Public Attitudes to Welfare – Another Reason why we need a Job Guarantee

This pissed me off today. A good old fashioned hatchet job on a couple of creditable people who dared have the nerve to stick their head above the parapet and speak out. But this is not a blog about Richard Littlejohn, a thoroughly despicable individual who reminds me a lot of Lewis Prothero from V for VendettaOne of the subjects of Littlejohn’s outburst did a pretty good job of responding hereso there’s not much more to be said on the man himself.

What’s more interesting is what it says about the welfare debate in this country. Until now, I’ve been quite optimistic about people’s attitudes about the welfare state, but now I’m not so sure. It would be easy to dismiss Littlejohn’s article as trolling or ‘linkbait’, but I think people in general are very easily persuaded that there are millions of people out there taking the piss while they work hard. It’s a view I often hear from friends and colleagues, and no amount of facts and figures will change their minds. People resent the fact that benefit claimants seemingly don’t have to do very much for their benefits (not true, but that’s what they think).

So what’s the solution? Successive governments have tried to compete over who can be the toughest on welfare, introducing to fitness to work tests, more hoops to jump through and harsher sanctions. This government has taken this to demented and particularly cruel levels at a time when jobs and in short supply, and decent paid jobs are as rare as hens teeth. At the moment, the options for an unemployed person is get a job (if they are very lucky), fruitlessly look for a job, or go on a government punishment scheme. I think we need a 4th option – a guaranteed job paid for by the government.

This removes a lot of the resentment felt by working people towards those out of work. If anyone losing a job had the option of taking a guaranteed job, they will be seen as doing something for something. Most people would take that option I believe. I think the welfare system should be rebuilt around the idea of a full employment economy as we had when the welfare state was introduced, then we can get past this playing off one set of people against another, and ensure the welfare system does what it’s suppose to – pick people up who’ve been discarded by the system and keep them active and ready to get back in the game.


11 thoughts on “Public Attitudes to Welfare – Another Reason why we need a Job Guarantee

  1. The problem with that is that those who oppose traditional welfare on the basis of “They mooch off our tax dollars!!!!” are equally opposed to any form of government spending for “them”, and would see a “job guarantee” as just more “freebies” for the undeserving at their expense. Only prison labor or workhouses will satisfy their opposition. In addition, most recipients of welfare already work at least part time, and the welfare is used as a means for their employers to subsidize and reward their already abysmal pay.

    I’m not opposed to a Job Guarantee program, especially since there are vast social needs and infrastructure that need to be built that the private sector simply is unwilling to invest in…but as long as women and children bear the brunt of abject poverty, there is still a great need for using social relief funds to relieve their condition until the economy recovers enough. In other words, f*ck Richard Littlejohn and all the othe Scroogeniks….better to support poor people than enslave them.

    1. Yes, people might need convincing that job guarantee work can be as or more ‘useful’ than flipping burgers or investment banking for example, but that shouldn’t be impossible. People seem to like the idea of the unemployed picking up litter for their benefits, so why not something more productive for more money?

      And yes, welfare is used to subsidise low pay, but setting the JG wage high enough and making the offer open to all could really shake up the labour market, and help tip the balance of power back towards the side of the worker.

      1. The trick is to make sure that the Job Alternative Guarantee is available to *all*. If you’re in a dead end job and you hate it then you can quit and take up the state’s alternative, at the living wage, working for the public good.

        If it is a universal offer, then the line that the jobs are worthless becomes moot – because everybody can go and do this work – as long as they are prepared to accept the standard wage on offer.

        Everybody should have a right to a JAG

  2. I would not worry about it….those people are whiners and are always complaining about someone else…those public attitudes are generally coming from the American White Trash anyways..duped into thinking that the Federal Gov should be run as a household…..or from those, including professional politicians, Reps and Dems, that think we are still in the gold standard and do not cherish the value of our Fiat Monetary Systems in which money is really infinite….see the government could create those jobs you mentioned but these politicians pretend that there is scarcity of money which is totally false
    I think there should be more social programs….guaranteed income, guaranteed health care, food, housing

  3. Conservative myth:” Government programs benefit others – not me”

    Most of the taxes that we pay go to programs that benefit others – such as welfare and foreign aid – not programs that help average Americans like us.

    Truth: Welfare and foreign aid make up less than 3% of the federal budget. The government spends most of its money on programs like Social Security and Medicare that benefit all of us.

  4. The Job Guarantee idea is as old as the stars. It was first implemented 2,500 years ago by Pericles in Ancient Greece. It’s been tried dozens of times before. There is a VAST LITERATURE on the subject. And a vast amount of research has been done into how previous attempts to implement the idea worked out.

    Simply saying “let’s have Job Guarantee” which is about all the above article says is a complete and total waste of breath.

    If the author of the above article could go away and spend a few months studying the literature, then he/she might come up with something useful.

    1. Hi Ralph, a little rude, but thanks for your comment. I have read your views on the job guarantee which you repeat regularly and at length and find them similarly to be a complete and total waste of breath, so lets leave it there.

      1. I’m interested to learn that you have “read my views on the job guarantee” and that you find them to be a “total waste of breath”. I’d actually be prepared to bet a large amount of money that you have no idea as to what my ideas are on the subject. I actually set out my ideas in detail here:

        If the ideas in the latter paper really do contain obvious and simple mistakes, as you seem to imply, can you let me know what they are? I’m always happy to learn. If you manage to do a really good demolition job on that above paper, I’ll send you several bottles of champagne for Xmas, or the equivalent in cash.

        Obviously I’d have to be the judge of what constitutes a “really good demolition job” which is a slight problem: you’d just have to trust me on that.

        1. Hi Ralph, I don’t want your money, but here’s a comment you left on here last year:

          “You might be interested (or not) in a paper of mine which looks at JG / workfare / WPA type schemes from a purely theoretical point of view:

          My basic argument is that as unemployment declines, the marginal product of labour declines till it hits the minimum wage / union wage / going wage. At which point employers cease hiring from the dole queue, and instead start poaching each other’s labour.

          Ergo if we subsidised those “low marginal product” potential employees, employment could be raised. I also claim that there is no reason to make a distinction between public and private sector. So I’m glad to see the Jobs Fund and the Work Programme included some private sector jobs.”

          I’ve seen you make similar comments elsewhere many times (I’m a regular reader of Billy Blog for example). I reject your argument because it is based upon ideas about the marginal product of labour, that I think are fallacious. I don’t believe that is how employers actually make hiring decisions, and I think subsidising jobs in the private sector creates an equal (but different) set of administrative challenges as an MMT job guarantee would.

          Finally, I apologise for my tone above. It was a reaction to your rather rude (and uncalled for) comment about what was a rather short blog trying to convey a single idea. I do not think your ideas are a total waste of breath, merely that I disagree with them (on the JG). There are others areas where I think we’d probably agree.

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