social policy

Outsourcing Pays Big to Private Companies While Americans Suffer

Remember how outsourcing was shoved down the throats of the American people by claiming it would save money and was more efficient?  Guess what, not only is costing more, the services now provided are dismal failures.  A new report, Out of Control describes the abysmal state and consequences of outsourcing public services.

The Grand Bargain Under the Fiscal Cliff

fiscal cliff The main stream media has finally caught on that Congress will cause a major recession through economic blackmail in addressing the Fiscal cliff. Now there are calls for compromise. Ever notice when we hear the call for compromise there are few specifics? That's our problem with D.C. generally, policies based on facts, statistics and their effects not only are ignored, we hear plain lies on what these agendas actually do.

In 2011 there was a tentative deal to cut social security benefits and Medicare.

The blueprint for a deal to avoid a fiscal nightmare early next year may be found in the failed debt negotiations between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in mid-2011.

Part of their talks on a $4 trillion deficit-cutting plan included a gradual increase in the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and an alternative yardstick for calculating inflation that would reduce annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustments.

Fiscal Policy By Dummies: Looking at the Deficit Plans from a Progressive Standpoint

Note: this is a cross-post from The Realignment Project. Follow us on Facebook!



Following the on-going drama of the Deficit Commission - which just adjourned without even voting on its own proposal, and which never came close to getting the necessary votes to trigger an up-or-down vote in the Senate - has been rather painful. Especially in light of the Republican takeover of the House and the ongoing dispute over extending the Bush tax cuts and raising the debt ceiling, the grip of austerity thinking seems paradoxically strong and weak at the same time, pervasive enough to be omnipresent within the media yet not actually persuasive enough to get anyone to vote for anything they dislike.

However, there is one point that needs to be cleared up - behind the banalities of "living within our means" and other balanced-budget platitudes, there is ideology at work. The budget is not just a technical issue, but a moral document - it is a choice between a high road or a low road to the future.

Creating Budget-Neutral Jobs Policy in an Era of Irrational Austerity

Note: this is a cross-post from The Realignment Project.


Recently, the Senate attempted for the second time to pass a small jobs bill. The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 – which would provide for an extension of Unemployment Insurance, COBRA health insurance subsidies, $24 billion in aid to states’ Medicaid programs to prevent deficit-driven layoffs, partially paid for through closing loopholes that benefit the wealthy – already passed the House three months ago, but is stalled in the Senate. The fact that the bill failed with 56 senators voting in the affirmative not only sharpens the ironies of the anti-democratic nature of the Senate, but also shows that we’re stuck in the middle of a full-blown austerity craze.

Hence Senator Hatch’s call for the unemployed to be drugs tested - for Unemployment Insurance that they have paid for through years and years of contributions – and even supposedly liberal Senators like Dianne Feinstein suggesting that “people just don’t go back to work at all” if UI eligibility is extended beyond 99 weeks. On the simplest level, this is insanity – there are about thirty million unemployed (including both official and unofficial) and only three million job openings. Drugs tested or not, the 27 million left over don’t have a choice of whether to go back to work.

Unfortunately, to paraphrase Keynes, politics can stay irrational longer than the unemployed can stay solvent. Austerity is in full political swing, and unlikely to improve, except in the improbable scenario that Congress remains Democratic in the midterm elections and the Senate Democratic Caucus follows through on their threats to reform the filibuster. A public policy that can only work in optimal circumstances isn’t worth much, though, and there are still ways to move forward on jobs despite being lumbered by irrational budget-neutral burdens.

A Defense of Public Sector Unionism - Part the Second

In part 1 of "In Defense of Public Sector Unions," I concentrated mostly on the ideological side of public sector unions - both why the existence of public sector unions is troubling to some progressives, and why ideologically progressives should support public sector unions. However, in the comments on the various sites where part 1 was cross-posted, one of the frequent themes of discussion was a request for some hard numbers to prove that public sector union workers aren't the goldbricking, featherbedding "thugs" they're made out to be.

So let's talk numbers.

A Defense of Public Sector Unionism - Part the First

Note: this is a cross-post from The Realignment Project.



There is something strange about the Democratic Party’s love of attacking parts of its own coalition. Every political party has divisions inside it, but disagreements between factions and interest groups are usually solved through negotiation, power-sharing, and the like. The Democratic Party is highly unusual in the level of existential opposition it’s willing to engage in – the infamous “Sister Soljah” moment, the bitterness of the Rainbow Coalition vs. New Democrat conflict that arguably lasted well into 2008, and so on.

However, there’s nothing quite as strange as the loathing of certain parts of the Democratic Party for the very existence of public sector unions.

Creating State Level Jobs Programs: A Jobs Insurance Supplement

Note: this is a cross-post from The Realignment Project.


