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Wrote three things today

In which I point out that commitment to shrinking the size of the safety net is a matter of broad Washington consensus, not just Republican ideology.

In which I talk about the shrinking of the regulatory/administrative state as well.

And then there’s the private life of power, alive and well in the Chicago education system.

Bonus round: Two excellent and thoughtful responses from Elias Isquith and Jamelle Bouie. Already responded to Elias above—needless to say Jamelle and I disagree about some things, which I might address in more detail later on.

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No comment.

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Patricia Barber is easily my favorite contemporary jazz singer: witty, melancholy, and enigmatic.

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Wrote some stuff today

1.) Labor leaders are feeling positive about last night’s fiscal cliff deal, but they’re worried about the looming debt ceiling and sequestration battles.

They’ve managed to delay—but not truly rout—Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid cuts.

2.) Liberals should be calling for a radical expansion of the social safety net, not just trying to prevent cuts.

Drawing on the Frase-Sunkara plan for inspiration.

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Wednesday Latvia Blogging

I spent a bit of this afternoon reading up a bit on Latvian macroeconomics, as one does. It all started when the New York Times ran a piece suggesting that austerity had actually worked in the little Baltic republic. But you’ll notice that the author of the piece seems to be hiding his whole hand here. According to him, this is the recent economic history of Latvia:

  1. Global economic collapse.
  2. Austerity.
  3. ?????
  4. Economic growth!
  5. But people are still poor.
  6. Ashen faced old woman clad in a babushka sighs heavily and shrugs. But what can you do.
Krugman responds, writing: “Even in Keynesian models, a small open economy can, in the long run, restore full employment through deflation and internal devaluation; the point, however, is that it involves many years of suffering — in the long run we are all dead.” But I think we should also note what Latvia got in return for the austerity measures: a bailout amounting to $10.3 billion, or 38% of the country’s GDP.

So if there’s a lesson, it could be that austerity will totally work in the United States if the Troika gives us $5.74 trillion. But I don’t think that will happen, do you?

Now please enjoy Latvia’s official Eurovision 2000 entry:

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Happy New Year - Todd Snider

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On the renewal of the FISA Amendments Act

Here. Nothing particularly new or insightful for those who are already familiar with the privacy issues, but hopefully it’s a decent primer for those who didn’t already know about the Senate’s bipartisan endorsement of warrantless wiretapping.

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Life after ‘right-to-work’

Nevada has been a right-to-work state since the early ’60s, but Culinary Workers Local 226 seems to have been doing alright. Another argument for the value and resilience of social movement unionism.

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Furthermore, all correspondence referring to [the final solution] was subject to rigorous “language rules,” and, except in the reports from the Einsatzgruppen, it is rare to find documents in which such bald words as “extermination,” “liquidation,” or “killing” occur. The prescribed code words for killing were “final solution,” “evacuation” (Aussiedlung), and “special treatment” (Sonderbehandlung).

[…]

For whatever other reasons the language rules may have been devised, they proved of enormous help in the maintenance of order and sanity in the various widely diversified services whose cooperations was essential in this matter. Moreover, the very term “language rule” (Sprachregelung) was itself a code name; it meant what in ordinary language would be called a lie.

[…]

Eichmann’s great susceptibility to catch words and stock phrases, combined with his incapacity for ordinary speech, made him, of course, an ideal subject for “language rules.”

"

— Currently reading Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem

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The year in labor

I wrote a brief recap of what happened to organized labor in 2012. The short version: It’s mostly hopeless, but not totally hopeless.

Notably, the good news for labor mostly occurred within “non-traditional”* unions or campaigns. I’ve written quite a fair amount about those small but meaningful successes, so here’s a truncated list if you want to read more:

'We're going to fight for what's right for the kids': Chicago teachers on why they're striking

Phoenix Rising: How one union is changing Arizona’s politics

After the strike, fast food workers expect support to grow

After Black Friday, anti-Walmart campaign goes international

And if you’re looking for the thematic through-line, here’s an analysis of why all of this is happening now:

New York’s fast food workers strike. Why now?

Lastly, though it doesn’t quite fit into the list of articles above, I can’t resist plugging this investigative report I did from Michigan shortly after the state’s governor signed its new “right-to-work” legislation:

Right-wingers Koch, ALEC, pushed Michigan ‘right-to-work’ laws

2012 was a pivotal year. For better or worse, 2013 won’t exactly be boring, either.

*Scare quotes around “non-traditional” because what we now think of as “traditional” unionism is largely a product of the post-war status quo and the National Labor Relations Act, whereas “non-traditional” labor actions are often something of a throwback to the unionism style of the 1890s/1930s.