Monday, February 12, 2007
The updating will come first, the discussion of original source material second. I hope it helps.
UPDATING SOURCES AND ISSUES (June 1 to November 5, 2008)
This is the last of two updates to the original sources and issues used in A Liberal Tool Kit. The other, bringing the data and sources up to June 2008, can be read by scrolling down the blog. The original sources are also listed at the very end of the blog.
Chapter 2: Clearing the Decks
The big problem that the Republican base and its media acolytes had in the second half of 2008 was that the standard-bearer of the Republican Party was someone whose candidacy they had systematically opposed in the first half of the year. “Will Conservatives Sit Out -08” was Rush Limbaugh’s question for his radio audience on January 8. Possibly – Rush Limbaugh certainly saw the choice facing the Republicans in 2008 as a search for the candidate who they disliked least: and for Limbaugh that was not John McCain. In his view, a McCain or a Huckabee victory would “destroy the Republican Party…change it forever…a lot of people aren’t going to vote” (January 15 2008). There were even conservative voices anticipating as early as January 8 the possibility of a McCain candidacy and a McCain defeat: and seeing in that defeat a cleansing moment for the Republican Party – the end of big-government conservatism (John Samples, writing in The Baltimore Sun). Rush Limbaugh was equally pessimistic: “if nominated, McCain will lose” (January 17).
McCain was nominated, of course, and eventually the Republican base embraced him, if reluctantly. What they greeted with greater pleasure was his selection of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. That brought James Dobson on board. It brought Limbaugh fully on board too – and now with enthusiasm. Limbaugh saw in her – and in the mysterious Joe Plumber who briefly surfaced during the campaign as the authentic voice of conservative
It was not enough, of course. The McCain-Palin ticket went down to defeat: but in the campaign’s last days Rush Limbaugh found themes that now frame his commentary on the incoming Obama administration. The bailout of the financial system was now labeled as socialism; and the recession created on George bush’s watch was redefined as “Obama’s recession”. FDR was not hailed as
For the conservative right, an Obama victory means that the inmates are now taking over the asylum. When Republican moderates endorsed him – as Colin Powell did – they were dismissed as poor conservatives: good riddance to them. (Limbaugh, October 24 2008). For “conservatism did not lose last night”, Limbaugh told his listeners on November 5th. “Conservatism was not on the ballot.” To his mind, the conservative movement was still alive and well, with Rush Limbaugh as its self-appointed leader. This was Rush a month earlier, in a segment of its radio program ironically titled ‘
‘So here we are in
Genuinely, for him, a world turned upside down.
The third quarter of 2008 (i.e. before the financial meltdown) the dominant questions being discussed in economic circles were the impact of the stimulus package and the likely tax consequences of the programs being proposed by John McCain and Barack Obama. On the first, the evidence seemed clear that the trickle-up stimulus had worked: helping the
Obama’s Comprehensive Tax Policy Plan for
- Cut taxes for 95 percent of workers and their families with a tax cut of $500 for workers or $1,000 for working couples.
- Provide generous tax cuts for low- and middle-income seniors, homeowners, the uninsured, and families sending a child to college or looking to save and accumulate wealth.
- Eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses, cut corporate taxes for firms that invest and create jobs in the
, and provide tax credits to reduce the cost of healthcare and to reward investments in innovation. United States
- Dramatically simplify taxes by consolidating existing tax credits, eliminating the need for millions of senior citizens to file tax forms, and enabling as many as 40 million middle-class Americans to do their own taxes in less than five minutes without an accountant.
Under the Obama Plan:
- Middle class families will see their taxes cut – and no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase. The typical middle class family will receive well over $1,000 in tax relief under the Obama plan, and will pay tax rates that are 20% lower than they faced under President Reagan. According to the
, the Obama plan provides three times as much tax relief for middle class families as the McCain plan. Tax Policy Center
- Families making more than $250,000 will pay either the same or lower tax rates than they paid in the 1990s. Obama will ask the wealthiest 2% of families to give back a portion of the tax cuts they have received over the past eight years to ensure we are restoring fairness and returning to fiscal responsibility. But no family will pay higher tax rates than they would have paid in the 1990s. In fact, dividend rates would be 39 percent lower than what President Bush proposed in his 2001 tax cut.
- Obama’s plan will cut taxes overall, reducing revenues to below the levels that prevailed under Ronald Reagan (less than 18.2 percent of GDP). The Obama tax plan is a net tax cut – his tax relief for middle class families is larger than the revenue raised by his tax changes for families over $250,000. Coupled with his commitment to cut unnecessary spending, Obama will pay for this tax relief while bringing down the budget deficit.
Chapter 4: Cutting “Welfare” to Help the Poor
- Help Americans Grab a Hold of and Climb the Job Ladder: Obama and Biden will invest $1 billion over five years in transitional jobs and career pathway programs that implement proven methods of helping low-income Americans succeed in the workforce.
- Create a Green Jobs Corps: Obama and Biden will create a program to directly engage disadvantaged youth in energy efficiency opportunities to strengthen their communities, while also providing them with practical skills in this important high-growth career field.
- Improve Transportation Access to Jobs: As president, Obama will work to ensure that low-income Americans have transportation access to jobs. Obama will double funding for the federal Jobs Access and Reverse Commute program to ensure that additional federal public transportation dollars flow to the highest-need communities and that urban planning initiatives take this aspect of transportation policy into account.
- Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Supports: Obama and Biden will work to ensure that ex-offenders have access to job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling, and employment opportunities. Obama and Biden will also create a prison-to-work incentive program and reduce barriers to employment.
- Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit: Obama and Biden will increase the number of working parents eligible for EITC benefits, increase the benefits available to parents who support their children through child support payments, increase benefits for families with three or more children, and reduce the EITC marriage penalty, which hurts low-income families.
- Raise the Minimum Wage to $9.50 an Hour by 2011: Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that people who work full time should not live in poverty. Even though the minimum wage will rise to $7.25 an hour by 2009, the minimum wage's real purchasing power will still be below what it was in 1968. As president, Obama will further raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011, index it to inflation and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to make sure that full-time workers can earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs such as food, transportation, and housing - things so many people take for granted.
- Provide Tax Relief: Obama and Biden will provide all low and middle-income workers a $500 Making Work Pay tax credit to offset the payroll tax those workers pay in every paycheck. Obama and Biden will also eliminate taxes for seniors making under $50,000 per year.
- Promote Responsible Fatherhood: Obama will sign into law his Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act to remove some of the government penalties on married families, crack down on men avoiding child support payments, and ensure that payments go to families instead of state bureaucracies.
- Support Parents with Young Children: Obama and Biden will expand the highly-successful Nurse-Family Partnership to all 570,000 low-income, first-time mothers each year. The Nurse-Family Partnership provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families.
- Expand Paid Sick Days: Today, three-out-of-four low-wage workers have no paid sick days. Obama and Biden support guaranteeing workers seven paid sick days per year.
- Supports Affordable Housing Trust Fund: Obama has supported efforts to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to develop affordable housing in mixed-income neighborhoods.
- Fully Fund the Community Development Block Grant: Obama and Biden will fully fund the Community Development Block Grant program and engage with urban leaders across the country to increase resources to the highest-need Americans.
- Establish 20 Promise Neighborhoods: Obama and Biden will create 20 Promise Neighborhoods in areas that have high levels of poverty and crime and low levels of student academic achievement in cities across the nation. The Promise Neighborhoods will be modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone, which provides a full network of services, including early childhood education, youth violence prevention efforts and after-school activities, to an entire neighborhood from birth to college.
- Ensure Community-Based Investment Resources in Every Urban Community: Obama and Biden will work with community and business leaders to identify and address the unique economic development barriers of every major metropolitan area. Obama and Biden will provide additional resources to the federal Community Development Financial Institution Fund, the Small Business Administration and other federal agencies, especially to their local branch offices, to address community needs.
- Invest in Rural Areas: Obama and Biden will invest in rural small businesses and fight to expand high-speed Internet access. They will improve rural schools and attract more doctors to rural areas. And they will implement a bold climate change and energy independence plan that will revitalize rural
through new investments in renewable energy production, including wind, solar and biofuel investments. America
Chapter 5: Reforming Social Security
The Obama-Biden website went into the November election saying this.
Protect Social Security
Obama and Biden are committed to ensuring Social Security is solvent and viable for the American people, now and in the future. Obama and Biden will be honest with the American people about the long-term solvency of Social Security and the ways we can address the shortfall. Obama and Biden will protect Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries alike. And they do not believe it is necessary or fair to hardworking seniors to raise the retirement age. Obama and Biden are strongly opposed to privatizing Social Security. As part of a bipartisan plan that would be phased in over many years, they will ask those making over $250,000 to contribute a bit more to Social Security to keep it sound.
