Key to any discussion of living wages and the social safety net (embracing such programs as the Earned Income Tax Credit, minimum wage laws, social security or child care subsidies) is a knowledge of how much money a person or family needs to maintain an acceptable standard of living. The Economic Policy Institute has issued an updated version of their wonderful tool for gaining insight into this critical question. The Cost-of-Living calculator will tell you how much income is needed to support anywhere from a single person to a family of 6, in any city or county in the country. Two major take-aways will occur to anyone who spends some time with the calculator: (1) the cost of living varies tremendously between different areas (mainly rural vs urban) and (2) in urban areas, current minimum wage laws and the EITC fall far short of providing a basic living for workers at the low end of the wage spectrum.
It may seem axiomatic that so-called "right to work" laws (union leaders like to call them "right to work for less" laws) would be bad for both workers and for the party that chiefly champions workers' concerns—Democrats. After all, the driving force behind these laws is the disempowerment of non-management labor. Now we have proof, in a study conducted by Boston and Columbia universities and the Brookings Institute, that when states pass "right to work" (for less) laws, Democratic voting share diminishes, as do the number of elected officials hailing from working-class backgrounds. Unions are a foundation of any working social democracy: those of us who want a fairer, saner, and more compassionate society must stand unequivocably for the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively.
In this thoughtful op-ed piece in the Chicago Tribune, former education secretary Arne Duncan (2009-2015) argues that the challenges of all Americans who are economically, socially and politically marginalized, whether they live in inner-city neighborhoods or in the nation's rural hinterland, share a common interest in a strong social democratic program built on educational opportunity, decent jobs at living wages, affordable housing and universal healthcare.
Senate Democrats in Connecticut have offered a solid social democratic platform, including living wage, infrastructure investments, free tuition at community colleges and attention to vocational training and the "employment pipeline." Let's hope that, with their small advantage in the state's legislature (Democrats outnumber Republicans in the Assembly, but each party counts 18 senators) they will be able to shortly make much of their program a reality.
A new study by Standford biologists concludes that the sixth mass extinction of life on planet earh—and the first caused entirely by the activities of homo sapiens—is now upon us. Unless drastic measures are soon taken, the scientists warn, the next century will witness the loss of thousands of species.
In December, after thirty years of decrying deficit spending as the epitome of evils, congressional Republicans passed what The Guardian referred to as the "most drastic changes to the US tax code in 30 years," which in the main added $1.5 trillion to the national debt in order to lavish tax relief on the very rich. Republicans and the Trump adminstration are selling the bill as a boon to American industry and taxpayers, but the bill favors real estate investors and the finance sector over manufacturing. The bill will not spur productive growth in the U.S. economy, argues economist Joseph Stieglitz in The Guardian, and by eliminating the deduction for state income taxes, the bill will force states to rely on sales taxes, which fall disproportionately on low-income citizens. It is all of a piece with what Nation editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel calls "plutocracy on steroids."
Just how lopsided is the American economy? This L.A. Times column helps answer the question with one simple factoid. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investment manager Warren Buffet own more wealth, between the three of them, than the least well-off 160 million Americans combined. (The wealth of Jeff Bezos increased $10 billion in the month of October alone.) The Social Democrat can conceive of no justification, whether pragmatic or in justice, for any individual to monopolize such astonishing proportions of our nation's economic production—or anything close to it. New structures of wages, taxes and ownership rights must be established to make the nation's economy work for all citizens.
In the wake of the Democratic Party's positive showing November elections, Jared Bernstein, former economic advisor to Vice President Joseph Biden, offers his prescription for a strong Democratic program going forward. In this WashingtonPost column, Bernstein suggests that direct job creation should form a key part of the Party's platform. If the government can bail out wealthy financial institutions when the economy goes south, Bernstein asks, why should it not come to the aid of the average citizen when globalization, digitalization and other forces beyond their control disrupt employment?
Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin takes to the editorial pages of the New York Times to make a case for a federal jobs program—a cause close the heart of The Social Democrat (see here) and a key plank of any serious social democratic platform. With everything from globalization to technological change to shifting demographics creating continual churn in the employment picture, American workers need mechanisms such as those promoted by Rubin to insure inclusion in the nation's economic life.
The Accidental President will point to the surging stock market as progress for the American economy. Aside from the fact that the vast majority of such gains go to the wealthy, this Washington Post analysis finds that one-third of stock market profits accrue to foreign investors.
This inspiring Quartz piece by Rebecca Schuman, whose memoir Schadenfreude, A Love Story made a big splash early this year, looks at how social democracy has created a culture of enjoying life, rather than striving to out-earn the proverbial Joneses, in the Federal Republic of Germany.
October 5, 2017—Reuters News Service offers seven useful charts that track the U.S. economy before and since January of 2017, particularly on those issues Trump campaigned on, like workforce participation, manufacturing jobs and growth. In the main, the charts show trend lines continuing in their long-term courses.
Economists all agree that at some point, borrowing by the federal government will create inflation and impede productivity and growth. Recent research finds, however, that the level at which government borrowing becomes problematic is certainly greater than what was once thought. With U.S. debt at near-record levels, and the tax plan being pushed by the Trump administration and its congressional allies likely to add more red ink to America's balance sheet, the question is more than academic. This New York Times piece looks at current thinking on the topic. (October 2018)
Portugal, the land of Fado music, cork orchards and Port wine, brings another gift to civilization: a way out of the insane drug war which has wracked our civilization, wasting untold billions on a quixotic quest to prevent people from using intoxicants, funding murderous drug gangs and incarcerating millions of especially minority Americans. Portugal, which removed criminal penalties for all drugs in 2001, including cocaine and heroine, has lower rates of addiction and 1/50 the number of drug-related deaths as the United States. Portugal's addiction-intervention efforts cost the state less than $10 per person, while the U.S. drug war costs our nation $10,000 per household. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff visted the sunny nation on the edge of Europe to see how they're doing it.
September 20, 2017—Across Europe, titular social democratic parties are taking a drubbing at the polls. Having, over the course of three generations, created a social democratic Europe, they are now experiencing difficulty convincing voters they are still relevant. In this Social Europe piece, Dutchman Rene Cuperus looks at the issue from the perspective of the PvdA, the Netherlands' social democratic block. The Social Democrat's view: with populist voices rising from both the right and left, demanding either xenophobic nationalism or unworkable socialism, social democracy is more relevant—and more necessary—than ever.