Sunday, May 06, 2012

Spare Change

News from France and Greece: austerity candidates lost. In France, it means the end of Nicholas Sarkozy's governance:

Exuberant crowds filled the Place de la Bastille, the iconic plaza of the French Revolution, to celebrate Hollande's victory. He will be France's first leftist chief of state since Francois Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995.

Sarkozy thanked his supporters and said he did his best to win a second term, despite widespread anger at his handling of the economy.


Hollande wants to renegotiate a hard-won European treaty on budget cuts that Germany's Angela Merkel and Sarkozy had championed. He wants more government stimulus, and more government spending in general despite concerns from markets that France needs to urgently trim its huge debts.

What does that mean for America? If the European debt deals fall apart, it could hurt Obama's reelection chances. But is it a harbinger of an anti-austerity vote that could cross the Atlantic?

Per Robert Reich, against socialism:

Socialism isn't the answer to the basic problem haunting all rich nations.

The answer is to reform capitalism. The world's productivity revolution is outpacing the political will of rich societies to fairly distribute its benefits. The result is widening inequality coupled with slow growth and stubbornly high unemployment.


And this is why a second Obama administration, should there be one, must focus its attention on more broadly distributing the gains from growth. This doesn't mean "redistributing" from rich to poor, as in a zero-sum game. To the contrary, the rich will do far better with a smaller share of a robust, growing economy than they're doing with a large share of an economy that's barely moving forward.

This will require real tax reform -- not just a "Buffett" minimal tax but substantially higher marginal rates and more brackets at the top, with a capital gains rate matching the income-tax rate. It also means a larger Earned Income Tax Credit, whose benefits extend high into the middle class. That will enable many Americans to move to a 35-hour workweek without losing ground -- thereby making room for more jobs.

It means Medicare for all rather than an absurdly-costly system that relies on private for-profit insurers and providers.

It will require limiting executive salaries and empowering workers to get a larger share of corporate profits. The Employee Free Choice Act should be an explicit part of the second-term agenda.

It will require strict limits on the voracious, irresponsible behavior of Wall Street, from which we've all suffered. The Glass-Steagall Act must be resurrected (the so-called Volcker Rule is more ridden with holes than cheese), and the big banks broken up.

And it will necessitate a public educational system - including early child education - second to none, and available to all our young people.

Is there the political will to reform capitalism -- in order to save it?

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