While grading term papers in the undergraduate course I teach at USF, "From Slavery to Obama," I found myself watching the televised funeral of one the NYPD officers recently assassinated by an apparently deranged African-American man. The coincidence prompted me to reflect on the moral and political challenges confronting our nation as we commence the new year of 2015.
The task before us in 2014 is nothing less than to find a route back to generalized prosperity amid the wreckage left in place by the collapse of the Reagan growth model and the rise of the globalized economy. The debate now underway about the relationship between full employment and income inequality is vital because progressives have to find -- and find quickly -- a set of economic policies that can credibly refute the sustained attempt by the GOP to take us back to the future. From conservative circles, we now face a coordinated campaign to intensify income inequality, to erode the welfare safety net, to undermine public services and to weaken still further already weak labor unions. For moral as well as for economic reasons, progressives have to challenge this conservative renaissance by developing a political program that explicitly and proudly combines job creation and inequality reduction, one that insists on greater income equality as the route to full employment.