What happens when you grow up with a father who lost everything in the Great Depression? For Howard Sherman, you spend the rest of your life studying the causes of devastating financial collapses and how nations can avoid them.
With 22 books and more than a hundred articles, Sherman — a Visiting Scholar at UCLA and former chair of the U.C. Riverside Economics Department — is still fighting the good fight. His latest volume is Principles of Macroeconomics: Activist vs. Austerity Policies, co-written with Michael Meeropol. While the title may be dry, Sherman is anything but. In a recent interview, he offered blunt assessments of President Obama’s economic policies and why the U.S. labor movement should make full employment its highest priority.
Frying Pan News: Why did you write this book?
Howard Sherman: The main issue in economics is the distribution of income between workers and owners.
President Obama’s inspiring inaugural address thrust a challenge upon every American: We must work to build a nation which “thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work;” an America where “the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.”
Confronted by a Republican House and cautious centrist Democrats, the President can only seek progressive economic reform if the 99 Percent organize to demand it.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ideas around which we can organize. Here are five practical proposals for redirecting the U.S. economy toward justice, crafted by some of our wisest economic experts.
1) Increase the federal minimum wage to $9.80 per hour, as proposed by Senator Tom Harkin and Rep. George Miller. This one simple step will improve the lives of 29 million workers. Contrary to claims by the fast food chains and other low wage employers,
Few American economists want anything to do with social movements. Then there’s Robert Pollin, who has embraced his role as a progressive with a prolific output of books, studies and articles that make the economic case for greater equality.
Pollin, who will be honored at the L.A. Alliance for a New Economy’s (LAANE) City of Justice Awards Dinner next month, rose to prominence in the late 1990s as the most ardent academic defender of living wage laws. In recent years he has advanced the case for a new green economy based on good jobs and environmentally sensible policies.
Pollin, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute, may be left of center but he is no business-bashing liberal. To the contrary, he learned from his father – the late Abe Pollin,
When I was a teenager in the 1950s, gasoline was cheap but cash was hard to come by. It was common practice to carry a siphon hose in one’s car because friends would frequently run out of gas. With a hose you could get just enough gas from a friend’s car to reach a gas station without having to get a can and make two trips. The hose was also useful for getting gas from the parents’ vehicles.
A siphoning hose uses atmospheric pressure and gravity to cause fluid to flow, once started, without further efforts. When adequate pressure is reached, the flow continues unabated as long as there is a sufficient source of liquid. This makes a great analogy for our economy because the notion of using an economic stimulus works exactly like the siphon hose. Get it going with sufficient force, and it will continue on its own as long as there is a demand.