Daily Digest - October 15: Fighting Global Inequality at Home

Oct 15, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Inequality Is a Choice (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz discusses a new divide between countries who attempt to do something about income inequality and countries that don't. If the U.S. and its peers aren't trying to make change, why should anyone else?

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Inequality Is a Choice (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz discusses a new divide between countries who attempt to do something about income inequality and countries that don't. If the U.S. and its peers aren't trying to make change, why should anyone else?

Living on $5,000 a Year, on Purpose: Meet America's 'intentional poor' (NBC News)

Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz looks at the lives of those who choose poverty as a lifestyle. She points out that choosing poverty is different from being poor: many who choose this lifestyle have a family safety net.

Nancy Pelosi on Sister Simone (Politico)

Rep. Nancy Pelosi writes about her admiration of Sister Simone Campbell, who will be awarded the Freedom of Worship medal at Wednesday's Four Freedoms Awards. Pelosi admires how Sister Simone's faith leads her to take action on behalf of the needy.

The Default has Already Begun (Reuters)

Felix Salmon argues that because global faith in U.S. financial institutions has already been shaken, for most purposes default has already started. The effects can't be stopped at this point, even though we haven't yet breached the debt ceiling.

A Government Above the People (Al Jazeera)

Sarah Kendzior says that when Republican congressmen suggest that furloughed federal workers take out expensive short-term loans during the shutdown, it's further proof of how disconnected government is from the people who rely on the social safety net, or even just their paychecks.

In Shutdown and Debt Ceiling Showdown, GOPers Ignore Their Party's Own Advice (MoJo)

David Corn compares the Republican's internal autopsy from March to their current behavior. The report was supposed to help the GOP make changes to appeal to a broader range of voters, but the party's actions are practically the opposite of the recommendations.

A Win For McJobs: Seattle's Mayoral Candidates Both Support a $15 Minimum Wage (The Atlantic)

Jordan Weissmann questions whether the support for fast food protesters' wage demands is just posturing. But even if it is, for any politician to start supporting a $15 per hour minimum wage should be seen as a great success in changing the narrative.

 

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Daily Digest - October 11: Non-Catastrophes Can Still Be Bad Policy

Oct 11, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Why “The Sky Hasn’t Fallen Yet” is a Bad Standard for Judging Policy Choices (The Fine Print)

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Why “The Sky Hasn’t Fallen Yet” is a Bad Standard for Judging Policy Choices (The Fine Print)

Nick Schwellenbach uses Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal's piece on right-wing think tanks and the debt ceiling to explain why even if a default wasn't catastrophic, it would still be a terrible policy decision.

U.S. Treasury, Fed Planning for Possible Default (Reuters)

Tim Reid and Jonathan Spicer report that the Treasury and the Fed have started preparing contingency plans for a default. The plans remain secret because officials worry about encouraging Republican Congress members who think breaching the debt ceiling is no big deal.

Obama to Boehner: No? (WaPo)

Ezra Klein reports on yesterday's White House meeting with a Republican House delegation, which offered a six week debt ceiling increase. The President appears to be sticking to his statements that the government must be reopened before anything else can happen.

Postcards from the Shutdown Edge (TAP)

According to Abby Rapoport, the shutdown hasn't seemed so bad so far because the states have covered for missing federal funds for the past ten days. That can't go on forever, and when it stops, the social safety net will be in trouble.

A Border Patrol Agent Who Has To Work Without Pay Wants You To Stop Saying The Shutdown Is No Big Deal (Business Insider)

Josh Barro looks at what's coming for the many federal employees who have been working without pay for nearly two weeks. A short paycheck is approaching, and then no more until government reopens, and bills can't be paid in IOUs dated "whenever the shutdown ends."

Bank Examiner Was Told to Back Off Goldman, Suit Says (NYT)

Susanne Craig and Jessica Silver-Greenberg report on a lawsuit filed by a former New York Fed employee, which contends that she was asked to change her negative findings about the conflict of interest policies at Goldman-Sachs and fired when she refused.

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How to Fight for "Freedom from Want" and Win: A Q&A with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch interviews representatives of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, who will receive the Freedom from Want medal at the 2013 Four Freedoms Awards, on their unique organizing model in the fight for fair wages and working conditions.

