In this recording, I speak with Mario Rendina concerning his thirty years of experience working in local government to help educate and employ disenfranchised persons living in Tampa Bay and throughout Hillsborough County, Florida. During the interview, Rendina reflects upon the past with an eye toward Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and the development of its proposed public Job Guarantee program.
Rendina spearheaded the development of a robust public infrastructure and information system in Florida. It was designed to train and find jobs for unemployed persons and do so in direct response to broader community needs. From the late 1960s to the late 1990s, he and his team not only placed thousands of participants in private sector jobs. But when law and government funding permitted, Rendina’s evolving organization also created hundreds of new public sector positions in the library system; parks and recreation; and street maintenance and cleanup. Along the way, program participants were provided with free education and vocational training; childcare and living allowances; and books and equipment.
Threatened throughout the 1980s, Rendina’s organization was finally dismantled during the 1990s, broken up and privatized as part of the Clinton administration’s efforts to “end welfare as we know it.” Still, the history recounted in this interview offers a rich resource for imagining a new nation-wide public Job Guarantee program, which would use public monies to provide meaningful living-wage employment and healthcare for everyone, while serving communal and environmental needs.