The last gasp of (US) neoliberalism

by John Q on May 13, 2015

The defeat of the “trade promotion authority” bill in the US Senate marks a big setback for Obama’s attempts to push the (still secret) Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement through Congress. As always, there’s plenty of manoeuvring to come, and the deal may still get up, but even so, it looks like the last gasp for neoliberalism, in the US sense of the term.

In global terms, neoliberalism, epitomized by Thatcher in the UK, is an appropriation by conservative/reactionary parties of the economic component of classical liberalism, but without any of the associated concerns with personal freedom, except as this coincides with the desires of conservatives and reactionaries to maintain a social order where they can do as they have always done.

By contrast, US neoliberalism is a development from within US liberalism, closer to Blair’s Third Way than to Thatcher. In general, neoliberalism maintained and even extended “social liberalism”, in the US sense of support for equal marriage, reproductive choice and so on. In economic terms, its central claim was that the goals of the New Deal, central to Democratic Party politics, could best be pursued through market-friendly policies that would earn the support of the financial sector (the only major business sector that was prepared to back Democrats, or at least to bankroll suitable candidates from either party). Apart from subservience to Wall Street, the signature issues for US neoliberals were free trade, cuts in “entitlement” spending, and school reform[^1]. In terms of political strategy, the big idea was a ‘grand bargain’, in which Republicans would accept minimal increases in taxation in return for the abandonment of most of the Democratic program.

The Clinton administration was explicitly neoliberal in all respects. Bush ran on a platform of “compassionate conservatism” designed to appropriate the appeal of neoliberalism, and was never really able to break with it. And, while Obama’s 2008 election campaign was masterfully ambiguous, his first Administration neoliberal through and through, dominated by Wall Streeters like Paulson, Geithner[^2] and Summers, and by neoliberal operators like Emanuel[^3] and Duncan. And the same would clearly have been true if Hillary Clinton had been elected.

But developments since then, including the global financial crisis, the failure of school reform[^4] and increasing awareness of entrenched inequality have destroyed the appeal of neoliberalism. It’s obvious by now that the neoliberal policy agenda belongs to the political right, and the backers of that agenda (for example, Wall Street and education reformers like Michelle Rhee) have recognised that fact as clearly as anyone.

The result has been a significant shift to the left in the second Obama Administration, reflected in more populist rhetoric, the abandonment of the search for bipartisanship and in some substantive policy shifts, for example on minimum wages. The big exceptions are issues like the TPP and the security state, where Obama was captured by the permanent government almost from day 1, and has never shifted.

Hillary Clinton is making similar adjustments, realizing that a purely cultural claim to affinity with working class whites, combined with an actual alliance with Wall Street, is no longer going to cut it electorally or within the Democratic Party. She’s maintained silence on the TPP so far, but I predict that, when she can no longer avoid the issue, she will be forced to come out against it.

What does this mean for the future of the Democratic Party? I’ll leave that up to readers for the moment.

[^1]: I’ve decided not to bother with scare quotes around “reform”. The word has been successfully appropriated by neoliberals, both in the US and global senses.
[^2]: Geithner didn’t work on Wall Street until after his Treasury stint. But the NY Fed is pretty much a subsidiary.
[^3]: I’ve read that Emanuel was the model for Josh Lyman in The West Wing, the fictional apotheosis of neoliberalism.
[^4]: Reliably metronomic centrist Nick Kristof said a while back that, while he still supported school reform, the topic was now so politically toxic that he would focus instead on early childhood interventions where there is enough actual evidence of benefit to garner some broadbased support.



William Meyer 05.13.15 at 9:46 am

God, I hope so.


NIMBY 05.13.15 at 10:48 am

If one looks closely, the bill failed not because of objections to TPP, but because pork barrel was not salted. Everyone figures they can squeeze a bit more for themselves if they hold up B.O. and shake him down. The Arctic just opened up to oil exploration by Sally Jewell, Obama’s woman for the job, handpicked by Exxon Mobil and cleaned through the grace of being foisted on REI by it’s bankers. Think it’s bad to have an oil spill in the gulf? Wait till black oil gets spilled under an ice sheet. What one sees is with Obama rhetoric is obfuscation on the goals, but they have not changed.

“Looks like Obama’s going to follow the Clinton model, and set up a foundation [WaPo]. Here’s the site. With [gag] the Obama “O” trade dress. In Chicago, naturally. The patterns of corruption seem to follow partisan culture: Republicans seem to have no problem giving fealty to a squillionaire, while Democrats set up complex systems of obfuscation under the cover of public purpose. But it all comes to the same thing in the end, as Hillary’s privatization and subsequent destruction of her email at State proves.

[OBAMA:] I’ll go back to doing the kinds of work that I was doing before — just trying to find ways to help people, help young people get educations, help people get jobs, help bring businesses into neighborhoods that don’t have enough businesses.

Translating, servicing Chicago’s real estate interests any way he can, through gentrification, especially. And no doubt Rahm has plenty of privatization deals teed up, and the Obamas will get their cut. Then of course there’s Michelle’s Senate seat. These grifters will be with us a long time, sadly.”

Outside of trade and banking, Warren’s policy is pretty much neo-liberal, and she’s pretty much the hero of the day, at least she makes the sheeple and press feel more at home than Sen. Bernie Sanders.


Metatone 05.13.15 at 10:49 am

Sounds like a positive realignment.
However, I think it’s also propelled by the strange shifts in the Republican party that make the GOP less of a centrist party than in the past. Elsewhere (e.g. the UK) we see that the parties of the right remain dedicated to the underlying ideas of (global) neoliberalism.


bow 05.13.15 at 11:18 am

“the (still secret) Trans-Pacific Partnership”

I’m curious if there are any interesting attempts to argue for the secrecy aspect.


Paul Montgomery 05.13.15 at 11:36 am

Wow, I so did not expect to see Prof Q’s byline on this piece. There is so much handwaving going on here with a succession of flimsy premises, much looser than a regular Quiggin joint.

The conclusion that HRC will oppose the TPP is not supported by enough facts, given that we don’t know what’s in the document, and we don’t know what’s inside’s HRC’s head. An equally airy article could be written from the opposite angle to prove that Clinton will support the TPP as part of the thousand year reich of neo-liberalism which shows no sign of halting the historic rise in inequality, and evil always wins because good is dumb.

As Krugman keeps reminding us, just because the reality-based community has reached consensus on something doesn’t mean the VSPs will follow that logic. With the greatest of respect to him, Prof Q is making an unsupportable assumption that because the right has comprehensively lost an argument on the empirics that the centre will shift left. Historically, that is often a losing premise.


kidneystones 05.13.15 at 12:04 pm

Unfortunately, 4 is right about the secret status of the agreement and about HRC’s move to the left. True, she lacks any moral compass and is every bit a centrist as O, but John seems to be firing a bit two quickly. The unions are HRC’s most reliable vote, along with Dem women. It is quite unclear how she’ll fare among Hispanics and black voters given the range of opposition in the Republican ranks. At the moment, she faces no serious rival, but these are early days. Should Ben Carson or Rubio make enough of hit to win a spot on the Republican ticket, the Dem coalition may take a major hit. Siding with the AFL-CIO on this issue, even if the bill eventually gets driven through makes sense, although I’m sure Warren will claim she drove HRC to take the stand. I’ll take Yves Smith over Krugman any day. I disagree with John’s fundamental premise that neo-liberalism is dead. It’s alive and well in the UK, Australia, Canada, and large swaths of the US.


kidneystones 05.13.15 at 12:08 pm

Sorry, I should have stated more clearly that the Republicans are very likely to give the VP slot to someone like Carson, or Rubio, or any capable female candidate not named Palin. Carson is very unpopular among Democratic politicians, but his politics are much more closely aligned with black Christians and social conservatives who really do believe that black lives matter.


Mr Punch 05.13.15 at 12:30 pm

I don’t think so. The key piece of neoliberalism (to accept that term) was distance from organized labor – shared by even the more progressive Southern Dems (when they existed) and those coming from the New Left. See the (original) NDC, in which Bill Clinton was a leading light. What has happened now is that the inequality issue has been framed as tied to the decline of (industrial) unionism, leaving people like Hillary C. in a difficult position.

Meanwhile, anti-unionism has re-emerged as a salient GOP theme – witness Scott Walker.

The role of the financial sector is epiphenomenal, to my mind, with regard to the underlying dynamic.


SocraticGadfly 05.13.15 at 12:39 pm

Obama wasn’t “captured” by the permanent government; he willingly surrendered.


John Garrett 05.13.15 at 1:13 pm

One would imagine, from the comments, that the Senate vote was bad news. It wasn’t. I’ll take any vote from anybody to slow or reject TPP, and I’ll even put up with a couple barrels of pork (not including ocean drilling) to kill it completely. We on the left have a tough time with transient good news.



Mark Field 05.13.15 at 2:18 pm

I think the vote was Kabuki theater. Fast track authority will be approved; this vote just allows a few Senators to say they “voted against” that until X happens.


Peter K. 05.13.15 at 2:36 pm

I’d take Krugman over Yves Smith, who is overrated, any day. Hillary came out against TPP, not that she wouldn’t turn around and support it again as President.

As for JQ’s thesis, it’s an open question. I’m waiting to see what Yellen will do. One crucial element for neoliberalism is stagnant wages and the fact that it doesn’t deliver. Demand management policy was such that the trade deficit combined with insufficient government spending and monetary policy to maintain loose labor markets. The Fed would prevent workers from gaining bargaining power by raising rates prematurely. Also, there was anti-union policy and rhetoric such as the relentless drumbeat against teachers.

@ 2 Warren blocks TPP and creates the Consumer Protection Agency and you and Naked Capitalism call her neoliberal?


JW Mason 05.13.15 at 3:27 pm

I think there is something to this but it’s important to keep in mind that a term like “neoliberalism in the US” covers a number of distinct processes which do not all run in sync.

It is probably true that the center of gravity of national Democratic politics has been shifting away from neoliberalism. At the state/local level it’s less clear — for every DeBlasio there’s a Cuomo or an Emmanuel. The attack on public sector workers is clearly intensifying rather than diminishing — the rollback of labor rights in traditionally union-friendly states like Wisconsin and Michigan is a new development, and it’s clear that for important segments of capital (including some of its more “progressive” figures) rolling back universal K-12 public education (and undermining the power of teachers, the largest group of union workers in the country) is a very high priority. Look at how many recent-vintage billionaires have taken an interest in education reform. So perhaps it’s not that neoliberalism is fading, as that its focus has shifted.

More generally, let’s not confuse derivatives with levels, or public conversation with substantive outcomes. Any program for social change will eventually encounter resistance; that doesn’t mean it’s been halted or reversed. In particualr, I’m much less optimistic than you about school reform. It is true that it no longer has the consensus support among elites that it did a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean the direction of education policy has changed. The trend is clearly still toward increased standardized testing, privatization through charters, etc., and decreased job security for teachers, even if there are more people raising objections than there used to be.


mpowell 05.13.15 at 3:32 pm

I think you are overstating the significance of this vote. I don’t see neoliberalism going anywhere. Part of the problem is that you have misidentified the core tenet of neoliberalism, which is that free markets are better for TFP growth. Whether that is true or not, I don’t see much political support in the US for an alternative view. People still take business leaders seriously, even if they have believe in an abstract sense that the 1% or 0.1% are taking more than their share.


JW Mason 05.13.15 at 3:46 pm

It’s obvious by now that the neoliberal policy agenda belongs to the political right, and the backers of that agenda (for example, Wall Street and education reformers like Michelle Rhee) have recognised that fact as clearly as anyone.

This isn’t obvious to me. Here in New York Michelle Rhee’s agenda just took a big step forward. As parent of a soon-to-be school age child here, I can’t say I take much comfort from hearing that Nicholas Kristof has moved on to other hobbies.


