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It’s The Economy, Stupid

A thought on today’s bad jobs numbers, the generally bad economic situation, and also the conference on political advocacy I’m at. Looking back at a wide array of progressive interest groups’ thinking in the winter of 2008–2009, I think history will show that essentially everyone put too little emphasis on a “do what it takes to fix the economy” strategy.

Instead, groups working on climate and energy reform worked on climate and energy reform. Groups working on immigration reform worked on immigration reform. At best, groups worked on repackaging their existing agenda as a “jobs” agenda rather than genuinely reorienting. And of course there’s a reason for that. If you’re a professional advocate working on such-and-such an issue, you’re really in an institutional situation where you can’t say “eh, congress should put my issue aside and focus on jobs.” But the fact of the matter is that the failure to enact policies in February and March of 2009 that were sufficient to produce a reasonably robust recovery is dooming us all. You can’t make substantial progress on labor law or child poverty or immigration or anything else in this climate, and when the governing majority’s inability to deliver the economic bacon leads to big GOP wins in the midterms, the outlook for progressive causes will get even bleaker.

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