David Coates

Political Blogger and Author of Answering Back and Making the Progressive Case

Pursuing the Progressive Case
Who is David Coates?
August 5, 2014

Responding to David Brooks: The Question of Poverty and Character

  David Brooks’ recent essay on “The Character Factory” would have us believe that “nearly every parent on earth operates on the assumption that character matters a lot to the life outcomes of their children” while “nearly every government anti-poverty program operates on the assumption that it doesn’t.” Assertions like that, coming in the wake […] read more »
July 19, 2014

Defending Trade Unions while the Justices are Away.

The nine justices of the Supreme Court are now in recess, leaving the rest of us the summer in which to reflect upon and digest their latest set of rulings – particularly the two handed down on the last day before they took their break. Quite properly, given its reactionary nature, their 5:4 ruling on […] read more »
July 15, 2014

Economics and the Gathering Storm

One lesson that you kind of learn the hard way in American politics is that it is always a mistake to think that, from a progressive point of view, things are so bad that they can’t get any worse. You only have to think it before the ground shifts under your feet again. I know […] read more »
July 8, 2014

Reflections on Economic Under-performance on Both Sides of the Atlantic

One of the most intriguing problems in any form of contemporary analysis – political or economic – is to judge whether contemporary trends are best read as a glass half-full or a glass half-empty. The events themselves rarely dictate which view should prevail: almost always the judgment call (and it is necessarily a matter of […] read more »
June 12, 2014

Winning in November by Defending the Affordable Care Act Now.

Lindsey Graham’s recent warning that Republicans might yet push for a presidential impeachment serves to demonstrate, if further demonstration was still required, of just how brutal Washington politics could get if his party ends up in control of both Houses of Congress after the mid-term elections in November. In progressive terms, the achievements of the […] read more »
May 13, 2014

Progressives Politics after Piketty: Making the Case for Managed Markets

It is very rare for the Left to have a best-seller but we have one now. The French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is currently being both widely read and even more widely discussed. That is great news. The question it leaves us with is how to put all that reading and […] read more »
April 14, 2014

Dozing through “the Great Moving Right Show”

            The greatest danger currently facing all of us in America, and particularly progressives, is one of drift. As an economy, the United States is drifting along a low-growth path that is acclimatizing all of us to levels of unemployment which only a decade ago would have been treated as an outrage. As a society, […] read more »
March 16, 2014

Paul Ryan as the Prince of Paupers

Given the scale and depth of poverty in the United States, it is not surprising that periodically debates about it should surface in Washington DC. What is more surprising is that the issue of poverty is not permanently center-stage. It did return there briefly last week because of the publication of a report on the […] read more »
March 13, 2014

The Poverty of Policy on Poverty

            Earlier this month, those who govern us – and those who would govern us – each laid out their vision of how to alleviate poverty in the United States. Since there is currently a rather large amount of poverty around that ideally would be rapidly alleviated,[1] you could legitimately expect that the proposals that […] read more »
February 16, 2014

The Cost of Empire? Extracts from “America in the Shadow of Empires” (forthcoming)

Extract (1) From Chapter 1 THE U.S. GLOBAL MILITARY FOOTPRINT One thing that is definitely building up around us is the scale, extent and cost of America’s military role overseas. Historically, that scale was modest and the role was limited – mainly to the Americas and to a number of Pacific islands – but no […] read more »
February 16, 2014

The Long-Term State of the Union – Counting the Cost of Empire?

              There is something desperate about the current quality of politics in Washington DC. It is not that our elected representatives steadily avoid any discussion of key issues. It is rather that – on far too many occasions – the way in which they choose to discuss those key issues trivializes them to the […] read more »
January 30, 2014

The State of the Union Address – Taking the Longer View

It is presumably unreasonable to expect any modern President of the United States to use his best prime-time moment, the annual State of the Union Address, to tell Congress and the American people that on his watch the state of the union is not strong – even if that is the truth. No politician these […] read more »
January 24, 2014

