links for 2011-07-18

  • Political change requires big, sustained institutional pressure, and in the past that came mainly…from organized labor on the left and from the business community on the right. But organized labor is now all but dead as a motivating force in U.S. politics, and this means that the nature of [the] two main parties has been turned on its head….In any case, it's pretty obvious which organizing principle has been more successful…and it hasn't been the liberal one. Put simply, the middle class simply doesn't have any kind of big, persistent, institutional representation in politics any more, and that's left the field open for corporations and the rich to increasingly dominate policy. They know where their interests lie and they aren't afraid to fight for them. Unfortunately, answers to this dilemma are thin on the ground…"If the left ever wants to regain the vigor that powered earlier eras of liberal reform, it needs to rebuild the infrastructure of economic populism.
  • In Toronto, residents got a peek last week at what a smaller city government might look like. Earlier this year, the city hired outside consultants KPMG for a $3-million review of city programs, with an eye to savings by eliminating non-essential services.

    The first reports released this week gave little ammunition for Ford’s “gravy train” claim. But the recommendations, if adopted, would narrow the scope of government: fewer city-run day-cares and old-age homes, an end to fluoridated water, more privatized services, scaled-back recycling and less frequent grass-cutting and snow clearing.

    “The ‘gravy train’ was a sound bite,” says former Toronto councillor and budget chief David Soknacki, who worked under right and left-leaning mayors and served with Ford. “The reality is intruding and it’s a question of whether he [Ford] carries enough of council to make a credible result.”

  • Cameron started out as the kind of Tory who would try not to become too enmeshed with the Murdoch press. But when it duly turned on him, and Gordon Brown looked as if he might win a snap election, Cameron caved to chancellor George Osborne's darker instincts and fatefully hired former NOTW hack, Andy Coulson, implicated in the phone hacking scandal, to be his press spokesman. He famously said he wanted to give Coulson a second chance. But what he effectively did was signal that he would sign up for a compromising Blair-type deal with Murdoch to win favorable coverage and thereby votes. And it worked! Murdoch's mass market tabloid, The Sun, shifted from Labour to Tory overnight. Cameron won. And since the election, Cameron has had more social and business meetings with the Murdoch tribe than with the rest of the British newspaper world combined. He has also had the worst week – deservedly – since he came to office.