On Tuesday, Nov 20 host Aaron Perry speaks with economist Robert Pollin, author of Back to Full Employment. Robert, who has been an economics professor for thirty years, has been part of several policy initiatives, working with the Obama administration on the green jobs part of the stimulus program.
Robert explains what the country must do in order to strive towards full employment, “[Full employment] has to be the first priority. Unfortunately now, the debate in Washington is focused around what I consider to be a second order problem, which is the fiscal deficit to government borrowing more money than it takes in tax revenues. That problem will mainly go away if we get the economy back to full employment. We have to first focus on job creation, and then when people have jobs, they have more incomes, so they pay more income tax, they spend more, and they have more sales tax. So you get your revenue up by pushing the economy towards full employment. The first place we have to start is to recognize that full employment has to be the central issue.”
Aaron asks Robert to speak about a different theory posed by economists, which says that a small amount of unemployment is necessary to keep inflation in check. Robert says, “Inflation is in check. We have no inflation in the economy. If we were to get unemployment rates down to below 3%, maybe then it would be an issue. We are far, far from having that problem right now.” He also speaks about collective bargaining as a basic human right. He advocates for more collective bargaining, stronger unions, and says that this will be a key component in pushing the economy towards further employment. He also advocates for green jobs, explaining that it will be a great source of job creation, “it doesn’t mean that coal miners won’t get laid off. Coal miners will get laid off, and we need to protect their well being and their communities at the same time that we build a green economy.”
“The main thing we can do as citizens is to elect our political leaders and put pressure on them to make sure this is a primary concern, and not to buy into the notion that we have to face austerity – that we have to see our public sector cut back, that we can’t afford public schools, unionized workers, a decent health care system and social security. All of those things fly in the face of economic logic. People need to organize around these things and not accept the idea that we are going to be worse off than our last generation.” Robert says.
Listen to the full interview here: