by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Right now, 50 million Americans make less than $15 an hour. If Sanders’s proposal were to become law tomorrow, what would happen? Tens of millions of Americans would take government jobs, leaving their former employers in the private sector in the lurch and hampering productivity. Some private employers surely would raise wages to compete with the government. Yet many of the jobs-guarantee plans would index government wages to inflation, potentially causing an inflationary spiral as private employers face pressure to continue paying workers more for their labor. A way out for the private sector would be to invest in automation, a good in itself, but surely an unwelcome unintended consequence for supporters of these proposals.
Then, there is the cost of the program, sure to be outlandishly high. Perhaps that is why no jobs-guarantee advocate has given a credible estimate of the price tag. One group of economists writing for the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the cost would be hundreds of billions of dollars per year. But their assertion that the program would not crowd out any private employment is so incredible that it verges on academic malpractice. Meanwhile, both Booker and Sanders have demurred on the question of cost.
In short, the only thing this program would truly guarantee is an expansion of the power and size of the federal government at the expense of sound economics.