Sister Simone Campbell Shows Us Freedom of Worship is a Bipartisan Value

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Defense and Diplomacy Jacqueline Van de Velde considers the work of Sister Simone Campbell, who will receive the Freedom of Worship medal at the Four Freedoms Awards, in the context of progressive policy.

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Daily Digest - October 10: Finally, a Fed Chair Nominee

Oct 10, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Yellen, if Confirmed, Faces Daunting Task (AJAM)

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Yellen, if Confirmed, Faces Daunting Task (AJAM)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal considers the challenges facing Janet Yellen. We'll know that she's a success if she can balance the duel mandate of employment and inflation and work towards a better economy for Americans who haven't seen much recovery yet.

Janet Yellen: who is the woman set to lead Federal Reserve? (The Week)

In its profile of Janet Yellen, The Week quotes Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative Jeff Madrick, who points out the value of Yellen's focus on employment.

Twilight of the Economics Elites (Foreign Policy)

Daniel W. Drezner questions why Republicans are so insistent on ignoring the advice of economists. One reason, that the right has their own experts, pulls from Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal's piece on right-wing economists' opinions on the debt ceiling.

If Congress Only Reopens the Government Piece by Piece, it Could Take Until Next Spring (WaPo)

Brad Plumer points out another reason to avoid piecemeal funding bills: if the government is funded on a service-by-service basis, it will take more than 100 working days to finish. Whoever relies on that last service would have a long wait.

The 8 Most Plausible Ways a Debt-Ceiling Catastrophe Could Be Averted (NY Mag)

Dan Amira and Jonathan Chait rank the possible solutions to avoiding a default on October 17. They also include a prediction of the Senator Ted Cruz reaction to any given solution, ranging from "anger" to "epic, 47-hour speech on Senate floor."

Janet Yellen: The Most Powerful Woman in US History (Quartz)

Matt Phillips argues that the Federal Reserve Chair has more power then the Secretary of State, or the Speaker of the House. No one approves the Fed Chair's decisions, and major coalition building would be required to curtail the Fed's powers.

McCutcheon, the Next Victory for the 1 Percent (TAP)

Scott Lemieux is concerned after oral arguments for McCutcheon vs. FEC. He thinks that it's likely that the Supreme Court will strike down aggregate campaign contribution limits, and that doesn't seem good for American democracy.

Unpaid Intern Is Ruled Not an ‘Employee,’ Not Protected From Sexual Harassment (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Venessa Wong reports on a U.S. District Court decision that determined that unpaid interns are not protected by the New York City Human Rights Law. Sexual harassment charges require being an employee, and being paid in "experience" isn't enough.

 

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Daily Digest - October 9: Economy Doing the Limbo, Going Nowhere

Oct 9, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Five Years in Limbo (Project Syndicate)

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Five Years in Limbo (Project Syndicate)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz writes that five years after the financial crises that set off the recession, the economy is still in limbo. It's true that some problems have been addressed, but no one can call our current economy a success.

What Should Democrats Demand in the Budget Showdown? (The Nation)

Bryce Covert thinks it's time for Democrats to go on the offensive and put in some budget demands of their own. She draws on Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal's work for one of her suggestions: free public colleges and universities.

This Graph Explains Why Obama Rejected the Piecemeal Approach to Funding Government (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson agrees with the president's decision to veto any piecemeal funding bills, because that will only drag out the crisis. If the most visible effects of the shutdown disappear, then the Republicans risk less in the public eye.

Amid Big Salmonella Outbreak, USDA Says It's On The Job (NPR)

Allison Aubrey reports that the USDA inspectors and investigators were working through the shutdown, and the current salmonella outbreak back in July. The CDC unit that tracks these outbreaks has called in some furloughed workers, who are suddenly essential too.

Obama to Pick Yellen as Leader of Fed, Officials Say (NYT

Jackie Calmes reports that the President has chosen the next chair of the Federal Reserve. His choice of Janet Yellen is somewhat expected and welcomed by many, but we'll have to wait a while for confirmation since the Senate is a little busy with the shutdown.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative Jeff Madrick and Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal wrote about their reasons for supporting Yellen for this position.

Strong Enough for a Man, Effective Enough For A Woman (In These Times)

Sarah Jaffe looks at Senator Gillibrand's five point plan for families and the economy, which demonstrates just how closely these two policy areas are tied. Jaffe applauds the senator for taking such an aggressive stance on labor issues, which remain distinctly unpopular in Congress.

