Jacob S. Hacker is Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University, is the author, with Paul Pierson, of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer -- and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (2010).
This piece is part of the Prospect's series on progressives' strategy over the next 40 years. To read the introduction, click here.
The Powell Memo is remembered today as a blueprint for business counter-mobilization. So it’s easy to forget that one of Lewis Powell’s principal goals—and, it seems, achievements—was to wake up business leaders to the nature of the challenges they faced: the hostility in some campus quarters, the strength of foes like Ralph Nader, and, above all, the weakness of corporate political organization. Before he could get business leaders to act on his prescriptions, Powell had to convince them of his diagnosis.
"Middle class" is more than an income category. It's an image of a certain kind of society--a nation in which the gains of prosperity are broadly shared and those who work hard have a good shot at upward mobility and the security of a basic safety net.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
The political gridlock that marked most of the 1980s and 1990s is back -- and it's about to get worse. After the November midterm elections, not even timidly liberal initiatives will be able to overcome the omnipresent filibuster. If the Republicans manage to take the Senate, conservative legislation will be confronted by filibusters from the Democratic side of the aisle as well as the obstacle of a veto from President Barack Obama.
Marchers demand the public option in health-care reform. (Flickr/Steve Rhodes)
Sen. Tom Harkin put the point well when he described the health bill as a "starter home." What Harkin neglected to mention is that the home isn't built yet, and the construction zone is in the path of a hurricane -- the fast-approaching storm of runaway health costs and hard-core conservative opposition.
Remember the "ownership society"? Just an election cycle ago, conservatives were urging Americans to give up their antiquated social-insurance programs--Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance--in favor of tax-subsidized individual accounts that would vest responsibility for dealing with economic risk in workers and their families. Thankfully, the most extreme elements of that agenda failed, and the vision behind it (of responsive financial markets capable of managing risk with limited government oversight, and the private sector providing inclusive, progressive protections with minimal public prodding) is now discredited.