Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

A New Deal For California – Part 1 (Full Employment)

In Budget Politics, California, Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, Health Care Reform, Inequality, Liberalism, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Welfare State, WPA on April 26, 2010 at 1:51 am


The current state of California politics can be summed up in a simple comparison: in the Republican gubernatorial primaries, we see one candidate promising that their first action upon becoming governor is to put 40,000 people out of work and the other complaining that this isn’t enough; in the Democratic convention, we see a party divided over whether to fight for majority rule for budgets or for budgets and taxes.

As a state, California seems caught between the scissors of an increasing need for public services to provide a basic level of social protection for the sick, the elderly and the poor and to restore our high-road, high-wage economy based on superior public education and green technology, and a paralyzed, undemocratic, and irrational political structure that is unwilling and unable to take the necessary actions to meet those needs.

We know that the strategies proposed by the GOP’s gubernatorial candidates won’t work because they are essentially a retreat of the last seven years of failed policies – Schwarzeneggerism without a human face.

Yet Democrats lack a forceful message about what we want to do beyond the immediate issue of the budget.

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“Industrial Democracy” vs. “Economic Liberty”

In Economic Planning, Economics, History and Politics, Inequality, Liberalism, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes on April 11, 2010 at 10:00 pm


Every so often, there are trial balloons floated about the idea of uniting progressives and libertarians as a political bloc on issues as diverse as gay rights, marijuana legalization, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the civil liberties abuses of the “war on terror.” You can see it in the alarming number of progressive folks who suddenly evinced admiration for Ron Paul “because he agrees with us on the war and pot!” or in calls for the creation of “liberaltarianism.”

The problem with these moves is that there is a fundamental barrier to any such alliance – and that is the issue of economic liberty. Luckily for us, economic liberty has recently been debated repeatedly throughout the progressive blogosphere (see here, here, here, here, here and here for discussions on Crooked Timber, and here on Yglesias’ blog) in ways that I think shed some light on why the idea of liberty, economic or political, positive or negative, is so contentious.

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Designing the Future – Buses, Streetcars, and Trains

In Budget Politics, Climate Change, Economic Planning, Economics, Environment, Mass Transit, New York, Public Policy, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Urbanism on April 9, 2010 at 9:13 pm


I’m a huge fan of mass transit, and in the past I’ve written about why Federal investments in High-Speed Rail need to go hand-in-hand with investments in local and regional mass transit, why understanding the public aesthetics of mass transit is critical to its success, and why the development of gas-free automobiles still means that we need to invest in mass transit. However, as a public policy scholar, I do have to acknowledge a downside of mass transit: it can be quite expensive to develop, and slow to construct. Even as an eternal partisan of the New York Subway, I have to acknowledge that building subways is an extremely capital-intensive and long-term approach.

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What Now For Big Government Liberalism?

In Budget Politics, Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, New Deal, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Social Security, Welfare State on April 8, 2010 at 4:07 pm


Recently, I’ve discussed what comes next for health care policy after the passage of the Affordable Choices Act – but there’s also been a healthy amount of debate about what the impact of health care reform will be on other legislation – such as financial regulatory reform. However, Matt Yglesias has also added to the debate by expanding our field of inquiry to the welfare state itself; in his theory, the establishment of health care reform marks an end to major expansion of the welfare state.  Future debates will be about “how to boost growth, how to deliver public services effectively, and about the appropriate balance of social investment between children and the elderly.”

As someone who has written about this topic previously, I have to say that I really disagree (and I’m not the only one). Health care reform does not mark the limits of the welfare state, and there are many basic areas of social welfare where the U.S is deficient or completely lacking. The future of “big government liberalism” is one of new areas of expansion, not a shift to a politics of means and priorities.

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In Defense of Public Sector Unionism – Part 3

In Budget Politics, California, Democratic Governance, Full Employment, Liberalism, New Deal, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Unions, Welfare State on April 7, 2010 at 8:41 pm


In part 1 of “In Defense of Public Sector Unionism,” I discussed the historical roots of progressive unease with public sector unions, and why ultimately such antipathy contradicts progressive ideology and frustrates progressive politics. However, readers demanded to see the statistical proof that public sector workers were not the over-paid gold-brickers of right-wing mythology. Thus, in Part 2, I demonstrated that the wage differential between public and private sector workers is actually a statistical illusion – public sector workers are union workers, and union workers earn essentially identical wages whether they’re in the public or private sector – and that most public sector pensions are modest, while exorbitant pensions are a statistical blip caused by public sector management’s compensation.

Which leaves us with the critical task of rethinking how progressives should approach government from the perspective as an employer of public sector workers. We’ve already discussed how the corporate model of the public sector is diametrically opposed to progressive goals and ideals, but as I’ve always believed, it is never enough to say what should be done away with – you have to have something to put in its place.

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