Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pro-Growth Progressives...

Last week there was a debate at TPMCafe's Bookclub that could have been interesting (had it not devolved into a shouting match) over Gene Sperling's new book, The Pro-Growth Progressive. Unfortunately, there's no permalink to the whole thing. So here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26.

Now that the dust has settled, it seems Sperling has made a lot of points and proposals that I have always liked, if his arguments are a bit flawed.

For example:
The EITC is the model of a policy that promotes economic dignity and upward mobility while again workers directly - not interfering with the market or employers. A quality 0-5 education program for poor children would promote the values of fair starts, develop the cognitive skills most essential for the 21st century workforce, and actually help employers by allowing more working parents to avoid missing work.
I like the EITC. But of course the EITC interferes with the market, it is a subsidy on labor. And in this case, as in many others, interfering with the market is not necessarily a good thing. It induces more hours work than you would otherwise choose. However, it is one of the better ways to redistribute income. I also like the idea of more birth-five education. But I don't like Sperling's language about the "21st century workforce" and I don't think that it's better to have parents away from their children for longer and longer periods of time.

Sperling's basic philosophy is almost identically mine:
What do I mean by progressive? I define it with three values. A belief in economic dignity for those who take responsibility for their lives; the opportunity for upward mobility, and the commitment that life's outcome should not be determined by the accident of your birth.
To the extent I am a liberal (or progressive?) I think that the government should focus on these things (and one other.) But what's up with "pro-growth progressive?" Are there two trendier or more cliched labels than "pro-growth" or "progressive" (which even the West Wing poked fun at in the live debate episode.)

Jason Furman points out that (amidst shameless Sperling-worship):
One of the interesting points Gene makes in his book is that our policies should target all of these sources of job loss. Retraining, wage insurance, and other proposals should apply to everyone dislocated from a job.
Finally, someone makes this point.

One more thing. Jason Furman agrees with me that
I love George Bush's phrase about an "ownership society," just not his policies to promote more ownership for owners and more debt for everyone else.
The policies may be flawed, but the idea is basically good, isn't it? Don't we want people to have some wealth and self-sufficiency? So it pains me to see Democratic politicians attacking the notion of an "ownership society" itself.

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