The idea of unemployment is that there is nothing that the unemployed individual can do for the society—or anyone in the society—worth paying for.

But that clearly is false. In a society with unemployment, beyond those who are simply between jobs, there are myriad needs which are not being met. (Indeed, in a society with full employment, there are still myriad needs not being met.)

Is it really better, to have people capable of teaching on an unemployment line, while classrooms are overcrowded?

Is it really better to have people capable of repairing/upgrading roads and bridges on an unemployment line, while roads and bridges remain inadequate and in disrepair?

Is it really better to have people capable of researching ways to prevent or cure cancer—or capable of being trained to do such research—on an unemployment line, when adequate prevention and cures are not yet available?

The list is endless.

(And if all such imaginable needs are met, and there really is nothing left over to do—or more realistically, less urgent things left over to do—how about dividing the work that is left among all employables—leaving everyone more time for vacations and retirement?)

So why, when there is so much need, those capable of fulfilling at least some of these needs, remain idle?

There is a concept that unemployment is necessary. Too much employment is bad for the economy. If everyone is employed, labor becomes a scarce resource. It becomes too expensive. Prices become too high, businesses and consumers suffer.

Given this idea, the unemployed are actually contributing value to the economy by not working—keeping costs and prices down. But then, they are actually doing something worth paying for, no? Unemployment is a service they are providing. So there is something they are doing for the society. So, is it not just that they be paid for it.

(Indeed, perhaps this is a strong case for unemployment insurance. It’s not a charity payment for those who cannot support themselves, but a payment for a valuable service—keeping costs and prices down. And maybe even more, for by spending the insurance payments, they are helping to stimulate the economy—creating business as customers for business products.)

Of course, this idea of “positive unemployment” does go against the idea that people paid to do nothing doesn’t seem as good as actually addressing social needs. Is it really better for the economy to pay people to do nothing than to have them working to fulfill real social needs?

Certainly not. To accept unemployment, to allow social needs to go unaddressed, is clearly a failure of the economy—or, to state this in another way, our failure to organize our economy in the most socially helpful way.

Again, there is the counter (conservative Burkean) argument. It is better to allow the economy to follow its natural course than to interfere with it. All human intervention will make things worse—with unintended consequences, some perhaps very hurtful. This is generally the attack on socialism—the example of the command economy, making unwearable shoes, cars that fall apart and farmland soil denuded of nutrients, with water tables dried up.

Yet, the counter argument is stronger—human interference in the natural working of the economy—when based on past economic experience and careful research—has a long history of correcting the “natural economy,” which, by its nature, has a tendency to run out of control—leaving devastated individuals, communities and nations. (Can refer to the New Deal, and such books as Michael Grunwald’s The New New Deal and Steven Conn’s To Promote the General Welfare: The Case for Big Government.)

So the challenge is indeed to interfere in the economy—to some way organize the economy so that needs are addressed, using all available manpower—i.e., no unemployment.


This blog and webpage are not simply a forum for discussing the bigger issues of progressive politics in the USA, and its prospects, but also to test some ideas for our forthcoming book, co-authored with Prof. Arthur Lerman of Mercy College, the opening draft excerpt of which, follows:




