Democracy Symposium #1 via Zoom - Thursday 5/28 4:00 - 5:00 PM EDT

"The New Shape of Economic Crises and Economic Insecurity: What Policy Reforms Are Needed to Protect Democracy?"

Classmate David Riemer will discuss the state of our democracy in a discussion moderated by classmate John Powers, with Q&A from attendees to follow the initial presentation.  This is the first in a weekly series of discussions on democracy with three classmates.

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A video recording of the session is here. new window

Supporting session slide deck is here. new window

See below for a summary of points to be made during this session and for David's bio.  The full paper on which the talk is based is available here. new window

David's book is here on Amazon: Putting-Government-Its-Place new window

Summary of Points to be Made

The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing market meltdown have awakened us to the new and perilous shapes that economic crises will take in the 21st century.  They may be more frequent. They will often be far steeper. They will typically be global.

Two new types of all-encompassing economic insecurity have emerged. Both involve sudden and massive unemployment, dramatic loss of income, and much collateral damage: evictions, foreclosures, food shortages, unpaid utilities, and loss of health insurance.

The difference? One type of economic collapse—like the COVID-19 Depression still unfolding—forbids putting most of the unemployed back to work immediately, since that will kill and sicken people.  The second type of economic collapse—like the Great Depression of 2007-2009—by contrast demands that the unemployed get immediate help in finding paid work, since no damage to health results.

Both new types of economic insecurity join an also-new, but far subtler, version of economic insecurity that has stealthily crept upon us during the last 50 years. In both bad and good times, a growing share of workers—often lacking the legal status of employees as they slog through the “gig” economy as contractors or self-employed—face long stretches of underemployment, part-time work, unstable and unpredictable hours, volatile earnings and incomes, and a lack of health insurance or other benefits.  

Meanwhile, old-fashioned economic insecurity—being laid off from a stable job, scraping by with a shrunken income, and then maybe getting the old job back or at least landing different stable employment—still hits certain segments of the labor force.

The current public policies of the United States are incapable of coping with this four-dimensional problem.  A new, comprehensive, and flexible policy package is needed to provide all American adults with the jobs, earnings, and other work-based benefits—in short, the stable economic security—they require.  

What should future economic security policy do?  Whether a sudden crisis pulverizes the labor market, or ongoing forces erode the labor market’s dependability, how should America’s economic security policies be structured to kick in— quickly and completely—whenever needed to guarantee the nation’s adults a stable and adequate income?

Bio - David R. Riemer - Milwaukee, WI

David Riemer has worked with Democrats and Republicans to create path-breaking public policy at the state level and influence national policy. After graduating from Milwaukee’s Riverside High School, he attended Harvard College (AB, History and Literature, 1970) and Harvard Law School (JD, 1975). Riemer returned to Wisconsin in 1975 to serve as legal advisor to Governor Patrick Lucey. He later held legal, budget, and policymaking positions with U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy (1978-1981), Mayor John Norquist (1988-2001), and Governor Jim Doyle (2003).  

Riemer has been active in politics as both candidate and advisor. In 2004, he ran against Scott Walker for Milwaukee County Executive. Riemer went on to direct the Wisconsin Health Project (2004-2008) and served as Founding Director and Senior Fellow for the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute (2008-Present).

Over the course of his career, Riemer played a lead role in drafting and gaining passage of over a dozen City of Milwaukee budgets and ordinances. He helped to design and secure enactment of Wisconsin laws that created the State Public Defender program, Transitional Jobs, the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, and the BadgerCare health insurance program. He has also assisted in crafting two bills in the U.S. Senate to create a federal Transitional Jobs program.

Riemer is the author of The Prisoners of Welfare: Liberating America’s Poor from Unemployment and Low Wages (Praeger, 1988). His book—Putting Government In Its Place: The Case for a New Deal 3.0—appeared in the fall of 2019 (HenschelHAUS).  

Riemer’s website, Putting Government In Its Place, is at new window