JW Mason 05.13.15 at 3:47 pm

I meant to say, a big step forward thanks to a Democratic Governor and Assembly.


Roger Gathmann 05.13.15 at 5:16 pm

Last gasp seems pretty wrong. It is like the zombie ideas meme: since these are the ideas that still rule us, doesn’t look like they are dead to me.
Still, I was psyched by the roadblock erected by the Dems. Warren, if she keeps it up, will be a pretty fine heir to E. Kennedy, best liberal senator since, oh, name your progressive – Lafollette? Obama’s advisors are regrouping. To my mind, the best thing about the defeat is that it changes, a bit, the terms. Instead of the bill being advertised widely in the pro TPP press – which is pretty much the entire mainstream press – as a free trade bill, it will have to be explained in a bit more detail. That detail is the killer. I don’t believe – I can’t believe – that the masses want another special corporate court, or that they want to have generic medicines in other countries cut off, etc. Obama’s embrace of TPP has made free trade temporarily popular among dems, but I am thinking this is a temporary situation, one in which delusion rules, rather like the idea that Saddam H was behnd 9.11. Over the next year, surely the mask will fall off.


Peter Dorman 05.13.15 at 5:30 pm

I find the OP rather baffling and out of character. The whole point of sites like CT and the people who gravitate to them is to look past the epiphenomena of daily politics and focus, as much as possible, on the underlying tectonic forces. There is a lot of noise in politics, and it helps to not get distracted.

I agree with JQ’s characterization of Thatcherian neoliberalism, but the fact that its origins were in the political center rather than the right in the US does not particularly change the analysis, in my opinion. It is still about market liberalism as an independent objective, separate from liberalism in other spheres. There are all sorts of neoliberals in the US. Some are civil libertarians, some not. Some are social liberals, some not. Some incline toward foreign policy hawkishness, some dovishness.

Before sending out invitations to dance on the grave of neoliberalism, it would help to have an understanding of why it became a dominant political force by the late 1970s, at least in the English-speaking world. (It was ascendent, if not dominant, in France by the mid-80s; I don’t know about other countries.) Are the factors that favored it now in eclipse? We can disagree about this, but the historical/structural perspective is what it’s all about, isn’t it? If I want a better forecast of the next Senate roll call, there are other places on the web with this expertise.

To say that neoliberalism is collapsing because of its intellectual shortcomings is to suggest that its intellectual merits were responsible for its rise. My view is that bad ideas that are convenient for the people that matter tend to outlive their purely intellectual justifications, often for a very long time.


TM 05.13.15 at 5:53 pm

JWM 12 is right unfortunately.


None 05.13.15 at 6:41 pm

kidneystones @4 – “It is quite unclear how she’ll fare among Hispanics and black voters given the range of opposition in the Republican ranks.”

It is unclear, really ? Hope springs eternal with trolls I suppose.


Marshall 05.13.15 at 6:52 pm

neoliberalism maintained and even extended “social liberalism”, in the US sense of support for equal marriage, reproductive choice and so on

Just the street view of an Average American, but the folk (voters) who support reproductive choice and so on appear to be quite distinct from the folk who support NAFTA. Bill.42’s thing was “triangulating” among superficially opposed viewpoints.

Remains to be seen whether the current vote is more than a procedural detour, but at least it shows that American Progressiveism is not entirely defunct. To my surprise.


cassander 05.13.15 at 7:47 pm

>except as this coincides with the desires of conservatives and reactionaries to maintain a social order where they can do as they have always done.

Are you incapable of thinking your ideological opponents are well motivated? Or do you just enjoy assuming they’re evil so much that you aren’t willing to not do it?

> (the only major business sector that was prepared to back Democrats, or at least to bankroll suitable candidates from either party).

Really now? That’s news to a whole lot of people on this list. Most industries give liberally to both sides, for obvious reasons.

> cuts in “entitlement” spending,

Then why has entitlement spending continuously increased, both in terms of share of GDP and inflation adjusted dollars? Why did Reagan, Clinton, and Bush the younger all expand entitlement programs or make them more generous?

>education reformers like Michelle Rhee

Well TIL that the political right is a force in DC city politics. I had no idea!

The effects of the neoliberal wave have been greatly exaggerated. For every high profile victory (welfare reform probably being the largest in the US) they won there were 100 battles they lost (Social Security Disability exploding in size since welfare reform). Every year, more regulations are written, benefits increased according to COLAs, eligibility criteria are more loosely interpreted, etc. The state expands relentlessly unless it is actively resisted, and neoliberals cannot be everywhere, much less win everywhere. John, you are right that neoliberalism is doomed. But it isn’t doomed because of the financial crisis or school reform, it’s doomed for the same reason it always was, it’s playing a rigged game.


Plarry 05.13.15 at 7:55 pm

Can someone help me work through what neoliberalism in the US is? I thought of neoliberalism as primarily an economic model advocating a reduction of the state in the market. Thus it is employed for Pinochet’s Chile. It says nothing about things like gay marriage (which, Clinton opposed in office: DOMA), etc. Clinton’s economic model favored neoliberalism, I agree, and Bush was also an agent of neoliberalism. Obama has had more of a mixed bag, though. Under my understanding, net neutrality is not a neoliberal doctrine, and Obama was for it even in his first term. Obama supported Dodd-Frank, which I would not call neoliberal.There are other examples, some from the first term, some the second. But it seems wrong to characterize his first administration as neoliberal “through and through,” even though the number of Clinton appointees was large.


John Quiggin 05.13.15 at 9:27 pm

@17 Neoliberalism, in the Thatcher sense of the term, is very much alive and well. It’s the US/Third Way version, claiming that neoliberalism is consistent with the goals and values of US liberalism/social democracy that is, in my view, breathing its last.


Bruce Wilder 05.13.15 at 9:27 pm

The classic statement of what “neoliberalism” is in the U.S. was the 1983 essay by the Washington Monthly’s founder, Charles Peters.
You can download it in pdf format, here:

Ezra Klein conducted an interview with Peters in 2007 that might be taken as a clarifying statement.

Pretty much anything by Brad DeLong is a pretty good representation of left neoliberalism in living form, though he may have become reluctant to apply that label to himself. Neoliberals, like DeLong, have favored dialog with conservative libertarians in the tradition established by Milton Friedman and to a lesser extent with the Virginia School Public Choice tradition. The term, neoliberalism, is increasingly used as a blanket label for the whole of this dialectic between conservative libertarians and centrist neoliberals, which has seemed increasingly appropriate as the Overton Window for “seriousness” has moved right, under pressures created by this dialectic.

The domestic American version has come to stand by an international standard, originally articulated as “the Washington Consensus” in 1989 by the economist, John Williamson in a ten point description of the consensus advice issued by Washington-based international institutions like the IMF, the World Bank and the U.S. Treasury, when those institutions were called in to “rescue” countries in financial and economic trouble. The Wikipedia entry on “The Washington Consensus” is a decent brief overview of how those ideas have been codified and evolve.

Hope that helps.


Mr Punch 05.13.15 at 9:39 pm

Neoliberalism in the US sense has nothing in common with Thatcherism except markets. Agree with Bruce W. that Delong is a current exemplar. The UK equivalent is somewhere in the SDP/New Labour zone – “of the left” but accepting of markets and disillusioned with actually-existing organized labor.


Bruce Wilder 05.13.15 at 9:55 pm

I would agree with JQ that the claim that “neoliberalism is consistent with the goals and values of US liberalism/social democracy” should die. I’m far less optimistic that than the OP that it will anytime soon.

As Ian Welsh has astutely remarked, a distinguishing feature of neoliberalism is its clincher argument: “there is no alternative”. Neoliberalism is as powerful as it is, because of its ideological singularity: it recognizes no competitors, and allows its adherents and practitioners to complacently ignore the possibility of alternatives.

This no-alternative argument manifests as no alternative candidate and “lesser evil” rationalizations for the non-alternative. It manifests as the policy traps of disaster capitalism and the war on terror. And, it manifests in the epistemic closure of that dialectic I mentioned between conservative libertarians and neoliberal centrists, which seems to exclude even the ability to think of a viable alternative policy path.


JW Mason 05.13.15 at 10:03 pm

Pretty much anything by Brad DeLong is a pretty good representation of left neoliberalism

… and DeLong says that ending teacher tenure is one of three most important things the we can do to boost long-term growth. Contra JQ, I’d say that left neoliberalism is alive and well. It’s just that the program for eliminating non-market claims on society has shifted its focus from blue-collar workers and the undeserving poor, to teachers (and students) in the public schools.

Not long ago at the farmer’s market (where else?), I ran into a guy I used to work with at the Working Families Party. Turned out he now has a top job in Michelle Rhee’s organization. He claimed, sincerely as far as I could tell, he didn’t see any contradiction, that his politics hadn’t changed. Fighting the teachers unions and supporting charter schools was just another part of the fight for working and poor people that he’d been part of at WFP and at ACORN, where he’d been for years before that. So I can attest from first-hand experience that the idea that “neoliberalism is consistent with the goals and values of US liberalism/social democracy” can still be found in the wild.

But hey, what do I know, John Quiggin reads Nick Kristof in the newspaper.


Mr Punch 05.13.15 at 10:05 pm

It’s important to bear in mind that the subject here is party dynamics, not electoral politics as such. Bill Clinton won; Obama won; Blair won. There is every reason to believe that more traditionally “left” alternatives would have lost. (In the UK, they have.)


bob mcmanus 05.13.15 at 10:07 pm

23: The Marxian left has somewhat identified neoliberalism with Mandel and Jameson’s Late Capitalism, with help from the French Regulation School to try to generalize the biopolitics of post-Fordism with something like:

“Neoliberalism is about overtly using public and common means toward private and personal ends.”

Thus, both Hollywood I/P and gay marriage; pharmaceutical patent protection and Title IX; bank bailouts and Obamacare are all neoliberal. The Marxians, being dialectical, don’t particularly judge, while in analysis mode, these as particularly good or bad, just symptomatic, base and superstructure.

“…claiming that neoliberalism is consistent with the goals and values of US liberalism/social democracy”

I might make that claim, having no attraction to whatever you see in the US that you think is liberalism/social democracy ,with the proviso that the 1% get the benefits and the 99% pay the costs. “Privatize the profits, socialize the costs” We have a black President! Obama and HRC are doing just great.


Bruce Wilder 05.14.15 at 1:06 am

Mr. Punch @ 29: “There is every reason to believe that more traditionally “left” alternatives would have lost.”

Indeed, there is no alternative.

What shows up as party dynamics is an outcome of an ideological process that involved operations at some distance from mere partisanship, operations in media and academe and various issue-oriented movements that help to define what seems plausible and “serious” to people who pay little attention. Or, like JW Mason’s well-meaning acquaintance, people who are available for politics, but find no alternative.

It is not “the goals and values” of liberalism or social democracy, which have been distilled out of neoliberalism. “Goals and values” are what the neoliberals kept, in much the spirit in which latter-day religions have kept the “goals and values” of earlier versions of Christianity. The slogans are there — some of them anyway, if in faded form. If liberals once claimed that a rising tide would lift all boats, neoliberals are pro growth. In theory. If liberals were egalitarian, neoliberalism will champion social equality and even wring hands ceremoniously over increasing economic “inequality”.

What went out of liberalism or social democracy in the 1980s was the fight, the philosophical willingness to see politics as a fight, as us v them, and a stalemated fight at that. The intellectuals did not want to lead the fight to maintain the scrum near the center of the field, and ordinary people didn’t want the noise. The Right lost interest in Communism; the Left just lost interest.

