About Me

I am Associate Professor and Chair of the History Department at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. I am also the Academic Director of the Clemente Course in the Humanities, in New Bedford MA. Author of "Social Security and the Middle Class Squeeze" (Praeger, 2005) and the forthcoming "Saul Alinsky the Dilemma of Race in the Post-War City" (University of Chicago Press), my teaching and scholarship focuses on American urban history, social policy, and politics. I am presently writing a book on home ownership in modern America, entitled "Castles Made of Sand? Home Ownership and the American Dream." I live in Providence RI, where I have served on the School Board since March 2015. All opinions posted here are my own.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Penny-wise, (Rand) Paul foolish -- or, why government often matters

It appears, at times, that American conservatives seem to even deny the possibility that government spending or regulation might actually save money -- either save the government money (a secondary consideration) or save the country money (presumably, the primary goal).  As I noted yesterday, there is now ample empirical evidence that environmental regulation (along with Medicaid) has decreased infant mortality; for decades now, scholars have argued that the 1944 G.I. Bill more than paid for itself as well.  Spending large sums of public money on high quality universal pre-school would reduce all sorts of other economic and social costs, both for the government and for the nation as a whole.  There are, of course, far too many other examples to recount here.

It should be said that cost-benefit analysis should not be the only rubric for measuring whether a government program, tax or regulation is worthwhile.  Take the estate tax, for example:  as Andrew Carnegie and Theodore Roosevelt argued early in the 20th century, the goal was in large part to break up concentrated wealth.  "The man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the State because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government," Roosevelt told Congress in 1906.  "The prime object should be to put a constantly increasing burden on the inheritance of those swollen fortunes which it is certainly of no benefit to this country to perpetuate."  The revenue it generated was a side benefit.  It is important for liberals to continue to stress that in most cases, most of the time, government works.  Post-New Deal liberalism was founded on 2 core ideas, both of which made sense to many Americans who came of age in the 30s, 40s and 50s:

1)  that disaster (economic, natural, medical) can strike any of us at any time, so we should be willing to share or pool risks; and
 2) that we can and should collectively build and maintain common institutions and goods through the instrument of government.  Like American liberalism more generally, these two assumptions are as conservative as they are liberal -- this explains much of their appeal, in fact.

While one can translate those two core ideas into a purely economic calculus, I think this misunderstands them.  More to the point, it ignores the fact that there are other justifications for government action that are valid as well:  justice, for example.  Public or common goods must be created, protected and enhanced, since private action is unlikely to do so.  And this must be done even if we cannot sufficiently calculate or determine a monetary benefit.  There is a danger, a slippery slope for liberals (and the country) in arguing that only a 'return on investment' constitutes a valid rationale for state action.  For one, if a healthy return cannot be demonstrated, it feeds public resentment of taxation (see my taxaphobia post of a few days ago).

One result has been a surprisingly bi-partisan denigration (and de-funding) of the IRS over the past decade or so.  Little money has been or can be saved by trimming the IRS budget.  Indeed, one can convincingly argue that a big chunk of the present deficit could be erased simply by beefing up IRS capacity, so it can go after individuals and corporations that aren't paying their fair share.   The Government Accounting Office (GAO) recently estimated that approximately $330 billion in federal taxes had never been paid as of the end of fiscal year 2010.  A good chunk of the tax evaders are individuals with "substantial personal assets" including multi-million-dollar homes and luxury cars, the GAO reported.   For every dollar the IRS spends on audits, liens, and property seizures, the government brings in more than $10.  If we spend less on IRS enforcement, as Republicans demand (and to which Democrats too often acquiesce), it costs us.  Obviously it costs our government revenue, but there is another cost, too:  it slowly undermines public faith in the rule of law.  Surely this is an odd position for conservatives to take.  A society that cannot tax itself, and that undermines popular belief in the effectiveness of government, will generate a politics that slowly devours itself -- like an autoimmune disease.  We have certainly reached this point now, haven't we?

The common assumption that any dollar spent by government is inherently wasteful simply flies in the face of evidence, historical and contemporary.

In keeping with this theme, Steven Benen of Washington Monthly usefully points us toward an exchange between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) earlier this week, during a subcommittee hearing on funding the existing Older Americans Act.  Sanders made the point that spending $2 billion to prevent hunger among the elderly should be considered an investment, because it would ultimately save money (for the feds, and overall) on health care and nursing home costs.

