Job Insurance – Part 10 (The Powerpoint)

In Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, New Deal, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Welfare State, WPA on October 27, 2009 at 7:58 pm


So before I even started the Job Insurance series, I wrote this post on presenting a plan for public employment.  And I still believe that it’s important for academics who are also activists to learn how to construct arguments that are streamlined and comprehensible to non-experts. so I thought I’d revisit my presentation and present an updated version for commentary.

Why This Matters:

Especially among progressive academics, John Dewey is a secular saint, admired for his radically new conception of democracy as a deliberative and scientific process, whereby active and inquiring citizens and public intellectuals would interact and communicate on a somewhat level playing field.  Rather than the kind of elitist technocracy preferred by Walter Lippmann, Dewey believed that an informed democracy could exist, wherein experts would provide their expertise in a way that allowed people to make their own judgments, presenting information about the alternatives for public policy and the consequences of government action. And for progressive academics, this is important to our sense of ourselves – we want to think that we are being good Deweyian scholar-activists, being active in our political process, informing people about the background of what’s going on, giving them the tools they need to understand the issues they have to vote on, without being autocratic.

We don’t always do a very good job of this, in part because our academic training doesn’t always suit us to the task. We’re trained to think about footnotes or proofs rather than the rhetorical quality of our writing, and clarity can especially fall victim to the jargon of a professional specialty. Inside the academy, that’s normal practice, but outside it becomes a problem of democracy. If academic arguments are not made clear enough to be understood by an active and inquiring public, then expertise isn’t being used in a way that empowers a democratic public to think through its options.

To that end, learning how to express yourself in the common lexicon of Washington D.C is helpful – hence, my continuing efforts to use powerpoint presentations as a way of boiling down my research into a clear case for a policy outcome.

First Stab:

You can see my first effort at this here.  Notably, it’s rather long, it dwells quite a bit on the history more than is strictly necessary (it borrows from a presentation of a paper I wrote), and there’s a lot of text on the page. Technically, it’s a bit outdated (some of the program costs have been revised, the unemployment levels are from June as opposed to October, and so forth), and it hasn’t yet been combined with some of my thinking about labor market policy.

Next Stab:

So, here for your consideration is the first draft of a Job Insurance PowerPoint presentation:

*A quick historical note: Emerson Ross was one of Harry Hopkins’ administrators, and served in FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Administration), CWA (Civil Works Administration), and the WPA (Works Progress Administration). On slide 4, I make mention of a memo Ross wrote for the Committee on Economic Security in 1934, proposing three different systems of “job insurance:” option one “involves the use of contributions for protections against unemployment for a work program — employment not restricted to those making the payments. This conception regards the funds collected as an additional source of revenue collected and is based on the belief that employees will willingly make payments in return for the protection offered them by a large work program when unemployed,” essentially replacing unemployment insurance altogether, while combining contributions from a payroll tax with general Federal funding. Option two contemplated “wages on a work program as a means of paying all unemployment benefits,” in which a public job would be “a matter of contractual right to…wages paid for work performed.” Option three envisioned a combination of UI with job insurance, in which workers who exhausted their limited UI benefits would then become eligible for a public job, dividing responsibilities between short-term and long-term insurance.” I’ve tried to reduce this rather complex idea, but I’m not thrilled with the visual representation and would welcome suggestions as to how to make that clearer.


I’m still not totally satisfied with this effort, but I will continue to update in future as I continue to redraft this. The ultimate aim of this is to create an additional way for the idea of Job Insurance to be spread throughout the progressive political community, as a viral proposal that can be shared, posted in multiple places, and commented on.

  1. […] the original here: Job Insurance – Part 10 (The Powerpoint) « The Realignment Project Share this post! Twitter Digg Facebook Delicious StumbleUpon Google Bookmarks LinkedIn […]

  2. […] markets than the massive tax-and-service giveaways we call boosterism. To begin with, an urban job insurance system would be difficult (but not impossible) to finance on a city-wide level – although New York […]

  3. […] order to get back to pre-recession levels, we need to re-create those 2.25 million jobs. In my series on Job Insurance, I’ve laid out the mechanisms for creating a large number of jobs, and what kind of resources […]

  4. […] I have discussed in my Job Insurance series, the direct creation of jobs is a potentially powerful vehicle for creating a large number of jobs […]

  5. […] previous installments of the Job Insurance series, I’ve used a simple $20 a month premium, split 50/50 between workers and their employers, to […]

  6. […] I’ve discussed in previous segments,  it costs roughly $35 billion to create 1 million jobs,  assuming a modest living wage of […]

  7. […] This argument would not be unusual if Progressives had not lost so much of our historical memory of periods in which our thinking about the economy and the state were less restricted by the last forty years of anti-government rhetoric. Back in 1935, smack-dab in the middle of the New Deal, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration hired a man called Louis Baxter, an economic analyst, to produce a model of what the American economy would look like if the government included a system of “employment assurance” (i.e, job insurance). […]

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