21st Century Political Economy Series
Political economic worth isn’t based on what’s in your wallet. It’s based on what’s not in your wallet. Since the 1980′s American labor has devalued to the point that mis-educated Millennials are convinced that a gig economy is a good idea. They believe job jumping kills the monotony of a 40 year career. They look forward to creating gig contracts to convince each company they work for that they’re worth a certain wage or stipend. They’re certain that millions of “gigging” people competing for higher wages based on faster work turnaround without even a mention of benefits will be a video game type of life. What they don’t realize is they’re gigging themselves out of the political economy meaning their political power.
Capitalism isn’t built with or by an invisible hand. It’s the hand of the ruling class that is passing legislation to promote the economic agenda of their supporters. When labor does not set an agenda for minimum and maximum working hours and benefits, capitalism sheds skin to become a new animal. Wall Street describes it in bull or bear terms. We must determine which animal we want capitalism to be in the burgeoning gig economy of the 21st Century.
Public Policy Parallels
Public policy for gig economy benefits must be enforced for workers. Remember reading about the days of standing at Chicago’s Union Stockyards waiting to be picked for a day job. That’s what a bear political economy will re-create. Congress must enact strict adherence to gig economy workers similar to small businesses. Congress must enact benefit eligibility for contract workers including workman’s compensation, medical and retirement per a registered small business contract with the IRS. Gigsters must have Tax IDs similar to small businesses. The IRS already has a worksheet for workers to decide if they have a business or a hobby. Once they’ve determined their business status they must begin the process of creating a formal relationship with the IRS. Benefits will be available to registered gig contractors that prove they’ve worked a cumulative 32 hours per week per month or accumulated the minimum salary of the federal poverty level. Contractors must register each job, salary, business and expenses for the month. According to Pew Research Millennials are most perturbed believing they will pay the bulk of Social security for Baby Boomers. Under Congressional guidelines, they will pay into SSA as registered small businesses for themselves. Standardized small business procedures for gig workers will protect them and traditional workers.
Gig workers must adhere to similar standards of traditional workers including maintaining full employment, paying benefits and creating associations that lobby and legislate on their behalf. If gig workers fall below the threshold of full employment, they must register as unemployed and prove to the local employment agency that they are job searching. This may seem excessive but who will feed, shelter and cloth these gig workers when they don’t make the wages that will keep the economy they’ve chosen running. Full employment and benefits enable gig workers to create freelance careers, that continuously support capitalism. A gig economy association similar to labor unions would be expected to support gig workers. This association should create working guidelines such as prevailing wage, number of contracts, contract guidelines, etc. A minimum must be set for monthly income enabling gigsters the ability to pay benefits. A prevailing wage for each type of work gigsters contract as well. Supply and demand can only be profitably stabilized when workers are working toward a higher salary goal, not a higher number of jobs. If corporations believe they can decrease workers work value such as Fiverr, all workers wages will decrease. There should not be a maximum. Gig workers must be single individuals and not groups of people working together as a co-op. If so, then they are a corporation. These guidelines are to protect both gig and traditional workers as we continue to oil the machine of capitalism.
Gig Workers Unite
Gig workers may view these guidelines as hampering their ideal of independent work status. Yet, they must be able to provide a fully independent lifestyle without burdening the traditional workers. If workers do not have guidelines the political power and agenda of the economy will be entrenched in corporate hands that can begin freelancing everyone’s lives. Power is in the capitalism we decide to enact by the way we decide to work. Over 60% of US future workers will maintain traditional jobs with traditional security. In order for us to remain powerful and secure, we cannot allow gig burdens on our shoulders. You pay to play in the real world.