The Economic Policy Institute. Over the years, I have found myself stepping outside of the normal metrics that define our national economic dialogue to ask myself: What would a person on his or her death bed say mattered most in his or her economic life? Economic Dignity is Sperling's effort to do just that - to frame our thinking about the way forward in a time of wrenching economic change. As University of Michigan philosopher Elizabeth Anderson has written, compared to the focus on getting jobs, there is an eerie degree of silence on the arbitrary domination so many millions of Americans experience when they are actually working. If we can experience, in such a short span, a revolution in matching romantic partners over the Internet, certainly we can do better in better informing and training workers for the skills they need to meet the criteria for jobs in demand in the present and near future. Former Vice President Joe Biden has, for decades, talked eloquently about the idea that a job is never about just a paycheck, but “your dignity,” while Senator Sherrod Brown frames many of his policies as promoting the “dignity of work”—as do job guarantee advocates like professor Darrick Hamilton. As we saw in the lead-up to the financial crisis, the spread of predatory practices in the housing market, for-profit education, and other areas can deliver assaults on economic dignity that can at times be as devastating as those relating to labor. Then for your second economic dignity pillar, how might a robust pursuit of potential and purpose emerge through reinvigorated policy commitment to providing each American with both first chances (tangible support to cultivate our distinct capacities) and second chances (a leave-nobody-behind approach to economic growth)? Progressives, on the other hand, have shown an increased boldness in proposing new policies aimed at addressing economic dignity gaps. All the world's great religious and moral traditions, philosophers, and revolutionaries, recognize that human beings deserve to live in freedom, justice, dignity and economic security. The Church, therefore, calls for Integral Human Development, which concerns the wellbeing of each person in every dimension: economic, … His argument combines moral and intellectual seriousness with actual high-level policy experience. It makes you see economic goals more in terms of what matters to people’s dignity and sense of themselves and their role as parents, workers, sons and daughters. He’s hoping that in several months it could become the guiding principle for a new presidency. Today, even some commentators on the right have questioned the virtue of loyalty to market fundamentalism that seems blind to morality or fairness. This definition of economic dignity is rooted in the best angels of the American character, helps substantially explain how we have navigated our relationship between market and government, and can serve as our economic North Star looking forward. While the economy at our founding is forever scarred by slavery as well as second-class citizenship for women and many others, for the yeoman farmers and small artisans, the market economy in the United States was in some ways a relative breakthrough for economic dignity. One can’t underestimate the degree that focus on these metrics can confuse our economic aspirations. At a time when Republican control of the House of Representatives left no chance for a serious minimum-wage increase at the federal level, so many people took to the streets across the nation to make it happen in their cities and states. There are still few things that affirmatively impact lifetime income as much as a college degree. Kant described dignity as essentially a commitment to never treat a person as purely a means to an end. Economic dignity, defined by these three pillars, represents a more full, complete, and stable definition that can stand strong no matter what variation or circumstance is considered. . To start, this means elevating worker dignity when making cost-benefit regulatory decisions—such as in the case of maximum line speeds in the poultry and hog industries. His argument combines moral and intellectual seriousness with actual high-level policy experience. It seeks neither to explore highly technical issues of economic measurement nor sort out competing theories of social justice. There’s no reason you cannot have a strong market economy that has policies ensuring everyone a basic level of economic dignity. Gene Sperling One, imposing full employment monetary and fiscal policy that fosters tight labor markets is a triple win for economic dignity. Before him, Martin Luther King, Jr. drew on that same sense of compact in Memphis when he linked the plight of sanitation workers to doctors, “for the person who picks up our garbage is in the final analysis as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, diseases are rampant. We'll send periodic reminders of what's new and what's coming. Meanwhile, the high demand for labor gives more workers the “take this job and shove it” leverage to demand more dignified working conditions. In addition to putting at risk existing safety-net programs, UBI could crowd out the full set of measures needed for UBED—including bold new proposals on green infrastructure jobs, expanded Social Security and health care, and free or affordable college. . First, some sense of a social compact is rooted deep in the American character, as is a sense that working to care for family provides many with a sense of purpose and a vehicle to pursue potential. If we are clear-minded that the achievement of economic dignity is the ultimate end goal for economic policy, then we don’t handcuff ourselves from seeing issues like a lack of paid family leave, or rampant sexual harassment, as critical, first-tier “economic” issues — regardless of whether they show up in a prominent metric. . In this sense, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) spearheaded by Elizabeth Warren should be seen less as a reaction to the financial crisis and more as a structural response to the predation families can suffer that threaten their economic dignity in their role as borrowers, renters, and consumers trying to meet the essential elements of caring for family. The latter goes to the design of benefits so that they go to virtually everyone, thus making them less prone to stigmatization and more politically bullet-proof in budget battles. In the push to ensure a basic level of economic security regardless of the path of automation, robots, and AI, many have sought to de-link all government policies for basic economic security from the need to work or contribute. Yet there are few areas where our past and present realities have diverged so dramatically from our ideals. It is rather one policymaker’s attempt to go out of the comfort zone of numbers to delve into this larger question. Legislative victories on these items truly can alter the power balance, can help to transform domineering or humiliating workplace situations into respectful and fulfilling arrangements, all while reducing wage inequality. The fact that these challenges may not be able to be addressed with a single sweeping or sexy proposal does not make them less critical. This approach means going deeper and broader—not giving up—on helping dislocated workers. The foundation of all Catholic Social Teaching is the inherent dignity of the human person, as created in the image and likeness of God. What COVID did, I think, was to force more national cognitive dissonance over the injustice of seeing nursing aides risking their lives to care for someone in our family, while knowing they couldn’t normally take a paid week off to care for their own ill loved one. Such negative protections draw on Kant’s definition of dignity: that people should never be treated as only means to an end, but as ends in themselves. Portrait of Gene Sperling above courtesy of Praise Santos. What makes paid family leave or rampant sexual harassment critical economic issues, “regardless of whether they show up in a prominent metric”? 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