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  • U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at a campaign stop to win the Democratic presidential nomination in Denver.

    U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at a campaign stop to win the Democratic presidential nomination in Denver. | Photo: AP/File photo

Published 27 February 2020 (9 hours 45 minutes ago)
Opinion

Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont and democratic socialist, has promised a sweeping transformation of the U.S. economy if he wrests the keys to the White House from President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.

A Bernie Sanders presidency could begin modestly with a roughly US$300 billion federal jobs guarantee before pushing for trillions of dollars in new spending on health care, the environment and infrastructure, says a key adviser to the U.S. Democratic front-runner.

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A jobs guarantee, which would see the federal government ensure employment for anyone who wanted to work, would be a logical first step for the would-be president, said Stephanie Kelton, who has been Sanders’ senior economic adviser since his unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign.

“I like very much the idea of getting a safeguard in place right away because, like most people, I worry about what happens when the next downturn comes,” Kelton, an economics professor at Stony Brook University in New York state, said to journalists this week on the sidelines of a National Association for Business Economics meeting.

Kelton estimates the jobs guarantee would increase the federal deficit by about 1.5 percent of gross domestic product while ensuring the elusive goal of full employment. The U.S. deficit currently stands at 4.5 percent of GDP.

It would, Kelton said, form an ultimate economic backstop that ensured full employment even in a recession and expanded federal spending just as private sector incomes ebbed.

With that first proposal in place, Sanders could turn his attention to cancelling the US$1.7 trillion in federal student debt, Kelton said, a step which would boost economic growth.

Trillions would then be allocated to pay for other measures such as the Medicare For All proposal to provide health insurance for all Americans based on the existing government-run program for those 65 and older, a climate-friendly Green New Deal or an infrastructure building program.

Those programs would need to be rolled out more deliberately and designed by teams of experts across federal agencies to match what the economy can “absorb” in any given year without causing a worrying jump in inflation, she said.

The Sanders campaign had no comment when asked about Kelton’s possible future role. The campaign’s website promises “a stable job that pays a living wage” to everyone in America who can work, highlighting health care, infrastructure, and childhood education jobs.

In the wake of Sanders’ recent victories in the New Hampshire and Nevada nominating contests and strong showing in the Iowa caucuses, some Democrats have campaigned on the fears of the prospect of a sharp left turn, claiming it would even scare independents and moderate Republicans.

Sanders, who has vowed to make the wealthy and corporations assume a greater financial burden, has said that taxes will go up to pay for his proposals, and denounced attempts to decredibilize his proposals while military spending for example never received the same kind of public scrutiny. 

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