Obama does not support uncapping the full payroll tax of 12.4 percent rate. Instead, he and Joe Biden are considering plans that would ask those making over $250,000 to pay in the range of 2 to 4 percent more in total (combined employer and employee).
- Reform Corporate Bankruptcy Laws to Protect Workers and Retirees: Current bankruptcy laws protect banks before workers. Obama and Biden will protect pensions by putting promises to workers higher on the list of debts that companies cannot shed; ensuring that the bankruptcy courts do not demand more sacrifice from workers than executives; telling companies that they cannot issue executive bonuses while cutting worker pensions; increasing the amount of unpaid wages and benefits workers can claim in court; and limiting the circumstances under which retiree benefits can be reduced.
- Require Full Disclosure of Company Pension Investments: Obama and Biden will ensure that all employees who have company pensions receive detailed annual disclosures about their pension fund's investments. This will provide retirees important resources to make their pension fund more secure.
- Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less Than $50,000: Obama and Biden will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less than $50,000 per year. This will provide an immediate tax cut averaging $1,400 to 7 million seniors and relieve millions from the burden of filing tax returns.
- Create Automatic Workplace Pensions: The Obama-Biden retirement security plan will automatically enroll workers in a workplace pension plan. Under their plan, employers who do not currently offer a retirement plan, will be required to enroll their employees in a direct-deposit IRA account that is compatible to existing direct-deposit payroll systems. Employees may opt-out if they choose. Experts estimate that this program will increase the savings participation rate for low and middle-income workers from its current 15 percent level to around 80 percent.
- Expand Retirement Savings Incentives for Working Families: Obama and Biden will ensure savings incentives are fair to all workers by creating a generous savings match for low and middle-income Americans. Their plan will match 50 percent of the first $1,000 of savings for families that earn less than $75,000. The savings match will be automatically deposited into designated personal accounts. Over 80 percent of these savings incentives will go to new savers.
- Prevent Age Discrimination: Obama and Biden will fight job discrimination for aging employees by strengthening the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and empowering the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to prevent all forms of discrimination.
Finally this: it is worth comparing President Bush’s enthusiasm for partial privatization (in his State of the Union Address in 2005 with his statement on the financial crisis (September 24 2008). Faith in deregulated markets, so evident in 2005, was far more muted three years later.
As we fix Social Security, we also have the responsibility to make the system a better deal for younger workers. And the best way to reach that goal is through voluntary personal retirement accounts. Here is how the idea works. Right now, a set portion of the money you earn is taken out of your paycheck to pay for the Social Security benefits of today's retirees. If you're a younger worker, I believe you should be able to set aside part of that money in your own retirement account, so you can build a nest egg for your own future. Here's why the personal accounts are a better deal. Your money will grow, over time, at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver -- and your account will provide money for retirement over and above the check you will receive from Social Security. In addition, you'll be able to pass along the money that accumulates in your personal account, if you wish, to your children and -- or grandchildren. And best of all, the money in the account is yours, and the government can never take it away.
This is an extraordinary period for
Chapter 6: Bringing Health to the Health Care System
The state of the
The Democratic Party platform committed an incoming
The research data on the current health of the system continued to accumulate during 2008. The Commonwealth Fund produced a series of reports (Issue Briefs), on the widening health care gap between high and low-wage workers (May): on the young uninsured (April & May); on who pays for health care when workers are uninsured (May); on US variations in child health care by states (May); and on the expansion of Medicaid and SCHIP as key elements in the moves towards comprehensive health coverage (June). The Kaiser Family Foundation issued two valuable reports on SCHIP in April and July 2008; sand in June the
On health care reform, the American people are too often offered two extremes - government-run health care with higher taxes or letting the insurance companies operate without rules. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe both of these extremes are wrong, and that’s why they’ve proposed a plan that strengthens employer coverage, makes insurance companies accountable and ensures patient choice of doctor and care without government interference.
The Obama-Biden plan provides affordable, accessible health care for all Americans, builds on the existing health care system, and uses existing providers, doctors and plans to implement the plan. Under the Obama-Biden plan, patients will be able to make health care decisions with their doctors, instead of being blocked by insurance company bureaucrats.
Under the plan, if you like your current health insurance, nothing changes, except your costs will go down by as much as $2,500 per year.
If you don’t have health insurance, you will have a choice of new, affordable health insurance options.
- Require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions so all Americans regardless of their health status or history can get comprehensive benefits at fair and stable premiums.
- Create a new Small Business Health Tax Credit to help small businesses provide affordable health insurance to their employees.
- Lower costs for businesses by covering a portion of the catastrophic health costs they pay in return for lower premiums for employees.
- Prevent insurers from overcharging doctors for their malpractice insurance and invest in proven strategies to reduce preventable medical errors.
- Make employer contributions more fair by requiring large employers that do not offer coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of their employees health care.
- Establish a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public plan based on benefits available to members of Congress that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health coverage.
- Ensure everyone who needs it will receive a tax credit for their premiums.
- Lower drug costs by allowing the importation of safe medicines from other developed countries, increasing the use of generic drugs in public programs and taking on drug companies that block cheaper generic medicines from the market
- Require hospitals to collect and report health care cost and quality data
- Reduce the costs of catastrophic illnesses for employers and their employees.
- Reform the insurance market to increase competition by taking on anticompetitive activity that drives up prices without improving quality of care.
The Obama-Biden plan will promote public health. It will require coverage of preventive services, including cancer screenings, and increase state and local preparedness for terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
A Commitment to Fiscal Responsibility: Barack Obama will pay for his $50 - $65 billion health care reform effort by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for Americans earning more than $250,000 per year and retaining the estate tax at its 2009 level.
Chapter 7: Immigration Control in a
Plan for Immigration
Undocumented population is exploding: The number of undocumented immigrants in the country has increased more than 40 percent since 2000. Every year, more than a half-million people come illegally or illegally overstay their visas.
Immigration bureaucracy is broken: The immigration bureaucracy is broken and overwhelmed, forcing legal immigrants to wait years for applications.
Immigration raids are ineffective: Despite a sevenfold increase in recent years, immigration raids only netted 3,600 arrests in 2006 and have placed all the burdens of a broken system onto immigrant families.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan
Obama and Biden want to preserve the integrity of our borders. He supports additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry.
Obama and Biden believe we must fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy and increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.
Obama and Biden will remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants.
Obama and Biden support a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.
Obama and Biden believe we need to do more to promote economic development in
Chapter 8: Is God Necessarily Conservative
To its end, the Bush Administration continued to develop regulations allowing health service employees to opt-out of procedures they found unethical: regulations which allowed opt-outs for birth control procedures as well as abortions (on this, see The New York Times, September 19 2008. Among recent publications, see Dagmar Herzog, Sex in Crisis (Basic Books, 2008) and Michael Sean Winters, Left at the Altar (also Basic Books, 2008). The Obama-Biden website says simply this.
In June of 2006, Senator Obama delivered what was called the most important speech on religion and politics in 40 years. Speaking before an evangelical audience, Senator Obama candidly discussed his own religious conversion and doubts, and the need for a deeper, more substantive discussion about the role of faith in American life. Senator Obama also laid down principles for how to discuss faith in a pluralistic society, including the need for religious people to translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values during public debate. In December, 2006, Senator Obama discussed the importance of faith in the global battle against AIDS.
Chapter 9: The Wisdom of the War in
The changing character of the war in
The Center for American progress issued a report on Changing Rationales: A Timeline of Bush Administration Quotes on Iraq (May 2008); a report on How to Close Guantanemo (June 2008); and a report on the deteriorating military position in
The Obama-Biden website said this on
Plan for Ending the War in
Inadequate Security and Political Progress in
Strains on the Military: More than 1.75 million servicemen and women have served in
Resurgent Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: The decision to invade Iraq diverted resources from the war in Afghanistan, making it harder for us to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden and others involved in the 9/11 attacks. Nearly seven years later, the Taliban has reemerged in southern Afghanistan while Al Qaeda has used the space provided by the Iraq war to regroup, train and plan for another attack on the United States. 2007 was the most violent year in
A New Strategy Needed: The
Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan
In 2002, as the conventional thinking in
Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe we must be as careful getting out of
Under the Obama-Biden plan, a residual force will remain in
Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that the
Obama and Biden's plan offers the best prospect for lasting stability in
Barack Obama and Joe Biden will launch an aggressive diplomatic effort to reach a comprehensive compact on the stability of
Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that
Obama and Biden believe any Status of Forces Agreement, or any strategic framework agreement, should be negotiated in the context of a broader commitment by the
Chapter 10: Is Prosperity Safest in Republican Hands?
