Daily Digest - December 16: Inequality Hurts our Children Most

Dec 16, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Inequality and the American Child (Project Syndicate)

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Inequality and the American Child (Project Syndicate)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz says the impact of economic inequality in the U.S. is even stronger on its children, who could be protected through the right policy changes.

Taxpayers Could be Liable Again for Bank Blunders (CBS News)

Erik Sherman speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal about the modification to Dodd-Frank built into the spending bill. Mike says the changes come straight from the banks.

Progressives Just Lost a Fight on the Budget. So Why Are They So Happy? (TAP)

Paul Waldman suggests that GOP control of Congress is liberating to the more progressive Democrats, because they no longer have to compromise to pass Democratic legislation.

The Year in Inequality: Racial Disparity Can No Longer Be Ignored (AJAM)

Ned Resnikoff says solving American economic inequality will prove impossible without acknowledging the racial disparities brought on largely by inheritance and homeownership.

Economic Recovery Spreads to the Middle Class (NYT)

Nelson D. Schwartz says the U.S. economy is showing its very first signs of the wage gains that will be needed for the economic recovery to reach the middle class.

Even With a GOP Congress, Obama Could Still Defend American Workers. Here’s How. (In These Times)

David Moberg puts together a list of ten items that the president could accomplish using the Department of Labor, in particular by strongly enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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The Budget Fight Was the First Skirmish in the War for the Soul of the Democratic Party

Dec 12, 2014Richard Kirsch

Democrats had the leverage to nix a deal that opens the door to more Wall Street bailouts, but they caved in to Republican blackmail.

Progressives lost the battle over the budget last night because President Obama and a minority of Democrats took the side of Wall Street. It is the first of many losses we will see in the next two years as Republicans relentlessly pursue their corporate agenda. The bigger question is whether progressives will lose the war in the Democratic Party.

Democrats had the leverage to nix a deal that opens the door to more Wall Street bailouts, but they caved in to Republican blackmail.

Progressives lost the battle over the budget last night because President Obama and a minority of Democrats took the side of Wall Street. It is the first of many losses we will see in the next two years as Republicans relentlessly pursue their corporate agenda. The bigger question is whether progressives will lose the war in the Democratic Party.

Blowing up this budget deal should have been easy for Democrats. They were handed a perfect message: the Republicans are willing to shut down the government so they can bail out Wall Street the next time it wrecks the economy.

Democratic votes were needed because a group of 67 right-wing Republicans opposed the bill on the grounds that it did not go far enough in opposing the president’s executive order on immigration. The Republican split gave Democrats the leverage to demand that the bank bail-out provision be stripped from the bill.

But with President Obama twisting enough Democratic arms (57 in total) to give in to the Wall Street-engineered Republican blackmail, that powerful, winning message was diluted.

Democratic negotiators also agreed to the deal to repeal a provision of the Dodd-Frank law that prevents government bailouts of banks who engage in a form of risky trading. Their argument was “Republicans made us do it; it’s the best we could do.” But of course, with all the Wall Street money going to Democrats, that’s a convenient excuse. They can turn around and wink at the lobbyists who deliver Wall Street campaign contributions, playing a game in which the dupes are the American people.

The bailout of banks and Wall Street speculators remains deeply and broadly unpopular. It is an issue that generates anger among grassroots activists on the left and the right. For Americans who see Wall Street billionaires getting richer by gaming the system while families struggle to meet the basics, there could be no clearer contrast.

Progressive Democrats fought back. In a rapid-fire display of the energy and nimbleness of progressive organizations and champions in Congress, the deal was quickly exposed.

Senator Elizabeth Warren laid it out clearly on the Senate floor: “We put this rule in place because people of all political persuasions were disgusted at the idea of future bailouts… Republicans in the House of Representatives are threatening to shut down the government if they don’t get a chance to repeal it.”

In the House, progressive Democrats joined the call. California Rep. Maxine Waters, the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, said, “We don't like lobbying that is being done by the president or anybody else that would allow us to support a bill that ... would give a big gift to Wall Street and the bankers who caused this country to almost go into a depression.”