Paul was incredulous that any federal program or regulation could be considered an investment.  "It's curious that only in Washington can you spend $2 billion and claim that you're saving money.  The idea or notion that spending money in Washington is somehow saving money really flies past most of the taxpayers."

The brief exchange is worth watching:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

how inequality reproduces itself, and why policy matters


Nancy Folbre, economist at UMass-Amherst, has a thought-provoking piece on yesterday's NY Times Economix Blog, "Born to Lose: Health Inequality at Birth."
In the post, she summarizes some of the work by Princeton's Janet Currie and others, on the relationship between health disadvantages at birth, and future economic well-being and educational achievement.  


One of the most fascinating and important interdisciplinary research agendas of the last decade has been the effort by economists, sociologists and epidemiologists to understand how inequality is reproduced in the developed world, and how/why inequality matters.  To the extent that I have any optimism left about the possibility of a more just America, it is based on my reading of this literature.  Of course, as a theoretical and empirical matter this question (inequality) is hardly new; the reproduction of capitalist class relations has generated some of the most insightful intellectual work of the past 150 years, starting with Marx.


But this work -- typified for me by the vital work of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in Great Britain, and James Heckman, Thomas Shapiro/Melvin Oliver, and Annette Lareau in the US -- is different.  It isn't theoretical, at least not primarily.  Rather, it seeks to understand how inequality is partly rooted in such things as pre-natal and and infant health, the environmental factors shaping cognitive development, social capital, nutrition, exposure to violence, the correlation of all of these things with place, and the overall income and wealth inequality in the society in which children are raised.  It acknowledges the vital importance of resources, of course (family income and wealth), and the power that shapes their distribution.  But it also attempts to show us why and how a lack of wealth and income matters -- how it shapes places, families, bodies, minds, and ways of seeing the world.  In the context of the US, as I have argued elsewhere (and will argue further here in the future), the ubiquity of racial and economic segregation also appears to profoundly shape all of these things, and thus the distribution of primary social goods.  It is (and will be) my contention that untying the knot of metropolitan segregation is likely to unravel many more things.  But more on that later.


I see 3 absolutely vital (and interrelated) insights coming from this stuff:
1.    International comparisons (see Wilkinson's work with Kate Pickett) reveal that income inequality within  developed societies tends to have enormous impacts on health, culture and quality of life for all citizens, not just the least privileged.  In other words, citizens living in societies with great inequalities of income tend to have worse outcomes in terms of mental health, obesity, social trust, exposure to violence, life expectancy, and social mobility.  The statistical correlations are simply too strong and consistent not to be at least in part causative.  The graph below comes from Wilkinson and Pickett, and can be found on their website.  Note the strong relationship between income inequality and infant mortality, which appears to be recursive -- in other words, inequality leads to high infant mortality rates, which tends to reproduce inequality, etc.


Infant Mortality


2.  Policy matters, because those developed nations with less inequality (and the improved quality of life that seems to stem from it) are more equal because they have chosen it -- its not culture that matters here, or economic growth.  And just as the circle of inequality is vicious, the circle of equality is virtuous:  in so far as a society chooses to be more equal, it tends to be more willing to make decisions (even sacrifices) that will benefit the collective good.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Stories from the Kitchen Table

The US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, chaired by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), gathered some fascinating testimony yesterday.

As part of an ongoing series of hearings on "Stories from the Kitchen Table: How Middle Class Families Are Struggling to Make Ends Meet," Harkin gathered together experts and ordinary folks to talk about the economic insecurity dominates the lives of so many American households.

You can watch the testimony (its about an hour long) here, and get written versions of the testimony.  The testimony of Jared Bernstein (Joe Biden's former economic adviser) is particularly worthwhile -- its one of the best short and sweet summaries of the economic predicament of the American middle class I've seen.

Conservatism, taxes and the defense of inequality

As Ezra Klein points out today, GOP leadership in Congress continues to stubbornly resist tax increases as a legitimate part of any bi-partisan deficit reduction package.  "President Obama needs to decide between his goal of raising taxes, or a bipartisan plan to address our deficit," said Senators McConnell and Kyl in a joint statement. 


