Monday, November 28, 2005

Krugman's Latest Column

Talks about the lack of economic security in the United States:

American workers at big companies used to think they had made a deal. They would be loyal to their employers, and the companies in turn would be loyal to them, guaranteeing job security, health care and a dignified retirement.

Such deals were, in a real sense, the basis of America's postwar social order. We like to think of ourselves as rugged individualists, not like those coddled Europeans with their oversized welfare states. But as Jacob Hacker of Yale points out in his book "The Divided Welfare State," if you add in corporate spending on health care and pensions - spending that is both regulated by the government and subsidized by tax breaks - we actually have a welfare state that's about as large relative to our economy as those of other advanced countries.

The resulting system is imperfect: those who don't work for companies with good benefits are, in effect, second-class citizens. Still, the system more or less worked for several decades after World War II.

But it doesn't work now. Every year fewer and fewer firms offer health insurance or retirement benefits, and every year more and more jobs are outsourced to other countries. Firms get rid of workers whenever they feel like it and call it becoming efficient or lean-and-mean. And the government safety net is being gnawed by the little rats from the right.

What this all amounts to is a new age of uncertainty, a time when the foundations are shaky and nobody knows what the future might bring, a time when we need strong and positive leadership for the whole country. But instead we get fearmongering and finger-pointing and pointless wars abroad. I suspect that all this partly explains the recent increases in fundamentalism: people blindly groping for something that won't fail them. It may not be a coincidence that the party that promotes fundamentalist thinking is also the one causing all the insecurity.