A new age of Progressive politics is upon us, one that has already begun in fits in starts and differently in different regions of the US. We will argue in these pages that events from the early 1990s to early in the 2nd decade of the 21st century have brought forces into play that will broaden and strengthen, probably through the middle of this century. Reforms in education, defense spending, healthcare, housing, energy and climate change [ETC:]will spring from soil now being prepared purposively both at the grassroots level and leaders mostly, but not exclusively, of the Democratic party. We will formally call this slow but profound tectonic shift in American politics New Progressivism, but use this interchangeably with simple “progressivism,” in the interests of word economy. Doing this will also link the 21st century brand of progressivism to earlier movements in the early 1900s, the 1930s, and the 1960’s.
It was tempting to begin this book with a phrase distinctly out of fashion:* “A specter is haunting America, the specter of progressivism, a normal state of viewing solutions to problems as distinctly people oriented as opposed to government as an alliance between corporations and agencies. And new media no longer compelled to listen and report equally on crazy attitudes and statements about Big government, sacred defense budgets (read Right Republicanism), and the sort of reforms espoused by the Clintons and Obama, plus many newer ones. * [unfashionable because identified with the opening of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto (1848), a non-starter in 21st century American Political discourse.]
Persuasive and prescient books have been published with titles like The Emerging Republican Majority (Phillips, 1969) and Judis and Texiera’s The Emerging Democratic Majority (2002) that have projected seemingly similar shifts in the body politic from the late 1960s to the early 1990’s and from the early 1990s almost to the present. Phillips (in what he must now regard as a former life!) saw clearly what few other did at the beginning of the first Nixon term, and Judis & Teixeira made a case, less bold but still essentially credible, for what might be called “ ‘Government is the Problem’, Reagan-Bush fatigue” and that Clinton was the harbinger of a new period of moderate, mostly Democratic government reform.
This latter view seems to have been weakened by the congressional election of 1994 and its Republican “Contract with America”, little of which saw the light of legislative day, but which informed and some might say, inflamed Republican political attitudes, during the years of the presidency of Bush 2, and perhaps even more hotly during the Obama years. To stretch the metaphor, the Tea party wing of the Republican party came to a full boil by the Congressional elections of 2010, and the heat was felt by the party’s formerly moderate conservative Mitt Romney in the presidential race of 2012. Public political discourse began to take on a “which planet are you on?” quality rarely seen in American politics, except during periods of extreme polarization.
This book will for the most part eschew the heavy emphasis on data interpretation of the first two “Emerging..” books, and rather propose and argue the unfolding of a progressive turn in U.S. life. It will begin with an a overarching chapter on changes in the politics of US regions, and stress that reforms will occur (in the old fashioned sense, not as in “education reform” or “welfare reform”) first at the grassroots level, then at the federal executive level, and finally spread through the national Congress and then to the state legislatures and governorships.
It may be argued in 2013 that this is a “nursery tale”, a Pollyanna-ish pipe dream of what used to be called liberals would like to see. We ask only that the reader keep an open mind and hear us out in our chapters on Women, Education, the Environment, the Job market and government economic policy, Race and religion, and Young voters[ reframe because repetitive of earlier passage. We expect that most of the democgraphic trends will lead to greater and greater advantages for progressive change by a national government much more interconnected with civil society and grassroots reformers. But part of the nearer term progressive success will come from the discrediting of truly extreme and unrealistic arguments and advertising, of the far right of the Republican. Party, particularly those which drove the moderate republicans into near extinction.
We may seem to face long odds and charges of being counterintuitive in an age in witch government has successfully been painted as excessive and profligate. But will maintain that the Right Republicans have sown the seeds of there own potential destruction. And, the two parties have proved adaptive and resilient over many decades, so we do not anticipate that Republicanism will implode—it will remain strong, but in more limited geographic areas and forced to change some of its precepts.

Here is a look at what Progressives might expect from the “re-configuring” Republicans~