Neoliberalism will keep pushing till the fight comes back into politics. That’s just how these things work. The political frontier, I think, are places neoliberalism is in the process of feeding into the wood chipper. Public schools? SYRIZA and Greece?


ezra abrams 05.14.15 at 4:53 am

mark @11 nails it

and E Warren, among her 1t 3 votes in congress
voted to confirm obamas nominee for DCIA, the odious J Brennan (can u imagine, what warren would say a repub nominated brennan ?)

voted to confirm notorious antichoice C Hagel Sec Def (test – why does choice view sec def matter ?)

voted to confirm J Lew sec treasury; lew is all that is wrong with our gilded age


Steve Williams 05.14.15 at 7:09 am

I can’t comment on the general intellectual climate because I don’t know enough, but on the specific idea that Clinton will speak out against the TPP . . . it seems unlikely to me. Firstly, I suspect she has no ideological qualms with the agreement. Even if she does, if she spoke out against it, she would have to say why, and if that ‘saying why’ involves ‘saying left-wing things’, it’s very unlikely.

There are sound electoral reasons for this. She faces no ‘credible’ challenger on her left, whereas the probable Republican candidates have to share bandwidth with ‘credible’ right-wing competitors, so she is in the enviable position of being able to camp in the centre ground early while her opponents make a whole load of hostage-to-fortune comments and promises. Progressives are going to suffer from failing to find anyone even prepared to have a crack at challenging HRC.


Ebenezer Scrooge 05.14.15 at 10:23 am

I agree that the good ship neoliberalism is sinking. What I find noteworthy is that the rats leaving the ship are mostly jumping off the port side. Brad DeLong is far more typical than Michelle Rhee. Heck, not too long ago, Paul Krugman could fairly be called a neoliberal. Paul Krugman! This is unlike the 1960’s anticommunist liberals, who mostly morphed into Republicans.


Mr Punch 05.14.15 at 11:41 am

“This is unlike the 1960’s anticommunist liberals, who mostly morphed into Republicans.” – ES (34).

I was there, and I don’t think this was (mostly) true. The blocs that shifted right to become Republicans, it seems to me, were (a) the original neoconservative intellectuals, mostly Jewish, mostly NYC, almost all starting from some form of socialism to the left of liberalism; a lot of Catholics; and a lot of private-sector labor union households. You didn’t see Hubert Humphrey or Arthur Schlesinger Jr. joining the GOP.

The issues driving these shifts were domestic, and largely social – apart from Vietnam and Israel, both with significant domestic social aspects. Of course economics played a part, notably the “threatened middle class” thing, but votes were not cast on economic lines (union members going for Nixon/Reagan, e.g.).

I draw attention to the current meaning of the term “progressive,” widely used in gauchissant (okay, not what that means) Democratic circles. In 1912 “progressive” meant “don’t call us radicals”; today it means “don’t call us liberals.” It’s a sign that the groups lost by the Dems, which they strive to reclaim, are pretty anti-liberal in their attitudes.


NIMBY 05.14.15 at 12:12 pm

“Today, Obama got ten Democratic senators to flip their votes without giving them the concession that they had wanted, that of passing a set of other trade-related provisions along with Fast Track authorization. As we indicated yesterday, one of the changes they had wanted, putting more stringent sanctions in place against foreign government currency manipulation, was anathema to the Administration. So after what appears to have been no more than a dressing down, ten Democratic party senators relented, giving Obama a clear path to moving Fast Track authorization to a vote in the Senate.”


kidneystones 05.14.15 at 12:22 pm

The notion that E. Warren (native-American maybe) is the best of of the Democratic left just shows how bad the US political landscape looks, even when compared with the fate of Labour in Britain. I spoke with a Canadian colleague today about the outcomes of Johnson’s Great Society project some 50 years after their implementation and the results are mixed, to say the least. I realize that if it’s a choice between African-Americans freeing themselves from urban blight as Republicans, or remaining in public housing and voting Dem, many here would very much prefer the latter. And Warren, of all people, is going to ride to the rescue. Pure kabuki.


mdc 05.14.15 at 1:18 pm

“if it’s a choice between African-Americans freeing themselves from urban blight as Republicans, or remaining in public housing and voting Dem”

The most nonsensical thought experiment I have heard for a while. BTW, about half of all public housing residents are white.


kidneystones 05.14.15 at 1:34 pm

Thanks mdc. The percentage that counts isn’t white to black, as you know, it’s the percentage of black city residents in public housing compared with black city dwellers not in public housing, and particularly those who started out in public housing, but migrated to self-sufficiency. Instead, you offer two straw-men and no response. Sorry, but the choice is real, or do you not credit African-Americans with the ability to do more than take hand-outs? The first thing that would happen if blacks finally got themselves out of city ghettos is that white liberals would have to find some reasons to feel guilty, and find some new dependents. I don’t really expect you’ve got the parts to give a straight answer. Your lame response was entirely predicable. You get bonus points for deploying racist put-downs to describe black republicans like Carson. Throwing money at the problem sounded like a good idea, and was one I supported for about 40 years. Not working.


MPAVictoria 05.14.15 at 2:33 pm

Of course kidneystones forgets, as do many conservatives do when talking about poverty, that poverty is a FLOW not a stock.


Bruce Wilder 05.14.15 at 4:19 pm

I respectfully disagree with your identification of poverty with flow as opposed to stock. (Respectfully, because I would prefer having kidney stones to taking sides with kidneystones.) Poverty is, I think, better understood as the condition of life opposite of wealth. Conservative economists, confusing people with statistics, often find it convenient to muddy the difference between people in poverty and people with low income. I myself have been broke, but never poor, and I have seen poverty, and there are major differences. The same conservatives will confuse poverty with things — “look, a poor has a cellphone! They are not really poor!”

Wealth is more than things or money in people’s lives. Much of wealth is intangible, a stock of connections and possibilities that eliminate the barriers and precariousness and deficits that mire people in poverty.

The thing about wealth that kidneystones and his ilk are eager to hide is that wealth is not necessarily independent of poverty. Wealth can be — does not have to be, but can be — a product of a negative sum game, where poverty is created and exacerbated to accumulate wealth.

The neoliberal facilitates hiding the predatory nature of the conservative policy agenda, by either not fighting it at all, or by protesting in the most minimal and ineffective manner. And, the resulting dialogue between neoliberal and conservative leaves the claim that antipoverty efforts have been massive and persistent largely unchallenged, the conservative efforts to create poverty by predation almost invisible in partisan politics.


In the provinces 05.14.15 at 5:51 pm

A lot of the comments here reflect confusion about the different meanings of “liberal” in Europe and the US. In the former, liberal retains a lot of its nineteenth century connotation, of “anti-statist and pro-laissez faire.” So neo-liberals are Thatcherites, people who want to revive 19th century anti-statism and glorification of free markets in a late twentieth century world, which means, among other things, the destruction of trade unions and social welfare institutions. Their American counterparts are generally called “free market conservatives,” or even “libertarians.” Think Milton Friedman. In the US, “liberalism” generally means skepticism about unrestrained free markets and acceptance of government regulations–whether this takes technocratic form (the Progressive Era) or social democratic one–the New Deal. “Neo-liberals” are Democratic Party politicians and journalists and academics close to them who want to rejigger the relationship between markets and governmental regulation in labor relations and economic matters, taking the latter down a notch (or several notches), without totally abandoning regulation, or social welfare. Think Bill Clinton and, to a lesser extent, Barack Obama. Their European counterparts–Blair, “Red Ed” Milliband, Gerhard Schröder, François Hollande, the whole “Third Way” crowd–are actually the enemies (if, maybe, not very effective enemies) of “neo-liberals,” i.e. Thatcherites, in Europe.


Brad DeLong 05.14.15 at 7:38 pm

Bruce Wilder @25: “Pretty much anything by Brad DeLong is a pretty good representation of left neoliberalism in living form, though he may have become reluctant to apply that label to himself.”

I am?

Remember that David Graeber has summoned me to appear in Chiapas before some marsupialoid panel to answer for the war crime of trying to encourage world trade between poor and rich countries. And my plea in response is taken from Joan Robinson: “The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all…” I really don’t think I have a choice but to embrace the label…

Brad DeLong


Brad DeLong 05.14.15 at 7:49 pm

Re: J.W. Mason @28: “DeLong says that ending teacher tenure is one of three most important things the we can do to boost long-term growth…”

Now, now, Mr. Mason. That bullshit coefficient is rather large, isn’t it?

>[Cato’s] Brink Lindsey asked me what I would do to the U.S. economy to increase economic growth if I could just “wave a magic wand”. The problem I have with such questions–with such “magic wands”–is that I am never sure just how powerful they are supposed to be. Let me propose three, all of which are small scale in terms of policies but larger scale in that in order to become durable policies they do require, as John Adams said, changes “in the hearts and minds of our countrymen [and women]…”

>(2) State and local governments committed to raising salaries of K-12 public-school teachers relative to median salaries by 50%, in exchange for severe reductions in teacher tenure: As Eddie Lazear tirelessly points out, our state and local governments still substantially set public-school teachers’ salaries following a sociological pattern set generations ago, when the occupations open to women were (a) housekeepers, (b) laundresses, (c) waitresses, (d) telephone switchboard-operators, (e) secretaries, (f) nurses, and (g) teachers. Those days are long gone: women who would have become teachers and nurses in the 1950s are now becoming doctors, lawyers, managers, and bankers. School boards across the country have responded to the difficulties of hiring as the coming of feminist liberties has allowed their captive female labor pool to escape by offering tenure in order to attract the risk-averse to teaching without having to require their taxpayer principals to face reality. But this is, at most, a second-best solution.

>A nationwide network of good schools is both one of the very best ways to build productive capital–human capital–and a powerful step toward turning equality of opportunity in America from a sick and cynical joke to something not that far moved to reality.

>How to actually wave this magic wand, however, is beyond me. My reading of the evidence is that charter schools have been disappointing in ways somewhat similar to those in which 401(k)s have been disappointing–too-high rewards to flash and marketing and too-little repetition for successful social learning about true quality to take place. Teachers will fight attempts to disrupt security of employment unless they have confidence that the grand bargain by which they trade security for higher salaries will be kept–which they do not have. Fiscal conservatives will fight teacher-salary increases unless they are confident that the Democratic Party-public sector union complex will then disarm itself of its weapons–which they are not. And the very smart Jesse Rothstein in the building next door thinks that eliminating teacher tenure is in no wise low-hanging fruit–that it substantially boosts the salary needed to acquire good teachers as it leads the risk-averse to exit the profession, and that nearly all who should not be teachers as identified as such before they gain tenure.



MPAVictoria 05.14.15 at 8:06 pm

As Dr Delong knows the countries that regularly beat the US on international educational comparisons tend to have strong teacher unions. Unions are not the problem. Poverty, violence and lack of a strong social safety net are the problem.


MPAVictoria 05.14.15 at 8:07 pm

Bruce Matt Bruenig has a better response to your comment than I could ever come up with. Read it at your leisure:

“Put simply: poverty is a flow, not a stock. Poverty is when someone lacks a certain level of resources for a specific period of time. Ending or reducing poverty is an endless task because producing and distributing income are endless tasks.”


Anderson 05.14.15 at 8:50 pm

44: teacher *unions* and teacher *tenure* are not synonyms.


TM 05.14.15 at 8:55 pm

Seconding 44. On first sight one is mystified why DeLong would want to tie increases in teacher salaries to union-busting and a weakening of employment security and why the latter should have any bearing at all on economic growth (unless DeLong is really going to argue that there is an empirical correlation between growth rates and lack of tenure in each state). So one wonders why the professor comes up with such a bizarre non sequitur?

But then of course one reflects that DeLong’s call for a 50% raise in teacher pay is totally unrealistic – as he is very well aware – but the call for abolishing tenure is exactly what very powerful forces on the right are working for anyway. So one observes that DeLong is making the case for a benign policy change that has absolutely no chance of being realistic, and for a destructive right-wing agenda that is very close to being enacted.

