Archive for the ‘Unions’ Category

In Defense of Public Sector Unionism – Part 3

In Budget Politics, California, Democratic Governance, Full Employment, Liberalism, New Deal, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Unions, Welfare State on April 7, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Introduction:

In part 1 of “In Defense of Public Sector Unionism,” I discussed the historical roots of progressive unease with public sector unions, and why ultimately such antipathy contradicts progressive ideology and frustrates progressive politics. However, readers demanded to see the statistical proof that public sector workers were not the over-paid gold-brickers of right-wing mythology. Thus, in Part 2, I demonstrated that the wage differential between public and private sector workers is actually a statistical illusion – public sector workers are union workers, and union workers earn essentially identical wages whether they’re in the public or private sector – and that most public sector pensions are modest, while exorbitant pensions are a statistical blip caused by public sector management’s compensation.

Which leaves us with the critical task of rethinking how progressives should approach government from the perspective as an employer of public sector workers. We’ve already discussed how the corporate model of the public sector is diametrically opposed to progressive goals and ideals, but as I’ve always believed, it is never enough to say what should be done away with – you have to have something to put in its place.

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In Defense of Public Sector Unionism – Part 2

In Budget Politics, California, Economics, Education Reform, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Unions, Welfare State on March 29, 2010 at 1:28 am


Introduction:

In part 1 of “In Defense of Public Sector Unions,” I concentrated mostly on the ideological side of public sector unions – both why the existence of public sector unions is troubling to some progressives, and why ideologically progressives should support public sector unions.

However, in the comments on the various sites where part 1 was cross-posted, one of the frequent themes of discussion was a request for some hard numbers to prove that public sector union workers aren’t the goldbricking, featherbedding “thugs” they’re made out to be.

So let’s talk numbers.

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In Defense of Public Sector Unionism – Part 1

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, History and Politics, Liberalism, Living Wage, Political Ideology, Politics, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Unions on March 25, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Introduction:

There is something strange about the Democratic Party’s love of attacking parts of its own coalition. Every political party has divisions inside it, but disagreements between factions and interest groups are usually solved through negotiation, power-sharing, and the like. The Democratic Party is highly unusual in the level of existential opposition it’s willing to engage in – the infamous “Sister Soljah” moment, the bitterness of the Rainbow Coalition vs. New Democrat conflict that arguably lasted well into 2008, and so on.

However, there’s nothing quite as strange as the loathing of certain parts of the Democratic Party for the very existence of public sector unions.

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The U.C’s Playing the Thimble Game – How Post-Docs Are Economic Stimulus

In Budget Politics, California, Economic Planning, Economics, Education Reform, Financial Crisis, Living Wage, Social Democracy, Unions on December 14, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Introduction:

Tomorrow at noon, pickets will spring up on every campus of the University, a familiar sight especially since the U.C regents decided to raise undergraduate tuition by 32% this fall. This time, it’s PRO-UAW (the union for post-doctoral scholars or “post-docs”) and UPTE (the union for research and technical workers) who are protesting the U.C’s stonewalling contract negotiations over wages and benefits.

Lest anyone mistake this picket as just one more expression of discontent at the U.C’s budget woes, let me point out an important fact that shows why this protest shows how both sides of the U.C’s mission as a public research university are being undermined by the Regents’ drive towards privatization: these workers are being paid through Federal grants, not from the U.C’s general budget.

So why would the U.C refuse to pay for cost-of-living increases and benefit improvements when the money isn’t coming out of their funds?

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Local Government Is Ideological – Thinking About Progressive Local Government

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Education Reform, Environment, Full Employment, Housing, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, Mass Transit, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Unions, Welfare State on December 4, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Introduction:

I’ve always had a problem with the way that we Americans think politically about scale, especially the conventional wisdom that local government is somehow inherently better or more democratic than national government because it’s closer to you. This is a rather problematic belief; local government can be just as dominated by local elites as national politics is by national elites, and the lower profile can actually make local politics less transparent than national politics (thought experiment: how many of you can name your local justices of the peace, or could give an explanation of the platform of the current incumbent?).

