February 21: Strong Unions or Long Divisions

What you need to know to navigate today’s most critical debates.

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America’s last hope: A strong labor movement (Salon)
Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren argues that Americans must challenge autocracy in the workplace as strongly as they oppose autocracy in government — even in regions where that last part isn’t a sure thing.

Pain Without Gain (NYT)
Paul Krugman writes that Europe’s shrinking economies prove austerity in the midst of an economic downturn is as bad an idea as anyone who’s ever heard of Herbert Hoover could have predicted, but proponents still won’t own up to their mistakes.

Manufacturing: Why We Should Help the Sector (But Not Too Much) (On the Economy)
Jared Bernstein makes the case that instead of inventing an industrial policy from scratch or abandoning the manufacturing sector and relying on iPad app debuggers to fuel the economy, we need to get smarter and more focused in our support.

Some Doubt a Settlement Will End Mortgage Ills (NYT)
Critics are skeptical that the settlement’s promise of a single point of contact for loan modifications will put a stop to the Kafkaesque nightmare of confusing paperwork, impenetrable bureaucracy, and in rare cases, homeowners turning into giant bugs.

In Alabama, a County That Fell Off the Financial Cliff (NYT)
When Jefferson County officials hit a dead end with run-of-the-mill graft, they turned to Wall Street for a master class and left their constituents with $4 billion in debt, a broken sewer system, and a bankrupt government that can’t afford basic services.

Check out “The 99 Percent Plan,” a new Roosevelt Institute/Salon essay series on the progressive vision for the economy.

Obama’s Budget, Your Server’s Budget (The Nation)
Greg Kaufmann looks at the president’s latest budget proposal as a mixed bag for antipoverty advocates and notes that while you should always remember to tip your waiters and waitresses, providing them with a living wage would be even better.

The Two Americas (TNR)
Timothy Noah reviews Charles Murray’s controversial Coming Apart, in which, by ignoring racial disparities, Murray tries to avoid being labeled a racist, and by denying the importance of economic disparities, he avoids making a coherent argument.

Who Actually Benefits From Federal Benefits? (MoJo)
Kevin Drum highlights a CBPP study that ought to elate critics of the “entitlement state” who argue that government aid should only go to the elderly, disabled, and working poor who really need it. Looks like they’ve pretty much gotten their wish.

Ideological hypocrites (WaPo)
E.J. Dionne argues that the anti-government rhetoric doesn’t match up to the reality in a Republican primary between two career politicians who have proved willing and eager to secure earmarks and bailouts to reward their supporters.

Shifting the Center of the Political Debate (Economist’s View)
Mark Thoma writes that it’s all well and good that Barack Obama has finally decided to resist Republicans’ efforts to drag the debate to the right, but now he needs to start pushing back to the left, not pretend that the far right is the new center.

With additional research by Roosevelt Institute intern Elena Callahan.