Sens. Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand have all suggested they would support plans for the federal government to guarantee a job for every American, rapidly moving what was once a fringe, progressive vision closer to the mainstream of Democratic politics.
Sanders’ plan, announced today, would give a $15-an-hour public works job, plus health benefits, to anyone who wants it, a vision reminiscent of parts of Franklin Roosevelt's Depression-era New Deal.
All three lawmakers are considered top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, a fact that could tip the party toward embracing a version of the plan — just as the weight of the party has moved rapidly toward single-payer health care, or Medicare for all.
“This is about Democrats really working to develop big ideas — and being unshackled from this notion that we have to think small," said Ari Rabin-Havt, a senior adviser to Sanders.
"It's moving forward on a major issue with people across the Democratic Party taking part in this discussion,” he said. “If the debate in 2020 is about how big a jobs guarantee bill should be, that's a great thing."
A federal jobs guarantee program has failed to pick up steam until recently, even among the most progressive Democratic lawmakers. It would be sprawling, perhaps the size and scope of Medicare, and expensive — though Sanders' office hasn't calculated a cost, an estimate of another version of the plan, similar to the one embraced by Booker, put the price tag at $543 billion per year, not much less than the annual defense budget.
Booker put out a bill Friday for a pilot program that would test a jobs guarantee plan in 15 cities and counties across the country. In a statement, he called it "an idea that demands to be taken seriously."
Gillibrand, another Democratic Party star, told the left-wing magazine the Nation in March that she supported a jobs guarantee program. She tweeted last week that the government should invest $1.5 trillion — the estimated cost of the Republican tax cut — in guaranteeing jobs for Americans who are "unemployed and willing to work to better their local community."