But worse of all of our beliefs about scale and politics is the idea that local government is somehow inherently non-partisan, that “there’s no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole.”

Because the truth is that, in a democratic government, ideology is everywhere.  There really are progressive and conservative ways to fill in potholes, run public schools, and provide transportation and other social services, and unless we approach local politics with that in mind, it’s very easy to allow conservative methods to become dominant.

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Working-Class Urbanism

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Housing, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, Mass Transit, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Public Works, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Unions, Urbanism, Welfare State on October 30, 2009 at 5:14 pm

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Introduction:

Recently, there was a bit of a stir when geographer Aaron Renn posted an article on New Geography alleging that “progressive urbanism” was advocating for a model of urbanism that was melanin-deficient. Now, this study was flawed in many ways – the sampling excluded New York, Chicago and L.A as progressive urban models, it equated non-black population with white, which is a major mistake especially in the Southwest, it left out San Francisco, and so on.

However, while progressive urbanism can for the moment be cleared of the charge of being blind to issues of race, it is true that new urbanism as a movement has tended to emphasize the physical side of denser development, as opposed to some of the more human-scale issues – and class is one issue that comes to mind as an area that needs to be dealt with.

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After the Exchanges – Health Care Reform, Step 2

In Budget Politics, Health Care Reform, Inequality, Liberalism, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Social Security, Unions, Welfare State on October 29, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Introduction:

This last week has given us something of a denouement for the public option – we came just short of the “robust” public option set at Medicare rates plus 5% in the House, but we’ve got an opt-out negotiated rate public option in the Senate. Chances are, going forward, that the eventual legislation will end up with something in-between the House and Senate’s version.

While this is certainly a disappointment to those of us who favored “Medicare Part E,” it’s important to keep in the forefront of our minds, that the objective of health care reform is universal coverage and affordability, not the specific vehicle by which this happens. And a close examination of the House bill shows they way forward.

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Job Insurance – Part 9 (What is NAIRU?)

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, Taxes, Unions, Welfare State, WPA on October 14, 2009 at 5:56 am
No, the other one.

No, the other one.

Introduction:

(For previous parts in the series, see here)

In talking about job insurance, or indeed any policy that seeks to help the working class, there is always someone who will argue that any effort to reach a lower rate of unemployment will cause inflation to achieve Zimbabwean levels. The intellectual justification for this is NAIRU – a term invented by monetarist economists as part of their war against Keynesianism.

But what is NAIRU? Does it really exist? Is it a constant or does it change? And most importantly, is it a valid objection to attempting to lower the unemployment rate?
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Industrial Democracy for the 21st Century

In History and Politics, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy, Unions on October 9, 2009 at 4:41 pm


Introduction:

Given the level of inequality in America today, it’s not surprising that the major political battles over the workplace are focusing on economic goods – jobs, wages, benefits, and working conditions.  And yet, even after health care, even after EFCA, even after economic recovery itself, there will still be a critical contest to be fought that goes far beyond the material conditions of working America.

And in that fight, we have more than sixty years of lost progress to make up.

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Job Insurance – Part 6 (Historical Models)

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, New Deal, Politics, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Unions, Welfare State, WPA on September 10, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Introduction:

(For Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, see the lovingly hand-crafted links provided.)

So far in the Job Insurance series, I’ve been largely focusing on how a Job Insurance program would function in the abstract, rather than dealing with the harder questions of how things could go wrong. On one level, it’s important to start by outlining in full the parts  of how the program should operate, so that people understand the ideal and be able to recognize departures from it.

At the same time, it’s important to be realistic and acknowledge that any Job Insurance program would face problems both of policy design and political opposition, and that it’s important to grapple with them if we’re going to make sure that a future program would succeed.

At the risk of annoying my former teacher, Eric Foner, who used to say that there are no such things as the lessons of history, I do think there are insights we can clean from historical examples of jobs programs.

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