Archive for the ‘New Deal’ Category

De-commodifying Housing

In Economic Planning, Economics, Financial Crisis, History and Politics, Housing, Liberalism, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy on August 18, 2011 at 12:31 am

Introduction:

If the Great Recession has one common thread that links the U.S, much of the E.U (Ireland, Spain, the U.K), and the rest of the world, it’s our common mistake of treating housing as a speculative commodity whose purpose is to create profits for investors, rather than structures that serve a basic human need for shelter and sanctuary. Even those nations which avoided a housing bubble themselves (like France or Germany) got themselves involved through their banking industries, who lent and speculated into the housing bubbles.

If we want to get out of our current economic stagnation and avoid future housing bubbles, the logical place to start is to de-commodify housing.

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In Honor of the Workers of Wisconsin: Classic TRP – In Defense of Public Sector Unionism III

In Budget Politics, California, Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, Education Reform, Full Employment, Liberalism, Living Wage, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Unions, Welfare State, Wisconsin on February 25, 2011 at 11:21 am

Introduction:

The last installment in The Realignment Program’s re-posting of its series on public employee unions is here, and we turn from defending the idea of public employee unions to thinking towards a more expansive, hopeful vision of how progressives can promote public sector unionism.

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Psychology of Public Policy – Social Insurance

In Budget Politics, Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Housing, Inequality, Liberalism, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Social Security, Taxes, Welfare State, Youth Policy on February 14, 2011 at 6:05 am

Introduction:

The current state of American public policy can best be described as a stalemate: progressives have been stalled on further stimulus efforts; at the same time, conservatives came into power pledging opposition against any cut to a single-payer government health insurance program, and there’s little public stomach for virtually all spending cuts.

As I’ve discussed before, a major reason for this stalemate is ultimately due to how people think about public policy. In reality, neither progressive or conservative ideologies are hegemonic within the American electorate. Instead, public opinion is very much a mix of contradictory and paradoxical tendencies – we want to spend more money on the poor, but are opposed to welfare; we think foreign aid should be cut to a level that’s several times larger than current spending.

In this situation, policy victory goes to finding narratives that present our policies in a way that aligns favorably with public thinking, and in designing policies that lend themselves to narratives that flow with, not against the grain of public opinion.

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Job Insurance – The Problem With “Temporary” Stimulus

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Unions, Welfare State, WPA on September 30, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Introduction:

Struggles over public policy take place on two levels – the day-to-day conflict over specific policies (should tax cuts be extended and for whom, whether we should balance the budget or stimulate) and the larger, often somewhat subterranean debates over the political economy of the country.

Behind debates (largely within the Democratic Party, given the Republican Party’s commitment to universal obstruction) over whether to “stimulate now, and cut later” or “cut now and cut later” is a division over what kind of economic order we want to have. The Stimulus Caucus broadly supports an economic order marked by more attention to unemployment levels, economic growth, and investments in infrastructure and human capital. The Pain Brigade by contrast supports an economic order marked by more attention to the profits of the financial sector, and maintaining weak regulations and low taxes on financial corporations, financial executives, and stockholders, and which is more comfortable with high levels of unemployment – as long as it means low inflation and low interest rates.

However, as much as I side with the Stimulus Caucus, I feel compelled to point out that their basic model of “stimulate now, cut later” is marked with a serious flaw: stimulating back to the pre-crash economy isn’t good enough, because the pre-crash economy has serious long-term problems that require permanent solutions.

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F*ck the Laffer Curve – Individual Vs. Social Consumption

In Budget Politics, California, Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Inequality, Liberalism, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Welfare State, WPA on September 13, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Introduction:

The power of ideas to define the range of the possible and the acceptable can be seen in the fact that, despite nearly four years of budget austerity at the state level, California appears to be trying once again to cut itself out of a recession, or the fact that despite a stimulus that has appreciably worked, an incredibly modest proposal for public works and tax cuts is unlikely to pass Congress.

Among other things, this should point to the legacy of nigh-on forty years of anti-government rhetoric at the highest level of government. One angle into seeing the effects of this legacy is to look at the way that taxes are publicly discussed as either a net loss to the taxpayer (or outright theft by movement conservatives), and the government itself as a kind of black hole into which taxes disappear. The progressive alternative to this rhetoric that has yet to be comprehensively advocated for on the national stage is to emphasize that taxes pay for things, and that they are ultimately a question of individual versus social consumption.

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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

Introduction:

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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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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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

Introduction:

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

Introduction:

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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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

Introduction:

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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