Archive for July, 2010|Monthly archive page

The Curse of “Self-Liquidation” – Direct Job Creation vs. Traditional Public Works (A Job Insurance Supplement)

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Welfare State, WPA on July 15, 2010 at 12:44 am


In any discussion about jobs legislation, it is absolutely guaranteed that eventually the debate will focus on the question of what the newly-employed workers will be doing, and what counts as a worthy use. On the conservative side, there are the familiar canards that government jobs are useless boondoggles, spending public funds to dig ditches and fill them up again or rake leaves from one side of a lawn to another – the idea being to restore the assumption that the government cannot create jobs by moving the goalposts (and confusing the issue). Moderate types tend to focus on ensuring that jobs projects should be “shovel-ready.” Even among more left-wing folks, there’s quite a lot of concern about whether the kind of work being done will incorporate women and men equally.

The nature of what work we give people to do is important, and it’s more than just a practical question of how many projects can be set up in what schedule. It’s also an expression of our political values – and the choice we make between prioritizing workers or the works they produce is critically important for the viability of any job creation program.

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Green Economy and The Problem of Class

In California, Climate Change, Economic Planning, Economics, Environment, Full Employment, Inequality, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy on July 12, 2010 at 1:27 am


It is in the very nature of a political alliance that there are tensions between the various constitutive elements. If political interests, experience and tradition, ways of thinking were completely identical, one would expect allied groups to have already merged – an alliance grows out of a shared need to cooperate in cases in which different groups have overlapping but distinct agendas.

The same is true of the “Blue/Green” alliance between environmental and labor groups. On the surface, both groups are united around their support for a “green economy,” one in which non-renewable, greenhouse-gas-emitting industries and processes are replaced by renewable, emissions-free alternate forms of energy and production – an economy which labor groups hope involves the creation of many new manufacturing jobs in new “green industries.” However, there are conflicts that emerge when the idea of a green economy runs into the reality of class and political economy in the era of globalization, conflicts that illustrate the different interests and goals of the two movements.

For example, Texas is in the process of constructing a 600-megawatt windfarm in the hills of West Texas, which is enough to power about 450,000 homes. On the face of it, this is a significant improvement of alternate energy production in a major oil state, and something of a coup for the environmental movement. The problem is that the windmills are made in China – and 75% of the world’s windmills are made outside the U.S. American unions are unhappy that alternative energy projects massively subsidized by the U.S government are being used the create green jobs.

However, it is always possible to solve tensions that exist if we think through what it actually means to give life to our common goals.

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New Deal for California – Part 3 (Educate and Punish)

In Budget Politics, California, Economic Planning, Economics, Education Reform, Higher Education, Inequality, Liberalism, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Uncategorized, Unions, Welfare State, Youth Policy on July 3, 2010 at 6:17 pm


In part 1 of a New Deal for California, I discussed why any effort to rebuild the state must begin with a frontal assault on high unemployment as the only reliable means of achieving budget stability – as opposed to self-defeating quests for balance via austerity. In part 2, I studied how the quest for a more perfect democracy is inextricably linked to a renewal of democratic control over the state’s own revenues.

Today, I want to discuss two areas of policy that are among the largest spending categories in the California state budget, but which also represent two faces of the state, and two approaches to developing its youth, and two sets of values – namely, education and prisons. Arnold’s recent proposal to put a floor under higher education at 10% of the state budget and a ceiling over prisons at 7% of the state budget is only the most recent example of a long trend of discussing the two in the same breath. As I discussed in the linked article, Schwarzenegger’s approach is fundamentally flawed, a mirage of egalitarianism masking a reality of utter callousness. A moral society cannot pay for the future of its most talented youth through the deliberate immiseration of its least advantaged.

However, a New Deal for California will have to grapple with the reality that California will either educate or incarcerate its young, and that the power to choose lies with us.

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