Re-framing Social Safety Nets

Progressives in U.S. and Europe Confront Globalization

European and American policy makers discuss how globalization is affecting the role of the government in the Western world.

View “Globalization, Growth, and Social Equity: American and European Perspectives” event information

The Center for American Progress and Policy Network—a premiere progressive think tank based in the United Kingdom—held a forum yesterday in which European and American policy makers argued for a more progressive approach to globalization that addresses worker anxiety and promotes equitable growth.   

Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Gene Sperling and CAP President and CEO John Podesta were joined by top names in American and European politics, including Karen Kornbluh, Senate Policy Director for Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL); Robert Rubin, former Secretary of Treasury and the current Chairman  the Citigroup Executive Committee; John Hutton, Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise, and Regulatory Reform in the United Kingdom; Linda Lanzillotta, the Italian Minister of Regional Affairs and Local Autonomy; and James Purnell, U.K. minister for Culture, Media and Sport.

Podesta, who moderated the forum, argued that progressive politics in both America and Europe must re-capture public opinion on government spending and taxation in light of rising income gaps between classes and countries and increasing economic anxiety.

Yet in shaping opinion, Purnell said, it is essential that governments maintain a balance between confronting globalization with optimism for its future economic potential and protecting citizens from the volatility innate to globalized markets.

European doubts surrounding globalization echo trends in America, said Sperling. While there is a general consensus that globalization can bring a “rising tide” of economic growth, there are still concerns over the ability for that growth to “raise all boats,” he said, paraphrasing John F. Kennedy’s famous line.
One way to assuage public fears about globalization is to empower local governments with the means to create new models of the welfare state and make supra-national bodies more effective when dealing with inequalities, explained Lanzillotta.

A strong domestic agenda that includes such policies as a national 401(k) plan, universal health care, adjustment assistance, and other basic social safety nets, will enable citizens to build wealth in new markets. But progressivism should not just be the movement that helps people when they’re down, said Sperling. Increasing access to higher education and providing flexibility to single mothers in the workplace can increase productivity and solve wealth inequalities, he said.

These domestic policies are often associated with big government and tax hikes, which create political resistance, added John Hutton. Unfortunately, conservatives had gained control of the framework through which governmental domestic involvement is perceived in the United States, added Kornbluh

So before progressives can enact changes, whether in Europe or the United States, they must re-frame government as a constructive force, emphasized Hutton, one that can provide assistance and leadership on key economic issues.

For more on this topic, please see:
“Globalization, Growth, and Social Equity: American and European Perspectives” event page

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