The impulse behind the latest "big" progressive idea of creating a federal job guarantee is entirely valid. Studies show that those without jobs are much more likely to be dissatisfied with their lives, to become addicted to alcohol or drugs and to be abusive within their families than even those working at low wages they find inadequate.
On this point, the US economy is falling short of its potential. The fraction of the adult population aged between 25 and 54 that is working or seeking work has declined over the past 20 years. Despite America's vaunted labour-market flexibility, the chance that a 25-to 54-year-old man will be out of work is much greater than it is in France and not very different than what it is in Spain. And in sharp contrast to the rest of the world, the fraction of adult women working in the United States has been declining since 1999.