Magazine article The American Prospect

The Road to Good Jobs

Magazine article The American Prospect

The Road to Good Jobs

Article excerpt

America needs more good jobs at good wages. The combination of deregulation, global low-wage competition, and the attack on unions has reduced the supply of reliable jobs with decent wages, benefits, and career prospects. This shift comes at a time when other social supports have been cut. Any serious student of this subject knows two things. First, there is no single silver bullet. Second, any good jobs strategy needs to be anchored in politics--and a very different politics than the dominant one.

With a different politics, we could have a national strategy of investment in new technologies, such as energy-sufficiency, promoting not just clean-energy security but good domestic jobs. We could restore the right of workers to bargain collectively, and unions could again lead the way to a society of decent breadwinner wages. We could decide that all human-service jobs financed with public funds would be not low-wage, high-turnover jobs, but professions that were part of career tracks with decent wages. We could use the leverage of public outlay to create good, permanent private-sector jobs.

We could change the rules of the trading system so that trade did not produce a race to the bottom for workers here and overseas. We could link education and training strategies to actual rather than hypothetical good jobs, with what our Scandinavian friends call an active labor market policy. We could run our economy at or near full employment. We could have comprehensive immigration reform, with immigrants on the road to full citizenship rather than being a reserve low-wage army with no labor or civic rights.

The recent structural changes in the global economy, reducing labor's bargaining power and lowering labor costs for multinational corporations, are not some spontaneous result of technological changes or of foreign trade per se. Rather, they are the result of a specific brand of globalization that privileges property rights, while deliberately undercutting the social and labor rights that anchor the managed form of capitalism that has produced greater security and equality in most of the wealthy democracies.

Some of what America needs to promote development of good jobs is at odds with the current rules of the international trading system, most of them promoted by the U.S. government. For instance, if we embarked on an Apollo-scale program using public investment to create a new high-tech renewable energy industry that would produce exports as well as good domestic jobs, this strategy could well be challenged as illegal under the World Trade Organization. …

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