Thanks to Peter Gosselin's blog-based outreach efforts (when mid-size bloggers like me are getting e-mails, you know he's casting a wide promotional net!), I've spent some time rereading his series on risk in America. Kevin Drum beat me to the punch and called for a Pulitzer, a demand I really can't argue with. But I'm less desperate for award committees to read the piece and more hopeful that Democrats, of all positions and power levels, will absorb the package. Because it contains everything needed for a compelling, coherent, and critically important economic message.
I know I jump on this horse every few weeks, but it's really necessary for us to build a new populism based on the all-pervasive reality of risk in America, not just as a political imperative, but as a service to America's working class. With business focused entirely on short-term profits (see the post below) and Republicans trying to inject ever more risk into the lives of the worker, Americans desperately need a political party willing to make risk-reduction a major part of their platform. That it just happens to feed into every political priority we have -- health care, Social Security, universal day care, etc -- makes it all the more of a no-brainer.
The debate over populism has proceeded off of two premises -- that the Democrat's need a better economic message, and that NAFTA and free trade killed our old one. But contra Sirota and Franks, globalization happens to be a good thing that the Democratic party shouldn't simply start demonizing it (and to our credit, we haven't). Putting the emphasis on risk allows us to address globalization at exactly the point it hurts workers -- when it robs them of their economic security. It makes our whole critique flow again. The government's economic role is to a) reduce risk to the worker so b) the free market can function effectively and c) workers can take full advantage of it thanks to their increased occupational mobility. In service of this goal we need d) a rock solid social insurance system like Social Security, a universal health care system independent of your employer, universal day care so women can work, etc.
But you don't have to believe me on any of this. You just have to read Peter Gosselin on it, and draw your own conclusions.