Donald Trump’s welfare overhaul will include new requirements that could force thousands of Americans to take back-breaking menial jobs to qualify for benefits in what amounts to a form of servitude. The changes go hand in hand with the rising “gig” economy which is already disenfranchising millions of young workers.
The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are already reviewing traditional safety net programs like food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing.
Instead of focusing on job training to meet the economy,’s needs, federal officials are encouraging states to impose work requirements on able-bodied adults to qualify for Medicaid.
The Agriculture Department is also urging states to start drug testing and imposing stricter work requirements on food stamp recipients.
The question is what kind of jobs?
It would surely be work most Americans refused to do. Currently, those jobs are filled by immigrants, or by foreign workers who come to America to fill jobs on a temporary basis.
The back-breaking jobs that involve picking grapes, tending vines and other menial work at Eric Trump’s sprawling “Trump Vineyard Estates” in Charlottesville, Va, are a case in point.
“It’s difficult to find people,” Libby Whitely lamented to the Daily Progress newspaper. She’s an attorney who has worked with Trump Winery to find workers through the government’s controversial H-2A program.
It allows U.S. businesses to petition to bring in workers from overseas when U.S. citizens are unwilling to fill job vacancies. But under President Trump’s proposed sweeping changes, welfare recipients could be forced to take those jobs, whether they want them or not.
As long as they receive federal benefits, they would be forced to stay in that job or find another. But without training, their upward mobility would be limited.
As a result, a permanent underclass would be created that would be forced to take any job assigned to them or face losing their benefits.
“It would be a recipe for massively exacerbating poverty and inequality in America in violation of all of Trump’s campaign promises,” Rebecca Vallas, managing director of the Center for American Progress’s Poverty to Prosperity Program, told Politico.
It’s impossible yet to tell how far Trump and the Republicans will go, but the servitude economy could be just around the corner.
In the private sector, employers are already disenfranchising workers by the tens of thousands by turning full-time jobs into contract positions.
Contractors typically are paid less, receive no benefits and many labor laws don’t apply. They also have limited career opportunities.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich calls the shift to the so-called “gig” economy one of the most “important and dramatic” changes in the national economy in recent history.
Gig jobs have grown from 17 percent of the economy in 1989 to about 36 percent today. By 2020, those jobs are expected to make up 43 percent of the economy or nearly half of all jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census data.
“This is a big deal,” says Reich.
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