And that is perhaps one of the better definitions of the American neoliberal: they are centrists advocating for some progressive as well as some regressive ideas, but it just so happens that the progressive ideas never go anywhere while the regressive ones shape political reality, and the “centrist” support makes it so much easier to push down the public’s throat. But the clever centrist likes to maintain plausible deniability: “anti- teacher, me? I’m the one who advocated for a 50% pay increase!”

(On rereading, I notice that he isn’t in fact calling for 50% pay increases, only that teacher salaries should be 50% higher than the median. Median earnings of all full-time workers in 2013 was 44k and median high school teacher salary was $55k. So DeLong is calling for a 20% increase.)


MPAVictoria 05.14.15 at 9:02 pm

“44: teacher *unions* and teacher *tenure* are not synonyms.”

Unions exist in part to protect the employment of their members. So yes. Yes they are.


Daragh McDowell 05.14.15 at 9:33 pm

TM @ 47 – Actually DeLong makes clear in his post that the ideas he is ‘advocating’ are actually hypothetical changes he would make to the economy if he ‘could wave a magic wand’ – that is, a thought experiment, not a policy prescription. Indeed he explicitly states that the ‘how’ is ‘beyond him.’

By all means criticise DeLong for things he has actually proposed or supported, but I fail to see what value can be gained by what amounts to denouncing people for heresy.


TM 05.14.15 at 10:09 pm

He is only saying that these are the policies that he would enact if he could, but that doesn’t mean he’s advocating for them? He says that if this could somehow be done, it would be great for economic growth, but that is not a “policy prescription”? Bizarre.

If I could wave a magic wand, I would strip all American economics professors of tenure. This is just a thought experiment, not a policy prescription, the ‘how’ is beyond me, but I’m sure it would result in a great improvement in the intellectual output of the profession.


MPAVictoria 05.14.15 at 10:23 pm

“If I could wave a magic wand, I would strip all American economics professors of tenure. This is just a thought experiment, not a policy prescription, the ‘how’ is beyond me, but I’m sure it would result in a great improvement in the intellectual output of the profession.”


A 05.14.15 at 10:28 pm

TM@51, that seems like a thought experiment, no? Your imaginings serve only to clarify your values and, potentially, your model relating tenure to academic economics productivity. Advocating would require some engagement with the structures that affect tenure in reality.


William Timberman 05.14.15 at 10:44 pm

Daragh McDowell @ 50

I don’t believe that anyone who comments on CT is an enemy of thought experiments, and most would also probably admit, however grudgingly in some cases, that Brad DeLong is good — very good — at them. The problem that bedevils everyone, Brad DeLong included, is that the politics of the well-meaning have always been disadvantaged, and in our age perhaps terminally so.

There’s unfortunately little incentive for an innocent bystander (if there be any such) to choose between Bruce Wilder’s savagely ironic there is no alternative, and DeLong’s irritatingly glib Joan Robinson quote, the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all. We need not only a re-think, but also a re-do, and a massive one at that — but sadly, despite the denials of democratic socialists, Stalinism is a real threat, one which must inevitably bedevil any sincere and strenuous attempt to set things right before it’s too late. It’s perhaps fortunate that Stalinism is as difficult to get going as lupus est homo homini is to bring to an end.

Is there any sense in pummeling those who offer solutions which aren’t solutions at all? Doing so can be an interesting parlor game of the whose-is-bigger sort familiar from the letters pages of the NYRB, but as I see things, it leaves us pretty much back where we started. I suspect that bob mcmanus has the best take: the politics of getting ourselves sorted is more like geology that we’d like to admit. It takes time — a lot of it — to change anything in human affairs. Butchery, too, if we’re being honest about the history of our species. While it may be true that all the individual players have their contributions to make, impatience to see, and more importantly, to touch the results of their efforts, will be no help to them at all. On the contrary….


Brad DeLong 05.15.15 at 1:40 am

MPAVictoria @52: “’If I could wave a magic wand, I would strip all American economics professors of tenure. This is just a thought experiment, not a policy prescription, the ‘how’ is beyond me, but I’m sure it would result in a great improvement in the intellectual output of the profession.’ Ha!”

Where’s my 50% salary increase?

I know that J.W. Mason started the quoting of me out of context here. It made him look stupid. But you are continuing it. You know, quoting people out of context in the age of the internet really does make you look stupid. I do recommend that you stop…


I think that John Quiggin is largely correct.

Right-neoliberalism is the claim that social democracy was one huge mistake–that it created a North Atlantic of takers who mooched off the makers. It holds that if we got rid of social democracy, we would have a utopia because the makers wouldn’t have to carry the takers on their backs and the takers would shape up–or if the takers did not shape up, serve them right! The moochers would then wallow in their much deserved squalor and misery. And the makers would not have to, as they do now, suffer the pain of watching the moochers live tolerable lives.

Right-neoliberalism is alive and kicking.

Left-neoliberalism is the twin of two claims.

The first is addressed to the left: it is that market mechanisms–properly-regulated market mechanisms–are more likely than not a better road to social democratic ends than command-and-control mechanisms.

The second is addressed to the right: it is that social democracy is the only political system that can in the long run underpin a market economy that preserves a space for private property and private enterprise. Therefore the right had better shut up and try to make social democracy work, or else.

The true underlying problem with left-neoliberalism, I think, is that with the Brezhnevite stagnation of the Soviet Union the second claim addressed to the right was no longer convincing. Hence the right went into its dismantle-social-democracy mode. And once the right was committed to dismantling social democracy, the ability to construct and maintain the proper regulations needed to make market mechanisms tools to achieve social democratic ends fell apart as well.

This leaves those who want to present electorates with a broader menu of political choices than simply right-neoliberalism and its even more conservative relatives with the task of figuring out another political-economic agenda to repair the flaws in the post-WWII Fordist economic regulation model that led to the original development of left-neoliberalism in the first place. But I am at my wit’s end as to what alternative political-economic agenda could both (a) work technocratically and (b) be sold to North Atlantic electorates politically. Hell, our failure to maintain political coalitions to even implement Milton Friedman’s cures for depression, let along John Maynard Keynes’s, is terribly depressing.


MPAVictoria 05.15.15 at 1:50 am

When did I quote you Brad? I quoted TM but I never quoted you. Please go reread my posts.

/I do wonder how making people less secure in their jobs is supposed to improve performance.

//being mistakenly attacked by a former Clinton advisor. I must be moving up in the world.

///I read your blog almost every day.


Socratic Waterboarding 05.15.15 at 4:26 am

Neoliberalism, n; A dead horse scapegoat everybody tacks their political bugbears onto, which really just obfuscates a rabbit hole of lazy reasoning leading back to the defunct “Washington Consensus” of the 1980s


JimV 05.15.15 at 4:44 am

Performance can be improved by firing those who deserve to be fired (and replacing them with others who don’t). There was no tenure for engineering jobs at GE under Jack Welch (rather the reverse), yet I knew a (very) few engineers there who didn’t work well enough to deserve their jobs, but survived for a long time before the bureaucratic inertia involved in firing them was overcome. I have several relatives who are teachers, and occasionally have heard similar stories from them. I can think of at least one person at Berkeley whom I think Prof. DeLong would like to see fired (in a different department). I am guessing that is the sort of thing that he has in mind.

On the other hand, there are bad administrators and managers too – in my experience, more of them than the few bad workers I have known (what with the way power corrupts, and the Peter Principle). So it becomes the age-old question, is it better that the innocent not be fired unjustly or that the guilty have tenure? Inasmuch as most administrators and managers have a sort of tenure, in the form of golden parachutes, next to which public-school teacher-tenure (which amounts to needing enough fair cause to fire them to convince an arbitrator appointed by the school in my state) is rather weak, I think it is fair for teachers to have tenure after their probationary periods. I know Prof; DeLong worries about the trend toward inequality and I think we might be able to persuade him that teacher tenure is a mild step in the right direction – although higher salaries would be a much bigger step.


Bruce Wilder 05.15.15 at 6:11 am

MPAVictoria @ 46

Matt Bruenig wasn’t responding to anything like the analysis I offered. I cheer his effort to refute right-wing fools and knaves, but I was arguing that distribution of income, risk and wealth are related — functionally, not statistically, if you can grasp the distinction.

I apologize for responding to your comment. It was foolish of me.


Bruce Wilder 05.15.15 at 6:31 am

I did not agree with the OP that neoliberal is anywhere near its last gasp, but I did think it was sufficiently deprecated that Brad DeLong would be embarrassed to be identified with the label. I stand corrected.

But, I do thank Professor DeLong for providing additional texts illustrating what “neoliberal” means. I’ll leave it to others to judge from Professor DeLong’s own statements, whether his claims are genuinely consistent with the goals and values of US liberalism/social democracy. My judgment is that they are not.


John Quiggin 05.15.15 at 6:53 am

Australian university professors don’t have tenure in the traditional sense. “Tenured” professors* have the same protections as all “continuing” employees of large firms in Australia, namely laws against unfair dismissal, but they can be dismissed for cause. In the case of dismissal for poor performance, this is a formalized process, requiring notifications and so on.

I would say that the net impact of this situation, as opposed to traditional tenure, is zero in terms of student outcomes and negative in terms of academic values. A few poor performers get dismissed, as do a similarly small number of genuine academics who cross someone in power. From the academic viewpoint, it’s the second group who matter, but the vast majority of professors aren’t in either group or affected (positively or negatively) by the fear of becoming so.

* I’ve spent almost my entire career in five-year fellowships of various kinds, highly desirable, but untenured.


Harold 05.15.15 at 6:56 am

With the greatest respect to professor DeLong@44, I don’t think this statement is accurate:

School boards across the country have responded to the difficulties of hiring as the coming of feminist liberties has allowed their captive female labor pool to escape by offering tenure in order to attract the risk-averse to teaching without having to require their taxpayer principals to face reality. But this is, at most, a second-best solution.


Harold 05.15.15 at 7:06 am

Tenure, in the sense that schoolteachers had it (as opposed to college professors), i.e., protection through due process from frivolous dismissal, was a feature of civil service bureaucracies since the days of Bismarck. It was and is an anti-corruption measure designed to protect the public against bureaucratic cronyism and nepotism.


reason 05.15.15 at 7:53 am

Harold @63
Good to see someone stand up for it, particularly in terms of it being an uncorruption measure. One of the great problems of our time, is the defining down of corruption, so that it has disappeared from Western sensitivity. (The Chicago thesis seems to be basically that corruption is inevitable, so we should embrace it. Ask Indians where that leads.) We are in a sense living on past capital, and that capital is being depreciated.


reason 05.15.15 at 7:59 am

kidneystones @6
“or any capable female candidate not named Palin. ”

Not sure what “capable” means in terms of GOP females. Given that the GOP is the party of old men, it may even be a contradiction in terms.


Sasha Clarkson 05.15.15 at 7:59 am

Perhaps the Right should be made to realise that private property is a socialist concept. In an individualist jungle, the only thing you own is your body and your genes (until someone eats you): everything else you have to fight to gain or to keep. There is certainly no right to enjoy the fruits of your labour: look at kleptoparasites like skuas! And usually the best means to inheritance is to kill/evict your parent.

Any kind of private property requires some kind of social contract of agreed rights and obligations, and collective protection of that that right/privilege by legal recognition and enforcement. Of course, a minority of humans try to behave like kleptoparasites: the worst one work in the City of London and on Wall Street. But without a social contract, which must inevitably entail limits upon private property, like taxation, there would be no rights and no justice, but perpetual strife instead.


reason 05.15.15 at 9:28 am

what you say is correct, but I think you misunderstand the point of difference. The “Right” (which in fact has many threads) – and I take in this case you actually mean the Property Libertarians thread – think that “the state” is something different than the body standing behind the “social contract”. I disagree with, that position, but I think you should be clear on that – the Propertarians regard the state as an foreign invasion.


kidneystones 05.15.15 at 11:47 am

65 You are aware that Carson is black, I hope, and that there are a number of non-WASP elected Republicans, some of whom are women. Bet you can’t name one without looking.

All African-Americans look alike to some people. You’d be one of them. Take a bow!


Lee A. Arnold 05.15.15 at 12:14 pm

Brad asks, “”[W]hat alternative political-economic agenda could both (a) work technocratically and (b) be sold to North Atlantic electorates politically”? Here is a stab at (a):

1. Say to people, “Adam Smith chapter 3, Ronald Coase, and Elinor Ostrom point to the other half of economics, which we have been all but ignoring.”

2. Government is a necessary corporation that must take care of a large portion of the economy which cannot be handled by the market system. This portion can be well-defined: defense, unemployment, retirement, medical coverage, environment. The edges of these areas all shade into market transactions and become tractable to market solutions, but the core is not, at the present time.

3. These areas are each subject to various categories of “market failure”. Transaction failure of any kind, is a cost to society which can be reduced by an institution of some sort. Government is the institution which reduces the transaction costs of non-marketable necessities.

4. Governance? “Votes” replace “prices”, in this sphere of activity. This was understood by the Founding Fathers, and has been forgotten. Voters have to be informed; people have to stop thinking that they can stop thinking. Bureaucracy should be held to the bare minimum and computerized as much as possible. Transparency is an absolute requirement. “Public choice” is an academic subject; self-interest is not the motivation or preference of all public servants. (Saying that is is, however, will make it so.)

5. Financing? By taxation, by public debt diminution through economic growth, and by printing money to cover the balance, up to 3% inflation.

As for (b), there will be no overnight transition, but we are beginning to go through it now, and electorates are slowly going to force themselves into various parts of this anyway, over the next 20-30 years. Not without strife. Computers will take over the most-productive jobs, and the ownership of capital becomes based more and more on pre-existing intellectual property rights, particularly rights to the main algorithms. As the jobs largely become those which do not admit of continuous productivity improvements (hands-on, service, etc.) then the possibility of incomes growth for the rest to “get ahead” will slowly disappear. This makes a political fight, but in the mean time the plutocracy will reduce in numbers. The inexorable future is not economically impossible. There is no real scarcity of necessities. The few things which are truly scarce — e.g prime real estate locations — will become rationed by timeshare lotteries etc.


reason 05.15.15 at 12:30 pm

kidneystones @68
(Perhaps you should again read what I actually wrote.)


Salem 05.15.15 at 1:07 pm

@Sasha: How do you plan to “make them realise”? Do you mean persuasion? Have you yourself persuaded a lot of people to change their foundational political beliefs? Do you think this is the normal way in which politics progresses?

Do you think that most people on the right have never considered the idea of a social contract? Do you think that everyone who thinks in terms of a social contract will necessarily be a leftist? Or, given that we don’t know the content of any hypothetical social contract, can social contract theory be used to justify almost anything, up to and including absolute monarchy?

Politics would definitely be simpler if people didn’t disagree.


kidneystones 05.15.15 at 1:10 pm

70 Quite right! You made no reference to color. You’re swipe was at female Republicans. Please accept my apology on that point. I was sloppy and flip – a fail twofer.

As I regularly read the right and the left, I happened in the interval to stumble on this nugget which may help you recalibrate your own invective – elected Dems in Congress are now older than Republicans on average, according to Ellen Carmichael, a (female) Republican communications consultant. Support for Republicans is, of course, still overwhelming older and male and white, compared with that of Dems.

I’m actually serious re: the need for blacks to consider options other than the Democratic party for several reasons. The first is that the great society programs do not seem to be having the desired result. No need to cite the appalling stats. The second is tied to this thread. The consensus view at CT seems to be that HRC and the Dem neo-liberal establishment isn’t remotely interested in proving anything but sops to the American left, as far as that left actually exists. The notion that HRC in the WH is somehow going to herald a bright new day for African Americans is ludicrous. She needs the constituency to be sure. As a former fan of HRC, I could not understand in 2008-12 how she and Bill could turn the other cheek to the accusations of racism leveled at them both by the O folks. I see now (I think!) that the Clintons were playing the long game, aware that HRC would need African American support in numbers to get through the primaries, and then the main event. What do African-Americans expect to get in return? They’ll be lucky to get more of the same. What will the Republicans give them? Nothing. Which may, in fact, be better than the something they’re getting now from the Dems. I’d like to see African-Americans cut the knot with Democrats and the teachers’ unions and try to figure out how to rebuild their communities on their own, without government assistance and the helping hands that do not seem to have helped much, or enough. I don’t see more money being the answer, and I’m far more interested in seeing blacks start to get some part of the American dream than seeing millionaire Democrats take their turn at the helm of the permanent security state. Troll!


MPAVictoria 05.15.15 at 1:19 pm

“I apologize for responding to your comment. It was foolish of me.”

What ever gives you joy Bruce. :-)


e abrams 05.15.15 at 1:33 pm

my read todays (Friday) Times, your analysis vote TPP totally off; I wouldn’t be surprised the lib dems have deal with Mitch about how many of these protest votes will be allowed


Sasha Clarkson 05.15.15 at 2:49 pm

Salem @ 71 “Do you think that most people on the right have never considered the idea of a social contract?”

Well no, obviously I was somewhat reworking Hobbes in a more modern setting. But, in the anti-intellectual times we live in, most on the right don’t really think at all, but are defined by their sense of entitlement to more than their share, and by their resentment of any perceived inferiors who refuse to know their place. So, as private property enshrined in law is a serious limit to competition, defining it as a socialist concept seems like a good way to troll them and maybe shock one or two out of their complacency! :D


Anderson 05.15.15 at 4:16 pm

63: ” It was and is an anti-corruption measure designed to protect the public against bureaucratic cronyism and nepotism.”

Yes, okay, but like any other human institution, it’s become corrupted over time. The difficulty of firing public employees for not doing their jobs has become proverbial. Most public employees *do* their jobs and do them well, but it should not be so difficult to fire those who don’t. They should be protected from arbitrary and capricious dismissal, but that should be it.


MPAVictoria 05.15.15 at 4:20 pm

“So, as private property enshrined in law is a serious limit to competition, defining it as a socialist concept seems like a good way to troll them and maybe shock one or two out of their complacency! :D”

Sasha I like the way you think. Check out this post on that exact topic. I think you will enjoy it:


Harold 05.15.15 at 4:28 pm

I would like to see some empirical backup for the statement that, in response to the feminist movement, school boards originally offered tenure to teachers to keep better ones from leaving the profession. Which is what I understood Professor DeLong to be saying.

I want to add that my grandmother taught for twenty-five years in Harlem, NYC, and she had only two years of higher education at Hunter College, then a Normal (i.e., teacher preparatory) School. She also drove a taxi, during the war and I suppose, as a working woman, she was a feminist.


Sasha Clarkson 05.15.15 at 4:33 pm

Thank you MPAV – you were right: I did enjoy it! ;)


MPAVictoria 05.15.15 at 4:39 pm

“Thank you MPAV – you were right: I did enjoy it! ;)”

Glad you liked it!

/Sometimes I worry that I link to Matt Bruenig and his wife Elizabeth so much people will think I am a paid shill. The truth is I just love that I found 2 young, brilliant, leftist writers.
//Also anyone who enjoys mocking libertarians and right wingers is missing out by not following Matt on twitter. He is a force of nature when he gets going.
///I may have a crush.


bianca steele 05.15.15 at 4:44 pm

I’m finding myself agreeing with Bruce Wilder, so probably I should remain silent. :)


Davis X. Machina 05.15.15 at 4:50 pm

Government is a necessary corporation that must take care of a large portion of the economy which cannot be handled by the market system.

Any ‘it’ that cannot be handled by the market system either doesn’t exist, or should be destroyed.

“Market failure” is impossible. The market is that by which other things are judged. The market tells us stuff about things — things cannot tell us anything about the market.

It can’t be wrong. You might as well say the meter is ‘too long’.


Harold 05.15.15 at 4:59 pm

Getting rid of job protections, rent regulations, Glass-Steagall, protection of children from advertising — these are among the many disastrous neoliberal recipes for mass immiseration and the rise of the Mafia state. That’s how I see it, at any rate.


Sasha Clarkson 05.15.15 at 5:18 pm

Brad de Long @55 is echoing Keynes’ words in The End of Laissez-Faire

In Keynes’ own order, the second point first: “devotees of Capitalism are often unduly conservative, and reject reforms in its technique which might really strengthen and preserve it, for fear that they may prove to be the first steps away from capitalism itself.”

The first point: “I think that Capitalism, wisely managed, can probably be made more efficient for attaining economic ends than any alternative system yet in sight, but that in itself it is in many ways extremely objectionable. Our problem is work out a social organisation which shall be as efficient as possible without offending our notions of a satisfactory way of life.”

I wonder how a modern-day Keynes might incorporate environmental concerns into his thinking? Actually, I don’t – we have John Quiggin! :)


Dave 05.15.15 at 5:22 pm

In Europe, center-left parties have capitulated increasingly to what Angela Merkel calls ‘market-conforming democracy’ (as good an encapsulation of neoliberalism as it gets). So we’ve seen center-left governments take on organized labor in Italy and France over efforts to reduce labor market protections. This is coupled with a wholesale conversion to supply-side economics: state spending must be trimmed because credibilityhardchoices while the only thing we can do to reduce inequality is invest in human capital.

Labour’s campaign under Ed Miliband was something of a half-way house. Miliband was fiscally austere, but his regulatory agenda was a major break from New Labour. Rather than assuming “the market knows best”, there were proposals for utility price freezes, caps on rent increases, a ban on unpaid internships, major restriction of zero-hours contracts, etc.

John Quiggin is right to point out that the Democratic Party is undergoing a meaningful (though not uncontested) shift away from neoliberalism. Since the low-point of 2010, the Democratic Party is now way more comfortable with Keynesian economics than its European counterparts. And the fact that an increase in the minimum wage to the level of a living wage is increasingly a part of the Democratic mainstream is massive. Andrew Cuomo, of all people, is calling low-wage employers predators. Neoliberals like Cuomo don’t do that unless they’re worried by massive amounts of grassroots pressure. And the growing progressive wing’s moves towards expansion of social security, child care, and paid sick leave represent important steps towards de-commodification.

There are countervailing tendencies: the charter school/union busting movement still has lots of friends in the Democratic establishment, and the TPP (particularly the ISDS) would be a big step towards market conforming democracy. But these are meeting increasing resistance, and are the exception more than the rule.

The interesting question is why the center-left in Europe and the US are moving in opposite directions, given relatively similar structural conditions.


Sasha Clarkson 05.15.15 at 5:24 pm

BTW Paul Krugman has two excellent op-ed’s this week.

I know that economic has been called “the dismal science”, but the second piece literally did make me laugh out loud – as JK Galbraith’s writings often did.


Sasha Clarkson 05.15.15 at 5:26 pm

AAAAAAARGH!! – I let an aberrant apostrophe slip in – I hang my head in shame :'(


LFC 05.15.15 at 5:41 pm

I would prefer, on ideological grounds, Sanders to Clinton as the Dem nominee (not that that will happen), but NIMBY @2’s quoted passage from Naked Capitalism is a tad over the top. The Clintons have become rich, but it’s likely that their foundation has done at least a couple of good things as well some things that could be questioned on various grounds. To dismiss them all as “grifters,” as the quoted Naked Capitalism excerpt does, seems a bit excessive.

