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Issue # 2 - Job Creation
Ever since legislative bureaucrats and outside advisers sabotaged Sen. Hugo Black’s 30-hour workweek bill in 1933, Democratic administrations have preferred to address unemployment through governmental employment and deficit spending rather than hours regulation. World War II added military spending into the mix of government programs. President Eisenhower, upon leaving office, warned against the “military-industrial complex” gaining undue influence in the economy. Progressive Republicans should pick up on that theme. The economy should be based on productive enterprise, not war or preparations for war.
Admittedly, no Republican has lately embraced the idea of shortening work time; instead, the conservative Reagan and Bush II administrations were into deficit spending big time. Reagan broke the PATCO union when it struck for a 32-hour week.
An ignorant priesthood in the economics departments of our universities proclaims that shorter work hours cannot create or save jobs and to think otherwise is to engage in fallacious thinking. They have no studies to back up their assertion. (link) We believe whatever the media-ordained experts say.
One of the true experts on work-time economics was a U.S. Senator from Illinois, Paul Douglas, a former economist and a Democrat, who did do studies and wrote books on the subject. (Real Wages in the United States: 1890-1926, The Problem of Unemployment) It was he who refuted the argument that higher wages and shorter hours are inversely related. And it was Eugene McCarthy, another Democrat, who championed this cause in recent years. But, if you go back to an earlier period, Republicans were champions of this approach. Progressive Republicans can and should champion the legitimate aspirations of working Americans. Read what Henry Ford, one of the principal architects of the U.S. consumer market, had to say on this subject. Vice President Richard Nixon spoke favorably of a four-day workweek during the national campaign of 1956 citing the increased opportunity to strengthen families.
We Americans have not experienced reduced working hours in over forty years; in fact, hours have grown longer. Meanwhile, the Chinese shortened their work week in 1995, and their economy did not subsequently fall apart. The Japanese made it a cornerstone of their economic policy to prepare for increased leisure. (link) The western Europeans are well ahead of us in this regard. Their economies are becoming stronger than ours. Some even have trade surpluses.
Now that deficit spending has run out of gas, maybe progressive Republicans can help bring the country back to a policy that does not involve manipulating money. Let's at least have a debate on the subject. Hours reductions address the real economy. It's time we paid attention to this rather than appeasing the empires of money.
Shorter working hours and debt-driven growth Democrats go for debt-driven growth while Republicans prefer hours reductions.
See papers on the shorter-workweek proposal
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