A few ambitious points on fighting the crisis

We are facing two crises at once, health and economic, that are related in very important ways. The covid-19 epidemic has done major damage around the world, but it’s highlighting some serious structural problems with the US social model that better-run countries are not so afflicted by. We are plagued by a deep economic polarization complicated by minimal social protections; severely diminished state capacity, with eroded institutional structures and extremely debased quality of personnel at the highest levels; years of underinvestment in basic infrastructure, both broadly and in health care particularly; and… Read More

Why UI isn’t enough

I’m going to be posting a series of commentaries on the current crisis. Here’s a quick first It’s odd to see Democrats like Pelosi and Schumer objecting to Republican schemes to send everyone a check for $1,000, maybe two. Of course, one- or two-off checks for $1,000 won’t pay many of the the bills for very long. But talk of means-testing right now looks mean, cheap, and politically suicidal. Schumer says that rather than write checks, we should expand unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. It would have to be some expansion. Benefits are low,… Read More

Taxing the rich revisited

Back in October, I wrote about how taxing the rich, while a nice start, won’t be enough to fund a serious welfare state. That would require taxing the broader population seriously and we need to be honest about that. Until we are, Reagan will continue to rule from beyond the grave. Most of that post was about the details of financing—the cheapness of our own welfare state and what it would take to get to something more Scandinavian. But the political angle deserves more attention. That was developed nicely the other day… Read More

No robo

You can hardly look at Twitter without reading something about the impending AI revolution: robots are coming for your job. I’m a skeptic. By that I don’t mean to argue that IT and AI and all the other abbreviations and acronyms aren’t changing our world profoundly. They are. Tech affects everything—work, play, love, politics, art, all of it. But the maximalist version, where robots, equipped with artificial intelligence, are going to replace human workers, is way over done. No doubt they will replace some. But not all. Back in 1987, ancient history… Read More

Fresh audio product

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link): February 13, 2020 Yasha Levine on Chrystia Freeland, Ukrainian Nazis, and the proxy war against Russia • Lizzie O’Shea, author of Future Histories, on fake techno-utopianism and imagining a better future

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Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link): January 30, 2020 John Clegg, co-author of this article, on the economic roots of mass incarceration • Tobita Chow & Jake Werner, authors of this paper, on the US–China trade war

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Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link): December 26, 2019 Adam Kotsko, author of “The Evangelical Mind,” on the life and thought of that tendency • Shailja Sharma on India’s new citizenship law and protests against the country’s drift into fascism

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Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link): December 19, 2019 Aditya Chakraborty on the British election, BoJo, Brexit, the state of the Labour Party • Nathan Robinson, author of Why You Should Be a Socialist, on that very topic

RIP, Paul Adolph Volcker

Paul Adolph Volcker is dead at the age of 92. (Most accounts of the man suppress the middle name, though it was often pointed out with bitter glee by builders and others who were undone by his high interest rate policies in the early 1980s.) As I wrote in LBO when he left office in 1987, if capitalism gave out a Hero of Accumulation award, he would have been first on the honors list. Let’s recall what he did, because all the worshipful obits will almost certainly sanitize the history. Volcker was… Read More

Fresh audio product

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link): November 21, 2019 Ryan Grim, author of We’ve Got People, on the long fight between insurgents and establishment in the Democratic party • Jenny Brown, author of Without Apology, on the history and politics of abortion in the US (check out National Women’s Liberation and Redstockings)

Warren’s cagey health plan

People on the left have been debating Elizabeth Warren’s health plan since it was released a couple of weeks ago—“realistic” or a ruse? I vote ruse, but I don’t want to make that argument myself right now. Instead, I’ll allow a research note from Barclay’s, which found its way into my inbox, do that work. Here’s the opening paragraph of the report, by Barclay’s analyst Steve Valiquette: Compared to her previous hardline stance on M4A, the new plan represents a significant change in tone, in our view. Not only does the transition plan… Read More

Taxing the rich is only a start, though it’s a good one

It’s become near-consensus on the social democratic left that you can fund a decent welfare state by taxing the rich and shrinking the military. Sad to say that isn’t true. Those are good things in themselves, and you could pay for some excellent things with that agenda, but it would still be well short of actual social democracy. I’m defining social democracy as a large and robust welfare state that socializes a lot of consumption through taxation and spending, compressing the income distribution, reducing poverty sharply, capping the political power of the… Read More

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Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link): October 10, 2019 Corey Robin, author of The Enigma of Clarence Thomas, on the life and thought of a conservative black nationalist

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Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link): September 26, 2019 Joel Schalit, co-founder and editor of The Battleground, on the Israeli election • Martin Lukacs, author of The Trudeau Formula, on that slippery Canadian PM

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Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link): September 19, 2019 Sam Gindin on the UAW’s strike against GM, and the possibilities for the green repurposing of a plant GM is abandoning • Robin Einhorn on the role of slavery in shaping tax politics in the early US (article here)