Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Job Insurance – Labor Market Power for the Majority (plus a review of the Jobs Bill)

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, Inequality, Living Wage, New Deal, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Public Sector, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Welfare State, WPA on December 22, 2009 at 2:24 am


(For previous parts in the series, see here)

As is the case with any form of social insurance, one basic question that has to be answered is why, besides the motive of wanting ones-self  to be protected, people who are unlikely to need a program like Job Insurance should support the program? Beyond the moral and ideological issue that one should support measures that help people in need and that redistribution makes a society more just, there is actually a practical reason why the roughly 80% of the workforce who are employed should support Job Insurance.

And the reason is labor market power. Between 2000 and 2008, despite several years of steady growth and nominally low unemployment, the median income of wage workers shrank, with declines being most prominently felt among the working class, because even employed workers lack labor market power.

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Public Virtues, Round II

In Climate Change, Economic Planning, Economics, Environment, Political Ideology, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Social Democracy, Taxes, Welfare State on December 17, 2009 at 2:20 am


In the first round of the Public Virtues series, I challenged the idea that private corporations are inherently more efficient and productive than the public sector, and the idea that often follows that the private sector should be relied upon for all goods and services and the public sector to remain with the parameters of defense and public safety.  After examining five areas in which the public sector has an advantage over private sector peers – the lack of a profit motive, the longer institutional continuity, the ability to self-fund, the virtues of inherent monopoly, and the government’s rules-making power – our conversation about the proper scope of public economic action can proceed with more

Now in Round II of the Public Virtues series, I will examine six more areas in which public economic can help us think of the public sector as an economic actor in its own right, not merely as a pale copy of the private corporation.

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The U.C’s Playing the Thimble Game – How Post-Docs Are Economic Stimulus

In Budget Politics, California, Economic Planning, Economics, Education Reform, Financial Crisis, Living Wage, Social Democracy, Unions on December 14, 2009 at 8:29 pm


Tomorrow at noon, pickets will spring up on every campus of the University, a familiar sight especially since the U.C regents decided to raise undergraduate tuition by 32% this fall. This time, it’s PRO-UAW (the union for post-doctoral scholars or “post-docs”) and UPTE (the union for research and technical workers) who are protesting the U.C’s stonewalling contract negotiations over wages and benefits.

Lest anyone mistake this picket as just one more expression of discontent at the U.C’s budget woes, let me point out an important fact that shows why this protest shows how both sides of the U.C’s mission as a public research university are being undermined by the Regents’ drive towards privatization: these workers are being paid through Federal grants, not from the U.C’s general budget.

So why would the U.C refuse to pay for cost-of-living increases and benefit improvements when the money isn’t coming out of their funds?

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Local Government Is Ideological – Thinking About Progressive Local Government

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Education Reform, Environment, Full Employment, Housing, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, Mass Transit, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Unions, Welfare State on December 4, 2009 at 5:19 pm


I’ve always had a problem with the way that we Americans think politically about scale, especially the conventional wisdom that local government is somehow inherently better or more democratic than national government because it’s closer to you. This is a rather problematic belief; local government can be just as dominated by local elites as national politics is by national elites, and the lower profile can actually make local politics less transparent than national politics (thought experiment: how many of you can name your local justices of the peace, or could give an explanation of the platform of the current incumbent?).

But worse of all of our beliefs about scale and politics is the idea that local government is somehow inherently non-partisan, that “there’s no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole.”

Because the truth is that, in a democratic government, ideology is everywhere.  There really are progressive and conservative ways to fill in potholes, run public schools, and provide transportation and other social services, and unless we approach local politics with that in mind, it’s very easy to allow conservative methods to become dominant.

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