The She-covery that Wasn't (TAP)

Bryce Stucki argues that while women are holding a number of jobs equal to or exceeding pre-recession numbers, that doesn't mean policymakers can stop worrying about women in the workforce. Too many of these jobs are low paying and low quality.

New on Next New Deal

California's Environmental Regulations Provide a Vision for the Future

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment Melia Ungson sees environmental regulations as key for Millennials looking for a healthy future. That doesn't mean those regulations need to stand in opposition to economic development.

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California's Environmental Regulations Provide a Vision for the Future

Oct 8, 2013Melia Ungson

Millennials are looking to environmental regulations to ensure their quality of life in the future, but those regulations don't have to be seen as opposed to economic development.

Millennials are looking to environmental regulations to ensure their quality of life in the future, but those regulations don't have to be seen as opposed to economic development.

I am grateful for the clean, potable water that runs from my tap, for the peace of mind that the buildings in which I work and play are free of many toxins that could harm my health, and for the confidence that I will be alerted when air quality is dangerously poor. I appreciate the reliable flow of electricity generated from a variety of sources. And I cherish the housing, the transit systems, the businesses and industries, and the parks that make our communities so vibrant while minimizing the negative impacts on residents and local ecosystems.  

Most of all, I am thankful for the environmental regulations that strive to make all of these things possible.

Environmental protection and economic growth are often put at odds with one another in our public discourse. One need only look at the reaction to President Obama’s plans to set limits on the emissions of new gas-fired and coal power plants. Opponents have claimed that the regulations will harm job creation and economic growth, calling it the next step in the president's “war on coal.” However, I am convinced that we can incorporate both environmental considerations and development needs in our vision for more resilient, strong, and vibrant communities.

Central to this effort are environmental regulations at the national, state, and local levels that require projects to recognize environmental impacts and take steps to mitigate the costs. One law that has been hailed as setting the highest environmental standards in the country is the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which California legislators weakened earlier this year. Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, signed CEQA in 1970. It was during the height of the environmental movement and the National Environmental Policy Act had been passed just a year earlier. Among its more unique strengths are calls for thorough review of both public and private projects, a prohibition on piecemealing (which requires that developers consider their projects holistically), and legal standing for the public to evaluate projects with environmental costs. Since then, CEQA has served as a model for similar laws in over a dozen other states.

However, it has also been a source of controversy. Opponents say the law is often invoked for reasons unrelated to environmental concerns as a way to stop or delay projects and that the litigation process is opaque. The reasons for litigation or the threat of litigation range from labor disputes to efforts to block competing projects or firms. There are examples where these complaints ring true; for instance, in one case, a gas station owner invoked CEQA while trying to delay or discourage a competitor from adding additional pumps, a move that cost the competitor an extra $500,000. CEQA lawsuits about the environmental impact review process also delayed San Francisco’s plan to add bike lanes on major streets.

But by and large, the law has not actually created a maze of red tape that has caused developers and industry to run from the Golden State. On the contrary, a number of reports show that CEQA has not hurt California’s GDP and has boosted renewable projects. A report issued earlier this year found that since CEQA’s passage in 1970, California has been a leader in green power plant projects and has had fewer cancelled projects than states with less stringent environmental laws. The report also found that California’s per capita GDP, housing relative to population, manufacturing output, and construction activity grew as fast or faster since CEQA has been in place.

Despite those statistics, some legislators in California wanted to weaken CEQA. There was much heated debate, but legislators eventually settled on something of a middle ground. The bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown and proposed by Democratic leader Senator Darrell Steinberg waters down CEQA by exempting urban projects from parking and aesthetic (view-blocking) reviews, which have led to the most litigation, speeding the pace of litigation, and redefining how traffic impacts are determined.

Unfortunately, by squeezing in this reform to streamline the process for a Sacramento sports arena and keep the Sacramento Kings in the city, California missed a real opportunity to make meaningful reforms that would enhance the benefits of CEQA while also helping to address the openings for abuse or lack of clarity. This is part of a larger conversation: how do we use environmental protection to push sustainable development and innovation that will provide for a healthy and prosperous future?

As a Millennial looking far down the line, I want to think about how cities, communities, development projects, and sensitive ecological environments will hold up in the long run. We need development projects that will help usher in economic growth, bring jobs, cultivate vibrant communities, and more. But none of these goals can succeed unless we also aim for a healthy environment—one with clean air and water, with green spaces that allow local biodiversity to flourish and residents to lead healthy lifestyles, with transit and electricity systems propelled by clean fuels. By grounding regulations in our vision for the future, we can come closer to ensuring that regulations and development can work hand in hand. Environmental regulations can guide industry, provided that policymakers grant them the flexibility needed to make adjustments.