    1. Incremental umbrella strategy, with a far right, “Tea Party” wing       increasingly “Fissured” and localized mostly in the Deep        South. Here the party would field candidates and register       voters with more inclusiveness in mind, targeting “reachable’ Hispanics,       blacks, women, youth, non-voters. This seems the default sine qua non of       the post 2012 elections for the party mainstream. As long as the       far-right, mostly Southern redoubt of inflexible conservatives remains inflexible, the party will       have big problems uniting around issues and candidates.
    1. Remobilize the conservative base, less       fissure with far right, get       out the vote and hope that democrats will split between moderate and       progressive wings. Make a few strategic concessions on things like       immigration but largely “stand-pat-ism”. May not seem like most promising       strategy, but may in fact be the most probable one. A slight pragmatic       tilt welling up from the state and local levels, and a more “exciting”       candidate than Romney, may make this viable, especially if some/several       of Obama’s policies create backlash. On the other hand, it may be very       hard to find a candidate as clever and magnificently flexible as Romney       at the top of the ticket in the future. And who looks as presidential for       our look-ist culture. Note that while Reagan seemed quite conservative       for his time, the two Bushes, especially Bush 1, seemed less so.
  • The first two seem to be the likeliest short term Republican trajectories, but there is the chance that the Republicans will form a “tack just to the right of whatever democrat they are running against strategy. They showed signs of leaning toward this in the waning days of the 2012 presidential election campaign, when Romney—not the strongest of candidates Personally when pitted against Obama, pulled very close in many polls. The risk here is that such Clintonesque pragmatism will not play well with the Far Fight, which will have to either change quickly (not likely) or be placated for the Republicans to have Any real chance to win nationally.

      The Tea Partiers, paradoxically, or both a drag on the national ticket and an essential part of the base. Remove even half of the ultra-conservatives from Romney voters and he would have gone down like the Hindenburg. MOVE Romney 5 degrees to the right, and he would have done the same. In fact, it may be difficult for any candidate to see-saw as effectively between the center-right and far right as Romney or a “Romney type.” On the other hand we must never forget the power of a progressive “unconventional” candidate like Obama to unite Republicans. The popular vote spread in 2012 was smaller than one might have supposed, given the number of right-wing positions Romney acceded to. He was truly the I’m not Obama candidate and 4.7 out of 10 voters preferred “Not Obama.”

  • The last of the 2 big party scenarios is the least likely, especially with the powerful role the House of Reps. Seems to be playing in supervising the party, would simply be for the Republicans to adopt a proactive strategy of mixed-bag progressive and attractively packaged conservative/pragmatic policies and continue to do what they do so well: raise Big money, and play fast and loose with the truth, which the Democrats can do, but seem to have considerably more trouble doing, than their opponents.

3 Common Sense Solutions To Save American Quality Of Life To 2050

7 Common Sense Solutions To Save American Quality Of Life To 2050 : here are the first three

1. Government-private sector co-investment in massive, job-creating national infrastructure improvements.. Come on, folks! This is ripe fruit for job creation and generating spending in the economy (Keynesian–?—yes but injecting funds into American businesses, e.g. construction):
a. roads, bridges, etc., upgraded and built, sorely needed
b. people employed, many at skilled jobs such as welding
c. multiplier effect on economy: welder must buy groceries, clothes, go to doctor, etc.

2. Government- private sector partnership in civic projects: parks, school facilities (playgrounds, sports arenas, auditoriums), urban and highway beautification, rural health clinics, utilization of retirees for tutoring, paid public service or privately contracted work—the list goes on…

3. There is a solution implied in the Summers-Hubbard ”debate” (NY Times Magazine 5-5-2013) over ways to get revenue for expensive, growing entitlement programs: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc., (actually Summers advocates job creation and stimulus, Hubbard prefers trimming or restructuring the programs so they can pay for themselves for a longer period): the Only really solid solution is the potentially unpopular one that follows, but if it is framed by an effective public information campaign, it Can work. It goes like this:

a. most people want a reliable, “it will be there for me” Social Security and Medicare, etc. system

b. these are essentially government savings programs that for most people become disguised welfare programs (yes, it’s true) in that they pay out more than is paid into them by most people; all of a citizen’s payroll deductions over a pre-retirement lifetime earmarked for Social Security and Medicare will probably not equal or even come close to what is paid out to her/him,

c. to grossly oversimplify a way to capture the revenue needed to close the gap—$150 billion for Social Security alone in 2011(Hoover Institution ) –and keep these programs healthy, assume 150 million employed Americans (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5/13, ) being taxed On Average (sliding scale) $3000 additional dollars per year, or—euphemistically—paying $4000 more into all retirement benefit programs… this seems outrageous and in fact is on the high side, but stay with us on this..