Ex-President is not an especially easy job. It was/is predictable that Obama will follow the Jimmy Carter/Bill Clinton path of setting up an organization or foundation, rather than the G.W. Bush path of golf, painting, and quiet acts of philanthropy. In a capitalist society, organizations and foundations — like art museums, orchestras, theaters, and other cultural institutions — have to court wealthy donors. Why this sad but rather unavoidable fact causes even a left-wing site like Naked Capitalism to start labeling everyone nothing but grifters and tools of Chicago real estate interests is perhaps a bit of a mystery. YMMV.


LFC 05.15.15 at 5:48 pm

Re Dave @85: The movement to raise wages for those at the bottom of the wage scale does seem to be gathering strength in some rather unexpected parts of the U.S. spectrum.


LFC 05.15.15 at 6:31 pm

In my comment @88, replace “in a capitalist society” with “in a capitalist society of the U.S. variety”


Layman 05.15.15 at 6:50 pm

“The first is that the great society programs do not seem to be having the desired result.”

This particular claim would stand a better chance, if in fact that which remained of the ‘Great Society programs’ were anti-poverty measures targeted at endemic inner-city poverty. What remains, instead, is Medicare, which overwhelmingly benefits the core Republican constituency; while the measures which did benefit the inner city poor have largely been dismantled under pressure from Conservative Republicans. Why, then, should the perpetually poor and disadvantaged turn to Republicans for policy solutions to their plight?


Roger Gathmann 05.15.15 at 7:43 pm

The problem with thought experiments as represented, perhaps, by Delong’s comment about teacher unions and salaries is that they aren’t experiments – that is, they aren’t instantiated in any material environment where we can see what happens.

In my opinion, delong’s comments on his blog tell us a lot about the elementary failure of liberal neo-liberalism and its assumptions. The notion that what we need to make everything sweetly social democratic is a non-interventionist government that concentrates on providing superior regulation for the market system is a political notion, the instantiation of which is in a social political context. It is not something imposed by heaven or a magic wand, but a political arrangement. In this arrangement, the side being regulated, under the market system, accumulates more and more money – which is political power, while what Galbraith calls countervailing power loses more and more power. It is, I think, disdainfully, a typical economists idea – it completely misses the social mechanism in which it would be instantiated and on which it will have an effect. Neo-liberalism not only abandoned egalitarianism, it trashed the whole idea, and thus became, either consciously or unconsciously, the instrument for plutocracy. Plutocracy isn’t used here as an insult word – very coldly and objectively, when you have a push to create ISDS – international courts run for multinationals that can successfully make claims to punish the sovereign decisions of governments because they “unjustly” ate into the profit of said multinationals – you have plutocracy. And of course latent plutocracy becomes the default governing option, from rescuing banks and hedge funds in a slump, while letting homeowners slip into the drink, to making government budgets less about public investment and more about deficits.
On Delong’s site, he finds it “depressing” that Milton Friedman’s ideas (much less Keynes’) are ignored in the slump. This is a huge exaggeration, I think, but even so, that this evokes depression rather than curiosity about how the system he had a large hand putting in place came to this political outcome shows the intellectual bankruptcy of neo-liberalism. Or in other words, I find his depression depressing. There’s nothing like learning nothing from the events that are consequent to one’s policies that should depress those of us too powerless to change things.


JW Mason 05.15.15 at 9:06 pm

Now, now, Mr. Mason. That bullshit coefficient is rather large, isn’t it?

Surely if we are using honorifics, it should be Professor Mason.

As for the substance, since you are just posting the text from the same link I gave in my comment, I’m not sure what your point is. I didn’t quote you out of context, I provided the same context you did. But if you think that instead of writing ““DeLong says that ending teacher tenure is one of three most important things the we can do to boost long-term growth” I should have written “…is one of the three best ideas…” or “… is one of his three favorite ideas…” I’m happy to accept that as a friendly amendment.

The larger issue is John Q.’s original claim that education reform is now unambiguously a project of the right, and that this is a symptom of the disappearance of left neoliberalism from American politics. And my point was, here’s a prominent public intellectual who is certainly not on the right, who is making what I think most people would agree is a rather forceful argument in favor of education reform, or at least a big piece of it.

I think that’s relevant. I don’t think it makes me look stupid. (But then, I wouldn’t would I?)

From Twitter:

Noah Smith ‏@Noahpinion Dec 3
Bob Litan (and Brad DeLong): Let in more high skilled immigrants and kill teacher tenure to boost growth:

Matt O’Brien ‏@ObsoleteDogma Dec 1
Here’s @delong’s “magic wand” for growth: 7% NGDP level target, higher teacher pay but no tenure, & more immigration

Now, if you actually think that it is a bad idea to weaken employment protections for teachers, or if you’re against it until or unless teacher pay is raised first, then I’ll be happy to admit that I’ve misread you. But if you didn’t want your comments to be read as “Brad DeLong thinks that ending teacher tenure is an important step to raise long-term growth it, maybe you should have said something else?


kidneystones 05.15.15 at 10:40 pm

91 You put your finger on one of the real successes of the great society programs and of the Affordable Care Act, which (after you strip away all the hand-outs to big pharma and big insurance) does represent an expansion of the health programs for the poor. I certainly don’t think the issues are ‘black and white,’ but that when all things are considered African-Americans may well find the route forward does not involve perpetual faith in the magic pony of neo-liberalism.

As some here may know, I compound my apostasy by trying to read as much as I can of right-wing grass-roots movements, groups that many on the left – Firedoglake, Think Progress either can not or will not admit exist. Why? Well, they’re new and I very much appreciate anyone who can give the status quo a good hearty kick in the scrotum. I’d like nothing more than to see some/any constituency discomfit Democratic party/Labour elites by daring to demand to be taken seriously. That’s what the Lib/Dems and the Greens do in the UK, and what the Naderites did, once, in the US. If I have an African-American/non white barber, dentist, doctor, psychiatrist, accountant, baker, etc. etc. I’m a practicing liberal. And yes, that does mean I have to be willing to drive to the next town to give the disenfranchised my business. One of my most religiously liberal pals tells a great story of walking into a black barber shop outside Toronto ‘by mistake,’ and running out followed by hoots of laughter. To his credit, he tells this story freely to illustrate his own hypocrisy. Conditions for African-Americans in America are much, much worse after the last six years of Dem rule. I see plenty of benefits in exploring alternatives – certainly at the local and state level.


kidneystones 05.15.15 at 10:56 pm

And, not to put too fine a point on it, no contrast could be more illustrative of the lack of guts and commitment to a vision/megalomania in Labour than Chuka bailing from the Labour leadership race after five days and a few raindrops, and Farage suffering the perpetual onslaught of so many slings and arrows (this week from UKIP members) and still soldiering on. UKIP and the original Tea Party did/do what liberals only dream of accomplishing.


LFC 05.16.15 at 1:01 am

kidneystones @72
the great society programs do not seem to be having the desired result [for blacks]

The aim of LBJ’s ‘war on poverty’ was not *specifically* to target African-American urban poverty, but poverty in the US generally. There was deep poverty among some whites, esp. though not only in Appalachia, and ‘the Great Society’ was as much about rural and semi-rural poverty as it was about urban poverty. Over the course of the ’60s and prob. after, the degree of severe poverty and hunger in the US was, I believe, reduced somewhat. Obviously the programs fell well short of complete success. The history of social policy is not my bailiwick, and I don’t recall when Aid to Families with Dependent Children originated, but when it ended in ’96 I doubt that helped the poverty rate. A program like Head Start, which iirc does date to the Great Society, continues to exist, albeit never funded as it shd have been (esp under Repub. Congresses).

As a former fan of HRC, I could not understand in 2008-12 how she and Bill could turn the other cheek to the accusations of racism leveled at them both by the O folks.
I don’t recall many (or any) “accusations of racism” being leveled at the Clintons by Obama supporters, certainly not directly. Possibly my recollection here is faulty. But wd HRC have accepted Sec of State job under Obama if she thought he had condoned accusations of racism vs. her during the ’08 campaign?

far more interested in seeing blacks start to get some part of the American dream than seeing millionaire Democrats take their turn at the helm of the permanent security state
There is a reasonably sizable black middle class now; there wasn’t 50 or 60 yrs ago. (Which is not to say things are generally fine, which they obvs. aren’t.)


Watson Ladd 05.16.15 at 1:26 am

LFC, material deprivation may have declined, but the neoconservative critique of the welfare state did get correct the hopelessness of many of these regions. It’s not about support of working individuals building their community, but communities where working is rare, and where the pillars of communal life are dying or dead already. Material deprivation doesn’t make you pull out a gun to shoot someone over a trivial argument. Deindustrialization has ripped apart society in these areas, and spending money won’t bring it back.


Ronan(rf) 05.16.15 at 1:43 am

I have no problems with BDL in general, but contra Daragh his quoted piece is clearly policy advice, and a prime example of the dangers of becoming a member of a tiny tribal insurgency and not realising it. ( ‘a magic wand you say ? Well rather than me give a clear answer that might clarify deep strucutural issues with the US economy and education system I’ll offer this minor irrelevant nonsense, a technical fix truth be told, to signal my seriousness since I’m debating a moronic libertarian windbag’ )
If we can all proclaim non resolutions to a topic, that proves our seriousness? I do it every time I go to my mechanic.


kidneystones 05.16.15 at 1:51 am

96 re: Accusations of racism. You cannot possibly be that out of touch, or dense. I note you insert the caveat ‘can’t remember.’ Try harder.

re: the black middle-class. It would be quite wrong to argue that there has been no progress in the area of civil rights, or that affirmative action programs have failed to help significant numbers of African-Americans out of poverty. Moreover, the problems cited in 97 affect all people living in these communities, not just blacks. What are the solutions?

I’m arguing very strongly against more of the same and offered some practical examples of how I can make a fingernail of difference. The axiom of the north and south still holds: ‘in the south, white folks don’t care how close blacks are, as long as they’re not too big. The opposite being the case in the north. Recall, for example, the school bus riots in blue-state Boston and white flight out of northern industrial cities, all controlled by Democrats. The status quo needs to change, and who better to change it than those who’ve suffered most?


LFC 05.16.15 at 2:10 am

Watson Ladd @97
Deindustrialization has ripped apart society in these areas
and spending money won’t bring it back
My short answer: it depends (on how it’s spent, what on, etc.). There are certain areas — e.g. (to take one example) southernmost W. Virginia, where coal jobs are largely gone — that are perhaps beyond salvage economically (and socially). But one shd try to avoid that conclusion if at all possible.


LFC 05.16.15 at 2:30 am

Although B. Wilder @41 is right that poverty has to do with more than lack of income (and Watson Ladd would, I assume, agree), material deprivation is nonetheless an important part of it. Hence it’s a positive sign that raising wages for lowest-pd workers seems to be gaining traction as an issue, as noted upthread. True, that doesn’t help e.g. the ‘structurally’ unemployed who live in areas from which jobs have disappeared, for whom other measures need to be found.


LFC 05.16.15 at 2:38 am

I have no particular interest in arguing candidates/parties/electoral strategy w kidneystones (or, really, anyone else), but kidneystones’ claim @94 that African-Americans are collectively worse off now than in Jan. ’09 (when Obama took office) I don’t think is correct.


Lee A. Arnold 05.16.15 at 2:48 am

Davis X. Machina #82: “Market failure is impossible.”

Exactly! The reason why you don’t have a good job after 30 years of deregulation and tax cuts is because you are a failure along with 90% of the people. It’s the only possible explanation.


