Archive for the ‘WPA’ Category

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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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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66th Anniversary of the Second Bill of Rights

In Economic Planning, Economics, Full Employment, History and Politics, Liberalism, Living Wage, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Social Security, Taxes, Welfare State, WPA on January 11, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Today is the 66th anniversary of FDR’s historic “Second Bill of Rights” Address. To mark this occasion, I’ve re-posted a classic Realignment Project post on the Second Bill of Rights below.

At the same time, I’m thrilled to announce the publication of “Freedom From Fear: Using the Social Security Act to Rebuild America’s Social Safety Net” by the New America Foundation. This piece is my first published policy paper, and as its very existence is directly due to the blogging I’ve done here and on other blogs, I wanted to thank everyone who’s read my work for supporting The Realignment Project and helping to make this happen.

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Job Insurance – Labor Market Power for the Majority (plus a review of the Jobs Bill)

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, Inequality, Living Wage, New Deal, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Public Sector, Public Works, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Welfare State, WPA on December 22, 2009 at 2:24 am

Introduction:

(For previous parts in the series, see here)

As is the case with any form of social insurance, one basic question that has to be answered is why, besides the motive of wanting ones-self  to be protected, people who are unlikely to need a program like Job Insurance should support the program? Beyond the moral and ideological issue that one should support measures that help people in need and that redistribution makes a society more just, there is actually a practical reason why the roughly 80% of the workforce who are employed should support Job Insurance.

And the reason is labor market power. Between 2000 and 2008, despite several years of steady growth and nominally low unemployment, the median income of wage workers shrank, with declines being most prominently felt among the working class, because even employed workers lack labor market power.

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Job Insurance in Global Context (Part 13)

In Economic Planning, Economics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, History and Politics, Living Wage, New Deal, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Public Policy, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Welfare State, WPA on November 28, 2009 at 11:31 am

Introduction:

(see here for previous parts in the series)

In my series on Job Insurance, I’ve largely focused on how the different elements of the program would function domestically, in part because the major impact of the program (the lowering of unemployment rates) would have its most immediate and visible impact on the American labor market. However, it is also the case that in an economic context where global capital flows are largely unregulated, and where the United States functions as the world’s #1 consumer (other countries don’t buy U.S Treasury Bills for the sake of our health, after all), a Job Insurance program would have a substantial and largely positive effect on the world economy.

Moreover, I will argue that a Job Insurance system has the capacity to help the U.S deal both with domestic and international economic problems.

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Job Insurance – Part 12 (Finance)

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Financial Crisis, Full Employment, History and Politics, Liberalism, New Deal, Political Ideology, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Welfare State, WPA on November 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Introduction:

In previous installments of the Job Insurance series, I’ve used a simple $20 a month premium, split 50/50 between workers and their employers, to give a rough idea about how a Job Insurance program could be financed as a significant new social insurance program, without creating a heavy fiscal burden.

However, there are important alternatives for financing a Job Insurance program that should be considered – especially as we think of how to construct a jobs bill without triggering an internal struggle with our party’s “deficit hawks.”

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