Archive for the ‘Political Parties’ 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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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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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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Hunting the Elephant in the Room: Inequality (Part III – Transfers and Pre-Tax)

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Welfare State on April 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Introduction:

In part 1, I discussed the emerging intellectual critical mass on inequality; in part 2, I discussed how our tax system can be made into a great engine of egalitarianism. Today I want to talk about the remaining major areas of public policy that can act against inequality – namely our post-tax transfer system and our pre-tax regulatory state.

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Industrial Policy – It Actually Works!

In Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Industrial Policy, Liberalism, Living Wage, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Social Democracy, Unions on November 29, 2010 at 9:31 pm

How NOT to do it

Introduction:

When the first generation of historians begin their work on the Obama Administration, one of the more puzzling chapters will be the winter of 2010, when a major sea-change occurred in public policy that neither the administration nor the media were particularly eager to spend that much time trumpeting – namely, the revival of industrial policy after forty years or more beyond the pale of the Conventional Wisdom, as demonstrated by the success of the American automotive industry rescue.

While we wait for that generation of historians to get started being born, we can at least begin to learn some lessons about how and why the Big Three rescue worked when other industry bailouts have been such miserable failures.

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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

Introduction:

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

Introduction:

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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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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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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A New Deal For California – Part 2 (Revenue and Democracy)

In Budget Politics, California, Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, Liberalism, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes on May 22, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Introduction:

In part 1 of “A New Deal for California,” I argued that Democrats needed to put forward a stronger message about what we wanted to do, a larger vision of what Democratic government would mean for the state, beyond the immediate issue of dealing with our structural inability to pass a budget. Both for practical and political reasons, that vision should include the aggressive pursuit of full employment for all Californians.

That’s a good start, but I don’t think a New Deal can stop there, or rest on a fragmented policy-by-policy case for Democratic rule. Rather, I agree with George Lakoff that we should frame our message around the idea that California is experiencing a crisis of democracy. However, I would push further than Lakoff to argue that democracy isn’t just about majority rule – democracy means both a government that does what the people want, and a government that has the ability to do what the people want. California’s problem right now is that we don’t have either.

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