Friday, June 09, 2006

The Future Is Now?

I'd like to follow up on ambivalent_maybe's insightful post a few days ago on this blog about the recent (divergent) histories of U.S. worker wages and productivity. It turns out that one of my favorite political-economic writers, William Greider, has a new essay up on the Nation's website. In this essay, ("The Future Is Now") Greider argues that we are either on the cusp or already in the midst of a major shift in American public policy and political culture. After 30+ years of worship at the alter of market fundamentalism, Greider argues, the U.S.'s economic fundamentals are in terrible shape. This stuff isn't really new for Greider--as before, he is concerned especially with rising consumer debt and government fiscal debt--but this essay is a nice overview of the general problem and a primer on what a more progressive future might hold.

Greider's manifesto is certainly more plausible to me than the recent call by the usually sensible blog-chief at dailykos for a Democratic rapprochement with libertarians by giving more support to market solutions over government. (Excuse me? Haven't we been doing that the past three decades already?) I'm perfectly happy to work with libertarians on social issues and foreign policy, but I am not about to surrender the progressive movement to the same tired old 80s-90s mantra of "markets good, government bad." (Greider's essay provides a thumbnail sketch of where that philosophy has gotten us...) The DLC has argued that line--let their ship sink with it, but for goodness sake let's not jump on board. Moreover, has anyone ever noticed that such calls for a libertarian shift have almost always come from members of the tiny, well-educated elite of socially liberal, economically moderate professionals and business people? If we want to craft a progressive movement that appeals to the much larger mass population of working-class people, we're going to have to be more populist and less economically libertarian. As Greider points out, survey research shows broad public support for proposals that are anathema to hard-core libertarians, such as guaranteed health care and raising the minimum wage. I agree with Greider: our better future (perhaps our only future, if he is correct?) lies in economic populism. It is the right thing to do for the sake of justice, plus (if Greider is correct) it is also the politically savvy move at this moment in American history.


Rob said...

I saw that. Greider is mangificent. I agree that a consensus is forming in the public that individuials are forced to assume too much risk while employers and government are absorbing too little. Combine that with the conservative ethos that rewards wealth over work and the bough is ready to break.

I agree that rather than continuing to compromise and cede more economic turf to conservatives the Democrats need to offer real alternatives.

A good start is healthcare. Healthcare is like the weather. Everyone talks about it but nobody does anything about it. It's time for Democrats to shed their timidity and state outright that the market economy and healthcare are not compatible. Economist Jared Bernstein, pundit Paul Krugman and Kreider among others have advocated for the expansion of medicare for everyone. Not only would that enhance quality of life for Americans but it would also serve as a job stimulus.

Conservatives often espouse rhetoric about cutting taxes for the business community. The greatest tax cut of all would be to liberate them from having to provide healthcare in order to compete for the best employees. That would result in real job stimulus and raise wages too.

christian_left said...

Rob--I'm glad you mentioned health care. And I just noticed how that was also emphasized in your recent interview with economist Jared Bernstein. His mention of "medicare for all" reminded me of a slogan by my favorite 2004 president, Dennis Kucinich, who called for "Medicare Part E, for Everyone!" We need the government to do insure that everyone has health care, which as Bernstein points out will also be good for business in the long run.

christian_left said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
christian_left said...

Oops...let me try again. I wanted to provide a link to Rob's blog in case any other readers want to check out the Bernstein interview I was referring to in my above comment. But the first time I pasted it in my comment, it got cut off on the display screen. Here it is again, spliced on two separate lines: