Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Poverty Progress?

"..GM's bankruptcy marks the passage of this model...GM promised high wages, lifetime employment, generous pensions,and comprehensive life insurance."

Robert Samuelson, "Welfare in a Bad Way," The Washington Post, June 22, 2009.

Are those really such bad things? Maybe we should be doing more mourning than scorning about the loss of good manufacturing jobs. A few weeks ago I heard an LA Times auto writer talk about the "vast welfare state of GM." He wasn't referring to worker benefits; he was referring to GM's corporate bureaucracy and its unwillingness to innovate over decades -- in the face of market information, competition, and dwindling market share. Why do so many discussions about the welfare state focus only on benefits for workers and the unemployed?

"Today the poor are no longer invisible...But [Michael] Harrington's prediction is otherwise correct. For all the changes ushered in by the 2008 election, a renewed war on poverty does not seem to be in the offing."

Maurice Isserman, "Warrior on Poverty," New York Times Book Review," June 21, 2009.

Don't be so sure. Fighting poverty requires tight labor markets, smart policies,and individual and community mobilization. Policy innovation is taking a real leap -- even as the economy sputters. Let's hope these elements can come together in a year or two.

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