JimV 05.16.15 at 2:55 am

Professor Mason @93:

I agree with Professor DeLong that “DeLong says that ending teacher tenure is one of three most important things the we can do to boost long-term growth” is bullcrap. He said (in my reading) that increasing teacher’s salaries + ending teacher tenure is one of the three mostly likely ways to boost growth that might be politically available. I don’t know if he thought the tenure part was necessary to get conservative votes or whether he is against tenure himself, but I am certain he meant the two to be linked.


bob mcmanus 05.16.15 at 3:29 am

102: The Obliteration of Black Wealth …Jamelle Bouie at Slate July 2014

Loss of home ownership and loss of lower middle class government jobs, both of which Obama had early opportunities to mitigate

But I have been over and over this, and the Democrats will go…

“African-Americans are collectively worse off now than in Jan. ’09 ”

Ok, the numbers say Blacks are much worse off than in 2005 or 2007, but compared to the 2009 bottom which we absolutely must blame only on Bush, they are a slightly wealthier, so…” or

“But they feel good about themselves with a Black President…”

Obama is evil scum. I think it was intentional.


bob mcmanus 05.16.15 at 3:40 am

<a href=""<CNN Money has a more recent figure

Using the Bouie linked above, Black wealth

2005: $12, 124
2009: $5, 677
2010: $4, 965


kidneystones 05.16.15 at 3:51 am

102 You’re welcome to disagree with anyone, including me. I’d prefer that when asserting that I’m wrong, as I often is; that you’d try to find actual instances instead of using whatever isn’t currently littering the space between your ears as argumentation.

Re: your earlier claim that you don’t recall the O folks accusing the Clintons of racism in 2008, you’d be perhaps the only person I’m aware of who doesn’t recall the case. Indeed, the issue was discussed at Crooked Timber on March 7, 2008. I’m certain you can add more to any discussion than simply burping into the thread.

Re: African-Americans are collectively worse now than when O took office, you can perhaps be excused on the grounds that this is not a stat that those inhabiting liberal bubble-land are likely to encounter. However, even the Huffpo, was compelled to print this assessment on Jan 29, 2013 when the source was none other than Ben Jealous. As in: ” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous said Sunday, perhaps unwittingly, that black Americans “are doing far worse” than when President Obama first took office.” Musta-mispoke, huh? Actually, no. “The country’s back to pretty much where it was when this president started,” Mr. Jealous told MSNBC host David Gregory on “Meet the Press.” “White people in this country are doing a bit better. Black people are doing a full point worse.” As for 2015, this from the BlackPressUSA:

Unemployment. The average Black unemployment under President Bush was 10 percent. The average under President Obama after six years is 14 percent. Black unemployment, “has always been double” [that of Whites] but it hasn’t always been 14 percent. The administration was silent when Black unemployment hit 16 percent – a 27-year high – in late 2011.

Poverty. The percentage of Blacks in poverty in 2009 was 25 percent; it is now 27 percent. The issue of poverty is rarely mentioned by the president or any members of his cabinet. Currently, more than 45 million people – 1 in 7 Americans – live below the poverty line.

The Black/White Wealth Gap. The wealth gap between Blacks and Whites in America is at a 24-year high. A December study by PEW Research Center revealed the average White household is worth $141,900, and the average Black household is worth $11,000. From 2010 to 2013, the median income for Black households plunged 9 percent.

The writer, Lauren Victoria Burke goes on to note the positives, such as expanded health-care, but clearly feels that these stats confirm the lot of African-Americans has not improved since O took office.

You’re welcome to focus on the good things Dems have done, as these certainly exist.


Ronan(rf) 05.16.15 at 4:13 am

Kidneystones , have you been in a coma until yesterday ? Or are you just a moron ?


Ronan(rf) 05.16.15 at 4:14 am

Genuine question.


Ronan(rf) 05.16.15 at 4:48 am

Or are you actually a brain implanted into a Mac.


kidneystones 05.16.15 at 4:48 am

109 Friends like us, huh? You don’t offer much in the way of counter-argument to the Jealous judgment, or to the poverty stats. Now, why is that?



Ronan(rf) 05.16.15 at 4:49 am

cross posted !!!!!!


kidneystones 05.16.15 at 4:52 am

109… was going to say that real work is calling. So, I guess I should. Enjoy the jelly doughnut, the poor are paying for it. I blame Trig Palin!


Ronan(rf) 05.16.15 at 4:53 am

Excuse me ?


kidneystones 05.16.15 at 6:12 am

As usual, I left a CT thread stunned at the illiteracy of a number of the commenters. So, I did what I usually do – check to see if I’m wrong. In this case, LFC, had trouble accepting that African-Americans are generally worse off than when O took office. The plight of African-American families under O has been discussed in the NYT and the WP, so I was genuinely surprised that so few here seem to understand the problem. The best article I read early on was in the NYT: May 30th 2010 by Michael Powell – “Blacks in Memphis Lose Decades of Economic Gains.” It’s a gripping account of how predatory lenders used the financial crisis to effectively steal homes from African Americans during the time when Democrats controlled the executive and both houses. Got your six! Not likely. The stats are frightening.

“The median income of black homeowners in Memphis rose steadily until five or six years ago. Now it has receded to a level below that of 1990 — and roughly half that of white Memphis homeowners, according to an analysis conducted by Queens College Sociology Department for The New York Times.

Black middle-class neighborhoods are hollowed out, with prices plummeting and homes standing vacant in places like Orange Mound, Whitehaven and Cordova. As job losses mount — black unemployment here, mirroring national trends, has risen to 16.9 percent from 9 percent two years ago; it stands at 5.3 percent for whites — many blacks speak of draining savings and retirement accounts in an effort to hold onto their homes. The overall local foreclosure rate is roughly twice the national average.

The repercussions will be long-lasting, in Memphis and nationwide. The most acute economic divide in America remains the steadily widening gap between the wealth of black and white families, according to a recent study by the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University. For every dollar of wealth owned by a white family, a black or Latino family owns just 16 cents, according to a recent Federal Reserve study.

The Economic Policy Institute’s forthcoming “The State of Working America” analyzed the recession-driven drop in wealth. As of December 2009, median white wealth dipped 34 percent, to $94,600; median black wealth dropped 77 percent, to $2,100. So the chasm widens, and Memphis is left to deal with the consequences.”

This widening gap between rich and poor in 2015 is clearly having a greater impact on blacks than whites, did you know? So, life is not getting better for those at the bottom of the pecking order. How about further up the ladder? “The American Dream Shattered: African-Americans Who Bought Homes in Prince George’s (County) Have Watched Their Wealth Vanish.” Hyperbole, right? Wrong. Here’s the link. The charts are devastating.

Cavalry ain’t coming. Under O the banks got bailed and black homeowners got screwed.

Who could have imagined?


Ronan(rf) 05.16.15 at 12:41 pm

Kidneystones- I apologise for calling you a moron and asking are you a Mac with a brain implanted in it. I shouldn’t have allowed my frustration at your schtick develop into such vitriol.


Happy Jack 05.16.15 at 12:58 pm

School boards across the country have responded to the difficulties of hiring as the coming of feminist liberties has allowed their captive female labor pool to escape by offering tenure in order to attract the risk-averse to teaching without having to require their taxpayer principals to face reality.

Risk-averse? Does this mean that the answer lies in a policy of avoiding hiring cowardly women? If you remove tenure you’ll unleash the entrepreneurial spirit that the more brave are yearning for?


LFC 05.16.15 at 3:53 pm

kidneystones @107
your earlier claim that you don’t recall the O folks accusing the Clintons of racism in 2008, you’d be perhaps the only person I’m aware of who doesn’t recall the case. Indeed, the issue was discussed at Crooked Timber on March 7, 2008.

When I have time I will look up this reference to CT March 7, 2008, which you have (unhelpfully) not linked.


LFC 05.16.15 at 4:21 pm

Re condition of African-Americans under Obama admin:

I recall seeing the headline for the piece about Prince George’s County linked by kidneystones @115. (I didn’t read it, prob b.c my free articles limit at WP had run out for that month.) At any rate, I will retract, at least provisionally, my remark @102 in view of the material linked above by kidneystones and mcmanus.

kidneystones @115:
As usual, I left a CT thread stunned at the illiteracy of a number of the commenters. … In this case, LFC, had trouble accepting that African-Americans are generally worse off than when O took office.

I think what you meant to charge me with is ignorance, not illiteracy. There is a difference.


Harold 05.16.15 at 4:41 pm

Brad DeLong @ 44 “… the very smart Jesse Rothstein in the building next door thinks that eliminating teacher tenure is in no wise low-hanging fruit–that it substantially boosts the salary needed to acquire good teachers as it leads the risk-averse to exit the profession, and that nearly all who should not be teachers as identified as such before they gain tenure.”

Um, the “very smart” Mr. Rothstein is now singing a rather different tune.
“Rothstein, on teacher tenure:

“Even if you give the principal the freedom to fire lots of teachers, they won’t do it very often, because they know the alternative is worse.” The alternative being replacing an ineffective teacher by an even less effective teacher. Contrary to what is oft-assumed, high qualified teachers are not knocking down the doors to teach in such schools.

“Teacher tenure is ‘really a red herring’ in the sense that debating tenure ultimately misleads and distracts others from the more relevant and important issues at hand (e.g., recruiting strong teachers into such schools). Tenure just doesn’t matter that much. If you got rid of tenure, you would find that the principals “don’t really fire very many people anyway” (see also point above).


Harold 05.16.15 at 4:58 pm

The idea that parents are panting to consign their young children of five to eleven to go-getters with the “entrepreneurial spirit” or that such a qualification is pertinent to the task is risible, if not insane.


Harold 05.16.15 at 5:17 pm

But if a “very smart” economist down the hall said it (before he said the opposite), it must be true for all time.


adam.smtih 05.16.15 at 5:26 pm

Yeah, Harold is right on the history of teacher tenure. Dana Goldstein chronicle’s some of this in her (really, really excellent) book The Teacher Wars. Teacher tenure does co-incide with 1st wave feminism, i.e. it happened between 1907 and 1920 in most states, but it was, indeed, a reaction against cronyism and unjustified lay-offs and had nothing to do with any plethora of other employment opportunities, which women didn’t have until much later. As Goldstein points out, it was fairly uncontroversial back then and strongly favored by good government types, who cited the Prussian civil service as an explicit example.
If De Long’s version of history were true, we should see more tenure in the wake of 2nd wave feminism and higher female labor market participation, but the 1960s is actually when the movement against teacher tenure started.


Layman 05.16.15 at 6:10 pm

Kidneystones @ 94, your rambling response to my criticism is interesting enough, though in fact it doesn’t actually address my criticism. If nothing else, you should admit that 1) the incidence of senior poverty was greatly improved by the expedient of throwing money at it in the form of health care, and 2) the other anti-poverty measures of the Great Society have by and large been ended by conservative Republicans with a big assist by neo-liberal Democrats, and 3) it cannot then be the case that Great Society programs (e.g. Welfare) are responsible for the plight of today’s poor. In light of that, why couldn’t throwing money at poverty help (we know in fact that it did), and why should African Americans turn to Republicans for solutions?


LFC 05.16.15 at 7:57 pm

Layman @124

Other than AFDC (assuming it was a Great Society program), I’m not sure many G.S. programs have been ended. Some have been cut back, to be sure, but I wd doubt that a lot of them have been outright ended (Office of Ec Opportunity no longer exists, but its functions might have been folded into other agencies). It’s not that easy to end programs once they’ve begun, though I’m sure Reagan et al managed to do it for at least a few.

(I take no position on where, politically speaking, African-Americans shd turn for solutions. Wd prefer to stay out of that whole debate for now.)


LFC 05.16.15 at 7:59 pm

p.s. for the record, I am fully aware that it was Clinton who ended AFDC in ’96 (via congressional action).


