I ran across this article in The Democratic Strategist last evening. I had to read it multiple times, and even run it by another kossack to be sure I understood it right.
First, I want to state I strongly support a big Democratic jobs spending bill, even a full employment economic policy. I believe it is not just the right thing to do, but its sound economic policy. The U6 unemployment rate is still 13.8% which is too high. I believe it is also good politics. Recent polls show 64% want job creation to be the number one priority. The public therefore favors a jobs bill over deficit reduction by a nearly 2 to 1 margin.
I'll go through the article. First:
The reality can be stated simply: the business community and mainstream economists - both of whom supported Keynesian policies for "full employment" in the 50's and 60's - now oppose them. This is the central roadblock to job creation today.Yes, the business community strongly opposes a jobs bill to put people back to work, not to mention a return to a full employment policy. But favoring both policies is really simple Economics 101. A jobs program and substantially reduced unemployment will put more money into ordinary people's pockets. That would increase aggregate demand thus creating even more jobs. I don't see how any rational person could oppose such a policy, unless they were misinformed or had a hidden agenda.
The only reason for the business community to oppose it is if wealthy executives are trembling in fear they might have to pay additional taxes to fund it. Or maybe it would increase the public's faith in government thus making it easier to pass other legislation such as a living minimum wage?
Why do we have to wait for the business community to support full employment before we can push for it?
The political implications of this new reality are clear. Democrats now need to base their strategic planning on the fact that job creation is no longer in any sense whatsoever a shared national goal or priority.So, a full employment policy mainstream in the 1950's and 1960's is now supported only by the political left? I just showed the public supports job creation over deficit reduction by nearly 2 to 1.
This article in the Democratic Strategist details public opinion polls on Keynesian economics and jobs programs.
Note the public is divided fairly evenly between whether people think large spending reductions would help or hurt job creation
Do you think large cuts in federal spending would do more to create jobs or do more to cut jobs in this country?"But if you add the category "not have much effect either way"
More to create jobs - 41%
More to cut jobs - 45%
Neither (vol.) -7%
Unsure --- 7%
"If the government makes major cuts in federal spending this year in an effort to reduce the budget deficit, do you think these cuts will: [randomize] help the job situation/hurt the job situation, or not have much of an effect either way?"In this poll, almost twice as many respondents thought large spending reductions would hurt the job situation than would help it. But most respondents thought it wouldn't make much difference.
Help - 18%
Hurt - 34%
Not have much of an effect either way -- 41%
The article goes on to say that Keynesian economics may be more accepted than is believed:
The number of Americans who genuinely and passionately believe that massive spending cuts would really create millions of new jobs is therefore likely closer to the 20%The conclusion was the poll results reflect a general lack of confidence in government and the fact many people have no idea how to go about creating jobs.
Isn't that a big opening for progressives to work towards moving the country back to Keynesian economics and a full employment policy?
My understanding is the authors believe the traditional Democratic Keynesian rhetoric goes right past many people because the public doesn't have the same confidence in government they had a generation ago. The race to the bottom has been going on for 30 years now and people are very discouraged and assume not much will ever be done.
I've seen such feelings here on Daily Kos. I've run into comments by people who are long term unemployed. I've run into diaries and comments by kossacks who used to earn a living wage, lost their job, and now work near minimum wage and exhausted their entire savings. I've run into comments by kossacks who don't feel they will ever be able to retire. I've run into comments by kossacks who run out of money part way through the month and don't know what they will eat. I read these comments and I can't blame any of them for feeling nobody represents them. How many other people are just a job loss, illness, or personal misfortune away from such a story?
That's partly what we are dealing with. We have to restore people's hope and people's faith that government can do something to improve their life. The last 30 years taught more and more people otherwise.
We also have to educate the public. Many people don't understand complex policy, but they understand their own life and struggles. I've found Keynesian economics is fairly easy to explain. If government spends money on jobs programs, unemployment, food stamps, health care, etc. this puts more money into people's pockets. If people spend more, it helps the economy. This is really a simple argument - but we need to make it over and over and over until it sticks in lower information voters minds.
The authors believe if we frame the issue correctly, we can reach some of the 41% who think it won't make any difference. However, the polls I've seen illustrate we already have solid public support for a good jobs bill.
Yes, some people will correctly point to Republican obstructionism as the culprit as to why Democrats can't pass much legislation. They are right. There have been more U.S. Senate filibusters in the last two sessions than in the 100 years prior.
True, through gerrymandering, filibusters, voter suppression, political primaries, and political hostage taking (debt ceiling, etc) the Republican Party and corporate elites continue to push the country to the economic right. But the Democratic Party has no effective mechanism to combat the Republicans political obstruction. We keep trying to be "the adult in the room." We think the public will see us as the reasonable ones open to bipartisan compromise, and a frightened GOP will relent afraid of losing the election. But that doesn't happen.
This would be an effective strategy if it was a sanity contest alone. The Democrats will always win a public opinion poll on which party is more sane. But today's GOP isn't interested in appearing sane or reasonable. They know their economic agenda isn't popular. The only way to pass it is to abuse minority political rights. They want to pass as much of it as possible under a Democrats watch to minimize the political fallout. So Gerrymander. Filibuster. Primary any Republican who appears open to compromise. Hold the debt ceiling hostage to force spending cuts. After all, no politician who loves America and her people would permit the United States of America to default on its debt. Since Democrats care, Democrats won't permit default.
Also, notice how the Republican Party appears to control much of government through simple abuse. With the gerrymandered House, political hostage taking, and primary threats, the Democrats can't pass anything even when they control the White House and the Senate! The Republican Party is able to force some of the spending cuts they want using political blackmail getting it done on our watch.
The Democratic Party needs to develop needs to develop a new political strategy to combat this political hostage taking. The politics of reasonableness came out of the New Deal era and lasted through the 1980's. This works only if the other party is reasonable and rational. That's no longer the case, so we need a new approach.
I just don't know what that strategy could be. That's a whole different diary but I can put that out on the floor for civil discussion. Ideas?