This financial crisis is like a layered cake. Each layer is part of the problem
- This crisis has been allowed to fester ever since the sub-prime loan difficulties began to emerge in 2007: Henry Paulson has done too little, too late.
- The sub-prime loan process was visible before it created problems; Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac, among others, could have stopped it, and they didn’t. They actively encouraged the practice, under pressure from both the Clinton and Bush administrations.
- The easing of regulations of the entire financial system during the Greenspan years did open the way to speculative banking based on mortgage-backed securities: a tougher regulatory framework could and should have prevented that.
But there is a deeper issue here, one not yet being widely recognized or discussed.
Twice since the war the
- In the first of those economic booms, the internal deal underpinning growth was a union-negotiated productivity-wages pact – rising productivity and rising wages went together in a social contract that gave the long post-war boom a strong internal base.
- The second time round the internal deal was different. It was one imposed by an over-confident business class on a seriously weakened labor movement, one combining rising productivity with rising income inequality.
For the vast majority of working Americans, wages stagnated during this second boom – rising only briefly in the late 1990s before stagnating again. Since 1992 growth has rested on a Faustian contract between
The immediate credit crisis clearly requires a regulatory fix of some kind. But equally clearly, the long-term weakness of the
Chapter 11: Steps to a Better Future
UPDATING SOURCES AND ISSUES (to June 2008)
If you want a counterweight to all this liberalism, why not try Mark W. Smith, The Official Handbook of the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy: the arguments you need to defeat the Loony Left this election year (Washington DC, Regnery 2008); or Greg Jackson’s Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies (Boston, Jaj Publishing 2006). Be ready too for arguments that privilege emotion over reason, and therefore image over issues, in the electoral process. That’s always another way of dismissing the importance of rational discourse – a conservative tactic often played whenever the credibility conservative arguments is being eroded, as now, by the reality of conservative policies in action. David Brooks toys with this idea in Stop Making Sense, his August 26 2007 column in The New York Times reviewing Drew Westen’s book The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation (Public Affairs). To his credit, Brooks does not fully buy the notion: but others might!
Chapter 2: Clearing the Decks
Less valuable by far, but much hyped, have been Anne Coulter’s If Democrats had any brains, they’d be Republicans (
Meanwhile, CEO pay in the US continued to rise rapidly in 2007, triggering legislation in the House to rein it in. Spectacular salaries and severence packages awarded in 2007 - by Home Depot and Office Depot to mention but two - kept the issue alive in the quality press, sustained by new evidence from the Congressional Budget Office in January that "families earning more than $1 million a year saw their federal tax rates drop more sharply than any group in the country as a result of President Bush's tax cuts" (Washington Post, January 7 2007). IRS data suggests that the 300,000 Americans who made up the top 1% of income earners in the US in 2005 received as much income as the 150 million Americans who make up the bottom 50% of income earners; and yet the Cato Institute still felt able in January 2007 to issue a Policy Analysis piece by Alan Reynolds, asking Has US Income Inequality Really Increased? He didn't think so. The Atlantic, by contrast, had a fine essay in its June 2007 edition, questioning levels of social mobility in the contemporary US: Clive Crook's Rags to Rags, Riches to Riches. In November the Brookings Institution reinforced that view by publishing three reports by Julia B. Isaacs on economic mobility: of men and women; of families across generations; and of black and white families. (The Reports, and related executive summaries, can be found at www.brookings.edu/papers/2007)
An MIT study reported in The Financial Times, June 5 2007 - found that "earnings of the average US worker with an undergraduate degree have not kept pace with gains in productivity in recent decades" - all evidence that middle, as well as lower, class America has been losing out to the huge salary takes of the top 300,000 US rich. The top 1% of US earners now take a larger share of total income in the US than at any time since the 1920s! (for this, see Christopher Shea, in The Boston Globe, April 15 2007). The Economic Policy Institute's Snapshot for October 3 2007 reported national median wage growth of only 0.2% per annum 2001-6, prompting Paul Krugman to ask 'Where's my Trickle' in an op-ed piece in The New York Times September 10. For a counter-view: that wages are at long last rising, and that the income of the poorest fifth of the US population has experienced the fastest percentage growth since 1991, see David Brook's op-ed piece, "A Reality-Based Economy" in the same paper, July 24 2007. Brook's optimism was seriously challenged by the EPI Issue Brief #239 (December 13, 2007) by Jared Bernstein, headed: Updated CBO data reveal unprecedented increase in inequality. On his figures, the post-tax income of the top 1% of income earners - which had been eight times higher than that of middle-income families in 1979 - was now 21 times higher. The gap between the top 1% and the bottom 5th had gone from 23 times higher to 70 times higher in the same period: as he said, "a vast increase in the distance between income classes".
The other big issue in debate and dispute in the first half of 2007 were the budget proposals of the new Democratic-controlled Congress and the Bush White House. Conservative commentators continued to push for a flat tax. The Hamilton Project continued to push for tax simplification and reform. On the former, see the National Review March 19 & April 17, 2007: and an earlier powerful rebuttal by Larry Elliott, "Flat tax does not mean a level playing field", The Guardian (London), October 10 2005. For Hamilton, see The Brookings Institution website for June 11 2007.
The first half of 2008 was, of course, entirely taken up with primaries: especially that in the Democratic Party. As Obama and Clinton clashed, conservatives sharpened their attacks on the costs of Democratic programs – attacks that will doubtless multiply in the fall. For a characteristic example, see Michael D. Tanner, Barack by the Issues, Cato Institute website, February 29 2008. Both parties campaigned against the background of a deepening recession, one met with a stimulus package of $168 billion, passed by Congress in February – the centerpiece of which was a tax rebate ($600 per adult, %300 per child, on incomes of less than $75,000, phased down to nothing for those whose income exceeded $150,000). The adequacy of that stimulus package was widely discussed. Economists at the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute dismissed it as short-term gimmick, advocating instead a longer-term solution of more permanent tax cuts. (For an example, see Brian Riedl, Why Tax Cut Reductions are More Stimulative than Rebates: Lessons from 2001 and 2003, Heritage Foundation, Webmemo 1776, January 18 2008.) More progressive economists found them inadequate because not targeted – less effective because not directly primarily to the poor and unemployed. (For an example, see Ross Eisenbery, Be Wary of Half-a-Loaf Economic Stimulus, Economic Policy Institute, February 20 2008.) The EPI continued to document through the first half of 2008 the rising numbers of the American unemployed, the stagnant and falling wages of those still in employment, and the need for a strategy to rebound the economy that could stimulate infrastructure investment and manufacturing employment again. (See, for example, Robert E Scott, The Importance of Manufacturing, EPI Briefing Paper 211, February 13 2008.)For more reflective and fully researched pieces, see Joseph Stiglitz, “The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush”, Vanity Fair, December 2007; Jared Bernstein, Crunch: Why Do I Feel Squeezed, XXXX, 2008); Steven Greenhouse, The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker (Alfred Knopf, 2008); and Robert J. Gordon and Ian Dew-Baker’s important NBER Working Paper (no. 13982, April 2008), Controversies About the Rise of American Inequality: A Survey. For a critique of current tax policy, see David Cay Johnston, Free Lunch: How the Rich Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and stick you with the bill) (Portfolio, 2008). For evidence that tax cutting does not restrain government spending, see NBER Working Paper 13548, October 2007: Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, Do Tax Cuts Starve the Beast: The Effect of Tax Changes on Government Spending.
Chapter 4: Cutting "welfare" to Help the Poor.
The data on the scale of poverty in the United States continues to shock. Data released in April 2007 showed infant mortality rising again in the south: this, in the most affluent country on earth! New figures from the National Academy of Sciences put the 2005 poverty numbers up to 41.3 million (or 14.1% of all Americans), with at least 35 million Americans - about one-third of them children - living in households unable consistently to buy enough to eat. In August the Census Bureau reported a drop in the percentage of families in poverty in 2006: down from 12.6% in 2005 to 12.3%. That still left 36.5 million Americans living in poverty - 5 million more than in 200o, when the poverty rate was 11.3%. The 2006 improvement was limited to the over-65s and to Hispanic Americans: no other age or ethnic group experienced any improvement in their poverty rate. The Center for American Progress issued a report in January 2007, counting the economic cost of that childhood poverty. The report totalled those costs at $500 billion a year - or 4% of GDP. (See Harry Holzer et al, The Economic Costs of Poverty in the United States). EPI economists also documented the persistence and widening of income inequality on a state-by-state basis.(See Jared Bernstein, Elizabeth McNichol and Andrew Nicholas, Pulling Apart: A State-by-State Analysis of Income Trends, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2008.) Tumbling house prices and a flat stock market also left total household wealth down in the first half of 2008 – the first call in 5 years (Financial Times, March 7 2008, p.1).See also Bernard Wasow, Apologists' Last Stand? (The Century Foundation, 2/29/2008) for an update on growing income inequality in the US. The Center for American Progress followed their 2007 report with its own 12-point strategy document, published in April 2007, From Poverty to Prosperity: A National Strategy to Cut Poverty in Half - essential reading for all of us.
