Archive for the ‘European Politics’ Category

A Marshall Plan for Greece Makes Sense for Germany

In Budget Politics, Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, European Politics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, Globalization, Industrial Policy, Inequality, Liberalism, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Trade, Welfare State on May 17, 2012 at 5:10 pm

 

by David Attewell

In 1949, Germany lay in utter ruin. World War II had devastated its people and laid waste to much of the rest of Europe. The temptation among the victors was to rain down punishment on the Germans in repayment for the catastrophic violence their militarism had brought upon the continent and the rest of the world.

Instead, the Allies heeded the lessons of Versailles, and abstained from demanding excessive reparations; the U.S infused West Germany with billions of dollars in grants and low-interest loans to rebuild its industrial economy. The Marshall Plan launched a new day for the FRG and the prosperity that followed set the conditions for a democratic, prosperous Germany with a European future.

Europe would do well today to remember these lessons as they look to the ‘Greek problem’.

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Labor Market Policy – Tackling the Pyramid

In Budget Politics, California, Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, Education Reform, European Politics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, Health Care Reform, Higher Education, Housing, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Unions, Welfare State, Youth Policy on March 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Introduction:

It’s somewhat out of vogue to talk about the quality of jobs and the shape of the labor market at a time when unemployment is so high and the obvious issue is the number of jobs being created. This wasn’t the case prior to the recession, although rather specious reasons were given to justify the rapidly increasing inequality of wages as the outcome of superior education or productivity. What can’t be denied is that even before the recession, we were sliding into a highly unequal labor market in which many low-paid, insecure workers (50% of American workers made less than $26,000 or 230% of poverty in 2010) serve a small number of ever-richer elites.

This trend has only continued since the recession, and it’s a problem that has to be solved if we are to either fully recover or protect ourselves from the next recession.

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Reining in the Bond Markets – Public Policy in a Context of Ideological Capture

In Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, European Politics, Financial Crisis, Globalization, Industrial Policy, Inequality, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Social Democracy, Taxes on February 14, 2012 at 11:15 am

Introduction:

In my last piece, I discussed the irrational nature of how the bond markets have reacted to the financial crisis and the recession that followed, simultaneously demanding austerity and then reacting to the recessionary crises their demands have created by demanding government intervention to provide growth (as long as it doesn’t result in inflation, higher taxes, or more borrowing).

As the Greek Parliament passes the kind of austerity that makes Andrew Mellon look like a bleeding-heart and Athens burns, we see European politicians demand further austerity at the same time that everyone realizes it’s not going to work. So how do we construct a new conventional wisdom amidst the tyranny of the old, and then how do we transform understanding into action?

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Reining In the Bond Markets – And Knowing Is Half the Battle…

In Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, European Politics, Financial Crisis, Globalization, History and Politics, Liberalism, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Social Democracy on February 11, 2012 at 12:37 am

 

Introduction:

If the slow-motion meltdown of the Euro has taught us anything in the last few months, it’s that the idea of the bond market is the most powerful force in international political economy at the moment. The idea of the bond market has so obsessed European leaders even to the point where they seem willing to throw their economy (and possibly the world’s) back into a recession for the sake of interest rates and Greek bondholders. Americans can hardly gloat; the idea of the bond market has pervaded calls for austerity in the U.S for the past three years, despite the fact that a first-ever downgrading of U.S Treasuries lead to lower, not higher interest rates on government debt.

So, how do we break our political system of the fear of the bond market bogeyman?

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Beyond the American Jobs Act – Labor Demand Policy

In Economic Planning, Economics, European Politics, Full Employment, Industrial Policy, Inequality, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Wisconsin on September 30, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Introduction:

One of the oddest flaws in American public policy is our persistent belief that unemployment and poverty can be dealt with in the main by improving the “employ-ability” of potential workers – in other words, by improving the quality of labor supply.

