Human dignity

We are at unemployment levels typically considered full employment. We are about 4.8 million short of the record we hit pre-pandemic regarding the civilian workforce. Yet some are focused on people not employed. But not in a positive way. They are attacking people they think are lazy or getting over. Again they are not focused on the fact 96.5% of the people working before the pandemic are working now. They are mad about the 3.5% not working. Why are we not looking at the quality of jobs? Why are we not looking at the lives our society is creating? Why are we not focused on the issues they are having getting back into the workforce?

It is easy to see vacant jobs and unemployed people and think they should be working. But what is more difficult is to probe why some jobs remain unfilled. Are we creating jobs that are not just a job but provide dignity? Covid-19 and the resulting recession displaced many workers and made them re-evaluate their lives. Many lost jobs, lost family members, ended relationships and upended many aspects of their lives. Yet, we are not focused on that. We are trying to restart a society that was failing far too many Americans.

One of my favorite candidates for President (Andrew Yang) often would refute comments about the GDP and stock market. People would spout off about how high either was only for him to cite health quality, household debt, life expectancy, mental health, environmental quality, stock ownership, savings rates, homeownership rates, happiness, education, marriage rates, and so on. These are all things that have got worse because of the pandemic.

If we want to understand the 3.5%, this is where we should start. People are not staying out of the workforce because they do not want to work but because the jobs available are not presenting them with a better life. We have a chance to change that. World Happiness reports have shown a more generous welfare state pays dividends. The report found a more comprehensive welfare state drives down inequality and crime; and as social support increases, life expectancy increases, people’s freedom increases, their generosity increases, and corruption goes down. We have an opportunity to fix the safety net, expand health coverage, and increase opportunities for wealth. We need to provide not just jobs but better lives. With this reset, we need to address the issues plaguing Americans. To reset the inequalities and disparities we see, we have to be willing to reinvest in people. As progressives, we need to fight against wage suppression, stand with unions, expand collective bargaining, build affordable housing in thriving communities, and create an economy that works for the betterment of all.

(I forgot to define full employment, so here is the Wikipedia definition of it. Full employment is a situation in which there is no cyclical or deficient-demand unemployment.[1] Full employment does not entail the disappearance of all unemployment, as other kinds of unemployment, namely structural and frictional, may remain.)

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