Economy

Detroit Moves to the Next Phase

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
The largest municipal bankruptcy in history has come to a close in Detroit after a year of proceedings, ending in a flurry of compromise. Yet there was plenty of conflict in the last year, far more than could have been predicted. In November 2013, Detroit became the largest city in the country to file for bankruptcy. When the proceedings started, the negotiation of the settlement—and that is really what the bankruptcy became—was a discussion between an emergency manager, from a law firm dedicated to the financial sector, and the financial sector. The people tried to get a seat at the table, but the emergency manager had a monopoly on the information and for the first four months of the process his was the only story available. The people were long on outrage and short on evidence. That all changed when the public became empowered to express its views based on data and analysis. Raw emotion and outrage was the most important factor, but engaging on the issues was essential as a way...

In Blue State Turned Red, Former Candidate Says Low Turnout Reflects Dems' Failures

The fundamental lesson for Maryland Democrats is that a candidate must stand for something, and that something better be what the citizens of the state want. 

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) Larry Hogan, left, governor-elect of Maryland, is shown a campaign rally at Patapsco Arena in Baltimore on Sunday, November 2, 2014. He is accompanied by New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association. An earlier version of this essay appeared at The Huffington Post . T he national political red tide swept up the Chesapeake Bay, over the jetties of Spa Creek and up Annapolis's Main Street to the statehouse this week. After eight years of the Democratic administration of Governor Martin O'Malley and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown—characterized by substantial progress on social issues—the Lieutenant Governor Hex landed squarely on Brown. A lieutenant governor has never succeeded his governor here; this year was no different. In a day when fatigue with and anger at the Obama administration was evident across the country, one of the biggest surprises was here in Maryland. In a state where registered Democrats...

Progressive Midterm Victories You Didn't Hear About -- And Some That Could Still Happen

Across the nation, voters passed measures against fracking and abortion restrictions, and for the minimum wage, paid sick leave, public safety and gun reform. 

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Topher Jones, from left, of Denton, Texas, Edward Hartmann, of Dallas and Angie Holliday of Denton, Texas, hold a campaign sign supporting a ban outside city hall, Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in Denton, Texas. A North Texas city became the first in the state to ban hydraulic fracturing when voters passed a ballot measure on November 4, 2014. T uesday’s Republican wave of election victories did not reflect public opinion or the public mood. Instead it was the result of the GOP’s triumph in changing the rules of democracy to favor big business and conservative interest groups, including the triumphs of corporate money and voter suppression. But while Democrat candidates were going down to defeat, liberals and progressive won some impressive but little-publicized victories on important issues—including minimum wage hikes—especially in red and purple states, suggesting that voters are not as conservative as the pundits are pontificating. One of the most significant...

Minimum Wage Measures Pass Easily in Four Red States

In the 2014 midterms, the Democrats' economic agenda fared better than Democrats.

(AP Photo/Carson Walker)
(AP Photo/Carson Walker) South Dakotans decided on November 4, 2014 whether to raise the minimum wage in the state from $7.25 an hour to $8.50. Mark Anderson, president of the South Dakota AFL-CIO, led union members in gathering enough petitions to force a public vote on a minimum wage ballot measure. A s devastating as Tuesday night’s election was for Democrats—Republicans took control of the Senate and won a number of key governor races — it was actually an encouraging night for the progressive economic agenda. In four red states—Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota—minimum wage ballot initiatives all passed easily . In San Francisco, voters overwhelmingly passed a $15 minimum wage— with notably little opposition from the business community . And in Illinois, voters sent a clear message through a non-binding advisory initiative that they want lawmakers to raise the minimum wage, and fast. Increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 has been a major economic...

The Democrats' Catastrophe and the Need For a New Agenda

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, joined by his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, celebrates with his supporters at an election night party in Louisville,Tuesday, November 4, 2014. McConnell won a sixth term in Washington, with his eyes on the larger prize of GOP control of the Senate. The Kentucky Senate race, with McConnell, a 30-year incumbent, fighting off a spirited challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, has been among the most combative and closely watched contests that could determine the balance of power in Congress. D emocrats had ample reason to fear that this year’s midterm elections would not go well for them, but bad doesn’t begin to describe what happened to them—and the nation—yesterday. Catastrophic is more like it. Democrats didn’t just lose the Senate; they lost statehouse after statehouse. They didn’t just lose the red states; they lost the purple and the blue. They lost the governorships of Maryland...

Red State, Blue State: Polarization and the American Situation

The country is stuck but it is not stationary. Some things are changing—just not at the federal level.

(Map: Angr/Wikimedia Commons; Flag: AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip) A racing fan waves an American flag as they wait for the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at the Circuit of the Americas, Sunday, November 2, 2014, in Austin, Texas. This article appears under the title "The American Situation" in the Fall 2014 issue of The American Prospect magazine. A merica, it seems, is stuck—unable to make significant progress on critical issues such as climate change, rising economic inequality, and immigration. To explain that inaction, people often point to political polarization. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, are now so sharply opposed to each other that they are unable to find common ground. But while the country is stuck, it is not stationary. Some things are changing; it’s just not at the federal level that the changes are emerging. Polarization leads to stalemate only under certain circumstances—when the two sides in a conflict are closely balanced, and political institutions and procedures (such...

How to Reduce the Voting Gap

Demos
This post originally appeared at Demos.org Over the last three decades, research suggests, the class bias of the voting public has increased dramatically. In the 2012 election, there was a 33 point gap between the turnout rate of the highest bracket ($150,000 or more) and the lowest bracket ($10,000 or less). My article explores the implications of this gap, but it’s also important to know the causes. Demos.org Registration: The first part of the problem is registration. One study finds , “state voter registration laws pose a substantial barrier” to the mobilization of low-income voters. We can see this in the Census data from the 2012 election (below). Among eligible voters in the highest bracket 87.1 percent were registered in 2012, compared with only 63.2 percent of those in the lowest bracket. This registration gap certainly plays a role in turnout inequality, and unnecessary burdens don’t help. Worse, many states are currently purging their voter rolls , which primarily affect...

Wisconsin Referendums Designed to Rebuke Walker Will Appear on Election Day Ballots

While these ballot measures—calling for an increase in the minimum wage and for the state to accept federal funding to expand its Medicaid program—are non-binding, organizers hope that the results will reveal a clear preference of the electorate for both.

(AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski, File)
(AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski, File) Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker addresses the Republican National Committee summer meetings in Chicago on August 8, 2014. S ince his election to the Wisconsin governor’s mansion, Scott Walker, together with the Republican-led state legislature, has set out to undo some of the state’s progressive hallmarks, especially its hallowed place in labor history as a trailblazer in collective bargaining for public workers. Having pushed through a loudly contested bill in 2011 that all but ended that practice, Walker and the legislature have gone on to oppose raising the minimum wage and to reject the expansion of Medicaid available to the states, almost wholly with federal funding, under the Affordable Care Act. But this election day, as Walker's name appears on the ballot for a second term, county leaders and activists are using referendums to pressure the state to do both, in the hope of amplifying dissenting voices. While these referendums—calling for an...

No Love for Obama as Election Day Approaches

Official White House photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza I f Republicans win a significant victory in next Tuesday's election—and it now looks like they will indeed take the Senate—get ready for a whole lot of Obama-bashing, not only from the press and Republicans, but from liberals, as well. Some will go so far as to declare his presidency over, and I suspect more than a few genuine leftists will heap scorn on their liberal friends for their naïve embrace of a politician promising (as politicians always do) to change Washington. We can see one variant of this critique, the Jimmy Carter comparison, in a piece by Thomas Frank , based on an interview he conducted with historian Rick Perlstein: The moral of this story is not directed at Democratic politicians; it is meant for us, the liberal rank and file. We still "yearn to believe," as Perlstein says. There is something about the Carter/Obama personality that appeals to us in a deep, unspoken way, and that has led Democrats to fall for a whole string...

France and Italy Tell Germany: Take Your Austerity and Stuff It

(Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire - Press Association via AP Images)
(Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire - Press Association via AP Images) At the Nato Summit in Newport, South Wales, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francoise Hollande gather to watch a flypast of military aircraft from Nato member countries on the final day of the summit at the Celtic Manor on Friday, September 5, 2014. T here was a bit of good news from Europe last week. Two of the nations that desperately need some respite from austerity essentially told German Chancellor Merkel to stuff it . France, under pressure from Germany and the European Union to meet the E.U.'s straightjacket requirement that member nations carry deficits of no more than 3 percent of GDP (whether or not depression looms), informed the E.U. that it will not hit this target until 2017. The government of President François Hollande, under fire for failing to ignite a recovery, now plans economic stimulus measures—deficit target be damned. Under E.U. rules, France...

Chart: Values of Homes Owned by African Americans Take Outsized Hit Compared to Those Owned by Whites

Between 2010 and 2013, inflation-adjusted median home values fell by 4.6 percent for white households and 18.4 percent for African American households.

Prince George's County Government
Prince George's County Government Attractive homes line a street in Prince George's County, Maryland. This post originally appeared at the website of the Economic Policy Institute . T hough it is widely believed that home values have stabilized in most areas during the recovery, a recent report by the Federal Reserve found that between 2010 and 2013, the inflation-adjusted median home value for all homeowners declined 7 percent. Even more startling, however, is how unevenly home values have recovered by race of the homeowner. This 7 percent decline in the inflation-adjusted median home value breaks out into a 4 percent decline for both non-Hispanic whites and nonwhites (including Hispanics). But public data from the Survey of Consumer Finances—which provide more detailed race categories—show even starker differences among racial and ethnic groups. Between 2010 and 2013, inflation-adjusted median home values fell by 4.6 percent for white households and 18.4 percent for African American...

Can Robots Offer Amazon Moral Redemption?

An Amazon fulfillment center in Scotland. (Flickr/Chris Watt/Scottish Government)
If you're like many liberals, you probably feel conflicted about Amazon. On one hand, they seem to carry every mass-produced product in universe, and they usually have the lowest price, or nearly so. Shopping with them is incredibly convenient. On the other hand, the " fulfilment centers " at which people toil to pick and pack all the products people buy are basically the 21st century sweatshops, where workers endure horribly demanding work and demeaning treatment for low pay (Amazon isn't the only company that uses them, but they're the biggest). A few years ago, we learned that in the summer at some fulfilment centers they would park ambulances outside to cart off the workers who got heat stroke, because it was cheaper than installing air conditioning (which they eventually did in the face of a bunch of bad publicity). And the Supreme Court just heard a case involving Amazon workers who want to be paid for the time they are required to stand in line waiting to be searched like...

More Trade Agreements Won't Fix the Mess Made by Austerity

Even T-TIP's supporters know it will have little more than a trivial effect on growth.

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) A demonstrator holds a banner in Parliament Square in London, Saturday, October 11, 2014. The demonstration was one of many across Europe against the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post. T he U.S. economy is growing slowly and Europe's hardly at all. The stock market lurch last week is a belated acknowledgement that our two economies share a common affliction, and Europe suffers more seriously. The affliction is austerity. And yet the main remedy being promoted by the U.S. government and its European allies is a trade and investment deal known as T-TIP, which stands for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. According to the deal's sponsors, T-TIP would help stimulate recovery by removing barriers to trade and promoting regulatory convergence and hence investment. The proposed deal is not popular in the U.S. Congress, which has to approve negotiating authority...

Unpredictable Schedules Inflicted on Workers are Wrecking People's Lives

This nationwide trend goes virtually undetected when we take the economy’s temperature each month.

(iStockPhoto/4774344sean)
(iStockPhoto/4774344sean) Nurses are among the many workers who suffer from unpredictable schedules that often lead to working double shifts. T he unemployment drop in the September jobs report, to 5.9 percent, was welcome news. But as many have noted, wages remain flat and 7.1 million Americans worked part-time but wanted to work full-time. Furthermore, the monthly snapshot, which focuses on limited questions and simplified distinctions, altogether misses a key indicator of the job market’s health. Our recent book, Unequal Time , suggests that for the millions of Americans fortunate enough to be working, scheduling has become chronically unpredictable. Most discussions of employment fail to capture the widespread variability in work hours, or what some employers now like to call “flexibility.” While recent media reports have focused on the unwieldy lives of young people working at Starbucks and clothing stores—working with a day’s notice or splitting shifts—the issue is far more...

It’s Not a Skills Gap That’s Holding Wages Down: It's the Weak Economy, Among Other Things

Workers’ ability to handle technological advances doesn’t explain what’s happened to American wages.

(Photo by: Hendrik Schmidt/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
(Photo by: Hendrik Schmidt/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images) A robotic welding system for Volkswagon car body shells is featured at the Industrial Museum in Chemnitz, Germany. T he inadequate quantity and quality of American jobs is one of the most fundamental economic challenges we face. It’s not the only challenge: Poverty, inequality, and stagnant mobility loom large, as well. But in a nation like ours, where wages and salaries are key to the living standards of working-age households, all these challenges flow from the labor market problem. OK, but this is a supposed to be an article about technology. What’s the linkage between technology and this fundamental problem? As a D.C.-based economist who’s been working on the issue of jobs and earnings for almost 25 years, trust me when I tell you that most policy makers believe the following: “Yes, there’s a problem of job quantity and quality, but it’s largely a skills problem. Because of recent technological advances, most notably...

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