JW Mason 05.16.15 at 9:00 pm

We are at his moment facing a political battle over whether teachers should have a recognized right to continue in their positions, and whether teachers should be free to manage the content of what happens in their classroom. Teacher autonomy and watcher job protections are at this moment being rolled back in California, in Wisconsin and Illinois, in New York. Now you may say you are in favor if this actually being executed program, and also in favor of a hypothetical program with no support. We all remember this from a decade ago, the people who supported the invasion if Iraq and also nation-building measures X and Y. DeLong knew what he thought of such people then, they were supporters of the war. DeLong now is a supporter of the war against teachers. And also, so what, or ponies for everyone.


JW Mason 05.16.15 at 9:02 pm

There are typos in my comment above.


Brad DeLong 05.16.15 at 9:41 pm

JW Mason @93: “‘Now, now, Mr. Mason. That bullshit coefficient is rather large, isn’t it?’ Surely if we are using honorifics, it should be Professor Mason.”

No. If you want me to call you “professor”, I recommend you take steps to stop beclowning yourself.

“As for the substance, since you are just posting the text from the same link I gave in my comment, I’m not sure what your point is. I didn’t quote you out of context, I provided the same context you did. But if you think that instead of writing ‘DeLong says that ending teacher tenure is one of three most important things the we can do to boost long-term growth’…

Now, now. You know as well as I do that you should have written: “DeLong says boosting salaries of K-12 public-school teachers relative to median salaries by 50%, in exchange for severe reductions in teacher tenure, is one of his three favorite ideas.”

You can still revise your comment to write that. I’m sure the Crooked Timber moderators would let you use the tag on your initial comment. It would be a start…


Brad DeLong 05.16.15 at 9:48 pm

Layman @124

Good point…


MPAVictoria 05.16.15 at 10:22 pm

Would like to point out to Brad Delong one more time that I never quoted him. Would be nice if he acknowledged the mistake.


kidneystones 05.16.15 at 10:35 pm

LFC I’m certain you can do better simply by checking basic facts, which you very oddly refuse to do. You’ll also need to explain why you’re retraction is provisional, rather than unconditional given the evidence from multiple sources.

Re: your attempt to educate me on the meaning of illiteracy. This is very poor, but I instructive, I sincerely hope. In the same comment in which you admit that you mouth without reading the basic facts (hint), you then offer compelling evidence that what this isolated error (oops, no more free articles whatcha gonna do?) may in fact be habitual. Had you bothered checked (note the pattern, please) you’d have discovered that illiteracy does in fact mean ignorance. Here’s just one dictionary example : illiteracy • lack of knowledge in a particular subject; ignorance: his economic illiteracy. Or, as in ‘LFC’s illiteracy regarding the plight of African-Americans. Or as in LFC’s illiteracy regarding the use of polysyllabic English nouns. I very much fear that you suffer because of your illiteracy and because you are willfully ignorant, in the sense that you refuse to check basic facts. Good luck, really. Your retraction is an excellent start.


kidneystones 05.16.15 at 10:36 pm

Sorry, the edit renders this unreadable in places! My bad, hope you get the point.


Harold 05.16.15 at 11:03 pm

What parents know and what has been known and understood from time immemorial is that neither the Dukes and the Dauphins, with their risk-taking “entrepreneurial spirit” nor the “best-and-brightest” “smart people” who can bedazzle solipsistic billionaires with scientific-sounding grant proposals that plausibly reinforce the prejudices of said billionaires, make the best teachers for young children. The best teachers are those that have a rapport with children and parents and who plan to stay in the job.


MPAVictoria 05.16.15 at 11:11 pm

“The best teachers are those that have a rapport with children and parents and who plan to stay in the job.”

Well put Harold.


kidneystones 05.16.15 at 11:16 pm

First, an apology for multiple comments and for hitting the submit key without proofing my edits. Easily remedied.

@ Ronan(rf) 116. I confess I fail to see any evidence of counter-argument in any of your remarks addressed my way. What I do see is a continued attempt to sidestep your lack of evidence by shifting from name-calling to another form of insult.

@LFC 118. When/if you search for the specific link, you may discover as I did, that the connection times out before you can link. Please check yourself before asserting that I’m being ‘unhelpful’ for failing to do something you’re demonstrably to lazy to do yourself.

@LFC 124. I concede in 94 that expanding healthcare for the poor is one of the great successes of the O administration (hand-outs to corporate America, aside). No doubt you missed that (as well). Your retraction covers everything else, I think. The issue is not, I remind you, who cut programs, but whether African-Americans might wish to dispense with government hand-outs, food stamps, etc, and try another approach – ie. voting for Republicans at the local and state level, definitely, and perhaps for CEO of America inc.
UKIP and the Tea Party (2008-2010) confirm that playing nice is always seen as weakness by elites, blue and red.

If you don’t know anything about Emmeline Pankhurst, I sincerely suggest you find out.


Ronan(rf) 05.16.15 at 11:46 pm

kidneystones – i wasn’t trying to refute any of your arguments. I was merely engaging in name calling for its own sake.


Val 05.16.15 at 11:51 pm

LFC, kidneystones, Ronan(f)
The article kidneystones linked to in the Washington Post has nothing to do with President Obama. It is a longish piece, with some historical background, about why black homeowners have suffered worse and longer lasting effects from the recession than white homeowners.

Having read it fairly quickly, the two main points I took out of it were: historically black people have had much less opportunity for capital accumulation that whites, so tend to be much less wealthy; predominantly black neighbourhoods have not seen as much rise in their home values as predominantly white neighbourhoods, because white people don’t tend to buy into them. So you have a smaller housing market, made up of people with less capital, therefore less rebound after the recession. Racism is the underlying cause, as ever.

I’m not defending President Obama, I think he bowed far too much to Big Money, but from my perspective as an Australian, all American presidents do that (ours do too, just not quite as much). In the case of kidneystones, I think he (I believe kidneystones is he, please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) is more like a right wing concern troll, using supposed concern for black poor to make attacks on president Obama (the real agenda).

I think kidneystones has claimed to be left, etc, but I don’t really believe it.


kidneystones 05.17.15 at 12:02 am

@ Ronan(rf) 137 Wrong, you’re not engaging in name calling for its own sake, you’re engaging in name calling cause you got nothing. Prove me wrong.

@ Val 138 Again, no evidence. I have not to the best of my recollection ever claimed “to be left.” I detest O, and supported Edwards, then HRC. I admit freely that when the O people started accusing Geraldine Ferraro and HRC of racism, the same way that I and many others were accusing Republicans of racism – for political advantage and to demonize them and their constituents, that maybe I ought to take a step back and start thinking in terms of workable and unworkable, rather than blue and red. I certainly have no respect for the leaders of any political party that I can think of at the moment. Good luck with your dissertation. I visited your website last week. Nice snaps!


bob mcmanus 05.17.15 at 12:13 am

Two of things Obama could have tried, was explicitly asked to try, and deliberately chose not to pursue in 2009 were mortgage relief and protection (FDR did this a lot; and Obama/Bernanke provided trillions to banks); and revenue sharing/infrastructure various help to state and local governments to prevent the massive downsizing under budget stress. Both/either of these would have disproportionately helped middle and lower-middle class blacks.

And a whole lot of the gains for minorities and women since the late sixties were due to expanded government and public sector jobs; anyone who seeks to shrink gov’t, and Obama was enthusiastically proud of doing so, knew exactly who would be the first to be laid off.


Layman 05.17.15 at 12:57 am

LFC @ 125

Programs need not be ended; starving them of funds is sufficient. As one example, the Job Corps program today receives 15% of the funding it received at inception, when measured in constant dollars & adjusted to account for the change in the size of the economy. Education grant funding has fallen dramatically, particularly when compared to the huge growth in tuition costs. States have choked Medicaid services deliberately, while the Federal government looks away.

This of course ignores the steps that conservative and neo-liberal government have done to create a worse job environment, exacerbating the problem anti-poverty programs are supposed to address.


Val 05.17.15 at 3:32 am

Thank you for the kind words, kidneystones, they are appreciated even if I remain suspicious of your agenda. Why the continued focus on attacking Obama? I take bob mcmanus’ points @140 on board, they are good points, but I don’t see why anyone thinks any middle of the road Democratic president would have done better? And who else is going to get elected but a middle of the road president? Truly, I’m puzzled. What did Americans expect?

Again, the political system that I know a bit about is ours, and I can’t claim to know much about others, but those are genuine questions from where I sit. Is Obama simply the victim of inflated expectations? Because if leaders from minority groups (yours) or female leaders (our former PM), are going to be subjected simultaneously to inflated expectations and exaggerated criticisms, it’s a big problem.

I will bow out with that I think.


LFC 05.17.15 at 3:57 am

If you don’t know anything about Emmeline Pankhurst, I sincerely suggest you find out.

I know who she was. Not sure what she has to do with any of this. (No doubt another example of my laziness and ignorance.)


LFC 05.17.15 at 4:19 am

kidneystones @132
you [LFC] refuse to check basic facts

I don’t “refuse to check basic facts.” I don’t always have the time or inclination to conduct research before every comment, but if I make a statement about which I’m uncertain, I qualify it appropriately (e.g., “I think,” “it may be the case that,” etc.). You make it sound as if I go around habitually asserting confidently that “X, Y and Z are true” without bothering to check if X, Y, and Z are indeed true. That is not my practice in comment threads, and it has never been. And btw, an error about the meaning of a word is not the same as an habitual refusal to check facts.

Your remarks are consistently insulting, and I have made an effort not to respond in kind. Though I would add that I have no problem with an occasional bit of name-calling for the sake of name-calling, because this is, after all, a blog comment thread (even if it is at a (supposedly) high-class intellectual blog).


LFC 05.17.15 at 4:28 am

For the record, I don’t think African-Americans (or anybody else) should vote Republican; for African-Americans, to do so is just plain crazy, IMO. Kidneystones disagrees. Fine. It’s not as if many prospective voters are reading this thread anyway.


kidneystones 05.17.15 at 9:16 am

144@ LFC. You have a very curious notion of what constitutes an insult. You have repeatedly questioned the veracity of my own claims and even tried to correct my use of basic English. When I point out that these claims are, in fact, common knowledge and express astonishment at your illiteracy, you claim I’ve insulted you.

I recommend you stop, and start checking before mouthing off, because each time you publicly assert that I’m wrong I’m going to check to see if your criticism has any foundation. If it has, I’ll happily thank you and perhaps offer an apology. Either way, if I respond, I’m going to respond publicly. I admit I derive some small satisfaction from vindication, but I much prefer to be corrected on questions where I really am in error. Which does happen often, just not here as often as I’d like.

Some people call this ‘learning.’ I rather enjoy it. When you don’t check, I don’t learn. I don’t much mind re-checking my sources for you, but then having you whine that I’m being ‘unhelpful’ in not providing you with links does tax my patience I confess.

I’m quite sincere in wishing you well and commend you for your retraction. It’s never easy for some to admit fault. I’ve already made several lifetime’s worth of mistakes and can’t imagine getting from my bed of the door without screwing-up along the way. Cheers!


Ogden Wernstrom 05.18.15 at 6:34 pm

kidneystones, does your superiority complex blind you to the insult you dispense?

The lack of self-awareness in your commentary is astounding. It is common knowledge that disrespect and scorn can be insulting, yet you claim not to have insulted anyone.

Before you keyboard off, I suggest that you consider the tone of what you are writing – and how you would respond to similarly-worded responses.

When you complain that someone does not meet your high standards (@139: “Again, no evidence” …from someone who has offered so little evidence), it appears that your superiority complex blinds you to your own foibles. (Yes, I did read that you encounter some difficulty when you arise. You might want to seek medical attention; orthostatic hypotension can be a symptom of some life-threatening conditions.) It appears that you create and apply any such standards to meet the current need-to-scorn.

We are so lucky here at CT to have someone suggesting that US blacks should vote Republican for a change, but you have been so busy posting about everyone else’s failings, I think you have failed to make a case stating why. A few data points, with no explanation of how those are supposed to corroborate your conclusion, looks to me like failure.

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