Harvard Government Professor Carpenter Calls for Federal Job Guarantee in White Paper

Daniel P. Carpenter is the Director of Social Sciences at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Photo by Soumyaa MazumderDaniel P. Carpenter is the Director of Social Sciences at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Photo by Soumyaa Mazumder
The Harvard Crimson
May 11, 2020
By Meera S. Nair, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Government professor Daniel P. Carpenter called for a "new New Deal" to jumpstart the American economy in a white paper published in late April.

Co-authored by Carpenter and Ohio State University professor Darrick Hamilton, the paper argues that the U.S. government should adopt a number of public policy measures to redress economic losses suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, Hamilton and Carpenter — the director of social sciences at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study — called for the federal government to provide a federal job guarantee by directly hiring millions of workers in the coming two years. They argued such a measure would rejuvenate the workforce and “inject diversity and youth into a system that sorely needs it.”

“There is nothing well-timed about any crisis, especially one that carries thousands to their graves and leaves others physically and emotionally scarred,” the authors wrote. “Yet the imperative for direct government hiring comes at a time when government workforces nationwide are losing vast numbers of workers.”

“As Baby Boomers retire, government is experiencing what is sometimes called a silver tsunami, with mass retirements from civil service at the local, state, and federal levels,” they added.

In the paper, the authors described how their proposal mirrors similar programs adopted during the Great Depression, including the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps.

“The proposal here builds on and meshes with the ideas of others,” Carpenter and Hamilton wrote. “The obvious precedent rests in many public hiring programs that exist in American and world history, most notably the New Deal.”

The pair proposed various methods by which the federal government could create new positions — including creating jobs specifically focused on fighting the pandemic.

“Constructing and staffing new health clinics and creating comprehensive testing for COVID-19 and subsequent pandemics would bring another 500,000 or more jobs,” Carpenter and Hamilton wrote in an editorial on the white paper published in Slate this week.

In the Slate article, Carpenter and Hamilton also argued against the efficacy of stimulus funds.

“The current focus on stimulus is deeply flawed, reproducing inequality by cutting taxes for businesses and thereby conveying billions to the already wealthy,” they wrote. “As stimulus funds work their way through corporations, contractors, and small-business lenders, workers get an ever-smaller share of the pie.”

While Carpenter and Hamilton acknowledged the federal government has already undertaken some measures to assist families and small businesses — such as extending unemployment benefits and offering extensive loans — they argued that direct government employment is a crucial piece of the federal response that has so far been neglected.

“The multidimensional crisis unfolding with the global coronavirus pandemic calls for a multidimensional solution,” they wrote in the white paper. “We are confronting problems that trillions in central bank loans, hundreds of billions in small business support, and vast new extensions of unemployment insurance, while valuable, are simply no match for.”

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