Jacob Hacker

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).

Recent Articles

Health Reform 2.0

If reform is to succeed, progressives will have to fight for a stronger government role, including a public option.

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. In the face of these challenges, reformers have three great priorities: implementing the law, protecting and defending it from the already-mounting attacks, and renovating and improving Harkin's "starter home" to make it a sustainable structure. The next health-care battle will require organization, narrative, and strategy at least as much as the last did. And this time, reformers will need to call plainly for a greater government role -- armed, if they take their three big tests seriously, with concrete examples of government getting things right. Wilbur Cohen, the architect of the last landmark reform law, liked to say that policy is "1 percent inspiration and 99 percent...

A Strong Safety Net Encourages Healthy Risk-Taking

The basic underlying principle of the New Deal was that security is not opposed to opportunity but essential to it.

From Five Ways of Looking at Risk . 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. Yet while the ownership society was a practical and intellectual failure, it was more of a political success than commentators generally acknowledge. Even before the financial crisis, the broad set of economic protections that arose in the Great Depression and expanded in the decades after--sometimes called the "safety...

It Wasn't Just Iraq

Just about everyone understands the importance of Iraq to the Democrats' success in the 2006 midterm elections. Far fewer, we suspect, understand that the Democrats owe a good chunk of their 2006 success to an issue that has historically been one of their strongest: the economy. Throughout the campaign, polls regularly indicated that the economy was the second most important concern of voters (behind Iraq); polls taken in the last weekend by Pew, ABC News/ Washington Post and Newsweek confirmed this. On Election Day, 39 percent of voters deemed the economy “extremely important” to their House vote, and those voters backed the Democrats by a wide 59 percent to 39 percent margin. Similarly, a post-election poll by Democracy Corps and the Campaign for America's Future found that jobs and the economy was cited by 26 percent of voters as their most or second-most important issue (again, only lagging behind Iraq), and those voters supported Democrats by a 63 percent to 36 percent margin...

Risk Assessment, Round 2

This week, the Prospect 's Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein, and Mark Schmitt have been discussing The Great Risk Shift: The Assault on American Jobs, Families, Health Care, and Retirement -- And How You Can Fight Back with the book's author, Jacob Hacker of Yale University. See the first round of this exchange here . Round 2 : Hacker , Friday Jacob Hacker , Friday: Matt, Ezra, and Mark are some of the most thoughtful commentators and writers I know, and so I'm grateful they've cast their keen eyes on The Great Risk Shift and found it illuminating. Despite kind words for the book, however, both Matt and Ezra appear to want something more -- in Matt's case , a more full-throated attack on inequality; in Ezra's , a deeper exploration of political power, or rather the lack of it among Americans facing the trends I describe (and the challenge of restoring it to them). Mark is more sympathetic to my focus on the “near-universal” experience of insecurity, and the universalist prescriptions that...

Bigger and Better

Remember those bumper stickers during the early-1990s fight over the Clinton health plan? “National Health Care? The Compassion of the IRS! The Efficiency of the Post Office! All at Pentagon Prices!” In American policy debates, it's a fixed article of faith that the federal government is woefully bumbling and expensive in comparison with the well-oiled efficiency of the private sector. Former Congressman Dick Armey even elevated this skepticism into a pithy maxim: “The market is rational; government is dumb.” But when it comes to providing broad-based insurance -- health care, retirement pensions, disability coverage -- Armey's maxim has it pretty much backward. The federal government isn't less efficient than the private sector. In fact, in these critical areas, it's almost certainly much more efficient. To grasp this surprising point, it helps to understand how economists think about efficiency. Although politicians throw the word around as if it were a blanket label for everything good and...

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