This would generate an additional 150 x $3000 per year or $350 billion dollars annually toward closing whatever gap exists

d. This might generate a firestorm of initial opposition to this increased taxation, but this should die down somewhat when it is realized that is will save the programs for many decades (adjusted of course)

e. Much of the blowback will come from the very people (the Rep. Paul Ryan’s, etc.) who say the system is unsustainable, and it will be said that the increased Social Security- Medicare pay-in as you go will hurt families and dampen the economy—not addressing increased health provision costs and generally imposing an onerous tax scheme,

f. Americans of the middle class could easily pay this, because they make between $40,000 and, say, $400,000, and there would be marginal rates for the new program and a sliding scale, so that a $400,000 earner might pay an added $5500 in extra SS/Medicare tax, while one making $40,000 might pay $1500 additional—or less.

g. Here are some areas from which a relatively painless $4000 could be raised, depending on individual spending habits:

(1) luxury taxes could be very modestly raised across a variety of conspicuous consumption designer goods: cars, liquor, designer closing items and top of the line sporting equipment electronics, etc.; the point would be to spread the revenue extraction over a wide range of goods so that no one sector was taxed too painfully; an alternative to be considered with car would be a VAT/value added tax across an even wider range of items, exempting food some clothing items, medicine, etc.
(2) Consumers could be told that $3500 a year is less than $68 per week; for someone making $100,000 per year in one of the more expensive urban areas this might seem like a lot except that the sliding scale could reduce Their relative tax increase to, say, $50 per week: an arbitrary savings of part of that amount could be derived from converting 2 latte coffees to regular ($3.50 to $1.50=
$4); an increased tax of $5 on a man’s suit or woman’s high end dress ($10 for both for a total of $14), $2.00 on a carton of cigarettes or $3.00 on a fifth of whiskey or $2.00 on a six pack of beer ($18 if 2 of the 3 are bought total).. and so on, idea is clear
h. another way of putting the preceding is that every consumer who wants a guarantee of a solvent social security and Medicare system with fewer or slightly more expensive discretionary items; as an example if a $.50 tax could be placed on a high end coffee maker or snow tires or a riding lawn-mower or any of 1000 such items, substantial revenues could be generated.

Playbook for Progressives 2013-2020




One overarching idea: The Democratic Party showed what it could do in 2008 and 2012. It projected a more successful image campaigning than governing (cf early Reagan or Nixon—domestically). The Democrats need to forget about gloating and antagonizing the Republicans and aim for “holding the center while moving the whole operation ever so slowly and incrementally to the left” (the Europeans are good at it in both directions, we can do the same while avoiding what seems to be the epithet “European”).

Sure there will be clashes with the Republicans; Obama needs experts in working with Congress (Daschle types) without the hemming and hawing of 2009-11. Of Course some questions just don’t have ready answers, and the Republicans may just try a “post Appomattox rearguard action”..but I don’t think the Bobby Jindals and Marco Rubios are going to settle for the Party of No. The idea would be for the Democrats to reify a Progressive movement with a call to centrists and “moderate”, Chaffee-Snow-Specter-even Christie Republican followers to join up. Perhaps this is too idealistic, but some Democrats need to get off their high horse and leave the vilifying of Republican troglodytes alone. Let some Keith Olbermann’s bloom, but as free lance provokers

Let the Republicans, the Fox News Crowd, use that playbook. Of course MSNBC and an energized liberal radio can be tried again (maybe use “Progressive” for now—invite moderate independents like Ron Reagan and Charlie Christ to come on air and have their say). Paradigms are not shifted over-night. The worst of the World Recession seems to be over, this is still a center right country, the election was only a snapshot. Reform will have to come by stealth. If stealth and moderation does not work, the democrats should seek evidence that a donnybrook will fall their way. The Affordable Healthcare act should have been something Obama could have campaigned on in 2012. a point of consistent pride. As it kicks in we will hope that it, and comparable, smaller programs will go the same way, that is be better “promoted.”

