The false promises of the
Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill


. The Humphrey-Hawkins Bill promised that the growing unemployment of the 1970s could be conquered and full employment achieved by fine-tuning the capitalist economy hand-in-hand with private enterprise. It called this "national economic planning", but it was mainly just about Keynesian budgetary tinkering, incentives for business, workfare for the poor, and promises for the working class. The top union leaders were to be drawn deeper into collaboration with business, and the workers were to distracted from mass struggle against the growing hardships. Any jobs directly provided to workers were to be low-wage, so as ensure that there would be no pressure to raise wages in private industry.
. This bill became the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978, and was enacted under the Carter administration. The economy didn't improve, showing that as far as helping the working class, the Humphrey-Hawks bill was a lot of hot air. Indeed, the recession of 1981-2 would be the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
. The following remarks are based on an article in The Workers' Advocate, June 24, 1976, pp. 4,6:


. On March 12, 1976, Senator Hubert Humphrey and Representative Augustus Hawkins (D) California, introduced into Congress a revised version of their "full employment" bill entitled the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1976. Examination of this bill and how it came about will show how our "liberal" Democrats and labor misleaders undermine the workers' struggle against unemployment.

. The sponsors of this bill tell the workers that if only they will elect a Democratic President and enough Democratic "friends of labor" to Congress, the Humphrey-Hawkins Bill will be passed and eureka, unemployment will disappear! In fact, the only reason unemployment exists (according to these "friends of labor") is that certain politicians don't understand that it hurts the capitalists as well as the workers and that with a little planning and spending this monopoly capitalist government will eliminate it.

. Well, according to the latest revision of the bill, unemployment won't be eliminated, but reduced to 3% -- see how these tricksters have already watered down their promises! Unemployment is useful for the capitalists: it causes competition among the workers for jobs and keeps down wages. High unemployment, as in the present economic crisis, intensifies this competition and helps the capitalists increase the exploitation of the workers, who face a greater threat of firing. The capitalists have no intention of doing away with this tool for exploiting the workers.

. And what do Humphrey, Hawkins and other proponents of this bill have in mind? What they are proposing is workfare: instead of receiving unemployment compensation the unemployed workers should be offered public service jobs at wages low enough to "encourage" the workers to look elsewhere for employment.

. This is what Humphrey means when he says "work and productivity are better than welfare and waste", or what Congressman Hawkins means when he says, "the impact of this proposed legislation would also drastically change the present welfare, manpower training, unemployment compensation, and other social benefit programs." The bill itself calls for integration of "existing income maintenance and welfare programs with the Full Employment Act", wherever possible substituting work for welfare.

. The Humphrey-Hawkins Bill also establishes a "national economic planning" apparatus. Despite the grand name, this is merely to fine-tune budgetary policy and to provide incentives for the private sector. As Hubert Humphrey says: "the question is how we make the government a good working partner, not a dictator, of the private economy". And further, that he is "very concerned about capital formation" and that "capital requirements to boost employment in the future are going to be much heavier than they were in the past and they will not be met simply by getting the economy on its feet again." What Mr. Humphrey is saying here is that the state machine must more efficiently serve the needs of the monopoly capitalists. It must directly subsidize the capitalists' investments, through tax monies extorted from the workers, in a much bigger way than before.

. Further, the idea is that the top union bureaucrats would sit on joint bodies with representatives of the capitalist government and the capitalists themselves. This means tighter control by the bourgeois state over the union apparatus in order to enforce speed-up, wage-cuts and other forms of increased exploitation onto the workers.

. Finally, the bill calls for the President to develop policies to prevent a new round of inflation. What this means is wage-price controls. Outright wage-price "guidelines" have been dropped from the bill to fool the workers. But the words of Robert Lekachman, one of the leading economists promoting this legislation, show what the liberals are planning. He said that one of the prerequisites for price stability in a "full employment economy" is "an incomes policy (including mandatory controls) focused upon large corporations, professional societies and unions as powerful and permanent as the organizations which necessitate this public check". Thus our Democratic "friends of the workers" are preparing to attack the basic right of the workers to strike for higher wages.

. But the workers will never give up their fight against lay-offs, against unemployment, against speed-up and overtime. They will fight for higher wages. They will fight to make the capitalists, not the workers, pay for the crisis caused by capitalism. They will fight on to the proletarian revolution in which they will overthrow the capitalists altogether.

Last changed on March 7, 2009.