The U.S. Economy in 2016
At Democratic Left, Bill Barclay and Peg Strobel begin:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. This phrase from Charles Dickens’ novel about the French Revolution, Tale of Two Cities, aptly describes the starkly different views of the U.S. economy in 2016 and progress (or not) in the years since the financial panic of 2008.
The best of times: by the end of 2016, official unemployment dropped from 5.0% to 4.7%, reaching what Federal Reserve Bank (“the Fed”) Chair Janet Yellen called close to “full employment.” The worst of times: at his first press conference as president, Trump insisted that “there are 96 million [people] wanting a job and they can’t get [one].” Since 60% of Trump voters believed that unemployment went up during Obama’s eight years in office, Trump’s claim makes perfect fantasy sense.
It’s Only a Law, Unless…
There is actual enforcement. At the Chicago Reporter, Melissa Sanchez writes:
Several aldermen and workers’ advocates have launched a campaign to spur Chicago to toughen enforcement of its minimum wage and other labor ordinances with a new Office of Labor Standards.
The campaign comes just weeks after The Chicago Reporter found that enforcement of the city’s 2014 minimum wage ordinance has been largely ineffective. The city has investigated just a quarter of the 454 complaints filed since the ordinance went into effect in 2015, has recovered lost pay for only a few dozen workers and has yet to fine a single company for violating the ordinance. After questioning by the Reporter, the city said it would begin issuing fines.
Rauner & the Legacy of PATCO
At Labor Notes, Chris Brooks writes:
For the first time in four decades as a union, 28,000 Illinois state workers could be going on strike, facing down a Republican governor who campaigned on the promise to force a showdown with the union.
In a 20-day vote that ended February 19, members from the 70 locals that comprise AFSCME Council 31 voted in favor of strike authorization.
You can show your support for public employees and place yourself on a list to be mobilized by going to Keep Illinois Working.
The Alabamafication of America
Guess who really won the Civil War? At Harvard Political Review, Drew Pendergrass writes:
The lesson is simple: populism rises above all other concerns in Alabama. Demagoguery has a long track record of success in the South, and a politician who sufficiently channels that energy can say and do most anything — “grab them by the pussy,” for example — and still win by a landslide. George Wallace’s racism cost Alabama millions in economic development and outside investment, yet his populist appeal won elections. He served several nonconsecutive terms as governor, including one as late as the 1980s.
Trump won the election with the same flair as Folsom. With his cabinet picks and his agenda, it looks like Trump will govern like an Alabamian as well, with the classic strategies of a Montgomery politician.