The clash of views on the role of welfare in creating/abating US poverty continues. For the argument that it still represents a huge resource transfer from skilled tax-payers to unskilled ones, see Robert Rector, Christine Kim and Shanea Watkins, The Fiscal Cost of Low-Skill Households to the US Taxpayer, The Heritage Foundation, Special Report 2, 2007. For the argument that welfare reform is coded language for programs designed to take resources from African-Americans, see Deborah Ward, The White Welfare State: The Racialization of US Welfare Policy, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 2005.
Chapter 5: "Reforming" Social Security
It's been relatively quiet on the Social Security front lately, though the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, did talk in January of a looming fiscal crisis which he linked to Medicare and Social Security together - so the issue has not gone away. Peter Ferrera has continued to argue for privatization - in the columns of NRO Financial (see February 1 & 22) - and the Century Foundation has continued to argue that it might be coming: see their website January 12 2007 for a piece entitled 'Watch Out for a New Attack on Social Security". Cato's contribution lately has come from David John, arguing "Raising the Wage Cap No Painless Solution to Social Security's Fiscal Woes". (Webmemo 1319, January 2007). As part of their defense strategy, the Century Foundation published later in 2007 Peter Orzag, Mark Iwry and William Gale's Aging Gracefully, which contains what they call four common-sense reforms to protect middle- and lower-income household pensions. The four include automating 401(k) plans, and creating an "automatic IRA" for workers not offered a 401(k) plan.
In the second half of 2007, as the early stages of the long Presidential election got under way, social security reform returned to the national political agenda. Republican candidates in particular cited it as a necessary area of action, should they be elected: Fred Thompson, for one, making it the center piece of his campaign. Where other Republican candidates for the Presidency were vague on detail, Thompson was not. He proposed to index benefits to inflation rather than wage growth, and to create a system of voluntary savings accounts to which employees could pay 2% of their wages (with a matching contribution from the government). On the Democratic side, Barak Obama and John Edwards would both increase taxes on higher earners to offset any looming deficit. Hilary Clinton, less specific, simply proposed the creation of a bipartisan commission to explore the issue. Not surprisingly this did not satisfy the Cato Institute. Chris Edwards told the Financial Times in December that “it is important to have a president who is a better salesman for reforms than the current president”. Paul Krugman, by contrast, criticized Obama in November for accepting too blithely the Cato Institute-type argument that Social Security reform was necessary. His November 16 2007 op-ed piece in The New York Times carried the title “Played for a Sucker”. Likelwise, The American Prospect reminded its readers in December 2007 that “Social Security does not face an urgent crisis. It will be solvent through 2041 even under the dismal 1.8 percent economic growth rate assumed by the …actuaries”.
Chapter 6: Bringing health to the health care system
Health care form, by contrast, is everywhere these days. Each Democratic Presidential candidate has a reform of choice. Most are versions of the mixed systems developing in California and Massachusetts: schemes offering accessible coverage for all, while denying/discouraging - the more radical the program, the more they deny - the right of healthy young workers to opt out. The John Edwards' plan is currently the most radical.
2007 began with President Bush's proposal, in his State of the Union Address, to give tax breaks to help low-income earners (and those purchasing their wn cover) acquire health coverage, and tax increases for those whose plans are more than normally expensive - the so-called "gold plated" plans apparently too good for ordinary workers! The proposals were heavily criticized from the right and the left. Liberals pointed to their irrelevance to the majority of those without health coverage - who were also paying no/little tax: arguing a refundable tax credit would have helped them better. Liberals also criticized the subsequent Bush budget, which proposed to cut $77 billion out of Medicare and Medicaid over a 5 year period, and would have restricted the growth of federal funds to the State Children's Health Insurance program, a good vehicle for getting financial aid to children in families just wealthy enough not to qualify for Medicaid. (The Center for American Progress published a report by Meredith King on the ramifications of a SCHIP shortfall for minority children, March 2007: the full report is available on their website). More conservative voices, for their part, were generally more supportive - Michael Cannon, for example, broadly welcoming the Bush plan from the Cato Institute; but some conservatives still felt that the proposals might actually intensify the "adverse selection" dimension of private voluntary systems (see the Heritage Foundation's Webmemo 1332, January 30 2007), and so were again a missed opportunity at most extensive privatization.
Opinion polls continue to show that most Americans support reforms to make health care universally available and affordable, and realize that the reforms have to be extensive and fundamental (see, for example, the 90% who thought that, in the CNN/NYT survey, February 2007). Politically, that level of concern brought responses at both state and federal level, and from both parties. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a universal coverage plan for California in January, following similar initiatives in Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts. John Edwards produced a stronger one for the US as a whole in February. Barak Obama followed suit in May. Hilary Clinton proposed expanding SCHIP by cutting off Medicare subsidies to private insurers - the Medicare Advantage Plans - in April. And to underscore their importance, the Commonwealth Fund in May issued a comparative report on health care performance: and found the US system the poorest of the 6 it studied (behind Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Britain). Leif Wellington Haase gave the Edwards Health Care Plan "two cheers" (see The Century Foundation website, February 9 2007); Paul Krugman hailed it "Edwards Gets it Right", in the New York Times the same day.
The second half of 2007 was dominated by the fight over SCHIP against the background of continuing under-insurance and un-insurance for health care by significant proportions of the population. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released data in June 2007, reporting 43.6 million Americans (14.8% of the population) without any health insurance in 2006, and 54.5 million 9or 18.6% of the population) as uninsured for part of the year. Those figure included 9.3% of children under 18. The main case for expanding S-CHIP can be found in Karen Davenport, Child Health Care Benefits, Center for American Progress, June 2007, and in Monique Morrissey, Why SCHIP Matters, Economic Policy Institute Policy Memorandum #121, September 28 2007. The case against expanding the program can be found in a string of web-memos from the Heritage Foundation, including Nina Owcharenko and Stuart Butler’s, SCHIP: Crafting a Better Compromise to Cover Kids , No. 1635, September 24 2007.
The first half of 2008 saw a number of new reports all demonstrating the need for major reform in the
And as befits so active an area of policy dispute and decision, there's lots of new academic literature to read too, coming from the usual sources. See, for example, Alvin Rivlin and Joseph Antos, Restoring Fiscal Sanity 2007: The Health Spending Challenge published by Brookings Institution Press; or Arnold Relman, A Second Opinion: Rescuing America's Health Care (The Century Foundation, 2007); or the Century Foundation's own National Health Insurance: Lessons From Abroad; or the Hamilton Project Discussion Paper Mending the Medicare Prescription Benefit by Frank and Newhouse, published on the Brookings Institution website, May 2007. The case for fundamental health care reform, guaranteeing universal coverage, was well-put by Paul Krugman in his The Conscience of a Liberal. The case for more moderate reform came again in Arthur Garson Jr. and Carolyn Englehard’s Health Care Half Truths: Too Many Myths, Not Enough Reality (Rowman and Littlefield 2007). My own favorite piece, from February 2003, is actually British: the incoming Prime Minister (then Chancellor of the Exchequer) Gordon Brown's speech to the Social Market Foundation, in which he discusses at length the role and limits of markets in health care provision. The lecture is still available on the UK Treasury website, and is well worth the read:at
Finally, this: Meredith King's powerful short report on Immigrants in the US Health Care System, published by the Center for American Progress in June 2007. The report dispels the five most prevalent myths about immigration and health care: that immigrants overburden the health care system, free-ride on it, and only come to the US to use it; and that public health systems are overburdened by immigrants, and can restrict access by immigrants without it hurting all of us. It's hard to think of a more important report right now - it should be essential reading for us all.
Chapter 7: Immigration controls in a land of immigrants
The bulk of the conservative opposition was Republican – leading Republican presidential candidates found their freedom of maneuver constrained by the intensity of feeling on this issue among the party rank and file, and backed off accordingly. But the Democratic Party too found itself saddled with a new breed of populist representatives, who were equally preoccupied with the question of border security and equally hostile to amnesty. The AFL-CIO ultimately opposed the legislation, though major service-industry unions did not. Repeated attempts by the bill’s sponsors to appease conservative concerns only alienated liberal support further, until in late June the whole exercise stalled. This in spite of regular opinion polling, that showed 80+% of ordinary Americans in favor of earned paths to citizenship. (See, for example, polling published in The New York Times May 25 2007.)