Race: Head of black dalliances with Republicans at the pass; let them call themselves independent, but make sure they vote Progressive Democratic; Obama lost 2% of the black vote 95-93 this time. Black success stories should be wooed assiduously by Democrats and convinced that you do not have to become a Republican just because you have made millions selling Pizza, or—whatever
Gender: Continue to offer women incentives to stick with the Democratic Party (PDP—Progressive Democratic Party); get more of them to run for office and appoint more to the bench and bureaucratic positions—seamlessly—not that much different from current practice; the republicans will try to take some women away, the PDP must be vigilant; they must not be antagonistic or dismissive about abortion: they must follow Obama’s tack of discouraging it socially/psychologically while not interfering with it politically-legally: no mean feat

I am talking about doing the doable right now. Obamacare was a tremendous accomplishment. The next big push should be energy independence but, More, climate change; those republicans who are scientifically sane, should be nurtured and encouraged to speak out—they can do so as Republicans without really hurting the PDP, which will have the advantage on this issue for the foreseeable future; the PDP must nibble fringes of the Green Republicans and Independents

YouthAs specified above, the Progressive Democratic Party MUST rpt MUST get every expert, social media guru, and Financial angel available to make sure that the youth vote never falls below 60-40, and aims for 70-30; the Republicans will Always capture at least 30% of the college and 20-something vote. They did this even in the late 1960’s and early 1970s when I was a young republican, when I believed that the Liberal wing of the Republican party had a future, with the Javits-Scott-Percy-Romney(1)-Hart wing of the party could draw on the domestic impulses of the Lincolns and T-Roosevelt’s… 1st you have coalitions, then your coalitions—you try to “Brand them” as pragmatic progressives… The goal by 2020 and more by 2030, is to have debates Not about things like Creationism v. Evolution or abortion v. choice, or taxation v. privatization, but rather How do you improve schools, How do you reduce fossil fuels (the Tobacco industry model might have something to teach us here.

Military SpendingHere is some ripe fruit for both deficit reduction and fiscal prudence; it will take a slow education process, preferably led by ex-Military and defense think tank experts, NOT the traditional Left Peace Shock Troops (they come in later; they can chatter to the faithful for now in their own bubble, the Revolution is not coming for the next 10-12 years)… almost every military expert will tell you that the $800 billion defense budget (incl some veteran costs) can be cut by 20% (arms, not veteran rehabilitation) without even feeling it; military bases (and later prisons) must ever so gently and incrementally be phase out: think what we could do with a lean, smart military 500-600 $billion per/year now as the goal, $200 billion less than currently; deficit spending and national debt reduction through military sanity Must become Cool, an Art form… Look, food stamps are great, but the savings from military spending cannot be seen to be going to Entitlements for Now, a better target should be Education, education that stresses competitive components, for now, but phases out mindless testing and gradually encourages a more Finnish model… this will not be easy… now on to..

EDUCATIONHere is a real battleground, so many sub issues, but some more ripe fruit for progressives, if they play their cards right; the Scott Walkers need to be stopped and discredited, without necessarily turning the clock back to the status quo ex ante Walker, Ohio, Benno Schmidt, Charter-ists… All voices will have to be heard, but money and smart social media-ing should be put in the service of pragmatic reform that does not trash teachers, schools, tenure, liberal arts… maybe some pilot programs of job retraining and “trade” schools for displaced workers and smart high school students that simply aren’t cut out for Plato and Milton (sorry)