Melia Ungson is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment.

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Daily Digest - October 8: Why Haven't Moderate Republicans Ended the Shutdown?

Oct 8, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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The Most Irresponsible Officials In Washington DC Are The 'Moderate' Republicans (Business Insider)

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The Most Irresponsible Officials In Washington DC Are The 'Moderate' Republicans (Business Insider)

Josh Barro says that the so-called moderate Republicans are the real problem right now, because even when they claim to be willing to commit to a clean continuing resolution to end the shutdown, they've voted with the party line.

The Debt-Ceiling Crisis to End All Debt-Ceiling Crises (TAP)

Paul Waldman suggests that it's time that President Obama demanded the elimination of the debt ceiling. Other modern democracies don't require their legislative bodies to approve a budget twice, first to spend the money and then to pay the bills.

The Boehner Bunglers (NYT)

Paul Krugman worries not only about Republican extremism but also about the party's incompetence. The shutdown is only the latest example of how the GOP insists that they are doing the right thing when they ignore the 2012 election results.

Their Real Goal: To Make Us All So Cynical About Government, We Give Up (Robert Reich)

Robert Reich argues that through the shutdown, the right is attempting to teach average Americans that politics isn't worth the energy. If fewer people are paying attention and fighting for progressive values, then business interests can win.

The 13 Reasons Washington is Failing (WaPo)

Ezra Klein's list has some less obvious reasons, like the elimination of earmarks. The argument against earmarks was that they created corruption, but now congressional leadership have nothing to use as a bargaining chip for tough votes.

Texas Food Banks Feel Shutdown Squeeze (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff looks at how Texans are faring in the shutdown. Nearly one fifth of Texans are food insecure, and between WIC, SNAP, and food banks the lack of federal funds is becoming a serious problem.

New on Next New Deal

What are Conservative Experts Saying About Breaking Through the Debt Ceiling?

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal worries that the more we discuss the debt ceiling, the more partisan this issue will become. Despite that, he asked conservative think tanks for their opinion on the possible consequences, to see what the right is hearing.

McCutcheon v. FEC Could Give Rich Donors Even Greater Power Over Our Elections

Jeff Raines, Chair of the Student Board of Advisors for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, argues that campaign finance cases like McCutcheon v. FEC aren't about free speech. They're about how much influence the wealthiest Americans should have over politicians.

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Daily Digest - October 7: Not So Non-Essential, Still Shutdown

Oct 7, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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The ‘Non-Essential’ Parts of Government That Shut Down Are Actually Quite Essential (WaPo)

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The ‘Non-Essential’ Parts of Government That Shut Down Are Actually Quite Essential (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konzcal breaks down some of the services government usually provides, the absences of which can cause the country real harm. It's not all museums and panda cams: it's trade, research, and critical pieces of the social safety net.

Shutdown Prompts Rare Government Mix: Imagination and Laughter (ProPublica)

Kim Barker reports on one side effect of the shutdown: conferences that scheduled non-essential federal employees as presenters. One analyst for Health and Human Services went so far as to record a presentation before going on furlough, to fill in for himself.

Other Ways to Get Your Jobs Data (NYT)

Thanks to the shutdown, there was no official jobs report on the first Friday of October. Catherine Rampell lists some of the alternative measures, which are usually overshaded by the Department of Labor but are all we have right now.

The Most Often Repeated Fact About US Debt is Wrong (Quartz)

Matt Phillips points out that depending on what definition of a default you use, the U.S. has defaulted on its debt up to three times in the past. But non of those situations look anything like the debt ceiling question today, which would be a "voluntary" default.

Boehner Says He Doesn't Want to Default, But That's 'The Path We're On' (NY Mag)

While Friday's Daily Digest linked to a New York Times piece indicating that Boehner would not allow a default, now Margaret Hartmann reports that the Speaker is saying otherwise. He's apparently no longer willing to step around his own party.

Here's The Uncomfortable Answer To Whether Treasury Can 'Prioritize' Payments In The Event Of A Debt Ceiling Breach (Business Insider)

Joe Weisenthal explains that the Treasury is unsure if it's even possible to priotiize interest payments in order to avoid a default - and even if it is possible, the legality is questionable too.

