PODCAST: Responding to bad faith criticism of the Federal Job Guarantee

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Editorial by Jeff Epstein, Editor-in-Chief of Citizens’ Media TV

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On May 1, 2018, I interviewed my friend and NJ-07 congressional candidate, Peter Jacob. One of my questions to Peter was, “What are your sources of truth?” One of the sources he told me was The Best Of The Left (BOTL), a podcast that highlights the best segments of other progressive podcasts, centered around current topics.

The first BOTL episode I listened to was about to the Federal Job Guarantee (FJG or JG). I recently wrote an article on the subject and did a radio interview about that article.

Almost every segment in the episode was excellent and supportive of the FJG. But two segments, both from a podcast called The Weeds by Vox (from this episode), were strongly against the JG. I found these two segments very upsetting. Not because they disagreed, but because it felt like their arguments were made in bad faith. It seemed that they were not interested in understanding or improving the JG but instead wanted to convince the listener that the JG is fatally flawed and should be abandoned.

Most of their arguments against the JG are easily refuted. Two examples:

Woman: “I don’t know if people want to send their children to a ‘childcare center of last resort,’ knowing that this person has a guaranteed job at some level.”

Man1: “Is a childcare center of last resort also a childcare center for ex-cons?”

[Laughter]

Woman: “I’ve been touring childcare facilities lately I don’t think I would go to that one.”

This assumes that people must be hired into any job they desire even if it’s obscenely inappropriate. Those who would not keep children safe should not be hired to care for children. To have to clarify this is embarrassing – it should be embarrassing. This disingenuously takes the term “guarantee” in FJG too literally and to unreasonable levels.

Man2:

If I took an employer of last resort job in some green core, and on the first day I was told I should put some solar panels on some houses, I would break a lot of solar panels.

Again, this assumes that people would be assigned to jobs that they are not appropriate (in this case, ill-prepared) for, simply because they desired it and the job program is “guaranteed.” The major JG proposals all contain on-the-job training. The JG is for jobs that are for the public good and not necessarily profitable. A highly specialized job such as installing solar panels may not be appropriate for the job guarantee program at all. People should not be placed in positions for which they are completely unprepared or unqualified or inappropriate. Again, to have to clarify something so obvious suggests that the criticism may not be genuine.

I later discovered that The Weeds podcast is hosted by Matt Yglesias (“Man1” in the above dialogue). In response to a recent Democratic primary day where many Progressives lost, Yglesias tweeted the following (which has now been deleted):

Democratic Party primary voters mostly like Democratic Party establishment types and that this is a good reminder that Twitter isn’t real life.

The tweet assumes the Democratic primaries are completely fair fights, with completely equal media coverage, party support, and voters who are equally aware and educated about all candidates – and in this completely fair fight, they still chose the non-progressive candidate. Yglesias surely knows this is not the case, and indeed, likely benefits from the unfairness.

Finally, Yglesias wrote an article on the FJG in 2014, which has been strongly debunked by MMT economist Pavlina Tcherneva. Some quotes:

  • “Matt Yglesias has written a post that has the words job guarantee in the title but has nothing to do with the actual JG proposal.”
  • The things in Yglesias’ article are “not the job guarantee and we have debunked such silly characterizations many times. Unfortunately for his readers, he is either unfamiliar with the most basic literature on the JG, or is deliberately misleading them.”
  • “In truth, there is nothing of substance in the Yglesias piece that represents an actual critique of the JG. The only thing one could surmise is that he objects to it because it’s ‘messy.’ He’s essentially echoing the oft-heard objection to the JG that “it’s a good idea; until you start thinking about implementation.”
  • “…posts like that of Yglesias would seem like a thinly-veiled strategy to sling mud before the idea gets a fair hearing…. Cynics uninterested in examining the basic merits of the JG should be ignored.”

To express these sentiments, I left a phone message on the BOTL podcast feedback line. Part of my message was featured on their May 15th Middle East episode (at around the 65 minute mark). In the above audio (which originated from this livestream), I reenact my message. I also describe even more offending quotes from The Weeds podcast episode, and why each of them seem disingenuous.

The full and original phone recording (from this BOTL audio-only video of the call) is appended to the end of this recording.

Below is the dialogue I had with the BOTL host (in comments on the livestream). He has since asked me for good faith criticisms of the FJG, which I am grateful for and will be providing to him.

We are 100% funded by our readers. Please support independent journalism. Help pay for Citizens’ Media TV.

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