Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

A New Pecora Commission?

In Financial Crisis, History and Politics, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics, Regulation, Social Democracy on August 31, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Introduction:

So it turns out we haven’t gotten financial regulatory reform, and we haven’t gotten executive compensation. We got stiffed on cram-down and on credit card reform. Business is more or less back to usual on Wall Street, with bonuses flowing freely, and even more disturbingly, the repacking of mortgages returning as a dog to its vomit.

Almost as a consolation price, what progressives have gotten is a Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, headed by Phil Angelides. And a huge amount of hope has been generated that maybe this Commission will turn out to be a new Pecora Commission, exposing the greed, the fraud, the sheer incompetence of the financial sector, and discrediting the so-called “FIRE” (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate) economic model. The original Pecora Commission gave the New Deal’s financial regulations an enormous amount of legitimacy in the eyes of the public, but in a larger sense they also wiped away the idea that business knows best – at least until the tide turned towards deregulation in the 1970s.

But before we get our hopes up, we need to take a second look at history.

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Weekly 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, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, Mass Transit, New Deal, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Works, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Social Security, Taxes, U.K Politics on August 30, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Ok, this was a very successful week (2nd most views ever, at 450), and it saw both the continuation of the Job Insurance series, which has become something of a signature feature, and the commencement of the Public Virtues series, which I think will be equally distinctive.

So here are this week’s posts, without further ado:

Enjoy!

Public Virtues – Part 1

In Economic Planning, Economics, Financial Crisis, Liberalism, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Regulation, Social Democracy on August 29, 2009 at 10:01 am

Introduction:

In politics, the ultimate high ground is not, ultimately, the particular office, or a “working” majority, or even lasting control of government. Rather, the greatest prize of all is in the realm of ideas. If one can enlarge or shrink or alter or reconstruct the mental and social structures that people use to understand the world around them – what Clifford Geertz called “symbols” or Gramsci would have called cultural hegemony – than one exercises a far more subtle and powerful control over the totality of the political world, because you can shape even the minds of your opponents.

And for the last thirty years, we have seen this process at work as part of what has been called the “neoliberal project.” In this series, I’m going to concentrate on one aspect of that project, the elevation of the private sector, and especially the corporate form, as the ideal organization, and the contrasting denigration of the public sector and the bureaucratic form.  This has been extremely powerful in American politics, because the elevation of the corporation to the acme of efficiency, adaptability, and competency has been the driving justification for the privatization movement, and the vogue for CEO politicians to talk of running governments like a business. Lest you think this is merely a project of the Republican Party, let me remind you that the Third Way of Clinton, Blair, and Schroder borrowed heavily from writers like David Osborne (Reinventing Government, Banishing Bureaucracy, The Price of Government) and his ilk, who urged thinking about citizens as customers.

But in focusing so heavily on the virtues of the corporation, have we lost sight of the virtues of the public?

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What’s Next: 2010 and 2012

In Budget Politics, Climate Change, Economic Planning, Economics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, Health Care Reform, Housing, Inequality, Liberalism, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Social Security, Taxes, Welfare State on August 28, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Introduction:

Politics is notoriously short-sighted, focused on the next vote, the next election cycle, the next news-day. So if you try to step back and take the long view, even for a second, one of the things that really jumps out at you is how full the agenda is for the next year or so. For the rest of 2009, we basically know that the agenda is going to be dominated by health care (whether or not the current bill passes), the climate change bill in the Senate, still-forthcoming financial regulation reform, the Employee Free Choice Act, and possibly immigration reform as well.

I’m of the firm belief that a packed agenda is good in politics – it’s a sign of confidence and enthusiasm, and a sign that there is a larger political ideology that can express itself in every area of public life, as it should. Yet at the same time, activists especially have to look forward to get ready for what’s next.

