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Getting the Word Out | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Getting the Word Out

And now for some good news this Labor Day. Not about a sudden turnaround in jobs, wages, health insurance, family incomes, poverty, or inequality, all of which continue their dismal course. Nor about the Bush Administration actually doing something to improve the fortunes of working families. No girlie men they.

In fact the good news isn't about the economy per se at all. It's about our growing ability as progressives to say something consistent and intelligent about economic developments, from multiple respected sources around the country--not just a few TV studios in Washington or New York--simultaneously. The Right has long had such an "echo chamber" on policy analysis and recommendations. (You know how it works: Some argument or made-up-fact surfaces in one place, and is suddenly heard nationwide.) We progressives have been slower to get such coordination on our message, which tends to be more truthful and less heard. But we're getting closer.

One good example is the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN), which links local, state, and national groups that conduct and disseminate research on a range of economic issues, including wages and benefits, incomes, jobs, unemployment, workforce and economic development, minimum and living wages, Social Security, and other issues related to working class living standards. Started a few years ago--at the initiative of Nation contributing editor Joel Rogers, a professor at UW-Madison and director of its Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS), and Larry Mishel, now president of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), EARN now has 44 such groups, from 34 states, networked together.

In the next few days, in coordination with EPI's Labor Day release of its biannual State of Working America, most of the EARN groups will be releasing "State of Working [name the state]" reviews of conditions in their state. So instead of one organization we'll speak as 24, and instead of a few spokespeople we'll have closer to 100--all working off the same basic national facts and conclusions, and each able to relate those in detail to their own state. And what it's doing this week with its state reports, EARN, currently under the direction of Michael Ettlinger (known to many for his years of work at Citizens for Tax Justice), has done with a number of other simultaneous, multi-state releases.

Along with the national report from EPI and the Wisconsin report from COWS, look for upcoming releases from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, California Budget Project (www.cbp.org), Center for Governmental Studies with the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (IL) (www.ctbaonline.org), Center for Labor Research and Studies (FL) (www.fiu.edu/~clrs), Center for Public Policy Priorities (TX) (www.cppp.org/), Children's Action Alliance (AZ) (www.azchildren.org/caa/welcome.asp), Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute (www.cclponline.org/), Connecticut Voices for Children (www.ctkidslink.org/), Fiscal Policy Institute (NY) (www.fiscalpolicy.org/), Indiana Institute for Working Families (www.ichhi.org/), Institute for Labor Studies and Research (WV), Iowa Policy Project (www.iowapolicyproject.org/), Keystone Research Center (PA), Maine Center for Economic Policy, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, Minnesota Budget Project and Jobs Now Coalition, New Jersey Policy Perspective, New Mexico Voices for Children, North Carolina Budget and Tax Center, Oregon Center for Public Policy, Policy Matters Ohio, and Utah Issues Center for Poverty Research and Action.

So, on this Labor Day let's celebrate this new "echo chamber" and work to get the message out!

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