From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com
The Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps did some great public projects in the Great Depression – the former building roads, bridges, walls, public buildings and other infrastructure (some of which is still with us), the latter reforesting wide areas, improving parks, addressing erosion on farms and building roads into remote areas. They were both job programs meant to address the immediate unemployment crisis but their work made lasting improvements.
Now, although the jobless rate is very low, some leading Democrats want to create a federal “jobs guarantee’’ to prevent mass unemployment in future recessions/depressions. The basic idea is to hire any American who wants a job and pay him/her $15 an hour and provide health insurance.
Of course, this would be hugely expensive, maybe over $500 billion a year, but backers say raising taxes on the rich, and savings in unemployment-benefit programs, Medicaid and other social services, would make it fiscally plausible. I doubt it: The costs would probably quickly spiral out of control, and it would be an administrative nightmare.\
Could the Feds really put all of the millions of people who would sign up into productive work? Of course, they’d be some jobs requiring little skill, such as ditch digging, picking up litter, some kinds of exterior painting and planting trees, but WPA-type projects now require a lot of people trained in operating complex machinery and even computers. The private sector wants people with those skills and generally pays more than $15 an hour for them.
As the usually very interesting conservative writer Megan McArdle noted in The Washington Post, the massive program envisioned by some Democrats would involve a lot of “make-work.’’ (See:
But we would benefit greatly from targeted federal jobs programs that put people to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and in such sectors as public health and education.
Oh, by the way, whatever happened to the huge infrastructure program promised by Trump?