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Working for the People (Job Insurance, Part 4)

In Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Living Wage, New Deal, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Unions, Welfare State, WPA on August 26, 2009 at 9:59 am

Introduction:

In part 1 of this series, I described how a job insurance program could work nationally; in part 2 I discussed how it could work set up on the state level. In part 3, I talked about how job insurance would transform the American state, economy, and society. And yet, to date, while I’ve wrote a lot about what the prom would look like and how it would effect the world around it, I haven’t yet discussed what it would be like to participate in the program, to go to work on a Job Insurance-funded public employment project.

And this part is crucial. If you get it wrong, political support for the program will collapse, implementation will be a failure, and Job Insurance will join CETA in the historical dust bin of noble failures.

But if you get it right, Job Insurance could be an amazing success of social and economic policy that validates the efforts of  generations of reformers – a permanent addition to the American safety net.

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Building Equal Opportunity

In Budget Politics, Education Reform, European Politics, Inequality, Political Ideology, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Social Democracy, Taxes on August 25, 2009 at 8:58 am

But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.

You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, “you are free to compete with all the others,” and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.

Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.

President Lyndon B. Johnson, Howard University, June 4, 1965

Introduction:

If the object of reform is to construct a more just society, then policies that aim at abolishing poverty and reducing inequality have to be understood as a kind of foundation, clearing away the effects of the past and the present. However, as we have found in the forty years since the end of the Great Society and the War on Poverty, there is nothing permanent about the victories of social reform: poverty that was once reduced from 25% to 11% can rise if not continually checked; economic inequality that was reduced to the relative egalitarianism of the late 60s and early 1970s can revert back to the patterns of the Gilded Age.

Therefore, the larger question before us is whether, as we attempt to fix the past and the present, whether we can also create a more open and more just future.

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Weekly 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, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, Mass Transit, New Deal, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Works, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Social Security, Taxes, U.K Politics, Uncategorized, Unions, Welfare State, WPA on August 24, 2009 at 10:04 am

Well, this week was quite good – the third best week on record.

This week’s posts followed a common theme – jobs policy. However, they covered complementary and contrasting angles of the jobs policy issue, so read together, they provide a much more comprehensive viewpoint.

This last week’s posts, if you missed them:

Enjoy!

People-Ready Projects

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, New Deal, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, WPA on August 21, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Introduction:

Despite public cynicism, it’s pretty clear now that the American Recovery and Reconstruction Act (aka the stimulus bill) is working to boost economic growth and save and/or create jobs. However, it could have been much, much better – even aside from the effect that professional “moderates” had by stripping money for aid to states (to keep teachers employed, for example) from the bill. I think the limitations of the ARRA came from the decision to divide the bill into roughly one-third tax cuts, one-third aid to states, and one third public investments.

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Job Insurance – Part 3 (What Is A “Work” State?)

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Living Wage, New Deal, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Social Security, Welfare State, WPA on August 20, 2009 at 10:16 am

Introduction:

When I talked about “a work state as a social model” for Europe and other nations looking to tackle poverty and unemployment, I skimmed over the topic of what, exactly, a “work” state means, and why it would inspire people from other countries to emulation. So in the interests of making myself clearer, today’s post is dedicated to explaining the concept.

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Against “Moderatism”

In History and Politics, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics on August 19, 2009 at 3:56 pm

This Is Not How Politics Works

This Is Not How Politics Works

Introduction:

Recent signals that the White House is preparing to “go it alone” on health care reform are encouraging, not just because they suggest that progress towards actually passing the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (the House Bill; incidentally, we really need pithier titles for progressive legislation). It’s also a sign that the High Broderite approach of getting Max Baucus and his fellow “Moderate Democrats” to bravely reach across the aisle and compromise with a Republican minority that clearly has no interest in seeing a Democratic health care bill pass has completely failed. For people who’ve been counting, this now puts the moderate bipartisan approach at zero for four (stimulus, budget, climate change, health care).

My hope is that this will, both within the White House, the Democratic caucuses in both the House and Senate, the broader party, and especially in the media, finally kill off the pernicious elevation of moderatism for the sake of moderatism into the highest political virtue, and bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship as the highest political strategy.

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