One wonder where all of this will wind up.  The GOP appears to be wrong on both the politics and policy. Polls consistently show that most Americans accept that any deficit reduction package will have to include cuts and revenue increases -- with the overwhelmingly majority of them favoring increased taxes on the wealthy.  It is hard not to think that the GOP's baseline position is defined not by fiscal austerity or a philosophical commitment to small government, but by opposition to wealth redistribution and the desire to protect the economics interests of the privileged.  


In a must read article in Democracy, Jonathan Chait dug deeply into the 'taxophobia' that seems to uniquely define American conservatism in this historical moment.  The conservative movement's 
embrace of taxophobia is probably the most important development in American political life over the last three decades. It is the one quality that most distinguishes American conservative elites from conservative elites in other countries. They’re more likely to question climate science, more sanguine about people dying for lack of health insurance, and less xenophobic (which is rather nice). But above all—far above all—they hate taxes.
Political science research indicates that this taxophobia has been the prime driver of the growing partisanship on economic and redistribution issues among our political elites.  More profoundly, Chait argues, conservative taxophobia has redefined the terms of the political debate.  Democrats are the new fiscal conservatives, while the old fiscal (Keynesian) liberalism stands at the fringes of our economic discourse.  Despite three decades of evidence contradicting supply-side economics, its hold on the Republican Party has only strengthened.


Chait again:
The Republican Party inhabits an otherworldly new realm that even the staunchest right-wingers of a generation before could scarcely have imagined. As the two parties trade power back and forth, the ideological basis for economic policy ping-pongs between the old right and a loopy kind of far-right. Periods of Republican governance have grown increasingly disastrous, while periods of Democratic governance are largely consumed with staving off fiscal collapse.
Clearly taxophobia in the GOP persists despite the empirical evidence.  Outside the rarified air of the Republican leadership, there is little questioning of the role that tax cuts have played in getting us to this point.  As Lori Montgomery wrote when analyzing the component parts of our shift from surpluses to deficits, "the biggest culprit, by far, has been an erosion of tax revenue triggered largely by two recessions and multiple rounds of tax cuts. Together, the economy and the tax bills enacted under former president George W. Bush, and to a lesser extent by President Obama, wiped out $6.3 trillion in anticipated revenue."  Simply letting the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule (or paying for any portions that policymakers decide to extend) would stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio for the next decade.  The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities provides us with this useful chart:

 Tax Cuts, Wars Account for Nearly Half of Public Debt by 2019


Clearly, there is a political and ideological commitment to taxophobia in today's GOP, quite distinct from whether there is any evidence for its effectiveness as policy -- indeed, policy may very be irrelevant.  It is hard for anyone with even a basic knowledge of the economic history of the US in the past 3 decades to maintain -- as the GOP does today -- that tax cuts will both generate revenue and put a cap on government expenditures.  So why the taxophobia?  Other than in the early 80s, perhaps, one cannot argue that pure vote pandering is the cause, particularly because the sorts of tax cuts the Republicans have consistently favored (and enacted) have been heavily skewed toward the top of the income ladder. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

the Cry Wolf Project

If you haven't heard about this yet, I strongly suggest you check it out:  The Cry Wolf Project is a network of advocates, researchers and scholars dedicated to demonstrating that, in fact, conservatives and business groups are only "crying wolf" to delay, prevent and weaken important and common sense regulations that save lives, clean our environment and make our families more secure.  The Project is assembling an amazing data bank of historical quotes from opponents of regulatory reforms and social justice measures.  As a historian, I can tell you that many of the fallacious arguments one hears today have a long pedigree; knowing this, and familiarizing oneself both with historical counter-arguments and evidence, is vital to creating a more just and equal America.

Good news for American workers

Some welcome news yesterday from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), courtesy of the AFL-CIO Blog:  the Board released proposed changes in the way union representation elections are conducted that it says will “reduce unnecessary barriers to the fair and expeditious resolution of questions concerning representation.”


The changes are minor, of course.  American labor law desperately needs to be updated, with card check and other reforms.  Recent events in Wisconsin and elsewhere have made it abundantly clear that the decline of the American labor movement over the past 3 decades has not been the inevitable result of structural and global economic shifts, though these things have played a part.  Rather, it has political (and legal) roots.  One has only to look at union density numbers for other wealthy nations to see this.  While many other countries have experienced declines too, the drop has been particularly sharp in the United States.  Canada, which has different labor laws than we do, retains a union density of over 30%.  And union density closely correlates with rates of income inequality...which is itself strongly related to other seemingly unconnected social measures like infant mortality, life expectancy, mental illness, violence, social capital, obesity, and so forth.


