Economy

Gillibrand Steps Up for Working Women

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

At the end of September, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced her Opportunity Plan promoting progressive economic policies for women. The plan includes Gillibrand’s proposed FAMILY Act. The legislation builds upon the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows certain workers—public-sector employees or private-sector ones who have been employed for at least a year—to take unpaid leave for child care or health reasons.

The Supply-Side Economics of Abortion

AP Images/Rex C. Curry

Last June, Ohio Republicans quietly slipped a handful of abortion restrictions into the state’s budget, alongside provisions to invest in Ohio’s highway system and a new funding model for the state’s colleges and universities. Eight states, including Ohio, already require clinics that perform or induce abortion to have a “transfer agreement” with a local hospital, so that patients can be transported quickly to a more sophisticated medical center in case of an emergency. The budget, which Republican Governor John Kasich signed into law with the abortion provisions intact, included an innovative new rule, making Ohio the first state to prohibit abortion clinics from entering into transfer agreements with public hospitals.

Will Amazon Swallow the Postal Service?

Don't worry, they only do this in Japan. (Flickr/Fugu Tabetai)

For a while now, the Postal Service has been telling us that they'd like to end Saturday mail delivery as a way to cut costs and deal with their ongoing financial difficulties. Congress isn't about to let that happen, so now they've gone the other way: they're going to start delivering on Sunday. But only packages. And only from Amazon.

The natural response to this is, "Wait, what?" Since when does a single corporation get to commandeer an enormous government agency to use for its own profit-making purposes? What's next, are we going to just rename it the Lockheed Martin Department of Defense? Sell the naming rights to national parks? ("Welcome to the Doritos Locos Tacos Grand Canyon!")

OK, it isn't as bad as all that. In fact, as long as they do this in a fair way—essentially for any company that wants it—it could be good for everyone.

The 40-Year Slump

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The steady stream of Watergate revelations, President Richard Nixon’s twists and turns to fend off disclosures, the impeachment hearings, and finally an unprecedented resignation—all these riveted the nation’s attention in 1974. Hardly anyone paid attention to a story that seemed no more than a statistical oddity: That year, for the first time since the end of World War II, Americans’ wages declined. 

Between a Rock and a Polling Place

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Few things excite a political reporter more than polls. They're the sports statistics of the electoral grind, giving any argument that little extra oomph. For people not necessarily known for their numerical prowess, a cleverly placed percentage point is the perfect condiment for any story. Heck, polls can even be the story.

Unfortunately, our enthusiasm for those alluring little numbers can end badly. In election off-season it's not so noticeable, with polls slowing to a relative trickle and our attentions focused elsewhere—or so far in the future that the ambitious dreams of Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton dancing in our heads outweigh any margins of error. But the polls are still there. Exhibit A: presidential approval ratings.

Fruits of Republican Folly

AP Images/J. Scott Applewhite

The Republicans badly damaged themselves with their contrived government shutdown and debt crisis, but it remains for the Democrats to drive home their advantage. Will they?

Based on the cost to the Republican brand and the pressure from corporate elites not to harm the economy, the days of shutdowns and games with the debt are probably over for the foreseeable future. If the Tea Party faction tries to repeat these maneuvers, House Speaker John Boehner would likely permit a free vote again, and enough Republicans would vote with Democrats to keep the government open.

Be Our Guest Worker

A look at the uncertain existence of the legal migrant farmworkers that the agricultural industry relies on for cheap labor. 

AP Images/Eric Risberg

Luis Perez sits up on the edge of his bed, a stiff cot mattress resting on a flimsy metal bedframe a few inches above the concrete floor.

He’s in the 120-square-foot cinder block walled room that he shares with a fellow migrant worker in Angier, North Carolina.

“The television and coffee maker, that’s all his,” Perez says, pointing toward a corner where a mini-refrigerator sits. A half-empty bag of rice slouches on top.

“I know he’ll take those back to Mexico, but I don’t want to carry stuff like that with me. Or waste my money at Wal-Mart.”