At a Nissan Plant in Mississippi, a Battle to Shape the U.A.W.’s Future (NYT)

Steven Greenhouse reports on the U.A.W.'s continued attempts to organize Southern auto plants. The union is taking an international strategy, having union members worldwide pressure Nissan and drawing support from Brazil to South Africa to Japan.

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Daily Digest - October 4: Shutdown Reasoning is All Talking Points

Oct 4, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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The Values Divide (Other Words)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch argues that today's partisan divide is based on differing concepts of responsibility and freedom. The right wants freedom from paying for anything that helps another person, while progressive responsibility is to others.

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The Values Divide (Other Words)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch argues that today's partisan divide is based on differing concepts of responsibility and freedom. The right wants freedom from paying for anything that helps another person, while progressive responsibility is to others.

Boehner Tells Republicans He Won’t Let the Nation Default (NYT)

Ashley Parker and Annie Lowrey report that the Speaker has privately indicated that he will work with Democrats to ensure a debt ceiling increase. Since a default would be far more catastrophic than the shutdown, it's good to see at least a little bipartisanship.

Paul Caught on Hot Mic: 'We're gonna win this, I think' (Maddow Blog)

Steve Benen reports on a conversation between Senators Paul and McConnell, caught on mic yesterday. It proves that Republicans are so caught up in rhetoric and talking points that they've forgotten about the basics of governing.

Can Obama Disrupt the Shutdown Narrative? (MoJo)

David Corn asks what the President would need to do in order to shift the media narrative of shutdown from a joint inability to compromise to the Republicans harming veterans, children, and the sick because they oppose a law and can't get the votes to repeal it.

Republicans Are No Longer the Party of Business (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Joshua Green writes that the shutdown is causing some members of the business community to reconsider their support of the GOP. The party is taking actions that have a clear negative effect on the economy, and that disruption is bad for business.

Government Shutdown Hits Native Americans Hard (ThinkProgress)

Bryce Covert reports that since federal grants fund many programs to the tribes, Native Americans are being hit disproportionately hard by the shutdown. Of course, this is on top of the pain of sequestration, which already caused many cuts in services.

What Happens If We Approach the Debt Ceiling? Here's What Happened in 2011 (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson remembers what happened when we last came dangerously close to the debt ceiling: markets dropped, interest rates rose, and the U.S. credit rating was downgraded, costing taxpayers $19 billion. All that can be avoided if Congress will just raise the debt ceiling.

Too Small to Survive: Inside One Bank's Struggle to Save Itself (The Guardian)

Jana Kasperkevic looks at the opposing side to "too big to fail," and finds that small local banks are hurting. One such bank, which focused on real estate loans to local businesses in Bridgeport, CT, was forced to close by the FDIC.

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Daily Digest - October 3: More Shutdown, Bigger Problems

Oct 3, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Republicans Split On Whether To Give Back Pay To Workers Furloughed In Government Shutdown (HuffPo)

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Republicans Split On Whether To Give Back Pay To Workers Furloughed In Government Shutdown (HuffPo)

Sabrina Siddiqui and Dave Jamieson report that while furloughed workers have always received backpay in the past, some Republicans say we might not be able to afford it. That the furloughed employees might not be able to afford rent is apparently irrelevant.

Here's How The Government Shutdown Gets Worse Over Time (Business Insider)

Josh Barro explains the timeline for how things will get worse through the month of October if the government remains shut down. The longer federal workers go without knowing when they will be paid, the more it will affect our economy.

What’s the Fight About? Republicans Struggle to Explain (MSNBC)

Suzy Khimm points out that while the GOP focused on Obamacare in the lead-up to shutdown, that's not what they're talking about today. They've shifted to broader fiscal issues, probably because starting a shutdown over a single law was a dead end.

Shutdown Coverage Fails Americans (AJAM)

Dan Froomkin thinks that by attempting to be fair and balanced in their coverage of the shutdown, journalists have failed in their duties. There's only one party responsible for the shutdown, and attempts at 'balance' conceal that truth.

Why Does the Debt Ceiling Matter? (Economist)

The Economist's daily explainer post tackles the debt ceiling, which doesn't actually involve taking on new debt. Raising the debt ceiling means giving the Treasury permission to let the deficit grow in accordance with other laws Congress has passed.

