Back to Full Employment, by Robert Pollin. A Boston Review Book. The M.I.T. Press. 187 pages. $14.95
Achieving full employment has been at the center of the progressive project for more than a century. If work is available at decent wages for everyone who wants it, then the rest of the agenda is a lot easier. Opportunity proliferates. People feel a sense of dignity and worth. Human potential is fully utilized. In a virtuous circle, adequate purchasing power has a rendez-vous with the economy’s productive capacity. Tight labor markets give workers the leverage to bargain for decent wages. Social-transfer programs can be reserved for special needs rather than being strained to make up for the fundamental lack of decent income.
I’ve grown so used to dismissing Tom Friedman’s work for TheNew York Times that when he writes something genuinely good, it comes as a surprise. To wit, in his column for the Sunday paper, he aruges that our political system has devolved into a “vetocracy”—a system where “no one can aggregate enough power to make any important decisions at all.”
The culprits, according to Friedman, are polarization, broken institutional norms—in particular, filibuster abuse—the massive proliferation of special interests, and the growing importance of money in politics. The ultimate outcome of this, says Friedman, is governmental paralysis:
I've been thinking about the term "capitalism" since Frank Luntz, the renowned pollster, told Republicans to quit saying it. The Occupy Wall Street movement has turned "capitalism" into a dirty word, he said. If Republicans want to win in 2012, they'd better stop worrying and learn to love "economic freedom" instead.
Obama gave a really good speech yesterday, one that clearly announces his main campaign strategy for the next year and has the potential of having his 2008 base return to occupying his camp. You should read it, but if you don’t have the time, Derek Thompson has a pretty thorough reader’s guide.
Last night, Ron Paul was on The Daily Show, and under the gentlest of questioning from Jon Stewart, he said some truly insane things. After alleging that people who don't support him "don't understand what freedom is all about," Paul made his usual case that government is bad because it makes decisions for everyone, whereas "when you make a bad decision, it only hurts you."
(Sipa via AP Images) President of France's far-right National Front party Marine Le Pen gives a press conference after protesting a French National Assembly vote that authorized a 15 billion euro aid package for Greece.
The epic financial crash of 2007–2008 should have produced a massive political defeat for the conservative ideology whose resurgence began three decades ago. Its signal achievement, liberated finance, did not reward innovation, enhance economic efficiency, or produce broad prosperity. Rather, the result was a speculative bubble followed by a severe crash. Along the way, the super-rich captured a disproportionate share of the economy’s gains, while other incomes stagnated. In the aftermath, ordinary people have suffered large losses of earnings, assets, social protections, and hopes for their children.
I don't have a ton to say about Freddie DeBoer's essay on the absence of a true left wing in American political discourse and, more specifically, the liberal blogosphere. If I were to diagnose the problem, I'd point to the general absence of a true left wing in American politics -- even at its height, the American socialist movement had no more than a few million supporters -- and the corrosive effects of racial division on class solidarity.
Mark Schmitt says the 1970s were a decade of lost opportunities to reconstruct the New Deal order.
The short postwar miracle was built on a "great compression" of broadly shared economic gains, a "liberal consensus," around the idea of a supportive government committed to expanding rights and opportunity, and a loose social compact between industry and organized labor. In the late 1970s, these phenomena, dependent on prosperity, gave way to a particularly predatory form of financial capitalism, joined to an aggressive and opportunistic conservative politics capable of winning electoral majorities.
Since Peter Sudermanlinked to me yesterday as an example of liberals being unhappy with the health-care reform effort, I thought I might respond to his assertion that this isn't a failure of leadership, but "a feature of democratic politics" which is a common refrain from libertarians and small-government types: Things would run much smoother without the messy business of politics getting in the way.