Even under the relatively optimistic economic forecast included in the 2011 Federal Budget, unemployment will remain at the 9.8% rate through the end of this year, dropping to 8.9% in 2011 and 7.9% in 2012.  In other words, after four years since the first stimulus, unemployment will remain at recessionary levels. To be fair, the passage of a jobs bill – and the promised efforts to pass further stimulative elements (aid to states, highway money, public works, etc.) – lends some slight hope that this catastrophe might be averted.

However, as we’ve seen with the jobs bill, it’s incredibly hard and slow to get even the smallest elements of a jobs bill through Congress; this makes it highly unlikely that sufficient actions will be taken to bring down the unemployment. However, I do think that it is possible to push through more aggressive jobs measures at the state level in heavily Democratic states that aren’t hamstrung by the Senate’s rules and the Blue Dog Caucus. As I’ve discussed in my 50-State Keynesianism and Job Insurance series, I believe that it’s possible to reform state governments to be successful anti-recession institutions, complementing Congressional action.

Today, I’ll take California and New York as two heavily Democratic states that are also large enough to have a significant impact on the national economy.

What Makes a Jobs Bil Work? (A Job Insurance Supplement)


Up until a week ago, the prospects for a second round of economic stimulus looked bleak; an ominous coalition of Senate moderates (the same folks who shrank the stimulus and cut out Pelosi’s teacher preservation program, and who’ve tried their level best to stop the health care reform effort in its tracks) threatened to force the U.S government into default unless Congress agreed to a deficit-reduction committee with authority over Social Security and Medicare, and President Obama responded by talking up deficit reduction in his next budget.

And then the October jobs report came out, showing unemployment rising over the magical 10% level that signals political disaster in a midterm election. Suddenly, President Obama began to talk up a December “jobs summit,” and Senator Reid announced that he’s pulling together a pre-election jobs bill.

This sudden momentum is welcome, but if we want to significantly reduce unemployment, and thereby protect our Democratic Congress at the same time, we need to be very careful about what goes into this jobs bill.

Job Insurance - The Public/Private Issue (Part 7 in a Series)


This is a cross-post from The Realignment Project.

For earlier parts in the series, see here.

One of the largest ideological barriers to establishing Job Insurance, just as was the case with Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, is that it would in a fundamental way reshape the composition and relations of the public and private sectors. This more than anything else is what terrifies Republicans (it’s the reason why the GOP has targeted the public option especially) because it undermines one of the most important justifications for anti-statist and pro-corporate ideology. If the public sector and the private sector are not diametric opposites – if in fact, the public can do things that the private can, instead of the private sector being the only repository of competence and efficiency (and thus, capable of replacing the public sector) – then there is no practical argument against government intervention in the economy, and increasingly fewer philosophical arguments against it.

And so the argument will be made that this is socialist, that it’s un-American. And none of that is true.

Virtues of the Public - Part 2 (Absence of) Profit Motive

Note: this is a cross-post fromThe Realignment Project.

“A term like capitalism is incredibly slippery, because there’s such a range of different kinds of market economies. Essentially, what we’ve been debating over—certainly since the Great Depression—is what percentage of a society should be left in the hands of a deregulated market system. And absolutely there are people that are at the far other end of the spectrum that want to communalize all property and abolish private property, but in general the debate is not between capitalism and not capitalism, it’s between what parts of the economy are not suitable to being decided by the profit motive. And I guess that comes from being Canadian, in a way, because we have more parts of our society that we’ve made a social contract to say, ‘That’s not a good place to have the profit motive govern.’ Whereas in the United States, that idea is kind of absent from the discussion. So even something like firefighting—it seems hard for people make an argument that maybe the profit motive isn’t something we want in the firefighting sector, because you don’t want a market for fire. “
— Naomi Klein


As I discussed in part 1 of this series, “Public Virtues” will examine those areas in which the public sector has an economic advantage, and compare and contrast those where the private sector is supposed to have an advantage. And where better to start than the profit motive, the first principle of capitalism that’s been held up, not just as an explanation of why corporations get better and better at making widgets if people give them money, but why the public sector is inherently and unalterably inefficient, technologically stagnant, and uncompetitive. The profit motive, as everyone knows who’s lived in the capitalist world, basically holds that because people want to make a profit, they are pushed towards the maximization of their resources, and thus seeking to make profits, they make the system as a whole more efficient and productive.

However, most honest thinkers, i.e those not professionally involved in proving that capitalism is infallible, admit that the profit motive only spurs innovation and efficiency where it actually exists. Where it doesn’t, you wind up with market failures.  And where the market fails, that’s the natural place for the public sector. The debate, however is how often and where this happens.