Archive for July, 2009|Monthly archive page

50 State Keynesianism – Part 2

In Budget Politics, California, Economic Planning, Economics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, History and Politics, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Social Democracy, WPA on July 30, 2009 at 11:49 am


Introduction:

In this post, I’m returning to a theme I initially explored in June, back when California was grappling with its budget crisis. Now, after nearly two months of additional struggle, we finally passed a bill that cut $26 billion and raised no new revenue, and now we learn that the governor has possibly illegally cut a further $500 million, taking the axe to children’s welfare ($80 million), health care ($400 million), Cal Grants (cut in half), HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment ($52 million), and domestic violence shelters (cut by 80%) . In addition to the moral insanity of attacking the most vulnerable of our citizens at a time when they are most in need of support one must add the economic insanity of believing that you can reduce government spending by $31 billion in the course of a single year (including both the February and July cuts)  and not effect the state’s economic recovery.

Lest this be seen as merely a California problem, a recent report by the National Governors Association notes that the collective budget shortfalls of the fifty states comes to a collective $200 billion shortfall. Given that the total Federal economic stimulus for this year only comes to about $400 billion, we are forced to recognize that our system of state government budgeting and finance is creating a massive economic undertow, weakening the impact of Keynesian stimulus by cutting spending and raising taxes (although they’ve been doing a lot more of the former than the latter).

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After EFCA – Industrial Democracy in America

In Economics, History and Politics, Living Wage, Politics, Politics of Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy, Uncategorized, Unions on July 28, 2009 at 12:29 am

Let the workers organize. Let the toilers assemble. Let their crystallized voice proclaim their injustices and demand their privileges. Let all thoughtful citizens sustain them, for the future of Labor is the future of America.
John L. Lewis

Introduction:

The recent announcement of a compromise version of the Employee Free Choice Act (one that might get the Blue Dogs back in line and over the 60-vote cloture threshold) was predictably completely drowned out in the news media, where health care is the big political story of the day.  Even among the circle of progressive labor activists I know, reaction seems decidedly mixed, some are quite unhappy; I’m something of a cockeyed optimist, and others are somewhere in the middle.

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Week 9 Roundup!

In Budget Politics, California, Climate Change, Economic Planning, Economics, Education Reform, Environment, European Politics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Liberalism, Living Wage, Mass Transit, New Deal, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Unions, Welfare State, WPA on July 26, 2009 at 10:31 am

This week blew the doors off the place, which I was not expecting at all, but found entirely pleasing. I’m not entirely sure what happened, beyond an unusual spike in Reddit recommendations and getting prominently listed on what seems to be a very common Google search. So for any new readers, welcome to The Realignment Project!

  • 786 views at posting time, largely driven by huge interest in FDR’s Second Bill of Rights and The “S” Word, and the fact that people really like High Speed Rail. This is more than we’ve had in previous months, let alone weeks. I don’t know if this will hold up, but I hope it will.
  • 4 posts, which should be the new weekly standard until we can bring in more contributors; we are talking to a couple people, and hope to move towards 7 posts a week. The  acme of this blog is quality over quantity, but we still want to have something to bring people back every day to check things out and…comment.

So here are this week’s posts for you to catch up on:

Industrial/Labor Market Policy – Think Swedish

In Economic Planning, Economics, European Politics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Living Wage, Politics of Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Welfare State, WPA on July 25, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Introduction:

In my previous post on industrial policy, I talked about “how to re-think industrial policy for a new economic era in which the United States needs to not only achieve steady economic growth, but dramatically boost the rate of job growth.”  The dramatic urgency for emphasizing job growth in public policy is that, as Brad DeLong notes, our economic recoveries are increasingly becoming longer, and slower to reverse damage done to employment – the jobless recovery is becoming the norm, not the exception as you can see from his graph reproduced below:

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“The Balance Wheel of Social Machinery” – Universal Public Higher Education

In Budget Politics, California, Education Reform, History and Politics, Liberalism, New Deal, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Social Democracy, Social Policy on July 23, 2009 at 12:56 pm

“Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, — the balance-wheel of the social machinery. I do not here mean that it so elevates the moral nature as to make men disdain and abhor the oppression of their fellow-men. This idea pertains to another of its attributes. But I mean that it gives each man the independence and the means by which he can resist the selfishness of other men. It does better than to disarm the poor of their hostility towards the rich: it prevents being poor.”

- Horace Mann, 12th Annual Report to the Massachusetts State Board of Education (1848)

In my previous post about education, I mentioned that the education reform debate has largely skirted the problem of affordability of higher education, preferring to direct their attention more towards college preparation and the K-12 system. As I said at the time, one of the things that unsettles me about the “Educational Equality Project” type of education “reformer” is the extreme economistic trend of their thought – education is about getting jobs and making the workforce more production, hence the extreme emphasis on reading, writing, math, and science, as opposed to anything about art and music, or history. I may be overly broad here in my description, and if I am, I apologize, but it’s to a point. The purpose of public education is not to meet the needs of the labor market – it is to meet the needs of democracy.

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The “L” Word (No, The Other One)

In Liberalism, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Progressivism on July 22, 2009 at 8:01 am

Everyone knows that the moment in which George H.W. Bush made the word “liberal” a political epithet was an important one. It was the crowning moment of the political project laid out by Bush’s former rival Ronald Reagan. The broad left, even in the guise of mild-mannered and intelligent Michael Dukakis, was effectively marginalized. Being a liberal meant being out of touch with the cultural habits of the average American, and, moreover, it meant being weak, if not subversive, in regards to national security.

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Designing the Future – High-Speed Rail and Federal Aid to Mass Transit

In Budget Politics, Climate Change, Economics, History and Politics, Mass Transit, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Uncategorized on July 20, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Introduction:

If there is any area of American life that puts paid to the fiction that America’s economic growth was a miracle of the free market, it must be transportation. From the very beginning, with the Federal construction of the Cumberland Road over the Allegheny Mountains in 1811 and the state of New York’s construction of the Erie Canal connecting the Hudson to the Great Lakes in 1817, it has been the state that has directed and channeled the flows of American economic development, putting its stamp on the very land.

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Week 8/Month 2 Roundup!

In Budget Politics, California, Climate Change, Economic Planning, Economics, Education Reform, Environment, European Politics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, Health Care Reform, History and Law, History and Politics, Housing, Living Wage, New Deal, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Public Works, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Social Security, Taxes, U.K Politics, Uncategorized, Unions, Welfare State, WPA on July 19, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Ok, a second full month has come and gone. Often, I’ve found that pushing something past the second period (week, month, etc.) is often a good sign of successfully establishing it as a habit. It’s easy to try something for a week when everything’s new and fresh and exciting, but keeping it going is harder. So I see this as a hopeful sign – this is still fun.

So where does the Realignment Project stand in its second month?

  • 15 substantive posts, 3.75 a week
    • Clearly, the pace has improved a bit, with some weeks ticking along at three posts a week, and others at four or five. My ultimate goal is to move towards seven posts a week, so that there’s always something new each day to keep people coming back to visit The Realignment Project.
    • To that end, the arrival of my co-editor and contributor Daraka Larimore-Hall has made a big difference in increasing the volume and pace of content while simultaneously reducing pressure on us individually. I would also like individually to move towards a steady group of three or four people contributing regularly, so that each of us can concentrating on writing one really good piece as opposed to three ok pieces per week – qualilty over quantity being the watchword of this blog.
  • 773 hits, including 211 in the last week (the second-highest week so far)
    • the increasing growth rate, largely driven by improving use of social network sites to spread the word about new posts, is very heartening. We’ve more than doubled in the last month – let’s see if we can keep this up.
    • To that end, I did want to thank people who came across this blog and passed it on via the little share buttons at the bottom of each post – it’s always interesting to see incoming links come in from people’s Twitter accounts and the like who I’ve never heard of before.
  • 17 comments (not including pingbacks)
    • getting better, slowly, many thanks to Marko for being the most frequent commenter.
    • however, it would still be nice to get more of a conversation going on the blog, so feel free to comment.

The next step in the process of building up the Realignment Project is to establish institutional links with other groups, blogs, institutions, etc. so that The Realignment Project can first build up more of a steady readership (less reliant on individual posts causing a spike in views), and so that we can make progress towards the ultimate goal of making this a real conversation about big ideas, about the political future, about political realignment in our lifetimes. We’re currently working on a couple projects, and will keep you updated.

So, the last month’s posts, arranged by topic:

Politics/Political Ideology:

Social Welfare State/Taxes:

Economic Policy/Regulation:

Jobs/Housing/Other:

And if you’re a newcomer to The Realignment Project, here’s our first month’s roundup to help you catch up.

Enjoy!

“The Front Line of Defense” – Unemployment Insurance Reform

In Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Living Wage, New Deal, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Social Security, Uncategorized, Unions, Welfare State, WPA on July 16, 2009 at 10:56 pm

“Unemployment compensation, as we conceive it, is a front line of defense, especially valuable for those who are ordinarily steadily employed, but very beneficial also in maintaining purchasing power. While it will not directly benefit those now unemployed until they are reabsorbed in industry, it should be instituted at the earliest possible date to increase the security of all who are employed…”
– Report to the President, Committee on Economic Security (1935)

In a previous post, I discussed the need to improve the payroll tax, and noted that one of the reasons we need to do this is to fix the unemployment insurance (UI). Our current UI system is fundamentally broken. As I wrote on the 12th, “at a time when nearly one in ten American workers are unemployed, only half of them qualify for Unemployment Insurance, to the extent that the program no longer adequately functions either as a safety net or an “automatic stabilizer.””

If I didn’t have the time and the space to say it at the time, let me say it now. The fact that a majority of workers are no longer protected, nearly seventy-five years after the passage of an act that was meant to protect every worker from” one of many misfortunes” of economic life, is a moral failure of the highest order. The idea that governors in America would reject stimulus funds in the middle of a recession because those funds would make it easier for temporary or part time workers to gain access to UI suggests the total moral bankruptcy of the American conservative movement. Not for nothing did FDR say:

“Governments can err, presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted on different scales. Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.”

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After Health Care – How Policy Makes Politics

In Economics, European Politics, Living Wage, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Welfare State on July 16, 2009 at 11:38 am

Introduction:

One of the characteristic blind spots of political activists, a professional hazard as it were, is a failure to think about what comes after. So much of one’s physical and mental labors are devoted to the slow push of that boulder up the mountain, the discipline of belief in the cause throughout the empty years, the attunement of instinct and senses to the shifting tectonics of the moment, always looking for that sudden rush of possibility, that it’s hard to think about what happens once the revolution is won, the legislation passes, and the regimes changes.

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