one."
Sure, such a program sounds like it would be prohibitively expensive, but surprisingly the whole thing could be funded simply by raising taxes so high that the evil rich and the somewhat-evil middle class will literally beg for quick, merciful deaths.
Even apart from the funding for such a program, we foresee a number of other problems with the idea:
• What the heck kind of jobs will these even be? Jobs in the actual government?! Because we're not guessing that this new pool of workers would add much in the way of efficiency for our already hopelessly moribund bureaucracies. Or will the government create businesses which will compete with their private sector counterparts, who will be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to getting employees or actually being profitable?
• When these magical $15/hour jobs appear, what will happen to those currently making less than that amount? Oh yeah, they'll all jump ship and take the new jobs (which apparently aren't finite in number). And who will take their places? No one - unless they're stupid and hate money. Although Bernie's plan does contain a loophole: the new jobs are for adult Americans. Meaning the jobs with substandard wages can still be performed by children.
• Bernie's plan would include job training (presumably in many languages) for any who need it. But where will these instructors come from? And how will job seekers be ferried back and forth to class? We're guessing that in any given week, one third of the group will be paid $15/hour as drivers, one third will be paid $15/hour to take classes, and the last third will get $15/hour to teach. The next week (and the one after), they all switch jobs. Finally, a perpetual motion machine!
• Businesses trying to compete for workers by offering higher wages (while simultaneously being taxed more) will have to raise consumer prices significantly just to survive. Unless, say, GovMart or GovPizza or McGovBurger undercuts those prices since they're not required to make an actual profit. So the likelihood is that prices in the private sector would shoot up until consumers rebel and desert them...after which the private businesses will close, reducing the tax base, and forcing taxes to be raised even higher to keep the program funded. This is what is known as a "death spiral" to both economists and the gigantic self-devouring worm Ouroboros.
Is Bernie's plan likely to pass? Thankfully, no - but it's a frightening bellwether of where quite a few Progressives want to take the country. And if the midterms go badly for our side, they just might possibly get the chance.
Posted by Stilton Jarlsberg at 12:01 AM