Archive for the ‘Public Works’ 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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New Urbanism and Industrial Policy – Toeing the Triple Line

In Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, Environment, Full Employment, History and Politics, Housing, Industrial Policy, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, Mass Transit, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Public Works, Regulation, Social Democracy, Urbanism on February 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Introduction:

In the past, I’ve written about the way in which new urbanism needs to do a better job attending to issues of class. However, I want to avoid the accusation that new urbanism is classist in the same way that others have made the argument about race. The reality is that the kind of transformations that new urbanism envisions are a lot easier to do with resources, and those are easier to find in a city that’s expanding, and given the history of post-war urban development that tends to be a particular kind of city.

If we want to revive cities, and not just help cities already on the upswing, if we want to bring New Urbanism to the Detroits, Baltimores, and New Havens and not just the Seattles, Portlands, and Denvers, New Urbanists need to bring industrial policy into their worldview.

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Government in the Long Run: Infrastructure

In Budget Politics, Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, High-Speed Rail, Industrial Policy, Mass Transit, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Public Works, Social Democracy on May 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Introduction:

If there is a common malaise of our time, it’s short-term thinking in an era when long-term problems loom ever larger. Whether it’s in health care, where Congress has decide that the only way for it to deal with the need to restrain doctors and hospital costs is to outsource it to an independent agency, or in climate change, where the Senate is flatly unwilling to pass even a moderate cap-and-trade bill (even though cap-and-trade was the free marketer’s solution to climate change), or in dealing with the long-term budget deficit, where the right wing won’t even countenance eliminating loopholes and the Democratic Party won’t tax enough to end the deficit or spend enough to create a strong recovery. At the same time, the electorate has not even been approached in a way that might lead them to consider long-term consequences of their votes.

Today, I’m going to focus on one particular issue that has become emblematic of our long-term problems – our nation’s infrastructure.

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High-Speed Rail in an Age of Ideology

In Budget Politics, California, Culture, Economic Planning, Economics, High-Speed Rail, Mass Transit, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Public Works, Social Democracy, Urbanism on January 15, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Introduction:

To many, the decisions of the recently-elected governors of New Jersey (to reject Federal money for a second New Jersey-New York rail tunnel), Wisconsin, and Ohio (pulling the plug on Federally-financed high-speed rail project) seem illogical. High-speed rail projects spur growth, create jobs and tax revenue, they’re environmentally sustainable, and the state doesn’t even have to pay (mostly)! So why kill them?

The truth is that we shouldn’t be surprised by these decisions – or treat them as irrational. We are living in an age of ideology, and high-speed rail is no less ideological than any other public policy. They’re still wrong to kill the projects, but on ideological grounds.

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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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A New Deal For California – Part 1 (Full Employment)

In Budget Politics, California, Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, Health Care Reform, Inequality, Liberalism, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Welfare State, WPA on April 26, 2010 at 1:51 am

Introduction:

The current state of California politics can be summed up in a simple comparison: in the Republican gubernatorial primaries, we see one candidate promising that their first action upon becoming governor is to put 40,000 people out of work and the other complaining that this isn’t enough; in the Democratic convention, we see a party divided over whether to fight for majority rule for budgets or for budgets and taxes.

As a state, California seems caught between the scissors of an increasing need for public services to provide a basic level of social protection for the sick, the elderly and the poor and to restore our high-road, high-wage economy based on superior public education and green technology, and a paralyzed, undemocratic, and irrational political structure that is unwilling and unable to take the necessary actions to meet those needs.

We know that the strategies proposed by the GOP’s gubernatorial candidates won’t work because they are essentially a retreat of the last seven years of failed policies – Schwarzeneggerism without a human face.

Yet Democrats lack a forceful message about what we want to do beyond the immediate issue of the budget.

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Job Insurance – Solving For Inflation

In Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Liberalism, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Welfare State, WPA on March 31, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Introduction:

While in previous segments of the Job Insurance series, I’ve been understandably focused on using job programs to attack our currently-nigh-double-digits level of unemployment – but the whole idea of establishing a job program as social insurance is to envision a system that works both in recessions and in “good times.” At base, job insurance ultimately is a plan for full employment, that least remembered and most-tantalizing dream of American progressivism.

Historically, one of the most intellectually-daunting objections to full employment is the fear that it would create unstoppable inflation. But contrary to arguments that proponents of Keynesianism and full employment policies have no way to deal with inflation, there are and have been progressive proposals that allow for the holy grail of economic policy: full employment without inflation.

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State-Level Jobs Bills (A Job Insurance Supplement)

In Budget Politics, California, Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, Inequality, New York, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Public Sector, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Welfare State on March 5, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Introduction:

Even under the relatively optimistic economic forecast included in the 2011 Federal Budget, unemployment will remain at the 9.8% rate through the end of this year, dropping to 8.9% in 2011 and 7.9% in 2012.  In other words, after four years since the first stimulus, unemployment will remain at recessionary levels. To be fair, the passage of a jobs bill – and the promised efforts to pass further stimulative elements (aid to states, highway money, public works, etc.) – lends some slight hope that this catastrophe might be averted.

However, as we’ve seen with the jobs bill, it’s incredibly hard and slow to get even the smallest elements of a jobs bill through Congress; this makes it highly unlikely that sufficient actions will be taken to bring down the unemployment. However, I do think that it is possible to push through more aggressive jobs measures at the state level in heavily Democratic states that aren’t hamstrung by the Senate’s rules and the Blue Dog Caucus. As I’ve discussed in my 50-State Keynesianism and Job Insurance series, I believe that it’s possible to reform state governments to be successful anti-recession institutions, complementing Congressional action.

Today, I’ll take California and New York as two heavily Democratic states that are also large enough to have a significant impact on the national economy.

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