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.
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.
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.
August 25, 2017—Joan Williams, author of White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluenessless in America, argues in this Guardian opinion piece that the path to Democrat success lies through a compromise between the party's urban elites and white working-class voters who are struggling in the new economy.
Eduardo Porter, in this New York Times "Economic Scene" piece, offers critical insights into how Democrats can take back the nation. He argues for a focus on policies, like apprenticeships for high schools grads, living wages tied to regional cost-of-living indexes, and aid to small business formation, that will open doors of opportunity and rebuild a thriving middle class.
August 10, 2017—Columnist and Princeton economist Paul Krugman questions the radical Democrat wing's fixation on Medicare-for-All. Writing in the New York Times, he suggests a broader view of reaching universal healthcare access and suggests other important lines of social democratic advance that need tending to.
In this refreshing piece of journalism from The Nation, author-journalist Ann Jones looks at the prospects for establishing single-payer healthcare, and other social democracy intitiatives, at the state level. The article takes an especial look at the candidature of Ben Jealous for Maryland governor.
This Washington Post “Wonkblog” piece looks at the damage inflicted on real people by Kansas’s mean-spirited and intellectually bankrupt obsession with reducing taxes under Tea Party governor Sam Brownback.
This insightful New York Times op-ed piece looks at the increasing balkanization of America into a globalist, socially liberal camp and a Christian, “America-first” camp. The implications for building a solidaristic social democracy in America are profound.
Writing on the Social Europe website, Karin Pettersson (political editor-in-chief at Aftonbladet, Scandinavia’s biggest daily newspaper and visiting professor at Harvard) offers a trenchant evaluation of today’s economic imbalances and calls for a greater commitment to core social democratic principles.
A brilliant summary of the defects of unregulated capitalism and a stirring encomium of the Nordic model of social democracy from Iceland’s former foreign affairs minister.