He smiles broadly and laughs. With the door closed, that smile seems to be the only light in the room.

From White Collars to Pink Slips

Americans have been told that a college education will help them avoid the fate of workers whose jobs have been shipped overseas. A new report pours water on that idea.

AP Photo/Wally Santana

At first glance, Kingston Technology doesn’t appear to have much in common with big auto manufacturers like General Motors (GM). Based in sunny Southern California, the computer-technology company, which makes small memory products, primarily employs white-collar programmers and designers. But Kingston and GM have at least one thing in common: They ship jobs overseas. Kingston recently handed out pink slips to 80 employees and moved its RAM and flash-memory production operation to China. “Our company has been, and continues to shift primarily production work from the U.S. to China,” Kingston wrote in a disclosure to the Department of Labor.

Bill de Blasio's Elements of Style

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

When he wins New York City's mayoral election today, Bill de Blasio will have succeeded in branding himself the next big thing in progressive politics. But it remains to be seen which de Blasio shines through over the next four years: the former Hillary Clinton operative who admires neoliberal Governor Andrew Cuomo and is friendly with the real-estate industry, or the activist lefty who got arrested protesting the closure of a Brooklyn hospital and has promised to take on income inequality and the NYPD's sprawling anti-terrorism apparatus.

Bretton Woods Revisited

AP Images

On July 22, 1944, as allied troops were racing across Normandy to liberate Paris, representatives of 44 nations meeting at the Mount Washington resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, created a financial and monetary system for the postwar era. It had taken three weeks of exhausting diplomacy. At the closing banquet, the assembled delegates rose and sang “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” The fellow in question was John Maynard Keynes, leader of the British delegation and intellectual inspiration of the Bretton Woods design.

The Next Battle at the Fed

AP Images/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

With the Administration’s stunning decision to name Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve, at least one major government institution will weigh in strongly on the side of economic recovery, right?

Well, maybe.

The Other Default?

AP Images/Yves Herman

In Brussels they had a word for it: Shutdownfreude. As the standoff between the President and Congress reached its fever pitch last week, officials at the European Commission were relieved that, this time at least, it wasn’t their political system at the center of a potential global meltdown. Now that the United States won’t default on its debt due to a few dozen Tea Party radicals, things are returning to normal. Or should we say the new normal in Europe—serial crisis.

Mission Affordabled: Why Obama’s Website Problems Aren’t “His Iraq”

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Yes, the Affordable Care Act website rollout has been a fiasco. And, as always happens when political catastrophe strikes, the wave of bad analogies has rushed in its wake. One in particular that’s gaining ground: Healthcare.gov is for Barack Obama’s presidency what the invasion of Iraq was to George W. Bush’s administration, complete with outraged liberal reactions to it.

Here’s the funny thing: it’s a bad analogy, which could turn out to be accurate … but probably won’t.

Sorry, John Stuart Mill Was Not a Libertarian

Libertarianism as it exists in the United States is basically a mid-20th century American philosophy, at least in origin. Owing perhaps to a combination of bad introductory classes and an urge for a longer historical pedigree, libertarians often like to pretend that great canonical thinkers prior to that time were also libertarians. But as that is an obvious anachronism, it turns out to be untrue. There are some lesser knowns here and there along the trail who might come close, but basically none of the big old philosophical names can rightly be associated with this mid-20th century libertarianism.

The Key to the Broffordable Care Act's Success

Flickr/CNDOZ

When Barack Obama made the decision to design a universal health-care program based on the private-insurance market, he faced one key problem. If you require insurance companies to accept anyone regardless of pre-existing conditions—as everyone wanted—you face the threat of "adverse selection," in which only those who are sick (and therefore expensive) get insurance. Just as the system of car insurance needs those who go long periods without having an accident to pay premiums so there's enough money to fix the cars of those who do have accidents, the health-insurance system needs the currently healthy to keep paying to support the currently sick. The answer was the individual mandate, which pulls people into the system and expands the risk pool. And especially critical to expanding that risk pool is getting as many young, healthy people as possible to get insured.

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