EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
Are Americans ready for a leader who challenges the market fundamentalism that has dominated our politics for the past half-century? Not a pretend populist like President Trump, but the real deal? The more progressive Democratic presidential contenders—particularly Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)—are betting their campaigns on it. Now, a compelling new report from the Roosevelt Institute details the problems with the current US economy and suggests a new course.
“New Rules for the 21st Century,” authored by Nell Abernathy, Darrick Hamilton and Julie Margetta Morgan, starts with the inescapable reality: This economy doesn’t work well for the vast majority of Americans—and hasn’t for some time. (Disclosure: I serve on the Roosevelt Institute’s board.) Wages have been essentially flat for decades, and insecurity has risen. Basic investments in infrastructure and research and development have been starved. Wealth and income are ever-more concentrated, increasingly allowing the few the power to subvert our democracy. And the United States is failing basic tests for the future, such as educating the next generation and meeting the existential threat of climate change.
This abysmal record isn’t an accident, the report shows. It isn’t because of inexorable forces such as globalization, technology or the “invisible hand” of the market. It is because the rich and the big corporations have organized government power to rig the rules of the economy to benefit themselves. They evangelized market fundamentalism, the illusion that markets are self-correcting and efficiently serve the public interest, while governments are ineffective and wasteful. In reality, the authors conclude, “the free-market revolution was not about getting government out of the way—it was about using government to serve the interests of the elite private sector through fewer government restrictions that inhibit profit and more government intervention that support it.” The Republican right armed that argument with a “strategic racism” that has divided Americans from each other while exacerbating the racial and gender inequalities.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.