The vigorous pushback from progressive groups and their allies in Congress convinced Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to break with the White House. Pelosi said that they were being “blackmailed” to vote for the bill, which she called “a moral hazard.” Still, Pelosi did not use her considerable powers of persuasion to get fellow Democrats to vote no.

For the next two years we will see Republicans do everything they can to deliver for corporate America at the expense of the American people. The only question is whether Democrats will enable them. Will President Obama continue to make compromise after compromise? Will Democrats in the Senate use the filibuster to block the Republican attack on working families? Will enough Democrats in the House keep coming to the rescue of a divided Republican Party?

We will see the same fight in the Democratic primary for president. Will Hillary Clinton break from the Wall Street wing of the party with which she aligned as a senator from New York? Will her challengers make the same sharp contrast that Senator Warren did, when she began her speech on the Senate floor by asking, “Who does Congress work for? Does it work for the millionaires, the billionaires, the giant companies with their armies of lobbyists or lawyers? Or does it work for all the people?”

As I wrote after the election last month, Democrats who used a populist economic message – who named the corporate villains and declared that “we all do better when we all do better” – won. Democrats who ran to the mushy middle lost.

But this is not just a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party, it’s a fight for our very democracy. As Justice Louis Brandeis said almost a century ago, “We may have a democracy or we may have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”

Americans are yearning for champions who stand up for them. If we have any hope of changing the direction of our economy from enriching the rich at the expense of the rest of us and of recapturing our democracy from the CEO campaign contributors and Wall Street bag men, it will be because progressive forces and elected champions stand up not just to Republicans but to President Obama and any Democrat who takes the side of Wall Street against America’s working families.

It is clear that progressives and the American people will lose battle after battle in Congress over the next two years. The real question is whether we will lose the war. 

Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a Senior Adviser to USAction, and the author of Fighting for Our Health. He was National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now during the legislative battle to pass reform.

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Daily Digest - December 9: One Strong Voice Against the Mega Cable Company

Dec 9, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Blows Against the Empire (Medium)

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Blows Against the Empire (Medium)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford praises the new "Stop Mega-Comcast Coalition" for uniting the voices of those who view the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger as monopolistic.

Fed’s Lockhart Still Favors Mid-2015 for First Fed Rate Increase (WSJ)

Lockhart, President of the Atlanta Fed, calls for patience regarding raising interest rates, writes Michael S. Derby, who describes Lockhart as "a bellwether of policy makers’ consensus outlook."

Congress Races to Reach Spending Deal Before Shutdown Deadline (MSNBC)

With a potential shutdown approaching at midnight on Thursday, Benjy Sarlin says Congress is working through disagreements on issues like environmental regulation and financial reform.

Are West Coast Longshoremen Spoiling Christmas? (Politico)

As their union continues to negotiate wages and benefits, Mike Elk reports that the longshoremen are accused of slowing holiday season shipping by sticking exactly to company rules.

The Lame-Duck Congress Plots to Undermine Retiree Pensions (LA Times)

A proposed change – which has no public language only days before Congress goes on vacation – would decrease the pensions of already-retired workers on certain plans, writes Michael Hiltzik.

U.S. States' Revenue Growth Picks Up But Still 'lackluster' (Reuters)

Lisa Lambert reports on a new survey on state revenues and budgets, which says that stagnant wages are keeping revenues from growing as well.

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Daily Digest - December 3: What If We Could Wave a Magic Wand Over the Economy?

Dec 3, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Steps Toward the “Good Economy” (Cato Institute)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Bo Cutter presents "magic wand" solutions to two problems holding back the economy: declining business formation and an unprepared labor force.

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Steps Toward the “Good Economy” (Cato Institute)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Bo Cutter presents "magic wand" solutions to two problems holding back the economy: declining business formation and an unprepared labor force.

Pregnant and Forced Off the Job (MSNBC)

In light of today's oral arguments in Young vs. UPS, which asks whether pregnant workers must be permitted reasonable accommodations, Irin Carmon profiles a similar pregnancy discrimination case.