But for those of you on the left who continue to insist that there is little daylight between the two parties, yesterday's rule changes should make it clear that the occupant of the White House matters enormously.  Where do you think the countervailing power to financial capital is supposed to come from?  Bloggers?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My hovercraft is full of eels

Looking forward to using an Italian version of this phrasebook on our trip...

Friday, June 17, 2011

No 'El Bulli' for me, alas

The World's Greatest Restaurant, Barcelona's "El Bulli," will apparently close at the end of July.

I've never eaten there, and apparently never will.

For me this is somewhat akin to the Beatles breaking up, before I was old enough to see them.

C'mon, Ferran AdriĆ  -- just a year or two more?

Ah well. At least I can watch Anthony Bourdain at El Bulli:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Peter Gabriel, me, and the anti-apartheid movement

I will be joining my best and oldest brother Dennis at a Peter Gabriel concert next Friday. Gabriel is of course an enormous talent, but no song has meant more to me than 'Biko.' Biko, as you may know, was a black nationalist student activist in South Africa. He was killed by the apartheid regime in the late 70s.

As a college student in the mid/late 80s, my life was consumed by the anti-apartheid movement. My friends and I struggled mightily to get my school -- Vanderbilt University -- to divest from companies doing business in apartheid South Africa. We built shanties; I addressed the Board of Trustees; I went on a hunger strike; we raised money for the ANC. While we failed, subsequent events proved us right.

During my junior year, I had the good fortune to be a student delegate to an anti-apartheid conference at the United Nations. There, I gave a speech about the student movement. I ended it with a quote from Gabriel's song "Biko":

You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher

Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Countdown to our European trip!!!!

The Santows will be departing for Europe in less than 20 days!

In the meantime, a little teaser:  Bologna!

Crowding out the Confidence Fairies

David Dayen wrote a nice -- and depressing -- piece on the state of our national economic discourse this past Monday in the American Prospect, I Ruined the Economy and All I Got Were These Lousy Tax Cuts.


The takeaway:
“Curtailing the one major consumer [the federal government] that is continuing to consume—it’s just a terrible idea, especially when you have a major demand gap,” says Michael Linden of the Center for American Progress.  Unfortunately, Dayen concludes, the Obama administration seems to have conceded that terrible idea; what remains is a negotiation over how 'terrible' to make it.


When the debt ceiling deal is done (or even if it isn't), it appears we are about to disappear into a Japan-style economic black hole.  One possible result of this might be a political re-alignment that brings to the foreground all the critical issues about our political economy that we have neglected for so long -- sustainability, inequality, etc.  A more likely outcome is that the American voters will respond by giving more power to those portions of the GOP that dug the hole in the first place, and who promise to keep digging.  The Democrats will promise to dig with a smaller shovel.  The shovel will be sold by an American corporation, but manufactured abroad.  We will buy it with a credit card.


The GOP leadership routinely uses the phrase 'job-killing government spending,' claiming that that spending crowds out private investment, thus destroying jobs.  Obviously the flip-side of this argument is that employment will soar with massive cuts in public spending -- essentially giving us the Republican position on the debt and deficit at the moment.  Of course, it is entirely reasonable for conservatives to question the size of government.  They believe that there is an inverse relationship between big government and individual freedom (and a robust civil society).  While I think this view is ill-informed in a modern economy -- it misunderstands the material preconditions of both individual liberty and community viability -- I don't want to dispute it here.  Clearly the conservative view creates a predisposition against public spending.  That predisposition plays a valuable role in public discourse.  Indeed, one hopes that people from all parts of the political spectrum desire government intervention to be efficient, effective, and only as big and enduring as is necessary.


