Focusing on Health Care and Trade

Source: Dean Baker, Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs, January-February 2007, Vol. 50 no. 1 (subscription needed)

The Democrats regained control of Congress in November in part as a result of the corruption and incompetence of the Republicans, but also in part because of their promises to make things better for the average family. Their ability to stay in power will depend on their ability to make good on these promises. Two areas that are central to the economic security of average workers are health-care reform and trade policy. The Democrats will have to put forward a clear progressive agenda in these areas if they expect to be taken seriously in future elections.

The Capacities and Challenges of Faith-Based Human Service Organizations

Source: Richard M. Clerkin and Kirsten A. Grønbjerg, Public Administration Review, January/February 2007
(subscription needed)

The Charitable Choice provision of the 1996 welfare reform act under the Clinton administration and the Bush administration’s establishment of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives in the White House have expanded the participation of overtly religious service organizations in the implementation of social policy. What has been the impact of these moves on human service-oriented religious congregations? Most of them seem unwilling to forego their sacred mission for the sake of receiving public funding, and for a few participating congregations, a measure of secularization may have crept into their service programs.

The Effects of Rounding on the Consumer Price Index

Source: Elliot Williams, Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 129 no. 10, October 2006

The Bureau of Labor Statistics rounds the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to a single decimal place before it is publicly released. Because the actual changes in the CPI have been small recently (the rate of inflation has been relatively low), the small differences in rounding the CPI index before calculating an inflation rate can create a significantly misleading picture of monthly price inflation. This article demonstrates how such problems can arise and investigates how frequently there is a discrepancy between inflation rates calculated from unrounded indexes and those calculated from rounded indexes under different possible rounding policies.

Trends in Labor Force Participation in the United States

Source: Abraham Mosisa and Steven Hipple, Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 129 no. 10, October 2006

After a long-term increase, the overall labor force participation rate has declined in recent years. Although there was a sharp rise in participation among individuals aged 55 years and older, this increase did not offset declines in the participation rates of younger persons. Using labor force estimates from the Current Population Survey (CPS), this article analyzes historical trends in labor force participation, focusing primarily on recent trends. The analysis highlights changes in labor force participation among various demographic groups, discusses possible reasons for those changes, and explains how the changes affected the overall participation rate.

40,000 New Union Members in Michigan

Source: Christine Moroski, Solidarity, January-February 2007

But even the strongest of passions, Hunter has discovered, can’t overcome dismal economics. It’s impossible to provide the quality of care that children deserve, she said, when the state of Michigan pays her just $1.80 per hour per child – a payment that has not been raised in 10 years. That’s why she recently became a member of Child Care Providers Together Michigan (CCPTM), a joint effort of the UAW and AFSCME.
Hunter and her co-workers, who are spread out in communities across the state, scored a major victory in November when the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) certified a majority of them had voted for union representation. The new bargaining unit will include some 40,000 home-based child care providers.

Corporate Social Responsibility: A Fledgling Movement Faces a Crucial Test

Source: Robert A. Senser, Dissent, Winter 2007

In his best-selling book Capitalism and Freedom, first published in 1962, future Nobel Laureate and world-renowned economist Milton Friedman laid down this basic principle for corporate executives: their sole social responsibility is to maximize the income and wealth of stockholders. “Few trends,” he wrote, “could so thoroughly undermine the very foundations of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible. This is a fundamentally subversive doctrine.”

Union leaders, student activists, environmentalists, and advocates of various other types have long accepted that subversive doctrine. Of late, more and more top corporate officials, despite their own large stockholdings, have also done so. Though a tiny minority, they are pioneers in venturing outside the business path dedicated solely to maximizing the financial well-being of shareholders. Even in the business world, “the movement for corporate social responsibility has won the battle of ideas,” according to the Economist, the English-language media’s foremost defender of capitalism.

Roots of Insecurity: Why American Workers and Others Are Losing Out

Source: Horst Brand, Dissent, Winter 2007

In 2004 the International Labor Office (ILO) published a voluminous though mistitled report called “Economic Security for a Better World.” This is in face a treatise about the economic insecurity that has been affecting the world’s working people for the past several decades. It is also an argument criticizing the “liberalization context” of insecurity and the policies that have deliberately fostered it. Liberalization, says the ILO, is the objective of policies formulated by international financial institutions in concert with the U.S. treasury – policies that are based on the “Washington Consensus.”

The ILO defines liberalization in terms of certain “key policy commitments,” all of which affect the situation of the workers, though at times only indirectly. One of the crucial commitments is a reduction in the size and role of the public sector of given countries, which usually results in cutbacks in public employment and productive public assets and the elimination of much of the state’s regulatory capacity. Other key commitments include unobstructed capital mobility, regardless of the effects in the value of a country’s exchange rate and ability to finance domestic business (hence to sustain employment levels), and labor market “flexibility,” a euphemism for removing (or restricting) such labor market “distortions” as trade unions and minimum wage laws and, in brief, subjecting workers to the dictates of supply and demand.

Conclusion: Parallel Play, Not Collaboration: Missing Questions, Missing Connections

Source: Lisa Blomgren Bingham and Rosemary O’Leary, Public Administration Review, December 2006, Vol. 66 supplement

In their coda to this special issue of PAR, Lisa Blomgren Bingham and Rosemary O’Leary employ an intriguing scholarly lens to analyze gaps in current collaborative management research based on the findings of scholarly papers in this symposium. While pointing out the tremendous intellectual progress that is apparent in these investigations of this seminal topic, the authors conclude that there is a missing synthesis between work on collaborative public management, civic engagement, and public participation and work on negotiation, conflict resolution, dispute system design, and consensus building. The authors challenge the field to end the practice of intellectual “parallel play.”