Lawrence H. Summers, in his July 3 op-ed, “Jobs for all? It’s not so simple.,” looked at a “federal job guarantee” from the wrong end of the telescope. He was wrong to think of a job guarantee as a “last-resort” program with governments trying to figure out what the right wage is. The unemployed are an asset that the United States is wasting that could be doing things that are useful to all of us. How we put these people to work for their good and ours is the question. The answer is there. A “warm” job market is already drawing in people who have been on the employment sidelines. A “hot” job market with 1 percent or 2 percent unemployed would bring in millions more. That’s the way to guarantee jobs.
Thirty million to 40 million Americans with jobs would gladly move up to a better job, opening places for those not working and underskilled, forcing employers to pay more and train them if need be. The United States needs more jobs building broadband for all, commuter rail, modern airports, a modernized electrical grid and streets without potholes; and we need faster development of renewable energy sources, better care for our elderly, better health care, better schools — the list goes on. Mr. Summers should be laying out options for government assistance in financing such improvements. He doesn’t have to make the argument that full employment is unaffordable and inflationary. Republicans have been making it forever, and they are wrong.