But what is going on right now is not a debate about the size of government.  It has been said many times that budgets are philosophical documents; embedded within them are assumptions about both 'is' and 'ought,' and a path from one to the other.  David Leonhardt puts it well:
The goal of deficit reduction can’t simply be arithmetic. It has to be philosophical, as well. In what ways is the private sector incapable of planting the seeds of future economic growth — and what, therefore, must the government do? What’s the least amount of spending needed to ensure a decent life for even the most vulnerable citizens? Who is in the best position to pay that money? 
As I argue below, I think the present emphasis of our political elite on reducing the deficit is misplaced, particularly if we refuse to understand its sources, the logical remedies, and the vital role that addressing the present downturn aggressively must play in future deficit reduction.  Republicans are making a series of empirical claims that are demonstrably false.  Democrats -- the White House in particular -- has failed to challenge these claims.  Leonhardt makes a useful distinction between the "deficit we have" and the "deficit we imagine."  The one we 'imagine' is a deficit caused by "waste, fraud, abuse, foreign aid, oil industry subsidies and vague out-of-control public spending."  This view is fueled by the hyperbolic (and false) claims of the Tea Party wing of the GOP that President Obama has massively expanded the size of government, threatening the very existence of American capitalism.  The 'deficit we have' is caused by the world’s highest health costs (by far), the world’s largest military (by far), irresponsible tax cuts — and "to pay for it all, the lowest tax rates in decades."  One might also add in decades of wage stagnation for most American families.


The end result is that we continue to avoid the philosophical issues raised above, relying instead on demonstrably false assumptions about government spending, taxation, job growth, and the relationships between them.


Of course, we could just do nothing, too, couldn't we?  Take a look at the CBO's long-term budget outlook, below:





If Congress lets the Bush tax cuts expire (or offsets their extension in some way), implements the Affordable Care Act as scheduled, and makes or offset the Medicare cuts prescribed by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act — which CBO calls the “extended baseline scenario” — the national debt will be totally manageable, as Ezra Klein points out.  If Congress extends the Bush tax cuts with no offsets, repeals ACA and its cost controls, and protects doctors from Medicare cuts without making up the savings elsewhere (the 'alternative fiscal scenario'), then the national debt goes out of control.


Is government spending killing jobs, as Rep. Boehner and others assert?   If public spending were financed by large tax increases or high interest rates, this position might be reasonable.  But the Obama stimuli have involved deficit spending, with interest rates up against the zero-bound.  Given that, there is no reason to think that government purchases of equipment (or labor) destroy jobs, while private purchases don't.  As Alan Blinder has recently pointed out, business investment in equipment and software has been booming, not sagging.  While real GDP grew only 2.3% over the last 4 quarters, business spending on equipment and software jumped 14.7%.  There is no 'crowding out.'  Indeed, the more reasonable position -- take a look at the retraction of spending at the state and local level -- is that in the present environment, budget cuts are killing jobs.  In this environment, the 'crowding out' argument isn't relevant; it seems to be based on ideology rather than evidence.  Worse, the budget cuts open for discussion at the moment tend be from those (discretionary) parts of the government with the best track record of "turning today’s spending into tomorrow’s economic growth," as Leonhardt puts it.  But if one assumes that all public spending is wasteful, we force ourselves to wait (how long?) for some other force to magically generate economic growth.


Republicans argue that cutting the deficit in the near term (exclusively through budget cuts, it appears) will cue the Confidence Fairies, spurring investment, economic growth and job creation all by itself.  Of course, there are plenty of good reasons to doubt this ”expanding by contracting” theory.  David Cameron's Britain cut $180 billion from its budget last year; the economy shrank, and real household income dipped to its lowest level since the 1930s.  We don't have to cross the Atlantic for case studies, however.  Just take a look at our state governments, most of which are forced by their constitutions to maintain balanced budgets.  As study after study has indicated, state-level layoffs and cuts have deepened and prolonged the recession, overwhelming Obama's inadequate stimulus.  At a time when government at all levels needs to jump into the demand breach -- or at least not exacerbate it -- we have seen nothing of the kind.  Dubious GOP complaints of a massive expansion of government under Obama notwithstanding, our problem is very much the opposite.


Bond trader Bill Gross of PIMCO -- hardly a liberal -- essentially made the same case the other day, in a mid-month note to his investors.  Gross criticized the “anti-Keynesians” in both parties who believe “that fiscal conservatism equates to job growth.”  The truth, he says, is just the opposite. “Fiscal balance alone will not likely produce 20 million jobs over the next decade. The move towards it, in fact, if implemented too quickly, could stultify economic growth.”  What is needed, rather, is for government to "temporarily assume a bigger, not a smaller, role in this economy, if only because other countries are dominating job creation with kick-start policies that eventually dominate global markets.”  Deficit reduction "can wait for a stronger economy and lower unemployment. Jobs are today’s and tomorrow’s immediate problem.”