Though a generous immigration bill did not pass in June 2007, a generous farm bill did. In late July, The House passed a package of subsidies costing $286 billion over 5 years. When the Senate turned to it in September, the cost grew to $288 billion, and attracted the threat of a Presidential veto. Immigration reform, by contrast, settled onto more a reactionary path. A ‘Dream Act', giving a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants if they completed two years of college or military service, passed but stalled in the Senate in October, denied the 60 votes it needed by the force of White House opposition to it. Populist Democrats like Heath Shuler then sponsored SAVE and Sam Johnson sponsored the New Employment Verification Act - both designed to squeeze illegal immigrants out of the US by denying them work. At the state level, legislatures in Arizona and Oklahoma, among others, passed strict employment laws, penalizing those who employ illegal immigrants. The number of such laws introduced into state legislatures was running two-and-a-half times higher in mid 2007 than it had in 2006 (the data is gathered in Julia Preston, “Surge in Immigration Laws Around U.S.”, New York Times, August 6 2007).
Administration policy also hardened, with new moves to catch illegal immigrants and speed their deportation. These moves included the tightening of border security, increased pressure on employers to dismiss illegal immigrant workers, and more raids by ICE officers on factories and farms. The head of ICE told Congress in September 2007 that it would cost at least $94 billion to find, detain and remove all 12 million illegal immigrants from the United States. The cost in human terms of the raids on the individuals subject to them was not calculated by the ICE director, but widely reported as terrifying. The cost in human terms to illegal workers in the construction industry then deepened as 2007 ended, by the slump in house building triggered by the sub-prime loan crisis. That crisis generated significant hidden unemployment among undocumented workers, heavily concentrated as they are in that particular industry. Remittances back to Mexico plummeted in the last half of 2007. Remittances grew in volume by 26% in the first half of 2006, but only by 0.6% in the first half of 2007 (The Financial Times October 30 007).
In May 2008 a big federal push against illegal immigrants sent 270 illegal immigrants to jail in Iowa for the crime of working in a meatpacking plant without proper papers; and that same month Mississippi passed a law making illegal immigration a felony subject to five years in jail before deportation. It was particularly ironic that it should be a southern state which passed such a law, given the crucial role of illegal immigrants in the rebuilding of New Orleans after Katrina, and the widespread connivance then between state officials and local builders to attract and deploy much-needed illegal labor. Memories, it would appear, are very short in parts of the South. Not so short, however, in the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI used his April 2008 visit to the US to call for the protection, not the persecution and division, of immigrant families - immigrant families that, according to a major new survey issued by the Manhatten Institute in May, have actually assimilated into mainstream US culture and society faster in the last 25 years than in generations passed. (See Jacob Vigdor, Measuring Immigrant Assimilation in the United States, Manhatten Institute for Policy Research, Civic Report 53, May 2008).
Immigration surfaced in the early presidential candidate debates, with Hillary Clinton struggling to answer whether she favored giving driving licenses to undocumented workers, and leading Republicans clashing on who would be the toughest on immigration control. Republican Party activists remained both adamant on this issue, and unrepresentative of US public opinion as a whole; but their dominance – particularly on conservative talk radio – kept the pressure up on Republican candidates to force illegal immigrants out of the US by denying them and their families basic welfare services. The Heritage Foundation in particular briefed regularly on the dangers of illegal immigration and the undesirability of the Dream Act. (see, for example, the Foundation’s Backgrounder paper 2069, September 13 2007). The lone voice in the Republican camp pushing for comprehensive immigration reform came from the Cato Institute. (see in particular Daniel Griswold’s The Fiscal Impact of Immigration Reform: The Real Story, Free Trade Bulletin No. 30, May 31 2007)
There’s been no shortage of new writings on immigration issues of late. Among the most valuable have been Doris Meissner et al, Immigration and America's Future: A New Chapter (MNI, September 2006); the Southern Poverty Law Center’s study of guest worker programs, Close To Slavery; and Ray Marshall’s Getting Immigration Reform Right (EPI Briefing Paper 186, March 15 2007). The case for an expanded guest worker program was put by, among others, Neil Ruiz and Jeffrey Manns, in their Rethinking the Revolving Door for ImmigrationSolving Our Immigration Problem (Latin American Outlook, AEI Online, April 10 2007). The case for green cards for skilled workers was made by Michele Wucker in her op-ed piece, Family Second in the New York times, February 28 2007 (and in her book, Lockout: Why America Keeps getting immigration Wrong when our prosperity Depends on Getting It Right.) There seems to be general agreement that the bill failed because it tried to do too many things simultaneously; and that the political space for major reform was unlikely to reappear until after the 2008 presidential election.
Two themes only briefly mentioned in the text need further treatment here.
One is the issue of the impact of immigration on the lives and options facing other groups within the American poor - particularly African Americans. For the latest US material on this, see the study by George Borjas and colleagues of the impact of immigration on African American employment, wages and incarceration rates: in a NBER Working Paper (No. 12518) published in September 2006. For an equivalent European take, see Rebecca Riley and Martin Weale, "Immigration and its effects", National Institute Economic Review (London, No 198, October 2006).
The other theme is the on-going saga of agricultural subsidies and NAFTA. The 2002 farm bill expires in 2007. the Bush Administration began the year proposing limits on subsidies/farmer of just $360,000 a year, and cuts in subsidies for farmers earning over $200,000 a year. That new farm bill is currently making its way through Congress. Its final terms, and their impact on small-scale farmers south of the border, deserve our full attention. The previous one - in a context of increasingly free trade in agricultural produce between Mexico and the United States - according to a 2003 Carnegie Endowment Report put 1.3 million Mexican farmers out if work, many of whom then came north in search of work.
Chapter 8: Is God Necessarily Conservative?
The change in political leadership in
Conservative Christians continued to be well placed, however, within the Bush Administration itself. Their disproportionate representation within the Justice Department came to light when the Attorney General was challenged over the dismissal of District Attorneys. So too did the shift in priorities in Justice Department policy that their presence has triggered: more intervention to challenge discrimination on religious grounds, less on grounds of race or national origin (for this, see International Herald Tribune, June 15 2007). A Congressionally mandated report by the Mathematica Policy Research firm, published in April 2007, surveying 2000 teenagers, found no differences in levels of sexual activity among pupils receiving abstinence instruction and those not; but this did not seem to dampen in any way the Conservative enthusiasm for abstinence education. Strange!
Christian Conservatives, so well placed with the Bush Administration, struggled mightily in the second half of 2007 to find a Republican Presidential candidate with whom they could identify. Senator Sam Brownback looked an early contender, but then withdrew. Mitt Romney's Mormon faith alienated many on the Christian Right, in spite of the Mormon Church's size (as the fourth largest in America). His changed position on abortion (from pro-choice to pro-life) also worried many. Rudi Guiliani was too liberal for most Christian conservatives.... In a surprise move in November, however, Pat Robertson endorsed Guilani, to a howl of protest from other Christian Conservatives and the threat from James Dobson to support a third-party candidate if Guilani were to win the nomination. At the October 'Values Voter Summit' in Washington in October, Mitt Romney (27.6%)narrowly defeated Mike Huckabee (27.1%) for delegate support, but with significant minority support for Ron Paul (15%)and Fred Thompson (9.8%). Rudi Guilani was second last (with 2%), ahead only of John McCain. Mitt Romney then gave his long awaited "JFK" speech in December - asserting a similar independence from his church but, unlike Kennedy, also reassuring Christian Conservatives of the central importance of religion to his politics. In the early primaries, however, it was Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist minister, and not Romney, who emerged as the candidate most likely to attract conservative Christian support among the Republican Party faithful.
Away from the hustings, other significant developments in the last half of 2007/early 2008 included (a) a letter to President Bush from 34 leading evangelicals, sent in July, saying that both Israelis and Palestinians had "legitimate rights stretching back for millennia to the lands of Israel/Palestine" and that "they support the creation of a Palestinian state that includes the vast majority of the West Bank". (details, The New York Times, July 29 2007). (b) data from the Census Bureau in September showing a decline in the divorce rate - down from 22.8 divorces per 1000 married couples in 1979 to 16.7 per 1000 in 2005; (c) data released in January 2008 showing the number of abortions dropped to 1.2 million in 2005, the lowest level since 1976 (this in a re[port published in the March edition of the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health).
