Category Archives: Social policy

Snowstorm Post Mortem: How Safety and Administrative Convenience Trumped Needs of the Working Class

When it became clear that the supposedly epic blizzard of earlier this week was overhyped, at least as far as New York City was concerned, we wondered about the thinking process that led to the only shutdown of the entire public transportation system for a snowstorm.

We raised doubts about this measure, on a philosophical as well as a practical level. As we noted,

I’m bothered by the continued creep of safety concerns being used to restrict individual movements. Maybe I’m a dinosaur, but citizens used to be deemed competent to make prudent choices.

But the real, largely untold story of the transit shutdown and travel restrictions was the impact on people who were working what amounted to second and third shift, meaning not white collar professionals but service workers and their managers, most of all those with long commutes, as well as staff (nurses, orderlies, cooks, cleaners) in New York’s many hospitals.

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Mathew D. Rose: Hope for Greece, and Perhaps for Europe Too

Monday morning I encountered a word in a number of newspapers that I have not read regarding the European Union for years: Hope. The occasion was the election in Greece. I suddenly became aware of how long much of this continent has been living in what appears to be a never ending-crisis.

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How Much Success is Syriza Likely to Have in Ending Austerity?

While the election results in Greece have sent shockwaves through European technocratic elites and have rattled investors, it is not clear how successful Syriza will be in getting big enough changes implemented in Eurozone policies and its own bailout terms to end the humanitarian crisis, rather than just create the sort of bounce off the bottom growth that analysts like to depict as progress. Indeed, once you walk though the likely bargaining positions of the various parties, there is little reason to be optimistic on Syriza’s behalf.

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Media Demonization of Syriza: Pretending that Neoliberalism is Popular and Mainstream

We’re having two posts on the Greek elections tonight, since the media accounts are so slanted as to merit discussion. The notion that a democratically elected government would put broad social interest over continued, self-destructive sacrifices to financiers and their allies in European governments is so threatening that a large swathe of media outlets seem […]

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Ilargi: Brussels is a Bunch of Criminals

I was going to start out saying yesterday was the saddest day in Europe in 50 years, or something like that, because of the insane and completely nonsensical largesse the ECB permits itself to launch, aimed at once again saving a banking system, but which will not only not help the European people, it will make things even much worse than they already are. Which is also, lest we overlook that ‘detail’, entirely thanks to the ECB/EU/IMF Troika.

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Removing the Social Security Tax Cap Would Benefit Most Workers

As we and others have discussed at some length, the concern over Social Security funding is vastly overhyped. As Nicole Woo discusses in this Real News Network interview, one simple fix, that of eliminating the cap on who is subject to the tax, would solve most of the gap that is anticipated in long-term projections. That’s before we get to the MMT issue that “taxing” to fund any government activity is a political mechanism that is a holdover from the gold standard days, and not how government functions are funded operationally.

In fact, with more and more promised pensions being slashed, and investment returns flagging thanks to QE and ZIRP, the notion that ordinary people can save enough for their retirement is a chimera. Thus preserving and strengthening Social Security is more important than ever.

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Your Home Is Your Prison: How to Lock Down Your Neighborhood, Your Country, and You

This post describes a particularly ugly face of the ever-increasing levels of surveillance to which we are all being subjected, namely new tools for monitoring criminals, including those whose cases looked weak or politically motivated. But its not just that surveillance is being used as an alternative to prison. In 2012, two school districts in Houston were already requiring students to wear electronic tags. And as this article warns, pre-crime is coming too.

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The Failure of a Past Basic Income Guarantee, the Speenhamland System

The idea of a basic income guarantee is very popular with readers, more so that the notion of a job guarantee. Yet as we have mentioned in passing, this very sort of program was put in place on a large-scale basis in the past. Initially, it was very popular. However, in the long run it proved to be destructive to the recipients while tremendously beneficial to employers, who used the income support to further lower wages, thus increasing costs to the state and further reducing incentives to work. And when the system was dismantled, it was arguably the working poor, as opposed to the ones who had quit working altogether, who were hurt the most.

It is also intriguing to note that this historical precedent is likely to resemble a a contemporary version of a basic income guarantee.

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Answering for America’s Madness

Yves here. This post by Ann Jones discusses the difficulty that Americans have in answering questions from foreigners about large swathes of our policies. I had enough trouble explaining (mind you, not defending) the Iraq War when I lived in Sydney from 2002 to 2004, when Americans were generally still well tolerated around the world. I can’t imagine what it is like now.

Some readers will no doubt beg to differ, but it appears that our supposed leaders are operating out of a mass delusion and trying (and for the moment succeeding) in imposing it on the rest of us.

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Happiness and Satisfaction Are Not Everything: Improving Wellbeing Indices

Yves here. I’m using this post as an object lesson in what is right and wrong with a lot of economics research to help readers look at research reports and academic studies more critically. That often happens with post VoxEU articles; they have some, or even a lot, of interesting data and analysis, but there’s often some nails-on-the-chalkboard remarks or a bias in how the authors have approached the topic. Readers, needless to say, generally pounce on these shortcomings.

Here, the authors take up a legitimate topic: are surveys on wellbeing asking the right questions?

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Something That Changed My Perspective: Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation

The first Christmas-New Years period for this site, in 2007, we featured a series “Something That Changed My Perspective,” which presented some things that affected how I viewed the world. The offerings included John Kay on obliquity and Michael Prowse on how income inequality was bad for the health even of the wealthy.

Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation (which I should have read long ago) is proving to be a particularly potent example of this general phenomenon.

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The Airing of the Grievances

For those who came in late, Festivus — I’m not big on the whole forced cheeriness of Xmas, as readers can probably, by this point, imagine — is normally celebrated on December 23. However, because Festivus really is for the rest of us, Festivus can also be celebrated at any time, so here we go! […]

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