Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Will the supply of economic security ever meet the demand?

Paul Krugman had an op-ed in the NY Times recently that first came out in support of legislation that is a clear attack on big business:

Then, under the watchful gaze of Wal-Mart's chief operating officer, Maryland's governor vetoed a bill that would have obliged large businesses to spend more on employee health care.

The news here isn't that some politicians wrap their deference to corporate interests in the flag. The news, instead, is that Maryland's State Legislature passed a pro-worker bill in the first place. In fact, the bill passed by a veto-proof majority in the Maryland Senate, and fell just short of that margin in the House.

After November's election, the victors claimed a mandate to unravel the welfare state. But the national election was about who would best defend us from gay married terrorists. At the state level, where elections were fought on bread-and-butter issues, voters sent a message that they wanted a stronger, not weaker, social safety net.

Notice that this is targeted at "big business". Never mind people who work for small businesses. What is also funny is that this is a "pro-worker" bill - but one that will raise the costs of doing business (hiring workers) for large corporations, which could result in cutting back on the workforce. Which doesn't strike me as being good for workers (unless you're one of the lucky one that keeps their job).

The main focus of the article is that people are demanding more and more economic security in the form of the social safety net. Which probably is true, because as the overall conditions improve across society, people will want to retain those gains. Krugman, however, feels that the government can and should play an increasing role in this and it will actually make a difference. As usual, Will Wilkinson can spot the problem with his claims. Specifically, he asks a couple of questions of Krugman: first, would a rational person who knew all the economic data rather live in 1980 or 2005? (because Krugman claims that worker security has gone so far downhill in the past 25 years). And he also makes a great final point: if governments do such a great job at protecting economic security, why do people living under socialism have so little economic security?


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