Chicago Council Strongly Approves $13 Minimum Wage (NPR)

Bill Chappell reports on the overwhelming vote in favor of a $13-per-hour minimum wage. The legislation works incrementally, though, so Chicagoans won't see that wage until 2019.

Republicans Back to Raising Taxes on the Poor (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait suggests that Republicans' new desire to end a set of tax breaks for low-income workers is tied to the president's new plans on immigration.

The Cycle of Republican Radicalization (TAP)

Paul Waldman points out that over the past few years, Republicans in Congress have pushed back so strongly on anything from the president that it's actually shifted voters rightward as well.

A Government Shutdown Can't Stop Obama's Immigration Plan—and John Boehner Knows It (TNR)

Refusing to fund the departments that deal with immigration won't stop the coming changes, writes Brian Beutler, which makes a shutdown threat pretty toothless.

Converting a Union Skeptic (The Atlantic)

Alana Semuels profiles Audra Rondeau, a Vermont home health care aide who was convinced to join a union not just for better wages and benefits, but for the good of her clients.

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Daily Digest - November 25: Wall Street's Deals Hit Every Taxpayer

Nov 25, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Wall Street’s Taxpayer Scam: How Local Governments Get Fleeced — and So Do You (Salon)

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Wall Street’s Taxpayer Scam: How Local Governments Get Fleeced — and So Do You (Salon)

Elias Isquith interviews Roosevelt Institute Fellow Saqib Bhatti about his new report on how governments can push back against Wall Street's predatory deals.

Food Pantries Stretched to Breaking Point by Food Stamp Cuts (AJAM)

Ned Resnikoff reports on the crisis facing food pantries in NYC, where one-third of food banks and soup kitchens had to turn people away in September.

Corporate America Is Using the Sharing Economy to Turn Us Into Temps (TNR)

Noam Scheiber says the sharing economy's expansion into temp work is part of a trend of workforce restructuring from hiring staff for peak loads to hiring the absolute minimum.

This Is the Next Big Fight Between Progressives and the Wall Street Dems (The Nation)

Senator Warren and others are protesting the nomination of Antonio Weiss to a major role in Treasury, citing his work on tax-avoiding practices like corporate inversions, writes Zoë Carpenter.

Let Old Labor Die (In These Times)

Jeremy Gantz reviews Tom Geoghegan's new book, which prescribes new models of labor organizing that are more democratic, outside of the bounds of the National Labor Relations Board.

New on Next New Deal

Artisanal Millennials and the Resurrection of Free Labor Ideology

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Economic Development Brit Byrd says growing preferences for artisanal products cannot be allowed to erase the importance of wage labor in our economy.

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A Dem Who Can Explain that Fairness is Prosperity Will Sweep in 2016

Nov 19, 2014Richard Kirsch

The policies that will deliver economic growth also center fairness, and that's what Democrats need to emphasize to keep the presidency in 2016.

The policies that will deliver economic growth also center fairness, and that's what Democrats need to emphasize to keep the presidency in 2016.

The familiar debate within the Democratic Party – move left or right – is on. In a memo to a “limited number of Democratic leaders,” Third Way, the leading organization for corporate Democrats, lays down the gauntlet: “Democrats are offering economic fairness, but voters want economic growth and prosperity.” And for good measure, Third Way declares, “And it has to be meaningful; Democrats can’t simply stick a 'growth' label on the old bottle of 'fairness' policies.”

The folks at Third Way are right about one thing; voters do want economic growth and prosperity. Where they are wrong is in their assumption that fairness can't be a part of that growth. The policies that do the most to bolster fairness are in fact the most powerful policies to move the economy forward and create broadly shared prosperity.

Progressives and Democrats don’t always make that clear. Most of the time they talk about fairness as separate from broadly-shared prosperity. The Democrat who bases his or her campaign on that crucial link will sweep into the presidency in 2016.

Policies that increase fairness are key to driving the economy forward.