In the 1960s and 1970s, “manpower development” and “work training” were seen as the solution to moving the poor into a labor market that would surely sweep them up. When Reagan dismantled the War on Poverty and CETA, he left in place training programs as an acceptably bootstrapping policy sufficient to deal with the 1981-1983 recession. Clinton leaned especially hard on training and education as his solution to all problems – the early 90s recession, displacement from NAFTA, welfare reform, and rising inequality. While Obama has gone a step beyond mere job training with the public works of the stimulus bill, his more recent comments about “winning the future” show the persistent strength of supply-oriented labor market policy.

What a shame that it doesn’t work.

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Education Reform – the Fix is In

In Democratic Governance, Education Reform, European Politics, Higher Education, Inequality, Liberalism, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Unions, Youth Policy on July 3, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Introduction:

In any other area of public policy where we see rich hedge-funders providing government agencies with private funds with strings attached, demanding control over choice of administrators and direction of public policy (such as was the case with various foundations and the D.C schools), and financing the opponents of elected officials who disagree with them (such as was the case with the 2010 city council race in New York City), we’d call it corruption by a special interest group.

Yet with education reform, prominent liberals treat it as acceptable and instead turn the traditional liberal analysis of “special interests” on teachers unions instead.

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Beyond Protection v. Liberalization – Dealing With Trade and Manufacturing

In Economic Planning, Economics, European Politics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, Globalization, History and Politics, Industrial Policy, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy, Trade on January 23, 2011 at 10:04 am

Introduction:

In about two years of blogging at TRP (and another two years’ policy-blogging elsewhere), I’ve never discussed trade. It’s not because it’s unimportant, because trade is clearly a major issue within economic policy and politics, but rather because of when I came of age politically. In 2001 student politics, the free trade vs. anti-globalization/protectionism debate seemed remarkably deadlocked and somewhat sterile. Twin camps of policy contenders required allegiance with either side, and I found myself unhappy with the analysis and debate and more drawn to questions of domestic economic policy.

However, in the wake of the Great Recession and the increasingly-urgent need to reassess the structure of the U.S economy, I can’t avoid it any longer. The trade question isn’t the whole of our economic problems, I think it can be exaggerated in a way that obscures a more important class conflict inside nations. And yet, the global balance of trade – between Germany and the rest of Europe, between China and the U.S, and so on – is clearly out of whack.

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What’s Progressive?

In European Politics, History and Politics, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Social Democracy on December 7, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Progressives seen in their native habitat, Chicago 1912

Introduction:

The political label “progressive” has been a rather tricky, protean word ever since its reintroduction in the 1990s. On the one hand, it was used by by people on the democratic left to escape the tainted label of “liberal,” find a more just-post-Cold-War-America-friendly self-description than “social democrat,” or to describe a desire for a politics that was more ambitious and militant than 60’s liberalism but without the craziness and dysfunctionality of the New Left. On the other hand, it was used by the increasingly dominant center-right of center-left parties to shield themselves from (largely accurate) accusations of selling out – the Democratic Leadership Council’s Progressive Policy institute in the U.S, or the Blairite think-tank Progress are two good examples of this chameleon-like behavior.

Now we are seeing the already-rickety Coalition government in the U.K throw around the term progressive as a political prophylactic when cutting social welfare, education, and any other form of government spending they can think of to the bone – it’s ok, it’s progressive! And ergo morally acceptable.

Some linguistic policing is badly needed here.

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Public Sector Aesthetics – Why They Matter

In Culture, Economic Planning, European Politics, Health Care Reform, Higher Education, Housing, Inequality, Mass Transit, Political Ideology, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Social Security, Taxes, Urbanism, Welfare State on November 21, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Introduction:

One of the intellectual shortcomings of progressives, and friends of the public sector more broadly, is that we tend to approach public policy from an empirical perspective entirely bounded by questions of money and measurements. While this isn’t a bad thing in itself – certainly “reality-based” public policy is better than the kind of public policy we see coming from the Tea Partiers – it means that we ignore the aesthetic side of the public sector.

This is a mistake, as it opens up a vacuum that conservatives have exploited when they don’t actually have a case on empirical grounds – the evidence for the inherent superiority of the private sector might be weak, but it’s easy to get voters to emotionally identify with the image of endless lines at the DMV.

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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

Introduction:

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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