Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Budget-Neutral Jobs Policy in an Era of Irrational Austerity

In Budget Politics, Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, European Politics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, Inequality, Liberalism, New Deal, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Welfare State, WPA on June 26, 2010 at 1:23 am


Recently, the Senate attempted for the second time to pass a small jobs bill. The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 – which would provide for an extension of Unemployment Insurance, COBRA health insurance subsidies, $24 billion in aid to states’ Medicaid programs to prevent deficit-driven layoffs, partially paid for through closing loopholes that benefit the wealthy – already passed the House three months ago, but is stalled in the Senate. The fact that the bill failed with 56 senators voting in the affirmative not only sharpens the ironies of the anti-democratic nature of the Senate, but also shows that we’re stuck in the middle of a full-blown austerity craze.

Hence Senator Hatch’s call for the unemployed to be drugs tested – for Unemployment Insurance that they have paid for through years and years of contributions – and even supposedly liberal Senators like Dianne Feinstein suggesting that “people just don’t go back to work at all” if UI eligibility is extended beyond 99 weeks. On the simplest level, this is insanity – there are about thirty million unemployed (including both official and unofficial) and only three million job openings. Drugs tested or not, the 27 million left over don’t have a choice of whether to go back to work.

Unfortunately, to paraphrase Keynes, politics can stay irrational longer than the unemployed can stay solvent. Austerity is in full political swing, and unlikely to improve, except in the improbable scenario that Congress remains Democratic in the midterm elections and the Senate Democratic Caucus follows through on their threats to reform the filibuster. A public policy that can only work in optimal circumstances isn’t worth much, though, and there are still ways to move forward on jobs despite being lumbered by irrational budget-neutral burdens.

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Classic TRP: Front Line of Defense – Rebuilding Unemployment Insurance

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, History and Politics, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Social Security, Taxes, Welfare State on June 22, 2010 at 7:00 pm


Five months ago, I re-posted one of my most frequently-read pieces, “The Second Bill of Rights and the Progressive Mission,” both to celebrate the 66th anniversary of the Second Bill of Rights and also to announce the publication of my first policy paper with the New America Foundation, “Freedom From Fear: Using the Social Security Act to Rebuild America’s Social Safety Net.”

Today, I’m very pleased to announce the publication of my second paper with the New America Foundation – “Front Line of Defense – Building a New Unemployment Insurance System.” This policy paper builds on work done on this blog and on “Freedom From Fear,” and it would not have come to pass had it not been for the support that readers of The Realignment Project have shown, both at this site and cross-posted at DailyKos, Calitics, and EconomicPopulist. In its first year, The Realignment Project has seen both 20,000 visits, but also the beginning of a very fruitful relationship with the New America Foundation, and I’d like to thank all my readers for their help.

(For a direct link to the pdf, click – Front Line of Defense)

To celebrate the publication of “Front Line of Defense,” I’ve re-posted the first TRP blog post on unemployment insurance below the fold.

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The Political Party As Thinking Engine

In California, Democratic Governance, History and Politics, Liberalism, New Deal, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Social Democracy on June 17, 2010 at 10:25 pm


The passage of Proposition 14 in California, establishing a top-two “blanket” or “jungle” primary, is further proof that anti-political reform politics is both popular and futile. Prop 14 isn’t going to end partisanship, anymore than Prop 11 will end partisanship – and neither is going to fix the dysfunctionality in our state legislature. In the case of Prop 14, this is made all the more obvious by the fact that California operated under a “blanket primary” between 1996 (after the last time we tried this with Prop 198) and 2000 (when the Supreme Court struck down Prop 198 as a violation of the 1st Amendment right to association of political parties). Politics didn’t become less partisan in those four years, and the budget process didn’t get any easier.

However, there is a larger point that has yet to be addressed openly, and which we have to discuss – even if it was possible, trying to make politics nonpartisan is a bad idea. As James Madison and many other before and after have discovered, political parties are natural, inevitable, and beneficial.

If anything, we should be trying to reform the political process to strengthen our political parties, not weaken them.

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