Raising the minimum wage is not just about basic fairness for low-wage workers. Raising wages is about creating economy boosting jobs, not economy busting jobs. When wages are raised, workers have more money to spend, essential when 70 percent of the economy is made up of consumer spending.

An economy boosting job pays enough to cover the basics, which is why the fight for a $15 per hour minimum wage mobilizes people to action. It is about working at that wage for enough hours, with predictable schedules, so that the wages add up to a decent paycheck. It is about getting paid when you are out sick and having paid family leave, so you can care for and support your family. It is about women getting paid as much as men. It is about being able to afford your health care, so you have money to spend on other essentials and don’t end up bankrupt because of a high-cost illness. It is about increasing Social Security benefits and bolstering retirement savings, so you can keep supporting yourself and keep the economy moving well into your retirement.

These measures reward people fairly for work and are essential to rebuilding the middle class engine of the economy, as shown by the evidence collected in the Center for American Progress’s middle-out economics project.

The flip side of creating economy boosting jobs is reversing the soaring concentration of wealth. It’s not just unfair that the rich are grabbing more and more of the wealth we all create, it’s a big reason that the economy remains sluggish. When the top 1 percent capture virtually all of the economic progress, it's impossible for them to spend much of it. When corporations sit on trillions of dollars of cash because there aren’t markets for their goods, that money doesn’t go to higher wages or investment in creating jobs or other things that would boost productivity throughout the economy.

Even Wall Street is beginning to get it. In a report that is stunning only for its source, Standard & Poor's found this summer that “Our review of the data, as well as a wealth of research on this matter, leads us to conclude that the current level of income inequality in the U.S. is dampening GDP growth, at a time when the world's biggest economy is struggling to recover from the Great Recession and the government is in need of funds to support an aging population.”

A big goal of Third Way’s memo is to justify policies that they admit “may not be the most politically popular.” While some of the Third Way proposals are worthwhile, like millions of teachers for pre-K, much of their agenda is that of corporate America and in some cases would actually be bad for the economic growth they claim to seek.

Using coded language in an attempt to dilute the political poison, Third Way pushes for cutting Social Security benefits, lowering corporate tax rates rather than stopping corporate tax evasion, and agreeing to new trade deals which would drive the race to the bottom and allow corporations to challenge environmental and health and safety laws, instead of bolstering American workers' already hard-pressed incomes.

Instead, what the country needs and what Democrats should push are bold policies which drive the economy forward and create broadly shared prosperity: fairness.

We can start by putting Americans to work with a massive investment in core productive infrastructure in three areas: transportation, from roads and bridges to high speed rail; clean, renewable energy, which will simultaneously tackle climate disruption; and high-speed Internet for every home and business in America. Everyone who does this work should be paid enough, with good benefits, to support and care for their families, and be given the flexibility needed to care for those families.  In doing so, we doubly boost the economy: through the investment in infrastructure and through the good jobs.

It is both fair and essential for our economic future to ensure that every child has a quality education and the opportunity to succeed in school, career, and life. We need to modernize and replace dilapidated schools and assure that every child has a well-prepared and supported teacher in a small enough class to learn. We need to transform schools, particularly those that teach children in low-income neighborhoods, into community centers. We should make high-quality child care and pre-K universal, employing millions more providers and teachers.

We need to provide career training for the high-skilled jobs that don’t require traditional college. We need to make college affordable, by dramatically lowering the cost of public colleges and universities, providing much more tuition assistance, and tying the payment of student loans to earnings.

And as in infrastructure, all these jobs – from day-care providers to teachers to college professors (no more adjuncts) – should be good jobs, with good pay, benefits, and the flexibility to care and support families.

The only reason that Democrats would consider an agenda that Third Way admits is politically unpopular is to please corporate campaign donors and elites. But with President Obama pushing for new trade deals, advocating revenue-neutral corporate tax reform and having supported cuts in Social Security benefits, that agenda is as alive as the billions in campaign contributions that pour into both political parties.