Deficits matter in the long run, but first we must survive the short run.  As Keynes once put it, "in the long run, we are all dead."


One wonders where the GOP thinks employment will come from?  Presumably we can all find work drowning the government in Grover Norquist's bathtub?  Perhaps this is what Schumpeter meant by 'creative destruction.'  Let's burn down the house, and groove on the ruins, man.  Sometime I wonder if they hope that the economic apocalypse that may result from debt default will itself stimulate demand, by causing all of us to party like there is no tomorrow in anticipation of the impending (Ayn) Randian rapture...


Sadly, the Obama Administration appears to have swallowed the idea that the Austerity Angels will soon descend, if only we give them the proper burnt offering.  Last week, several White House officials, including Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling, stressed deficit reduction as the primary component of their economic-growth strategy, and repeatedly claimed that reducing the deficit would generate “confidence."


It isn't entirely clear how 'confidence' is supposed to lead to job creation -- particularly when business surveys leave little doubt that hiring is presently limited by a lack of demand, not fears of regulation, taxation, and government spending.  The most recent National Federation of Small Business Confidence Survey starts out like this:
“The proximate cause [of the decline in small biz optimism] is the fact that 1 in 4 owners still reports weak sales as their top business problem. Consumer spending is weak, especially for “services,” a sector dominated by small businesses.”
Dayen usefully points out that since Larry Summers left, Obama's economic team is now fully controlled by financiers and political operatives.  The former, not surprisingly, fear bondholders more than they fear voters; the latter seem to view debt and deficits through a moral lens (rather than an empirical and long-term one), and believe that independents will only respect Democratic administrations that model 'toughness.'  I believe it was Groucho Marx who once described politics as "the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies."  Obviously we have profound long-term deficit and debt issues.  It is unclear to me how near-term austerity -- which will assure us anemic economic growth for years, while limiting our ability to investment in infrastructure and human capital -- can address this.  Indeed, cuts now will make it harder for us to address these issues, not easier.


I still maintain that this crisis has presented us with a great opportunity, a chance to plant the seeds for a new political economy, one that is sustainable in every sense (economically, political, ecologically, morally).  There’s a lot of slack in the economy and borrowing costs are historically low -- if the government financed this borrowing at the 30-year TIPS rates, we’d be looking at an interest rate of 1.79% as of last Friday!


What would those 'seeds' look like?  I'll say a lot more about this in a future post, but for starters:


*  Massive investment in public, universal and high quality early childhood education
*  An infrastructure bank, as Senator John Kerry has proposed
*  Investment in and modernization of our public health infrastructure
*  Real financial reform (see Simon Johnson and Elizabeth Warren)
*  Using tax incentives, regulations and the federal purse to expand the rental and cooperative sectors of the housing market
*  Moving away from sprawl, and racial/economic segregation in our metropolitan areas 


Do you hear that crunching?  That's your political elite, eating your seed corn.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Can capitalism be re-imagined? Or only undone?

William Greider edited a fascinating series in the most recent issue of The Nation, on "Re-imagining Capitalism."  Many of the entries are in keeping with Greider's work in his book The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy.

I'll have commentary on some of the entries in a bit.

Monday, June 13, 2011

FDR and the moneychangers

For my first blog post in 7 years, I am more than happy to give the first word to Franklin Roosevelt.  Above you will find an excerpt from a speech given at Madison Square Garden on the eve of his landslide 1936 re-election.  That year (and in his 1944 2nd Bill of Rights speech), FDR came as close as any major presidential candidate ever has to articulating social democracy in an American idiom.  Of course, he then followed it up with the austerity measures and budget cutting that caused the 1937 'Roosevelt recession,' a mistake President Obama appears to be making too.  FDR then learned his lesson.  Will Obama?

You might also enjoy FDR's June 27th, 1936 speech accepting the Democratic nomination.  It was given at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, just a block or two away from my old digs at Penn:
FDR, Acceptance Speech, June 27th 1936, Philadelphia PA