ImmigrationNot my area, but I do know that the de-whitening process must seem non-scary, gradual, constructive or the backlash will continue.. certainly the Democrats/PDP should not let the Republicans get ahead of them on high profile
Hispanic personalities… they need to nurture strong electoral candidates, always, and now use their momentum in 2012 to make bureaucratic and judicial appointments of moderate progressives who are just centrist enough to make Republican senate filibusterers think carefully before saying NO

Gun Control Another third rail in American politics.. this is not going to be a quick fix process… when a Columbine or Tucson happens, alas, you seize the opportunity to zero in on assault weapons, gun shows, strengthening the Brady legislation; you have to gradually discredit the nutcase-interpretation of the Second amendment; the NRA is not going away nor will it be “humanized and reformed.”.. but we can give respect to sport and target use of weapons

The economySurely the Big Enchilada… again not really my area, so central and multi-faceted… the short term strategy must be search for common ground, but no capitulation to the Far Right—those people want respect but they also do not respect namby-pamby-ism.. god help us, but at least until 2016, we need some Avuncular Reagan types (Volker? Let’s get him to cut back on cigars)… after 2016, if Hillary wins or a talent hunt for a new Clinton with a chastity lock on his zipper turns up someone appealing and substantial, then we unleash the Robert Reich’s and Elizabeth Warren’s.. Until we can say that the electorate is Not Center-Right, but rather Center-Center (2016) moving Center Left (2020 or after—at best), we need to keep polarizing figures in Massachusetts and California, and try them out on the National stage… A dirty not so little secret is that when Obama finishes up, should a white candidate be the best PDP person, then the certifiably insane right will cool down like a reddened infection… but we cannot and will not turn the clock back.. the Zeitgeist rules, an in this USA place only 3 things can generate real change: 1. Truly charismatic leadership, 2. A looming catastrophe (maybe global warming), 3. Education and likeable, smart incrementalist reformers—Clinton/Obama types…TAXES also tough, but there are signs that sanity is widening


5 Myths About the 2012 Elections and America’s Political Future

  1. Obama and the Democrats Won Because Romney was a Weak Opponent

Romney was a relatively strong opponent whose credentials, solid business background and Republican governor of a liberal state not to be taken lightly. He was both telegenic and gaffe prone. The latter did not appear to be a problem in his: A. beating Obama soundly in the first debate, B. shadowing within 2-3 points of Obama in the polls and sometimes equaling or besting him, C. All of this in spite of being the quintessential one percenter, D. All of this and he still won 47+ % of the American electorate and the white male and female vote, in spite of caving to many very conservative positions

  1. Obama’s Victory was about his likeability, not his policies

Obama was indeed seen as more likeable and/or to have the average American’s interest more at heart, but he was also credited with Trying, if not always succeeding, to re-energize the American economy, maintain a newly respectable and thoughtful foreign policy, expand health coverage and protect programs that existed,….more (a bit for various groups: “illegals”, environmentalists, women—that minority that is the majority, veterans, not to be cynical but the latter a nice way to compensate for no war medals)

  1. The Right Wing of the Republican Party was discredited and is Moribund

Indeed the far right was a net drag on the party but events since the election show that while the party leadership is distancing itself from Tea Party excesses and hard-shell reactionary politics, the core of the right-right remains intact, unapologetic, perhaps more localized in the south and conservative plains and RockyMt. states

  1. The Republicans will move more to the Center and halt Democratic gains

This may happen at the top of the ticket in subsequent elections (the meaning of the curve of 2008-2012 is clear enough, but the Republicans have a delicate balancing act in smoothing the rough edges of the far right and yet maintaining their most active cadres; in 2016 and beyond they may not have as polarizing (read black, smart, “elitist”) figure as Obama to rally the troops against

  1. An increasingly progressive electorate and reform at the very top are “Enough.’

No they are not. The Democratic and progressive forces must groom a new generation of governors, representatives and senators (the latter are retiring 2-1 over republicans, and the most liberal—Harkin, and Rockefeller—at that, and state legislatures where gerrymandering has been deadly for the Dems)