Americans are right about two things. One, the system is rigged to favor the wealthy and powerful. Two, unless we change course, the future will not be better for our children. Those are the core reasons we saw historically low voter turn out this month and why minimum wage hikes passed at the same time voters decided to give Republicans their turn in the continuing roller-coaster of Congressional control over the past decade.

The Democrat who champions bold policies to build an America that works for all of us, not just the wealthy, and policies that create broadly shared, sustainable prosperity, will triumph in 2016.

The key, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt did (and as great organizers do), is to tap into anger and lift up hope. FDR railed against the “economic royalists” and experimented with bold policies that reigned in financial speculation and put Americans to work building the foundations for the 20th Century economy. 

The next FDR will name the villains who are rigging the system: Wall Street speculators and corporations that cut wages and benefits and ship jobs overseas. The next FDR will reveal the truth that “we all do better when we all do better.” That when we all earn enough to care and support our families, when we can shop in our neighborhoods, give our kids a great education, afford our health care, retire with security, we drive the economy forward.

Mamby-pamby won’t cut it. Americans are crying for bold leadership, a way out of a narrowing world towards a better world for our children.

The Democrat who leads a political party that stands up against the rich and powerful and stands up for working families and the middle class, who declares that Americans have done this before and that together we can do it again, will triumph in 2016. A Democratic party that relentlessly presses that agenda into action will meet the great challenge of our time. 

Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a Senior Adviser to USAction, and the author of Fighting for Our Health. He was National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now during the legislative battle to pass reform.

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Daily Digest - November 19: Why Do So Few Workers Get Overtime Pay Today?

Nov 19, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Whatever Happened to Overtime? (Politico Magazine)

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Whatever Happened to Overtime? (Politico Magazine)

Nick Hanauer says that raising the earnings threshold for mandatory overtime pay would kickstart the economy by either ensuring workers have more money or forcing companies to hire more workers.

Can Republicans Shut Down the Government Without Actually Shutting Down the Government? (WaPo)

Paul Waldman explains the GOP plan to stop any executive action on immigration without shutting down the government. The strategy: to pass spending bills that exclude the offices that would work on that issue.

Over Bentley's Objections, Golden Dragon Plant Votes for Union (Montgomery Advisor)

The Republican governor of Alabama urged workers at a copper plant to vote against unionizing with a letter distributed directly to the plant workers shortly before they voted in favor of their union.

Republicans Sure Love to Hate Unions (NYT)

Thomas Edsall points out that while Republicans demonize unions, and public sector unions in particular, the Democrats aren't doing much of anything to push back on labor's behalf.

When Mega Corporations Get Mega Tax Breaks, We All Pay (The Nation)

Katrina vanden Heuvel, a member of the Roosevelt Institute's board of directors, says that closing corporate income tax loopholes could fund incredible projects, like national universal pre-K.

Here's Why Conservatives Will Never Give Up Their War on Obamacare (TNR)

The "partisan incomprehension" that follows the Affordable Care Act around in the news is primarily based in the fact that Republicans lost a highly partisan fight, writes Brian Beutler.

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Daily Digest - November 18: Rotten Bank Deals in the Windy City and Beyond

Nov 18, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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How the Banks Bamboozled Chicago (Chicago Sun Times)

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How the Banks Bamboozled Chicago (Chicago Sun Times)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Saqib Bhatti explains how banks broke their contracts with the city of Chicago, and how Mayor Emanuel should respond to get that money back.

  • Roosevelt Take: Today, Bhatti releases a new report, "Dirty Deals: How Wall Street’s Predatory Deals Hurt Taxpayers and What We Can Do About It," which examines this issue on a broader scale.

Good Data Make Better Cities (Boston Globe)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford and Stephen Goldsmith argue in favor of a revamping of data-sharing laws within government, so they protect without limiting collaboration.

Long-Term Unemployment a Sign of Slack, NY Fed Economists Say (WSJ)

The New York Federal Reserve is calling on policymakers to account for the long-term unemployed in their assessment of the economy, writes Pedro da Costa.