There were three potential huge developments on the social agenda in the first half of 2008.
· The second was clear evidence from the Census Bureau of the continuing strength of the heterosexual
· The third was the legalization of same-sex marriages by the California Supreme Court (May 2008) and the move by New York Governor David Paterson to have same-sex marriages legalized elsewhere recognized as marriages in the state of New York. Needless to say, the FRC, among others, was incensed, and mobilized for action.
Chapter 9: The wisdom of the war in
The first half of 2007 was dominated by discussions on the wisdom/otherwise of President Bush’s decision to increase troop levels in
The second half of the year saw Iraq diminish as a central political concern for the bulk of working Americans. Domestic issues increasingly took center-stage, though the war remained generally unpopular. Part of the force of the anti-war case was diminished by the apparent success of the surge - as casualty figures among both US soldiers and Iraqi civilians fell from the peaks of 2006. (The reliability of these figures has been challenged regularly - see, for example, Karen DeYoung, "What Defines a Killing as Sectarian" , The Washington Post September 25, 2007 - but the general downward trend in the numbers is no longer seriously contested.) The increase in troop strength was only one of the variables at play: the completion of ethnic cleansing in many areas of Iraq, significant cease fires between key private militias, and a revulsion against al Qaeda tactics in key Iraqi provinces, all played their part. But the 'surge', defended strongly by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker before the Congress in September, was sufficiently potent to allow the President to talk of reducing troop levels in 2008, back to the pre-surge numbers. Democratic Presidential candidates then followed him along that path, advocating bigger numbers and a quicker timetable: with John Edwards holding to his commitment to ending combat missions in Iraq entirely and to withdrawing all US forces. Neither Barak Obama nor Hillary Clinton were willing to go quite that far, but all of them anticipated a rapid scaling down of US ground force numbers in Iraq in the first year of their Presidency. All of them also remained committed to the war in Afghanistan - reports from where indicated by year's end a significant Taliban resurgence in the South. The Administration committed more ground forces to Afghanistan in January 2008.
Public opposition to the cost of the war continued to be evident. An ABC poll published in The Washington Post in October showed 66% of all those polled wanting either a modest or a sharp reduction in war funding in the next budget round. That, just before the Congressional Budget Office issued its prediction that total expenditure on the 'war on terror' could reach $2400 billion over the next decade (with interest payments making up a quarter of that total). For details, see The Financial Times October 25, 2007. In November, staffers from the Congress's Joint Economic Committee leaked a figure of $1.5 trillion for spending already undertaken to finance military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. This, as part of a continuing Democratic Congressional campaign to force a change in Iraq policy on the President: so far still to no avail.
For a critique of the Iraq strategy by its previous commander, Ricardo Sanchez, see The Washington Post October 13 2007. For the current commander's recognition of the fragility of the gains made by the surge, see The Financial Times, December 7 2007. For the key National Intelligence Estimate that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, see The New York Times December 4 2007. For the Cato Institute's continuing demand for full withdrawal from Iraq, see Ted Galen Carpenter's Don't Get Fooled Again, on the Cato Institute website, September 20 2007. For the Heritage Institute's continuing support of the Bush war strategy, see their webmemo #1602, Making Progress September 7 2007. For a Center-left perspective, see Lawrence Korb et al, How to Redeploy: Implementing a Responsible Drawdown of US Forces from Iraq (Center for American Progress, September 2007).
March 2008 marked the fifth anniversary of the invasion of
At the same time
- The Pentagon quietly issued a report admitting – after a survey of 600,000 captured Iraqi documents – that no link existed between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda (see CNN, March 14 2008 for details of this quickly buried report)
- Even the Defense secretary Robert Gates admitted in February that the war in
Iraqwas hurting the effectiveness of the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that the military was now stretched dangerously thin. US
- By mid March CBS News was reporting surveys of US popular opinion in which 64% found the war in Iraq not worth the cost in US lives (29% still thought it was); and 66% explicitly opposing the war
- Joseph Stiglitz The Three Trillion Dollar War puts the cost of military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq at 6 times the original Bush estimate, and at 3 trillion times the estimate of those (including Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz) who initially implied that the war would pay for itself (that Iraqis would bear the lion’s share of the cost). Of course in deaths they have: but not in money. For a full survey of costs, see The Financial Times, March 18 2008; or The Nation March 31 2008
- A string of key players wrote memoirs admitting that the White House deceived the American people in the run up to war: see Ricardo Sanchez, the 2003-4 commander of US forces in Iraq, in his Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story; and then Scott McClellan, in his What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception
- And in early June, a long-delayed Senate committee report endorsed by all its Democratic Party members and by Republicans Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe concluded that - when building the case for war in 2002-3 - both the President and Vice President had exaggerated available intelligence and ignored disagreements and counter-views from within the intelligence establishment. The report stopped short of saying the President lied; but commentators (not least Richard Clarke) quickly drew that conclusion in interviews related to the report (this one on Countdown, MSNBC, June 5 2008). The minority report placed the blame squarely on faulty CIA intelligence
In the presidential primaries that held center-stage January-June 2008, both major Democratic Presidential candidates proposed steady but rapid withdrawal from
Also to be watched: (1) the Bush Administration's belated attempt to achieve a two-state settlement in Palestine, officially launched at Annapolis in late November 2007; (2) a growing tendency in Republican circles to use the evidence of the surge to build the case that it is (and will be) the democrats who lose the war in Iraq for the American people - the illusion that, had the surge gone on, the war could and would have been "won". For an early commentary on this coming "stab in the back" thesis, see the article with that title by Eric Alterman in October 15 2007 edition of The Nation.
Chapter 10: Is Prosperity Safest in Republican Hands?
The President spent the first half of 2007 talking up the economy, and the appropriateness of his policies for it. In fact, economic growth slowed in the first quarter of 2007, as did job growth; and both job and income insecurity remained major concerns of vast swathes of the
Some aspects of any regeneration strategy are relatively easy for the Democrats. They have pushed for tougher enforcement of existing labor standards by OSHA. They have pressed for restoring worker rights and union membership, through the Employee Free Choice Act that came before the House in February and the Senate in June. (The President immediately promised to veto it!) They have also pressed for sanctions against Chinese imports made ultra-competitive by an undervalued Chinese currency – both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama signed up to that in July. They have signaled their concern with the growth and size of the
For a guide to these dilemmas, read Paul Krugman, "Divided Over Trade" (
The issue of trade loomed large in the 2008 primary season, with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton linking job loss in states like
Chapter 11: Steps to a Better Future
In terms of US domestic policy, the first half of 2007 must count as a period of failure and frustration for the Democrats newly in charge of Congress. Their 6 commitments for their first 100 hours proved harder to deliver than to promise. The minimum wage was raised; but stem cell research fell to a presidential veto, and lower drug prices and reduced oil subsidies bogged down in the Senate. But as the politicians stalled, the designers of post 2008 policy did not. The Centre of American Progress’s Task Force on Poverty produced their From Poverty to Prosperity in April. The Economic Policy Institute produced a series of papers that collected constituted their Agenda for Shared Prosperity. James Galbraith used the columns of The Nation (March 5 2007) to begin a series of the editors on a new progressive economic policy. Dissent used its spring 2007 edition to explore Labor’s Agenda; and The American Prospect
And progressive solutions now abound. See, in addition to those mentioned in the first paragrapgh of this chapter update, the Hamilton Projects If, When, How: A Primer on Fiscal Stimulus, published by the Brookings Institution, January 14 2008; David Madland and John Irons, Responsible Investment; A Budget and Fiscal Policy Plan for Progressive Growth, published by the Center for American Progress, January 2008; and Robert Kuttner, "Good Jobs in a Global economy", American Prospect, January/February 2008. The websites of the three leading Democratic Party candidates for President had economic and social programs on offer by the start of 2008: John Edwards committing the US to the national goal of ending poverty in 30 years; Barack Obama promising to strengthen the economy, fight poverty and create a bridge to the middle class; and Hilary Clinton promising to strengthen the middle class by, among other things, 'strengthening unions and ensuring our trade laws work for all Americans'.
ORIGINAL SOURCES FOR "A LIBERAL TOOL KIT"
Chapter 2: Clearing the Decks.
Ann Coulter has her own website where her journalistic writing is archived: Welcome to AnnCoulter.com. So does Thomas Sowell at http://www.tsowell.com. You can reach
Pat Buchanan’s archive at
Rush Limbaugh’s at http://www.rushlimbaugh.com;
and Bill O’Reilly at http://www.billoreilly.com.
The website for Sean Hannity’s television program is http://www.hannity.com.
