I recently saw Senator Bernie Sanders speak right in my neighborhood. Sanders just last week endorsed local congressional candidate Jess King who has raised twice as much as the incumbent despite being in a favorably republican district. That day the rejuvenated summer sun may have bore down on the crowd of over 2,000, but did not beat down their spirits.
As I stood in the crowd, I could feel the rage hiding just under the surface; rage against a system that has betrayed the American people at every turn: a system that elected corporate ghouls (democrat and republican alike) that tear apart our social institutions like ravenous wolves. But that rage shifted into hope, as we heard from the speakers, a young boy who fought against the controversial Keystone pipeline, a firebrand city councilman, and finally King and Sanders.
During his remarks, Sanders called for an increase in the minimum wage, criminal justice reform, expanding social security, and a widespread jobs program to aid in nationwide infrastructure projects . I wholeheartedly support his platform, especially his final tenet. It is in fact time for a national job guarantee in America.
There are roughly 6.3 million unemployed persons in the United States today. When our infrastructure is crumbling, our bridges and roads in decay, why should we rely on the private sector to put a bandage on a severed arm? Private contracts will “repair” our vital road network with low quality materials and then extract tolls like feudal robber barons. And why stop with roads? We need a serious reinvestment in our rail system, which has continued to atrophy throughout the years. Why rely on egomaniacal capitalists like Elon Musk to improve our transit systems?
I am certain some would say that a federal job guarantee would be a “gross mismanagement of government funds” or a “handout to bums.” Freeloading bums like Speaker Paul Ryan, who will receive a $85,000 pension after his retirement this year, will have no problem finding a cushy lobbyist job and will never experience the crippling stress of being one of America’s many unemployed.
The fact is that America has done too little to maintain its promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We have been in need of a “second bill of rights” for a long time, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt concluded in 1944. He argued that all citizens have the guaranteed right to work, to be compensated with fair income, and have housing and medical care.
The federal government has the power and the capability to do all of this; however, it would require a deep examination of budget priorities in the nation that would disturb the powers at be. But with this stirring of progressivism across the nation, I believe that is no longer a question of if we can, but when.