That Silence You Hear Is the Sound of Healthcare.gov Working Just Fine (TNR)

Jonathan Cohn says the disparate headlines about how Obamacare is working are all correct: in general, premiums are increasing slowly, but what that means for individual plans will vary.

Number of Homeless Children in America Surges to All-Time High: Report (HuffPo)

A new report calculates that nearly 2.5 million children were homeless at some point in 2013. Lack of affordable housing plays a major role, report David Crary and Lisa Leff.

How Badly Do Republicans Want Tax Reform? (Maybe Not That Badly) (TAP)

Paul Waldman says that if Republicans – or their campaign funders – really wanted tax reform, they'd start writing a proposal regardless of the president's actions on other issues.

And Now the Richest .01 Percent (Robert Reich)

The richest .01 percent of the U.S. now hold a higher percentage of the country's wealth than in 1929, and Robert Reich says they've used it to buy off American democracy.

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Daily Digest - November 17: Getting Married Won't Solve Inequality

Nov 17, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Why You Shouldn’t Marry for Money (The Nation)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert explain why the conservative idea of reducing poverty and inequality by promoting marriage won't actually work.

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Why You Shouldn’t Marry for Money (The Nation)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert explain why the conservative idea of reducing poverty and inequality by promoting marriage won't actually work.

Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Reveals Why Robots Really Are Coming For Your Job (Business Insider)

Tomas Hirst reports on a new paper by Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz, which argues that left unchecked, innovation can create market failures that increase inequality.

Why Screwing Unions Screws the Entire Middle Class (MoJo)

Kevin Drum argues that the Democrats' split from organized labor in the 1960s and labor's subsequent loss of power helped to create the pro-business political climate we have today.

Kansas Revenues Will Fall $1 Billion Short of 2015 and 2016 Expenses, Fiscal Experts Say (Kansas City Star)

Following massive income tax cuts, Kansas faces severe shortages, and critics of the tax cuts worry the results will be cuts for schools, roads, and social services, writes Brad Cooper.

Inequality, Unbelievably, Gets Worse (NYT)

Steven Rattner points to new data from the Federal Reserve showing increased inequality. He emphasizes government transfer programs as a way to ease the problem.

Arkansas’s Blue Collar Social Conservatives Don’t Know What’s Coming (Daily Beast)

200,000 Akansans gained health insurance through a hybrid "private option," but Monica Potts writes that with newly elected officials focused on money over people, that could disappear.

The Real Winner of the Midterms: Wall Street (In These Times)

David Sirota ties Wall Street's funding of gubernatorial campaigns to its profits: many of these candidates support "pension reform" that will increase Wall Street's fees.

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On Public and Profits at Boston Review

Nov 12, 2014Mike Konczal

Did you know that prosecutors were paid based on how many cases they tried in the 19th century? Or that Adam Smith argued for judges running on the profit motive in the Wealth of Nations? I have a new piece discussion the rise and fall of disinterested public service as a response to the abuses of the profit motive in government service, or how we got away from that system and how we are now going back to it, at Boston Review. It's called Selling Fast: Public Goods, Profits, and State Legitimacy.

It's a review of Against the Profit Motive: The Salary Revolution in American Government, 1780–1940 by Yale legal historian Nicholas R. Parrillo, The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein, and Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko. There's a lot of interesting threads through all three, and I really enjoyed working on this review. I hope you check it out.

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Did you know that prosecutors were paid based on how many cases they tried in the 19th century? Or that Adam Smith argued for judges running on the profit motive in the Wealth of Nations? I have a new piece discussion the rise and fall of disinterested public service as a response to the abuses of the profit motive in government service, or how we got away from that system and how we are now going back to it, at Boston Review. It's called Selling Fast: Public Goods, Profits, and State Legitimacy.

It's a review of Against the Profit Motive: The Salary Revolution in American Government, 1780–1940 by Yale legal historian Nicholas R. Parrillo, The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein, and Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko. There's a lot of interesting threads through all three, and I really enjoyed working on this review. I hope you check it out.

Follow or contact the Rortybomb blog:
 
  

 

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