For a representative sweep through what are now a huge number of similar books, see Ann Coulter Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right (Crown Publishing, 2003); Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the war on Terror (Random House, 2003); How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must),(Three Rivers Press, 2004); and Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum 2006). Bill O’Reilly’s case is put in his Culture Warrior (Broadway Books, 2006); Sean Hannity’s in Lett Freedom Ring (Harper Collins 2004); and Michael Savage’s in his The Enemy Within: Saving America from the liberal assault on our schools, faith and military (WND Books, 2003); and Liberalism is a Mental Disorder (Nelson Current, 2003). For more of the same, see Mark Levine, Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America (Regnery Publishing Inc, 2005); David Horowitz, The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America (Regnery Publishing Inc, 2006); Tammy Bruce, The Death of Right and Wrong (Three Rivers Press, 2003); Mark W. Smith, The Official Handbook of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (Regnery Publishing Inc, 2004); and Gregg Jackson, Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies (JAJ Publishing, 2007). The American Compass book club sells these and many similar books; and Regnery Publishing Inc. is an important outlet for writers of this very conservative disposition.
For the response, see Steven Rendell et al, The Way Things Aren’t: Rush Limbaugh’s Reign of Error (New Press, 1995); Alan Colmes, Red, White and Liberal: How Left is Right and Right is Wrong (Regan Books, 2003); Al Franken, The Truth: With Jokes (Dutton, 2005); Gerry Spence, Bloodthirsty Bitches and Pious Pimps of Power (St. Martin’s Press, 2006); Katrina vanden Huevel, Dictionary of Republicanism (Nation Books, 2005); the work of George Lakoff at the Rockridge Institute, including his Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Fame the Debate (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004); and Geoffrey Nunberg, Talking Right (Public Affairs, 2006). To begin the move into the academic scholarship on the use of language in politics, see Roderick Hart et al, Political Keywords: Using Language that Uses Us (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Chapter 3: The Wonders of Trickle-Down Economics
The key sources for the arguments for tax reduction come from the websites of the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation, and from Americans for Tax Reform.
- A persistent voice from the Heritage Foundation has been Daniel Mitchell: see his ‘Taxes, Deficits and Economic Growth”, Heritage Lecture 565, May 14 1996; or his “State of the Union 2006: A Mixed Message on Tax Policy”, Webmemo 981, February 1 2006. From the same source, see Edwin Feulner, “Flat-Out Smart”, October 25 2005; or Ana Isabel Eiras, “The Fiscal Burden of Government is Undercutting US Competitiveness”, Backgrounder No. 1906, January 2006.
- From the Cato Institute see Chris Edwards, “Social Policy, Supply-Side and Fundamental Reform: Republican Tax Policy 1994-2004”, Tax Notes November 1 2004; or ‘The Simple Tax Life”, April 17 2006. Also Dean Stansel, “The Hidden Burden of Taxation”, Policy Analysis No. 302, April 15 1998; and chapters 10 and 11 of the Cato 2004 Handbook on Policy.
- The flat tax argument is laid out in detail in Steve Forbes, Flat Tax Revolution (Regnery Publishing Inc., 2005).
- The case against the National Minimum Wage appears regularly on the website of the Employment Policy Institute.
The challenges to these kinds of arguments are best found in Center-Left think tanks like the Brookings Institution, the Century Foundation and the Economic Policy Institute.
- From the Brookings Institution, see William G. Gale and Peter Orszag, “Should the President’s Tax Cuts Be Made Permanent”, Tax Notes, March 8 2004; or Michael O’Hanlon and Isabel Sawhill, ‘The Right Thing Is Not Permanent Tax Cuts”, June 5 2006.
- From the Century Foundation, see their Reality Check, ‘Why It’s Good to be Rich – And Getting Better All the Time”, (2004); their Issue Briefs Series, Bernard Wasow, “Eight Myths About the Estate Tax” (2002); or Bernard Wasow, “The Tax Cuts that Didn’t Trickle Down”, September 10 2004.
- The EPI position is always best gleaned from their absolutely vital annual report on The State of
. Working America
- See also Chapter 6, "Tax Windfalls for the wealthy" in the eighth edition of Current Economic Issues (Dollars and Sense, 2004).
The most up-to-date information on wealth and income inequality is in Edward N. Wolff, Top Heavy: The increasing Inequality of Wealth in
- Earlier data is in Paul Ryscavage, Income Inequality in America: An Analysis of Trends (M.E. Sharpe, 1999). Later data is in Lawrence Mishel, Jared Bernstein and Sylvia Allegretto, The State of
Working Ameri . (Economic Policy Institute, 2005) pp. 39-105, 399-401, 403-4. ca
- The data on CEO salary-takes is in Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon, Where Did the Productivity Growth go? National Bureau of Economic Research working paper 11842, December 2005. The fight over the "death tax" is recounted in Michael J. Graetz and Ian Shapiro, Death by a Thousand Cuts (Princeton University Press, 2006)
- For the distribution of wealth by ethnic group, see Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas. M. Shapiro, Black Wealth, White Wealth (Routledge, 2006); and Lui Meizhu et al, Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the US Racial Wealth Divide ( The New Press, 2006)
The classic study of trickle down economics is Sheldon Danziger and Peter Gottschalk, “Do Rising Tides Left All Boats? The Impact of Secular and Cyclical Changes on Poverty”, AEA Papers and Proceedings, volume 76, number 2, May 1986, pp. 405-410. See also two working papers from the National Bureau of Economic Research: number 8155, February 2001 by Richard B Freeman, “The Rising Tide Lifts…?"; and number 8412, August 2001 by James R Hines, Hilary Hoynes and Alan B. Krueger, “Another Look at Whether a Rising Tide Lifts All Boats”. See also Seth W. Norton, "Economic Growth and Poverty: In Search of Trickle Down", Cato Journal, Fall 2002; and Rags to Riches: The American Dream is Less Common in the United States than Elsewhere, (
For material on the minimum wage, begin with Francois Eyraud and Catherine Saget, The Fundamentals of Minimum Wage Fixing (International Labor Office, 2005). Then see Richard Burkhauser and T. A. Finegan, 'The Economics of Minimum Wage Legislation Revisited", Cato Journal vol. 13(1), 1993; the Employment Policy Institute Labor Day 2005 Press Release, Five reasons Not to increase The Minimum Wage; and the Economic Policy Institute's counter-arguments: their 2006 petition for an increase in the minimum wage signed by 650 leading economists, and Liana Fox, Minimum Wage Trends (Washington DC, EPI Briefing Paper, 2006). See also James K Galbraith, Created Unequal (The Free Press, 1998); Michael Horrigan and Ronald Mincy, “The Minimum Wage and Earnings and Income Inequality”, in Sheldon Danziger and Peter Gottschalk (editors), Uneven Tides: Rising Inequality in America ( The Russell Sage Foundation, 1994); and the CQ Researcher Report Minimum Wage (volume 15, number 44, December 16 2005). See too the Living Wage website www.livingwagecampaign.org
For material on social mobility, see Heather Bouchey and Christian Weller, "What the numbers tell us", in James Lardner and David Smith (editors), Inequality Matters (The Free Press, 2005); Bernard Wasow, "Myth 4: Over the course of their lifetimes, Americans are highly likely to enjoy upward economic mobility", Class Warfare Fact and Fiction (Century Foundation, 2004); and Rags to Riches: The American Dream is Less Common in the United States than Elsewhere (Century Foundation, 2004).
Chapter 4: Cutting "welfare" to Help the Poor.
The case for abolishing welfare altogether has been made by, among others, Charles Murray and Michael Tanner. See
For the debate on welfare-to-work and its effectiveness, see Jamie Peck, Work-Place (The Guildford Press 1996) and Workfare States (The Guildford Press, 2001);
For the debate on the underclass, see Michael Katz, The Underclass Debate: Views from History (Princeton University Press, 1993), and his “Reframing the Underclass Debate”, in Lou Kushnick and James Jennings (editors), A New Introduction to Poverty; Rickie Solinger, “Dependency and Choice: the Two Faces of Eve”, in Gwendolyn Mink (editor), Whose Welfare (Cornell University Press, 1999, pp. 7-35); Ronald Mincy, “The Underclass: Concept, Controversy and Evidence”, in Sheldon Danziger (editor), Confronting Poverty (Harvard University Press, 1994); and William Kelso, Poverty and the Underclass (New York University Press, 1994)
.The uniquely racialized nature of the
Chapter 5. "Reforming" Social Security
The case for the privatization of Social Security is best found on the website and in the publications of the Cato Institute: for example, in Peter Ferrara and Michael Tanner’s 1998 publication, by the Institute, of A New Deal for Social Security. The counter-case, that either the system needs only modest reform or no reform at all, can be found on the websites and linked publications of the Brookings Institution, the Economic Policy Institute and the Century Foundation, and in the work of Dean Baker. For major statements, see
· Henry J Aaron and Robert D Reischauer, Countdown to Reform: The Great Social Security Debate, (New York, The Century Foundation Press, 1998);
· Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot, Social Security: The Phony Crisis, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1999);
· Peter A Diamond and Peter R. Orszag, Saving Social Security, (
· Christan Weller and Edward N. Wolff, Retirement Income: the Crucial Role of Social Security (Economic Policy Institute, 2005);
· Peter Orzag, J. Mark Iwry and William G. Gale, Aging Gracefully (The Century Foundation, 2005)
See also Eric R. Kingson and James H. Schulz (editors), Social Security in the Twenty-First Century, (Oxford, Oxford University Press 1997); and the remarkable clear Century Foundation Press guides to the issues, Social Security Reform (New York, 2005); and Public Policy In An Older America (New York, 2006).
