Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Job Insurance – Solving For Inflation

In Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Liberalism, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Welfare State, WPA on March 31, 2010 at 2:07 pm


While in previous segments of the Job Insurance series, I’ve been understandably focused on using job programs to attack our currently-nigh-double-digits level of unemployment – but the whole idea of establishing a job program as social insurance is to envision a system that works both in recessions and in “good times.” At base, job insurance ultimately is a plan for full employment, that least remembered and most-tantalizing dream of American progressivism.

Historically, one of the most intellectually-daunting objections to full employment is the fear that it would create unstoppable inflation. But contrary to arguments that proponents of Keynesianism and full employment policies have no way to deal with inflation, there are and have been progressive proposals that allow for the holy grail of economic policy: full employment without inflation.

Read the rest of this entry »


Towards an Active(ly Functioning) Senate

In Democratic Governance, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Progressivism, Public Sector on March 31, 2010 at 1:05 pm


Amidst the celebrations over the passage of health care reform, it’s important to note how long and how grueling the process was to pass this law. Committees began drafting bills back in June of 2009, the House committees finished their “tricommittee” bill in July, then there was the interminable delay through August when Baucus’ cabal met as the first town halls exploded in a carnival of lunacy, then further delay until the Finance Committee finally released the health care bill in October. As November rolled around, the House became the first chamber to actually pass legislation, followed by the Senate on Christmas eve – and then there was another full three months of agonizing delay and negotiation until health care reform passed into law.

All in all, the process took ten months from the introduction of legislation to the enactment of law – and even introduction itself had been preceded by months of committee hearings, and those in turn preceded by a year-long debate over health care during the Democratic primaries and the election of 2008.

Given the manifest reality of what needs to be done – high-caliber jobs bills, climate change legislation, financial regulation, immigration reform, labor law reform, to say nothing of DADT repeal and ENDA – we can no longer afford a system where a once-in-a-generation supermajority takes 10 months to pass priority legislation.

Institutional reform in the Senate is a necessity – but what is needed is not just majority rule, but majority rule within the majority.

Read the rest of this entry »

In Defense of Public Sector Unionism – Part 2

In Budget Politics, California, Economics, Education Reform, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Unions, Welfare State on March 29, 2010 at 1:28 am


In part 1 of “In Defense of Public Sector Unions,” I concentrated mostly on the ideological side of public sector unions – both why the existence of public sector unions is troubling to some progressives, and why ideologically progressives should support public sector unions.

However, in the comments on the various sites where part 1 was cross-posted, one of the frequent themes of discussion was a request for some hard numbers to prove that public sector union workers aren’t the goldbricking, featherbedding “thugs” they’re made out to be.

So let’s talk numbers.

Read the rest of this entry »

In Defense of Public Sector Unionism – Part 1

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, History and Politics, Liberalism, Living Wage, Political Ideology, Politics, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Unions on March 25, 2010 at 7:03 pm


There is something strange about the Democratic Party’s love of attacking parts of its own coalition. Every political party has divisions inside it, but disagreements between factions and interest groups are usually solved through negotiation, power-sharing, and the like. The Democratic Party is highly unusual in the level of existential opposition it’s willing to engage in – the infamous “Sister Soljah” moment, the bitterness of the Rainbow Coalition vs. New Democrat conflict that arguably lasted well into 2008, and so on.

However, there’s nothing quite as strange as the loathing of certain parts of the Democratic Party for the very existence of public sector unions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Health Care Reform Is Done – Time for Health Care Reform

In Budget Politics, Health Care Reform, Liberalism, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Welfare State on March 23, 2010 at 9:25 pm


Sunday’s vote by the House to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Senate Bill) and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (the reconciliation “side-car”), and President Obama’s signature on Tuesday marks the end of a political era that lasted from the early 1970s until Sunday in which the advocates of universal health care were either in retreat or defeat.

However, the enactment of the Senate Bill into law does not mean the end of health care reform.

Read the rest of this entry »

State-Level Jobs Bills (A Job Insurance Supplement)

In Budget Politics, California, Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, Inequality, New York, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Public Sector, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Welfare State on March 5, 2010 at 4:59 pm


Even under the relatively optimistic economic forecast included in the 2011 Federal Budget, unemployment will remain at the 9.8% rate through the end of this year, dropping to 8.9% in 2011 and 7.9% in 2012.  In other words, after four years since the first stimulus, unemployment will remain at recessionary levels. To be fair, the passage of a jobs bill – and the promised efforts to pass further stimulative elements (aid to states, highway money, public works, etc.) – lends some slight hope that this catastrophe might be averted.

However, as we’ve seen with the jobs bill, it’s incredibly hard and slow to get even the smallest elements of a jobs bill through Congress; this makes it highly unlikely that sufficient actions will be taken to bring down the unemployment. However, I do think that it is possible to push through more aggressive jobs measures at the state level in heavily Democratic states that aren’t hamstrung by the Senate’s rules and the Blue Dog Caucus. As I’ve discussed in my 50-State Keynesianism and Job Insurance series, I believe that it’s possible to reform state governments to be successful anti-recession institutions, complementing Congressional action.

Today, I’ll take California and New York as two heavily Democratic states that are also large enough to have a significant impact on the national economy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Progressivize Everything 2 – End Corporate Welfare

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, Inequality, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes on March 5, 2010 at 12:17 am


Probably the greatest structural problem in American public policy today is the fact that the U.S government spends about 22% of GDP, but only raises about 18% of GDP in taxes. Even if you don’t believe in an expansion of government services are necessary to repair huge holes in our national safety net (universal health care, ending poverty, providing full employment, etc.), that gap is what’s producing our Federal debt increase, which is going to catch up with us. However, the irony of public policy is that the facts are ultimately less important than the narrative we construct around them. That gap could be explained either as an austerity narrative that the problem we have is a  “government that’s living beyond its means,” (and hence needs to be massively downsized) or as a progressive narrative that the problem really is a “structural revenue shortfall” that needs to be addressed with increased taxes – and both narratives would be broadly correct. The real fight is over the political values that inform them – whether we as a society value the goods and services the government provides more than we mind the cost of the taxes that pay for them.

At the same time, there are certain facts that are important – especially when the austerity narrative elides them to make the argument that the state’s lack of fiscal capacity and the impossibility of squeezing more money out of the rich means that our solutions have to come in the form of cutting benefits like Social Security and Medicare, as well as limiting eligibility. The state has a much greater fiscal capacity than has been thought (that’s one lesson that we can draw from the tax cuts, Medicare Part D, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). It also has more options than regressive taxation and regressive spending cuts. In part 1 of this series, I laid out how a modest progressive shift in taxation could raise an additional $297 billion a year. That’s 2% of GDP – or half the gap between Federal spending and Federal outlay.

In this part, I’m going to show how we get the other half by ending regressive tax expenditures (AKA corporate welfare).

Read the rest of this entry »