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What progressives need to do about unemployment

What you think is a progressive program for change was only an attempt to head off real change during the Great Depression.

After the stunning insult by the Messiah, no doubt progressives are feeling a bit bewildered and frustrated. There is an easy answer for this: Admit you are wrong and get it right this time. You are still immersed in the make-believe world of the 1930s, but life has moved on.

The GOP and the Democratic Party mainstream are kicking your butt because they have dumped all their baggage from that period.

For the GOP in particular, their insistence on a balanced budget has gone the way of the Model A. The Party of Wall Street now knows there is nothing wrong with deficits: their base — the very wealthy — need a place to hide their vast holdings that cannot be invested productively, and what better place to put it than in Washington’s AAA rated debt instruments.

Moreover, they know buying US debt allows them to convert an ever increasing portion of the federal, state and local tax revenue stream into handsome fictitious profits even as American education collapses into the debris of a rusting and increasingly decrepit infrastructure.

They have learned, but you are still trying to revive FDR’s Second Bill of Rights — reimagining those rights in almost exactly the very form he did, with an updated version of the WPA.

It is not going to work. The nation and the world have long since passed from the industrial age, when a third of the population farmed, national economies were mostly insulated from external economic pressures, and governments jealously guarded their domestic industries.

We are now in a globalized world economy where agriculture labor is insignificant, national barriers to trade are rapidly falling, and industrial employment is quickly going the way of farming as a vocation.

You need to be there with the rest of the world.

The digital revolution and globalization is making it very difficult to rely on government economic policy to sustain full employment. It is costly to an extent that even working class families (what you call the “middle class”) question it.

Small measure of the change between the 1930s and now: The rightward drift in this country has been so pronounced that FDR’s WPA model seems like quite a progressive response to the unemployment crisis. In fact, it was the conservative response to the Great Depression, as Paul Krugman will attest, backed by Wall Street and business associations to head off the really radical idea — in the 1930s, mind you — of reducing the work week to 30 hours.

That’s right, in the 1930s the idea of a 25 percent reduction in hours of work was not only popular, but actually passed the senate in the form of legislation sponsored by the American Federation of Labor, and introduced by future Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black (then senator from Alabama) and Representative William Connery of Massachusetts.

Wall Street and industrial fatcats intervened to kill it — FDR pulled an Obama and “compromised” by spending public money to create make-work projects instead under the WPA.

Millions of working families lost the opportunity to spend precious hours free from labor to care for their families, their communities and their own intellectual development.

And, to keep up this unnecessarily long work week, trillions have been spent in wasted government programs — not to mention an increasingly Ponzi debt shell game — in a desperate attempt to create more unnecessary work.

The nation is looking for a way to drastically reduce unemployment, and to do it in a way that doesn’t require massive new government spending.

Join the digital age, where labor is rapidly being shed by improvements in productivity, and demand jobs be created the 21st Century way: by reducing hours of work for everyone.

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