Should American Progressives Be Calling for a “Public Option” in Banking?

November 30, 2011  |   Economics & Trade Politics and Policy Progressive Political Commentary

Should American Progressives Be Calling for a “Public Option” in Banking?

Proposals for a public banking option are almost unheard of in the U.S., where free-market orthodoxy has, throughout most of our history, held sway over collective approaches to the provision of public and private goods and services. Nonetheless, the concept deserves serious consideration based on the evidence in at least a couple of areas. First, there is the striking success of this model in other advanced and advancing economies for providing and directing lower-cost, long-term capital essential for growth. And second, while better financial sector regulation, oversight, and enforcement might mitigate the worst excesses of an opaque multinational private banking system, it remains doubtful that the resources of regulators can ever match those of the private banking system to circumvent regulations and evade the consequences of wrongdoing. It is now widely understood that the private global banking and financial system has failed to serve the “real” economy, or what we often call, “Main Street.” This is not just the case in the U.S. Europe’s problems, while largely due to an ill-designed monetary union and the high sovereign debt of certain member countries, has been exacerbated by the same short-term-profit-driven, casino approach that has characterized the U.S. financial sector. Perhaps the time has come to consider another model, one that treats banking and finance more like a public utility. A public bank would not have to be beholden to shareholders demanding a 20% annual return. It could circumvent incentives that induce management to take extraordinary risks (cognizant that in the worst-case

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Support Families like Mine: End Inequality in Immigration Policy

October 22, 2011  |   LGBT Issues Mexico Politics and Policy Progressive Political Commentary

Support Families like Mine: End Inequality in Immigration Policy

I’m one of the lucky ones – lucky because I’ve had the good fortune to share the past ten years of my life with the person I love, despite the fact he’s a Mexican citizen, and I’m an American citizen. I’m lucky because, in 2001 when we met, I had the resources, ability, and the option to move to Mexico and establish a business and a life with Luis. I’m lucky because Luis and I built a rich and rewarding life together.  We enjoy the love and support of both our families, we have a wonderful circle of friends, and we’ve been able to give back to our Mexican community in ways that have been incredibly satisfying. Unfortunately, the past two years have shown us just how fragile that luck has been. My business, a small resort hotel catering to LGBT vacationers to Puerto Vallarta, has suffered greatly since the U.S. economy took its nosedive in late 2008. In 2009, Mexico was the epicenter of the H1N1 flu scare – it nearly shut down the tourism industry for a couple of months. And mounting concerns over the safety and security of travel to Mexico due to drug cartel violence has further decimated the tourism industry and my once-thriving business, despite the fact that the violence is enormously hyped by U.S. media and is mostly localized in a few cities far from Puerto Vallarta. Times are hard. The economic realities of a struggling business in Mexico have compelled me to return

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Conceptual Frameworks, Language, and Messaging: Why Conservatives have dominated American public discourse, politics, and policy for a generation

October 21, 2011  |   Progressive Political Commentary

Conceptual Frameworks, Language, and Messaging: Why Conservatives have dominated American public discourse, politics, and policy for a generation

The anger on the Tea Party right, and the frustration on the left that has energized the "Occupy” movement in cities across America, spring from similar, mostly economic, dissatisfactions. The difference is that those on the rightght have been co-opted to a set of beliefs that are actually in opposition to their own economic interests. Those involved in the “Occupy” movement, and others on the left are quite clear about where their interests lie, despite concerns by media pundits that the participants in the “Occupy” movement thus far lack a clear set of policy demands. Voters from the right vote their aspirations, rather than their reality, while the policies they support make it less likely that they (or their children) will ever achieve the economic security and self reliance to which they aspire. Led to believe that they could succeed if only government would get out of the way, they believe in “personal freedom,” but lack an understanding of the nature of freedom as defined by our Constitution.  They advocate an ideology of “personal responsibility,” rejecting the mutual responsibility required for social and national cohesion and willfully ignorant of the benefits they enjoy thanks to a social contract embodied by our government. The right demands lower taxes and ever smaller, ever more impotent government, focused narrowly on national security, administration of a harsh conception of justice (largely punishment, meted out by a for-profit prison industry), and promotion of the orderly but “unfettered” conduct of business.  Despite incongruity with a small-government

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