Comparative and general material is very important. The best general analysis currently available is that by John Myles: his joint essay with Paul Pierson, ‘The comparative political economy of welfare reform’ in Paul Pierson (editor), The New Politics of the Welfare State (Oxford University Press, 2000); and his ‘A New Social Contract for the Elderly’, in G. Esping-Andersen (editor), Why We Need a New Welfare State (Oxford University Press, 2002). The Wilson Quarterly for Spring 2006 had an excellent essay on reforms abroad by Sylvester J. Schieber; and the UK Stationery Office in 2004 and 2005 produced two reports from the Pension Commission chaired by Adair Turner that explored, not simply current
Chapter 6: Bringing health to the health care system
The best general history of
Begin with two important general essays: Susan Giaimo, “Who Pays for Health Care Reform?”, in Paul Pierson (editor), The New Politics of the Welfare State (Oxford University Press, 2001); and Mark Schlesinger, “The Danger of the Market Panacea”, in James Morone and Lawrence Jacobs (editors), Healthy, Wealthy and Fair: Health Care and the Good Society (Oxford University Press, 2005). Then consult, for the detailed issues, the appropriate sections of the websites of the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation for a range of conservative views, and those of the Brookings Institution for a more liberal perspective.
The fullest challenge to the view of markets in health care developed by Mark Schlesinger is in Richard Epstein’s Mortal Panic (Perseus Books, 1999). The general business case for a market-based health care system can be read in Regina Herzlinger’s Market-Driven Health Care (Perseus Books, 1997). The general case for market-based reform can be found in Michael Cannon and Michael Tanner’s Healthy Competition (Cato Institute, 2005). A more focused set of arguments of a similar kind can be read in Clark Havighurst, Health Care Choices (The AEI Press, 1995); and Mark Pauly and Bradley Herring Pooling Health Insurance Risks (The AEI Press, 1999). See also John Cogan, Glenn Hubbard and Daniel Kessler’s carefully argued Healthy, Wealthy and Wise (The AEI Press, 2006); and John Goodman, Gerard Musgrave and Devon Herrick, Lives at Risk: Single-Payer National Health Insurance Around the World (Rowen and Littlefield, 2004).
Criticisms of market-based health systems can be found in James Morone and Lawrence Jacobs (editors), Healthy, Wealthy and Fair: Health Care and the Good Society (Oxford University Press2005); Charles Morris, Too Much of a Good Thing (The Century Foundation, 2000); Charles Morris, Falling Apart at the Seams (The Century Foundation, 2006); and Leif Wellington Haase, A New Deal for Health (The Century Foundation, 2005). Paul Krugman’s essays in The New York Times are another invaluable source, as is his review essay: ‘The Health Care Crisis and What to Do About It”,
Chapter 7: Immigration controls in a land of immigrants
The best general introduction to global migration patterns is Stephen Castles and Mark Miller, The Age of Migration (Guildford Publications, 2003). See also Anthony M. Messina and Gallya Lahav (editors), The Migration Reader, (Lynne Reinner, 2006). There are excellent chapters on immigration and immigration policy in the
On the various positions in the recent policy debate in the
On the economic effects of immigration and NAFTA on Mexico, see Gordon Hanson, Emigration, Labor Supply, and Earnings in Mexico (NBER paper, April 2005); David Spener, "Mexican labor at the center of North American economic integration", Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, Summer 2000; and Alejandro Portes, NAFTA and Mexican Immigration (at http://borderbattles.ssrc.org) posted July 31 2006.
Chapter 8: Is God Necessarily Conservative?
The extensive writings of the Christian Right can be approaced through the sites listed on Nate Reister's accompanying blog site. For more liberal arguments, see Randall Blamer, Thy Kingdom Come, New York, Basic Books, 2006; Jim Wallis, God's Politics, New York, HarperCollins, 2006; and Jimmy Carter, Our Endangered Values, New York, Simon and Schuster, 2005. The politics of Christian Right are documented and critiqued in Dan Wakefield, The Hijacking of Jesus, New York, Nation Books, 2006; Bill Press, How The Republicans Stole Christmas, New York, DoubleDay, 2005;and in Clint Willis and Nate Hardcastle, Jesus is Not a Republican, New York, Thunder Mouth Press, 2005. A liberal Christian response to the Christian Right on gay marriage is in David G. Myers and Letha Dawson Scanzni, What God Has Put Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage, New York, HarperCollins, 2005. For a more conservative view equally favoring gay marriage, see Jonathan Raunch, Gay Marriage; Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America, New York, Henry Holt, 2004. The best place to start on the dangers of fundamentalism might be with Charles Kimball's When Religion Becomes Evil, San Francisco, HarperCollins, 2002); and on the complexities of fundamentalism in the US, with Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout's The Truth About Conservative Christians, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2006
Chapter 9: The wisdom of the war in
The best way into the debate around the Iraq War is through the many official reports into its various phases produced in
For insider views from Washington, see Bob Woodward’s trilogy, Bush At War, Plan of Attack,State of Denial ( Simon and Schuster, 2004,5 & 6);Richard Clarke, Against All Enemies(The Free Press, 2004); and Paul O’Neill The Price of Loyalty(Simon and Schuster, 2004) For commentaries and argument around the war, see Francis Fukuyama, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy (Yale University Press, 2005); Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes, America Against The World (Times Books, 2005); Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq; Ken Roth, War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention, Human Rights Watch, World Report 2004; David Runciman, The Politics of Good Intentions, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2005.
For insider views from London, see Robin Cook, The Point of Departure (Simon and Schuster 2003); Peter Stothard, 30 Days: A Month at the Heart of Blair’s War, (Harper Collins, 2003); BBC News, The Battle for Iraq (BBC, 2003); Randeep Ramesh, The War We Could Not Stop (Guardian/Faber and Faber, 2003); and Christopher Meyer, DC Confidential (Orion, 2006). On UK involvement in the war, see David Coates and Joel Krieger, Blair’s War; John Kampfner, Blair’s Wars (The Free Press, 2003); Peter Riddell, Hug Them Close (Politico’s, 2003); James Naughtie, The Accidental American (Public Affairs, 2004); Steven Kettell, Dirty Politics: New Labour, British Democracy and the Invasion of Iraq (Zed Books, 2006); and Paul Williams, British Foreign Policy Under New Labour 1997-2005 (Palgrave, 2006).
Chapter 10: Is Prosperity Safest in Republican Hands?Many people currently argue that it's not.James Hacker's The Great Risk Shift, (New York, Oxford University Press, 2006) is a splendid place to start, particularly if combined with Senator Sherrod Brown's The Myths of Free Trade, New York, The New Press, 2004. For a more general critique of the American model of capitalism, and its vulnerabilities, see Jeremy Rifkin, The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, London Penguin, 2005; or Will Hutton, A Declaration of Interdependence, New York, W.W. Norton, 2003 (previously published in London as The World We're In). The wider debate on capitalist modes, and the truly enormous literature it has attracted, in surveyed in David Coates, Models of Capitalism: Growth and Stagnation in the Modern Era, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2000.
Chapter 11: Steps to a Better Future
Douglas Massey, Return of the “L” Word, (Princeton University Press, 2000); Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas, (Henry Holt, 2004); Eric Alterman and Mark Green, The Book on Bush (Penguin, 2004); Stanley Aronowitz, Just Around the Corner (Temple University Press, 2005); James Carville and Paul Begala, Take It Back :A Battle Plan for Democratic Victory (Simon and Schuster, 2006); Matthew Kerbel (editor), Get This Party Started (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006); Jared Bernstein, Common Sense for a Fair Economy, (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006); and Robert Reich, Reason: Why Liberals Will Win The Battle For America, (New York, 2004).