Four Views, Two Candidates

The Democratic Party is locked in a titanic struggle for its soul – an existential battle over the true meaning of what it means to be a Democrat, to be a progressive, to be a liberal.

Clinton versus Sanders has, for many reasons, brought the old fight to the surface. It’s worth working through if only because the end result can and should be a united party that firmly stands for something. But what is that?

There are four views of change, four visions of progress, which separate Sanders and Cinton.

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Careful What You Wish For

Is the Federal Reserve nothing but a tool for big banks? According to an op-ed by Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT), it sure looks that way. The presidential candidate and hero to millions of progressives made the case for an audit, tighter controls, and other measures to rein in the nation’s central banking system.

There are clearly problems with the Fed and it’s very mixed charters to tame inflation, encourage full employment, maintain the value of the US Dollar, and regulate banks. The more presence and power the Fed gains the more this is an important issue. But today’s “progressives” aren’t in a mood for just reform – many are in a mood to “End the Fed!”

While that position is understandable it’s horribly misguided. But it’s a great highlight for the tension inherent in not-that-subtle difference between a “liberal” and a “progressive”.  And it’s ultimately a rather irresponsible position that Sanders is taking.

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Failing “Facts”

As I prepare for a seminar on economics for today’s progressive, this particular post has come back to haunt me.  It’s a bit subtle but hurts like a sledgehammer if you think about it.  The bizzy whirl of my life as I prepare to announce my plans requires a repeat – and this one is standing out.  Enjoy!

Back in the 1950s, people who studied complex things like economies felt they were making real progress. The general belief was that by understanding how it all worked we could even things out and usher in a new era of continuous prosperity that would benefit everyone.

Some of the underlying “facts” that were identified at this time have been accepted as simple truths. Growth is always good, and economic growth always flows to workers, making their lives better generation by generation. There’s only one problem lately – some of the “facts” appear to not be as true as they used to be. That means that the underpinnings of modern economic theory are all being questioned and, perhaps, if we don’t keep our eyes open the new era of prosperity will be far more elusive than anyone thought.

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Fight for $15

The fight for a $15 per hour minimum wage is the hottest issue among progressive Democrats today. There has been a lot of progress as cities including Seattle and Los Angeles have passed this as their minimum wage, as has the entire state of New York (but only for “fast food” workers, strangely). It would be a big hike from today’s $7.25 per hour, a 106% increase that swamps any previous jump. President Obama, and many Democrats, favor a smaller $12 per hour rate as something of a compromise.

But where did these numbers come from? Why are they important? What effects would a minimum wage rise have on the economy? It’s worth spending some time looking at the postwar history of the minimum wage, from 1947 to 2015, to see where we are today and what it means.

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End “Quarterly Capitalism”!

“It was this administration which saved the system of private profit and free enterprise after it had been dragged to the brink of ruin.”
– President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, bragging a little.

It’s a common belief that the right wing in the US is the political alignment of business. They stand for lower taxes, lower regulation, and a generally lighter hand on the economy. That may work out well in good times, but hard times call for more. It’s when things get dark that the true Liberals, capital “L”, stand up and make things happen.

Hillary Clinton, with a good shot at being the FDR we really need, may just have stepped up to do that.

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A New Democratic Platform

Robert Reich is a great leader in the Democratic Party.  After serving as Secretary of Labor from 1993 to 1997 he became a fixture in thoughtful magazines, speeches, and talk shows.  He is currently a Chancellor’s Professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UCal, Berkeley.

Reich has recently collaborated with moveon.org to create a series of short videos describing “The Big Picture” – things which need to be done to transform our economy into a more dynamic, fair, and productive new economy for a post-depression world.  Taken together, I believe these make up a new platform for the Democratic Party which must be a central organizing piece for the elections in 2016.

Whether or not you agree with Reich, he and this platform are a force to be reckoned with.

Since I have yet to see them presented together in one place as a coherent work, I have taken the liberty of doing so myself.  Each item is presented here with the title as a link to the original post on Reich’s blog, with the short video above it.  Please follow the links for more information in Reich’s own words.

Initially, this project was billed as “Ten Ideas to Save the Economy”.  There are now 12 videos in the series, branching out a bit into political reform.  If there are more they will be added later.

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Smaller Government, Peaceful Government

“Get government off our backs!” It’s a chant we’ve heard a lot of over the last few years, usually in the deep, gruff voice of those old enough to remember the heyday of our parents and grandparents. It’s a call to a simpler time when there was less government, less taxation, and more to go around. At least, that’s the story we are told.

But an analysis of the size of our Federal Government as a share of the economy shows that while it is a shade bigger than it used to be, it’s way below its maximum. There are peaks in Federal Government size which fit not to an increase in social benefits or productive spending, but the very expensive line item that has been pricey enough to bring down governments and cultures for centuries – war.

In short, it’s time for the progressive left to embrace “smaller government” of a kind and to show that world that peace is not idealistic but practical.

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