What Liberals Want Obamanomics to Be

Unions, unions and more unions. And huge deficits, too.


The economic wishes and dreams of Jeff Madrick in The Nation:

1) Raise the minimum wage still higher and on a regular basis. It has fallen far behind increases in inflation since the 1970s, and that affects higher level wages as well.

2) Encourage living-wage programs by local governments. Governments can demand that their contractors and suppliers pay well above the minimum wage. There is substantial evidence that this does not result in an undue loss of jobs.

3) Enforce the labor laws vigilantly. Minimum-wage and maximum-hour laws are violated to a stunning degree. American workers shouldn't be forced by their employers to understate the number of hours worked or be locked in the warehouse so they can't leave on time. Workers often make only $2 and $3 an hour.

4) Unions are not seeking a free pass to organize secretly when they advocate for open check-offs on cards to approve of a union vote. They are seeking to organize without persistent and often illegal management interference. Penalties for illegally deterring such organizing are so light, it makes little sense for management not to pursue strategies to stop organizing even at the cost of prosecution.

5) Request that trading partners develop serious environmental standards and worker-protection laws. This is good for them, bringing a progressive revolution and a robust domestic market to their countries. It is good for America, which will be able to compete on a more level playing field.

6) Demand that the president, governors and mayors speak up about unconscionable executive salaries and low wages. The influence from the top cannot be underestimated. A president who looks the other way sends a strong signal to business. A president who demands responsible treatment of workers will get a response. Business does not like such attention.

7) These measures should be accompanied by serious investment in modernized infrastructure and energy alternatives, which can create millions of domestic jobs that pay good salaries. It should also be accompanied by a policy that supports a lower dollar--contrary to Rubinomics--in order to stimulate manufacturing exports again. Accomplishing this may require a new system of semi-fixed currencies across the globe. The unabashed high-dollar policy of the past twenty years has led to imbalances around the world that have contributed fundamentally to US overindebtedness.

8) And finally, the nation needs more balance on the part of the Federal Reserve between subduing inflation and creating jobs. Americans can live with inflation above 2 percent a year. There is no academic evidence to support a 2 percent annual target, although the Fed has made this its informal target.