Contract with Middle America

Haven’t written in a while because work and the holidays got in the way, and I had a friend or two pass away. This doesn’t go in to great depth, and doesn’t have as many sources as usual, but I wanted to put something out today.

During the 1994 Congressional campaign season Newt Gingrich’s and Dick Armey released the Contract with America; an 8-point plan that the GOP planned to enact if they became the majority party in Congress. The plan helped the GOP take control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.

By and large middle America–a large part of the GOP base (and encompassing of the mid-western voters that elected both Barack Obama an Donald Trump)–feel abandoned. These communities are ravaged by drugs, economically burnt out, and more or less completely untouched by the Obama recovery.

It’s time for a Contract with Middle America.

These people are angry, unemployed, underpaid, and overall in need of help. I know, urban poor exist and need help too. I know, Millennials still work longer hours than their parents for less pay and advancement. The simple fact is that we, the urban voter, have a higher chance of upward social mobility than our middle American, rust-belt, mid-western, whatever-you-want-to-call-that-unnamed-yesteryear-downhome-1950s-that-you-can-picture-but-can’t describe counterparts. We have methadone clinics, job-training programs, and economic investment. What can we do to help the worst off among us? Those with little to their name and little chance to increase it?

I present to you my own Contract with Middle America:

  1. Regionally-adjusted Universal Basic Income
  2. Free, High-Quality, Targeted Education
  3. Free Healthcare and Drug Recovery Programs
  4. Expansion of Mass-Transit Programs
  5. Community Building

There are a few simple facts underpinning the 5 parts of this plan:

  1. The tech sector will wipe out many ‘Middle American’ jobs unless checked
  2. Checking the tech sector limits growth, so that’s not an option
  3. We cannot re-educate an entire section of the workforce for modern jobs
  4. There are less jobs out there than there are people
  5. These jobs are probably in cities or densely populated suburbs
  6. For the jobs that are out there, a crippling drug addict or health problem is a deal-breaker

Now let’s break down why I think these 5 facets of the Contract with Middle America are important to the region’s recovery:

  1. Regionally-adjusted Universal Basic Income
    • More Americans are living in poverty than ever before, despite the poverty rate’s relative stability. To be flippant, the best way of avoiding poverty is to give people a basic income. In fact, Milton Friedman supported the idea so it’s not like this is some crazy lefty pipe-dream.
    • I’ll avoid making a moral argument for this as well. Simply put providing a basic income for everyone allows people the time to learn new skills and pursue avenues for meaningful work without worrying or fighting for basics like food and housing. It’s difficult to job hunt when you’re balancing children, lights, internet,food, and transit bills.
    • Beyond that, not every American can, or is able to work to meet basic needs. Frictional unemployment aside, there is a skills gap that will prevent many Americans (mainly older ones) from fully entering the workforce. On top of that, part-time work is on the rise for a variety of reasons and the evidence shows these people would work full-time if possible. Sometimes it’s not in the cards.
    • You could argue ‘oh well then people wouldn’t work if you just give them money’. I disagree with that; that opinion is based in the belief that humans are not inclined to be productive–I believe that human’s seek out means of production by nature.
    • You could argue ‘well what if they spend it wrong? Aren’t we just wasting money?’. That would be on them, and this would only be a waste if the overwhelming majority of money was spent incorrectly, which it wouldn’t. You could also regulate the program, but that would increase overhead and ‘bloat government’.
  2. Free, High-Quality, Skill-Targeted Education
    • This doesn’t mean ‘everyone gets to go to a state university and study underwater basket weaving for free for four years’.  Targeting education to skills is key. Go ahead and study art and music, but you should know how to edit audio and video. Go ahead and study English, know how to write and get published or get your word out there. A lot of education today does not focus on the day-to-day side of your field. Imagine archaeology programs without required digs, or mechanic training without ever touching a car–without the means to meaningfully put knowledge to use, knowledge goes to waste.
    • To me, a big part of this is opening up and expanding trade schools, craft schools, and annexes to universities that focus on trades–the average age of a plumber is somewhere north of 50. The human hand isn’t going to get replaced for a while, and we will need people to repair homes and offices.
    • Removing a debt burden from younger Americans increases the chance for savings and spending
    • Most Americans now feel that continuous job training and skill improvement is needed to succeed in the workplace.
    • A more educated workforce is directly correlated to a more productive economy.
  3. Free Healthcare and Drug Recovery Programs
    • I could make the ‘healthcare is a human right’ argument, but I wont. Simply put if people are sick or popping pills left and right they can’t work, cant find jobs, and increase their cost on the economy. This inhibits overall growth and recovery.
  4. Expansion of Mass-Transit Programs
    • America is increasingly urban. Job seekers need to get to cities to work and apply for jobs, but this is difficult outside of major urban corridors and megacities. Easier transit to regional hubs allows for a greater flow of workforce, greater contact with job opportunities at a lower cost, and greater chance to find better work.
  5. Community Building
    • With automation and modern technology soon to make redundant jobs like trucking, farming, and basic service labor, many individuals will be without work and without income unless we re-train the people we can and give everyone basic income. Even with that, there are still going to be communities of people unable to work until new, as yet undiscovered fields open up. An idle mind is the devils workshop (a great sign of upcoming civil unrest is large populations of unemployed, unmarried young men). Community programs that give the unemployed creative outlets and ways to help their community give people purpose and give people time to create new opportunity for themselves. Whether it be a community garden that helps deal with hunger, a programming hub that creates new software, or a soundstage that creates new music, setting up places that can serve as forges for creativity and collaboration push our society forward.

I may go back and improve this later if I have time.