One candidate’s progressive economic plan

One candidate’s populist response to the economic crisis…..

In response to economic pain in the heartland, which candidate proposed

…support for a federal job training program, safeguards for collective bargaining, a higher minimum wage, and better protection for people who lost their jobs or could not afford adequate medical care.**

Which candidate’s record included:

EDUCATION…established a new university, 14 junior colleges, 15 trade schools and raised teachers’ salaries.
INDUSTRY…100,000 new jobs. Highest total employment and lowest unemployment in state’s history… .
ROADBUILDING…invested over $549 million in the greatest 4 year roadbuilding performance in [state] history —
without any hint of graft corruption or swindles.
WELFARE…record high help to the aged, the handicapped, mentally and physically ill… .
AGRICULTURE…greatly increased agricultural research, land fertilization, crop yield, and farm income.
LABOR Issued executive order incorporating minimum union wage rates in all state contracts. Increased Workmen’s and Unemployment Compensation benefits 37%. Promoted and passed legislation that reduced firemen’s work week… and substantially increased retirement pensions.

We could use a dose of such economic populism today … minus George Wallace’s racism and one or two other things.

**James T Patterson, Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974. p. 698-699.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

8 thoughts on “One candidate’s progressive economic plan”

  1. This ignores the face that his populism and the support for it depended on racism in order to be feasible. The majority of Wallace supporters wanted these things for white people only. The reason such populism isn’t celebrated today is because they know that it would be of benefit to minorities who have successfully been portrayed as the face of poverty in and of itself.

  2. I’ll give another plug for Robert Altemeyer’s work on the political psychology of “right-wing authoritarian followers”.

    The cluster of attitudes that mark out authoritarian followers are not going away; the incidence and intensity of that attitude cluster has been enhanced by Shock Doctrine politics, which make economic life ever more precarious and threatening for the mass of people. Those attitudes have a definite dark side, which is amplified greatly when demagogues exploit their gullibility in. But, these attitudes are neither a political philosophy nor a political program.

    In a democratic politics, liberals and progressives make themselves powerless, when they concede the loyalties and votes of such a great mass of people to right-wing demagogues.

  3. There is an open field in 2012 for a populist candidate from neither party to pull off a Ross Perot style insurgent campaign. There is a lot of rage and despair out there…the ground is fertile.

  4. Economic populism?
    Never heard of it…

    Is that where the middle class and poor get free hair cuts?

    Certainly our housing policy is being run on the idea that homeowners should eat as much of the costs as they can potentially bear, even if it means keeping the economy depressed for years longer than it needs to be. Stimulus, a short-round of inflation and bad-debt writedowns all would help the economy, but all hurt rentiers. Right now Wall Street has a great deal milking the remains of the housing bubble’s bad debts.

    Why is the Obama Team Embracing Hooverism? | Rortybomb

  5. I second Keith’s opinion. I’m as far-Left as it gets, but until this week, even despite increasing wars and decreasing civil liberties, I’ve been convinced of your standard Daily Kos sort of argument – that Obama still is far better than the Republican alternative, and so we should work hard for his 2012 campaign and vote for him. But after him unilaterally putting Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security up on the chopping block, having completely switched courses on the economy for the worse, having shown as little leadership as possible on this debt ceiling fiasco, and with civilian deaths piling up in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc., even though Mr. Panetta has come out and said that there’s only about two dozen halfway important Al-Qaeda folks left – I am completely fed up with the President and am perfectly prepared to vote for someone outside of the two-party system who has a decent shot. A Leftist populist would be great (of course), but even a hard Libertarian (or an anti-war centrist) would at least try to end our ridiculous wars (which would drastically improve our financial situation, all other things equal). I still consider myself a Democrat, and I still plan to vote for Democrats down ballot, but Mr. Obama has shown this week (and throughout his Presidency) that he is more a friend to Republicans than to his own party.

  6. It’s actually not surprising; Wallace was a southern Democratic populist in the wake of the New Deal, so of course he embraced government action to rectify social wrongs. He embraced open racism only after being, in his (reported) words, “out-niggered” in the 1958 Democratic primary for governor; he saw white supremacy purely and completely as a campaign plank, and it worked within Alabama very well.

  7. >LABOR Issued executive order incorporating minimum union wage rates in all state contracts.

    Historically, prevailing wage policies were considered to be entirely consonant with white supremacy. Libertarian-inclined race and/or labor scholars (e.g., David Bernstein) get a lot of mileage out of this, though I think it’s fair to say that now that we have racially integrated craft unions the legislative history of prevailing wage has little to do with its current pros and cons.

  8. The National Review dubbed Wallace a “country & western Marxist”. Its a pity Donald Trump didn’t run for President (and he may yet as an independent), because he was definitely taking that tack this spring (instead using the M-word, another label is Ed Glaeser’s wonderful phrase “small government egalitarian”). Trump was further right than anyone else on cultural and foreign policy issues (pro-birther, anti-China) and yet was to the left of everybody (including Obama) on fiscal policy.

    “When this country becomes profitable again, we can take care of our sick; we can take care of our needy,” he told Human Events. “We don’t have to cut Social Security; we don’t have to cut Medicare and Medicaid. We can take care of people that need to be taken care of. And I’ll be able to do that.”… And he says we won’t need to raise taxes either. Trump is suggesting that, as our economy improves, it will expand to cover trillions of dollars in future deficits…”

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