The De Blasio platform is a worthy effort to establish a policy banner around which the left can rally. It raises some important goals, but misses some as well. In particular, it focuses on labor, which is the right focus, but from a narrow regulatory standpoint (particulars below). It is thin on goring the oxen of the 1%, and AWOL on the poorest of the poor.
The labor market needs more regulation, and the platform’s points are the right ones. A higher minimum wage, paid family leave, the right to organize, and more work-conditioned benefits like the EITC are key demands. What’s missing is a broader notion of how to tighten the labor market by raising employment and putting upward pressure on wages. In this realm, the most important levers are fiscal and monetary policy. Fiscal policy means more deficit finance, directly from the Federal government, and indirectly through the states, leveraged by Federal aid.
Everybody has their own favorite list of new spending initiatives. I think pre-K is among the most important, followed by infrastructure (more rail for metro regions, bridge repair, school repair, public broadband). From a labor market perspective, the composition is less central than the amount. Even the Center for American Progress (CAP) has proposed something in the neighborhood of a hundred billion a year. (It’s interesting to note that CAP, bound at the hip to the White House and HillaryLand, and Hillary herself, are a bit ahead of the platform in several ways.)
On the monetary policy side, the key battle is forestalling interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve. Broadly hinted at commencing this year, these increases may not do much damage, but they won’t be helpful at all. Democrats follow what I’ve called the Doctrine of Fed Supremacy: thou shalt not criticize the Fed because it should stay above politics. Which is utter bullshit. The Fed is neck-deep in politics, just not the kind to which you ordinary slobs have any access.
I’m always amused by the plethora of well-intentioned efforts to discover ways to reduce poverty by nudging changes in personal behavior. Like it’s some kind of treasure hunt. Reducing poverty is really simple: give people a consumption floor by establishing income guarantees (especially for those who lack them presently), and by fomenting labor market tightness with fiscal and monetary policy. The platform is mum on both of these fronts. In my view they are foundational.
In Part One I touched on the organizational context of the platform and of Bernie Sanders’ campaign. We have a pretty good idea of how this movie ends. Bernie raises a lot of good points, Hillary makes sympathetic noises, Hillary gets the nomination and Bernie urges us all to come to the aid of our party. What’s interesting is whether Bernie will use his limelight to build an organization that outlasts the campaign, something Jesse Jackson refused to do in the 80s. Obama has his OFA organization too, but it is lifeless.
Absent some post-election prospects for left organization, this entire enterprise of primaries and let’s stop crazy people from becoming president will amount to a holding action. Hillary could produce some incremental reforms and hopefully not start any new wars. Holding actions are better than retreats. In my book, that isn’t good enough. We should look for ways to do better.