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The American Role-of-Government Debate and the Trashing of ‘Europe’

by David Howell

The presidential election and the ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations dramatically illustrated the growing political polarization of America, which is ultimately about one big question: what role for government in America’s future?

But it should also be recognized that the ideological fulcrum of this debate has shifted far to the right in recent decades, and dramatically so in recent years. This is nicely illustrated by the similarity of the long-term budget plans that were proposed last month by President Obama and House Speaker Boehner, which would have shrink the Federal government’s civilian discretionary budget to levels not seen since the Eisenhower era (see “Goodbye, Government, Under Either Fiscal Plan,” The New York Times, December 18, 2012). The outcome of the ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations was widely seen as an Obama victory – certainly by the House Republicans – but as the Times put it on the front page the day after the agreement, “Just a few years ago, the tax deal pushed through Congress on Tuesday would have been a Republican fiscal fantasy” (“Lines of Resistance on Fiscal Deal,” January 2, 2013).


David Howell

by David Howell

David Howell is a Professor of Economics and Public Policy and directs the Doctoral Program in Public and Urban Policy at The New School. He is an affiliated member of the New School’s economics department, a Faculty Research Fellow at the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, and a Research Scholar at the Political Economy Research Institute (UMass Amherst). His books include the edited volume Fighting Unemployment: The Limits of Free Market Orthodoxy. He was also the lead author on the landmark 2007 paper “Are Protective Labor Market Institutions at the Root of Unemployment?” which overturned a generation of orthodox research on the causes of mass unemployment in Europe.

Please check back shortly for David’s first post.

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