It may not surprise you that behind Senator Bernie Sanders’ latest proposal to transform the ideological landscape in America, there’s a plan to provide financial sustenance for a large portion of Americans that will undoubtedly come at the expense of a wealthier, higher tax-paying portion of Americans. And, perhaps it won’t surprise you either that Sanders’ representatives have yet to do a cost estimate for the proposal to provide a taxpayer-funded job for anyone and everyone “who wants or needs one”. It’s been referred to as “large-scale government works” by the Washington Post, but those familiar with Sanders will be more likely to see the program for what it is; a short-term, immensely flawed ‘solution’ that will not address the fundamental issues plaguing Americans.
‘Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will announce a plan for the federal government to guarantee a job paying $15 an hour and health-care benefits to every American worker “who wants or needs one,” embracing the kind of large-scale government works project that Democrats have shied away from in recent decades.
Sanders's jobs guarantee would fund hundreds of projects throughout the United States aimed at addressing priorities such as infrastructure, care giving, the environment, education and other goals. Under the job guarantee, every American would be entitled to a job under one of these projects or receive job training to be able to do so, according to an early draft of the proposal.’ (Washington Post)
Just to be clear, these aren’t programs to incentivize hiring by private sector employees, as the recent tax cuts proved to stimulate. This proposal is to mandate that the government would hand out a job paying $15 an hour to anybody who so pleased. There are several issues with this plan, beginning with the fact that it is consummate Sanders. The concept that the taxpayer would foot the bill to pay $15 an hour for government employees in jobs which the market is not beckoning for is the move toward a Socialistic system which one might expect from Bernie.
But, even worse, the plan doesn’t address the issues which the nation will need to resolve in order to move forward. It’s been abundantly clear for quite some time now that the primary issue holding back the American workforce isn’t a true lack of jobs. It’s a lack of jobs that don’t offer employment free of a drug test or drug-related behavior, prerequisites which increasing numbers of Americans cannot or are not willing to abide by. This is the case in Michigan, Ohio, and nationwide. These are private sector jobs which would pay a steady wage, and would not rely upon the earnings of others to sustain those jobs primarily through their tax payments, as the Sanders proposal would.
This reality hits at the core of why the Sanders proposal is so immensely wrongheaded: it doesn’t actually aim to solve the issues which are holding back, arguably, a generation from finding purpose and happiness. The drugs most commonly being abused and causing chronic addiction which makes steady employment virtually impossible are opioids. Opioid overdoses accounted for nearly two-thirds of overdose deaths in 2016, which is a sign of the epidemic which sees an average of 115 Americans die daily. In 1999, deaths per 100,000 for synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, heroin, and natural and semi-synthetic opioids was less than 1 per each category. By 2016, the kill count for each of these categories had risen above 4 deaths per 100,000, with synthetic opioids accounting for 6 deaths per 100,000. These statistics show no sign of slowing down, with deaths up across gender, race, class, and age.
This widespread and rising use of hard drugs is made even more sobering by the reality that by 2009, 15 states saw more overdose deaths from prescription drugs than car crash accidents. All of these statistics are to illustrate, again, that job availability is not the problem. It’s a deficit of mental health and a scourge of nihilistic, purposeless sentiments among Americans, and especially young Americans, which is being ignored in putting forth such society-altering proposals as Sanders’. And, the implications of implementing this system would likely mean a private-sector working class that harbors resentment, not compassion, for those who are willing to take tax dollar paychecks without fulfilling a role that the nation will truly benefit from or need as a matter of market demand.
The lack of fulfillment so many people feel today, an emptiness which can often lead to addiction, is not going to be alleviated by the reality that you are being paid $15 an hour by, essentially, Americans who competed and sacrificed to attain their own paycheck. And that internal void is not going to be helped by the creation of jobs in ‘infrastructure, care giving, the environment, education’ which aren’t currently in demand. Perhaps it’s realistic to expand these sectors to help the working class attain more job options – that’s part of what Trump ran upon – but to create these sectors artificially in order to provide jobs which the market is not dictating is extremely short-sighted.
Job re-training has its merits, but creating a generation of individuals who are employed for the sake of taking a paycheck, while a reality for many right now, will not quell the symptoms that have caused a spike in addiction and despair which has prevented those people from working under current market conditions, where jobs which don’t require great skill are already available.
Worse, the resentment that most in the private sector are likely to harbor for all government employees, even those who do fill a real yet not obvious need to the general public, will come as the result of the notion that government jobs are simply handouts. Plus, do we really need more TSA agents fondling us as we go through security?
Worse, it’s a system that sends the wrong message, that no matter your actions, choices, or drive, there will be a relatively steady job for you at the end of the day. Because of the factors previously discussed – these jobs would have little inherent value nor come with any real sense of fulfillment – this effect of ambition-stifling and professional malaise is not likely to take effect quickly. But over generations, should this system of professional welfare be maintained, a society is bound to become far less productive. Just study the Greek debt crisis, which was largely the result of cushy government jobs being handed out like fliers, if you don’t believe it.
These won’t be individuals gaining true skills to prepare them for the age of technology and innovation, or even the slowly-disappearing age of manufacturing. Rest assured, it will be a hoard of power-hungry, low-level bureaucrats thinking their $15 per hour paycheck gives them the right to tell you what to do, whether it’s in the airport security line, in your local school zone, or the DMV waiting line.
Does Bernie Sanders really think that more bureaucracy and national debt is the answer to the opioid and mental health crises? Surely, even he can’t be so naïve.
But where Sanders is not naïve, and what likely matters to Sanders most, is that free stuff sells. Especially when that free thing is a steady job for life, with literally no strings attached.