Why the Shutdown Is Leading to Debt Default; or, What Happens When You Take Hostages Without a Plan (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait is convinced that Republicans plan to keep the shutdown going up to the debt ceiling deadline. The shutdown isn't giving them enough "hostages" to ensure a win in negotiation, because funding government is now a war.

New on Next New Deal

The Government Shutdown Could Be the Last Gasp of the Reagan-Friedman Agenda

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative Jeff Madrick suggests that the anti-government ideology of the 1970s and 80s is making another attempt to starve out government functions.

The Shutdown Shows the GOP Can't Accept Defeat in the War on Women

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn argues that by tying their continuing resolution to anti-birth control measures before the shutdown, the GOP shows that they've already forgotten that they lost women in the presidential election by 36 points.

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The Government Shutdown Could Be the Last Gasp of the Reagan-Friedman Agenda

Oct 2, 2013Jeff Madrick

This latest outrage is just another symptom of an extreme anti-government ideology with roots dating back to the 1970s.

The shutdown of the U.S. government is an outrageous act of ignorance, foolishness, and vindictiveness. History suggests that choosing destruction is usually tragic, but it’s hard to believe the Republican hardliners have any sense of history.

This latest outrage is just another symptom of an extreme anti-government ideology with roots dating back to the 1970s.

The shutdown of the U.S. government is an outrageous act of ignorance, foolishness, and vindictiveness. History suggests that choosing destruction is usually tragic, but it’s hard to believe the Republican hardliners have any sense of history.

The anti-government agenda in the U.S. has had many contributors. The end of the progressive uses of government more or less began in the 1970s, and was given impetus by Ronald Reagan’s scapegoating of government. It was also given impetus by Chicago-style economics, led by Milton Friedman. His book Capitalism and Freedom is basically a political pamphlet calling for governance to be reduced to a function of the Invisible Hand. Many Democratic economists came under his sway. 

Shutting down the government now is just a variation on Reagan and Friedman's "starve the beast" strategy of undermining government by denying it funding.

Friedman and Reagan have now reached the height of their influence, but many joined this march of foolishness. President Obama has consistently paid deference to the party line that reducing the federal deficit is the main economic priority. The Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission captured the self-destructive America temperament of the time by insisting federal revenues not rise above 21 percent of GDP. When Reinhart-Rogoff’s 90 percent bright line of debt-to-GDP was shown to be an artifact of poor research and arithmetic, Erskine Bowles said it was still just common sense.

Lots of moderate Republicans have made budget-cutting their main domestic priority, as have many Democrats. Sequestration is undermining what could have been a strong recovery by now.

The media, in their embrace of the safe middle-way, have done their share to promote general antagonism against government as well. It’s an American journalistic tragedy.

And so here we are. Just enough people feel government is meaningless to allow this crazy betrayal of a democratic nation to occur. How else can you so despise Obamacare that you would go to such destructive lengths? It is a useful program designed to help some 32 million Americans who suffer—yes, suffer—without health insurance.

If the old pre-Obamacare system was better, it would have worked. It didn’t. Health care delivery in America is appalling by any modern standard, and without reform, our society will become not just less prosperous but far less decent. Have these people no shame?

Democrats had also better rethink government. It’s not just a matter of plugging holes due to market failures, a misleading over-simplification of mainstream economic theory.

Government’s duty is to be a vibrant protector of rights and contributor to full lives. The myths about government are endless. Ask the proverbial man or woman on the street who does the most technological, economically vital R&D in the U.S. and they, under the influence of the misled media and economic orthodoxy, will almost always say the private sector and the venture capitalists. But it just ain’t so. Yes, venture capital is important, but government R&D is even more so. Government is the main contributor, even to Silicon Valley, but under sequestration, non-defense R&D is being cut back sharply. This is but one example of the effects of anti-government thinking.

The hope is that this is the last gasp of the Reaganite-Friedmanite brigade. The hope is that the U.S. will awaken to the uses of government and the beauty of a functioning democracy. We started the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative for this reason. We are going to keep at it, telling everyone we can what government can do well, what its purposes are, and how it can be reformed. Ideology, someone said, is a short cut for thinking. When it comes to Reaganite-Friedmanite extremism, that’s an understatement.

Jeff Madrick is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, and author of Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present.

 

Shutdown banner image via Shutterstock.com

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