|Update 194 — Jobs and Job Training:
Repeal & Defund vs. Resist & Defend
Six months into the Trump administration — amid travel ban court fights, investigations, tweeted threats against investigations, staff shake ups, Russian collusion allegations, misspelled tweets, fake news, baked beans, and spam — the American worker, retired worker, and worker-in-training are still forgotten.
Democrats today started to fill the void left by the administration. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s “Better Deal” is an attempt to redefine the economic policy message of the Democratic Party and fix problems that led to the loss of the 2016 election. In his op-ed in today’s NYT, Schumer admits that Democrats made mistakes defining their economic agenda in the past, but says this new stance is bold, progressive, and clear in language and intent.
We look at the jobs and job training planks in this proto-platform in particular, and see if it meets Schumer’s own standard — bold, progressive, and clear in language and intent.
The Senate Minority Leader as well as many other Democrats believe they lost the 2016 election because they let Republicans own the economic debate.
Schumer: “And the No. 1 thing that we did wrong is we didn’t tell people what we stood for.” Sen. Chris Van Hollen added, “people need to know not only what we’re fighting against, they need to know what we are fighting for.”
One of the main reasons people voted for Trump was his promise to deliver jobs and revitalize the blue-collar economy. Large numbers voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders because he spoke clearly and directly to economic equity and opportunity
The flagstones laid out by Sen. Schumer today address some key economic policy issues and sketched out a vision for Democrats that many felt missing in the 2016 election.
Trump’s paucity of policy proposals has created a vacuum that Schumer is trying to fill with a clear Democratic message. One key policy vacuum is the Democrats’ plans for job creation. A single recent attempt to fill it was spearheaded by Sen. Gillibrand. Senator Schumer’s adapts her approach to the national labor market skills mismatch problem facing recruiters and jobseekers.
“Better Deal” in Detail
Sen. Schumer’s “Better Deal” has three main themes: 1) raising wages, 2) lowering costs, and 3) preparing workers for the 21st century. His piece focused on three policy ideas:
— Tax credits for worker training and more apprenticeship programs to increase jobs
— Reducing Rx price gouging to lower costs for families
— Clamping down on antitrust law to reduce the power of corporations
Each policy has a clear goal. Job training is aimed at blue collar workers, or more specifically, the Obama-Trump voters that fell for Trump’s guarantee promise of new jobs. Reducing drug prices is aimed at Trump’s failure to do anything on that front despite his campaign promises. Finally, antitrust is aimed at those very progressive people on the left who voted for Sanders because of his insistent promise to make the economy work for everybody, in line with proposals that Sen. Warren has made in the Senate.
For our purposes, we will focus on the first prong: jobs and job training.
Jobs and Job Training
In his op-ed, Schumer lays out a few policy proposals to increase jobs and job training, some new and some that have been presented already.
Previously presented and re-emphasized:
• Create jobs through a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure plan — very similar to HRC’s proposal during their campaign
• Increase the federal minimum wage to $15 — a pillar of progressive economics
• Give employers a large tax credit for training workers for unfilled jobs — aimed at smaller cities and rural areas that have lost many of their young people to more urban areas. The credit would only be paid in full if the employee remains in full-time employment at a good wage for a number of years after completing the training program. The credit could only be used to defray the costs of new investments, above what the business already spends, on training.
• Expand registered apprenticeships and work-based learning programs
• Double federal support for registered apprenticeship programs
• Expand apprenticeships to sectors of the economy that lack already well-established apprenticeship programs
• Give employers a role in curriculum development and providing on-site experience and other educational opportunities
Previously, Democrats have focused on small tax credits to incentivize education that would theoretically lead to employment. The Working Families Tax Relief Act in 2015 extended the earned income tax credit and was incorporated into a Republican proposal (PATH Act).
Democrats also have pursued policies that sought to help already employed people, like incentivizing employers to share stock with workers. In these ways, Democrats have either followed rather than led on jobs issues, or pursued policy that overlooked people out of work. With more recent proposals and Schumer’s new vision, the Democratic party aims to drill down on the subject it failed to embrace in 2016: jobs, jobs, jobs.
Comparison to Gillibrand
Sen. Gillibrand, one of the Democratic Party’s leaders on job creation and training policy, has outlined a vision of her own over the last few years. In 2015, she co-sponsored the Apprenticeship and Job Training Act with Maria Cantwell and Tim Kaine. The measure extends a $5,000 tax credit to companies that hire individuals enrolled in an apprentice program in high-demand, mechanic, healthcare or technical professions.
Democratic leadership may borrow from the Gillibrand model, in which apprentices must be employed for seven plus months before the credit can be claimed for up to three years.
Sen. Schumer would give the employer a tax credit to offer training, whereas Gillibrand proposes to give them a tax credit to hire those that have already been trained in a federal program. Reaching out directly to businesses to achieve job training outcomes differentiates this Democratic party from that of 2016.
The Trump Effect
President Trump ran on jobs, but he has done about nothing to create them. In fact, the President has proposed 40 percent spending reductions for current job training programs. He has essentially abandoned the cause of large-scale infrastructure and apprenticeship investments, areas Democrats expressed initial interest in collaborating on at the outset of his administration.
Economic policy should be a central Democratic legislative and campaign issue and Senator Schumer is right to seize this beachhead in the early going.
Trump may have won by delivering a simple message with ephemeral solutions for the economy. As president, he has had nothing to offer and has thoughtlessly slashed federal investment in work skills training. The Schumer ideas and his message emphasize Democratic strengths, taking ideas from both moderates and progressives. It is uniting in its rhetoric and strong in its message, serving as a positive sign for the direction Democratic are going into 2018.
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