In Defense of the NHS

              There has been a lot of talk and writing lately, by Cal Thomas and others uneasy with Obamacare, about the lessons that we can and should draw from what they characterize as the failure of socialized medicine in the U.K. In doing so, the picture they draw of health care in the U.K. […] read more »
January 11, 2014

America’s War on Poverty, America’s War on the Poor

January 2014 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the State of the Union Address in which Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty.[1] This anniversary is leading to much soul-searching here in the United States.[2] Partly that soul-searching reflects the high levels of poverty that persist in contemporary America. The US does not define the poverty […] read more »
December 30, 2013

New Year Reflections: The Character of the Task before Us

 The start of a new year is always a good moment for reflection on the nature of our present condition. It is an even better moment for the adoption of resolutions designed to improve that condition. So perhaps we should try both. read more »
November 27, 2013

Social Security in the Cross-Hairs

(Addressed to a UK Audience)             In the UK, pension reform is controversial enough, though it rarely occupies centre-stage for long and there is often common ground between the parties. In the US, by contrast, the reform of Social Security is a perennial political issue, and it is now heavily-partisan in nature. The language of […] read more »
November 13, 2013

Negative Freedom or Positive Freedom: Time to Choose?

In the seemingly never-ending battle over the scope of government in America – on issues from gun control and climate change to federal spending and the Affordable Care Act – opponents of active government regularly mix detailed criticism of immediate policy consequences with more general arguments about the erosion of basic freedoms. read more »
October 26, 2013

Advice to Progressives in a Conservative State

  The Governor of North Carolina is becoming quite a megastar in conservative circles these days. He was a welcome addition to the gubernatorial campaign of Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia last Thursday, when he was fresh back from an address to the prestigious Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. The Heritage Foundation hailed Pat McCrory as […] read more »
October 9, 2013

Placing the Affordable Care Act in the Wider Debate on Healthcare Systems

              Right now, hysteria inside the Republican Party about the flaws of the Affordable Care Act is running very high indeed. So high in fact that Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN) was not treated as mentally insane by his party’s leadership last week for denouncing Obamacare as “one of the most insidious laws ever devised.”[1] […] read more »
October 3, 2013

Like father, like son? Ralph Miliband’s political legacy

In the wake of the Daily Mail furor, those of us fortunate enough to have known Ralph Miliband as both an intellectual and a political activist recognize well enough that having him as your father is not a negative for any leader of the Labour Party. It is very much a plus. read more »
October 3, 2013

The American Student Debt Crisis: The Next Financial Timebomb?

In an earlier SPERI comment, Joanne Montgomerie wrote persuasively of household debt being the silent dimension of the financial crisis afflicting both the British and the American economies, and treated that debt as the most telling consequence of the broken Anglo-liberal growth model. She is undoubtedly correct in writing in that manner. read more »
October 1, 2013

Exactly how is the Affordable Care Act an affront to freedom?

 In all the understandable cacophony about the shutdown of government, the underlying trigger to that shutdown – Tea Party opposition to the Affordable Care Act – is in danger of falling out of the public spotlight. But that must not happen. The government is being shut down for a reason, and we need to examine […] read more »
September 17, 2013

The Half-Forgotten Student Debt Crisis

The debt ceiling debate is poised to return to the center-stage of American domestic politics. The Bipartisan Policy Center anticipates that the U.S. Treasury will hit the current debt ceiling sometime between October 18 and November 5, read more »
August 30, 2013

Back to Basics on the Question of Labor

As we prepare to celebrate another Labor Day, we do well to remember that celebrating labor on just one day always runs the risk of implying that every other day is not a labor day. Celebratory days can invite tokenism as equally as they can generate empathy. Celebrating the fact of labor can so easily […] read more »
August 20, 2013

Revisiting “Resisting Republican Excess”

The blog entry Resisting Republican Excess – written as a critical comment on the policies introduced by North Carolina’s Republicans since they captured both the legislature and the governorship in 2012 –  triggered more than a thousand comments in the immediate wake of its posting two weeks ago. read more »
August 6, 2013

Resisting Republican Excess

Very dark political forces stalk the land, and we do ourselves, and those who will come after us, no favors by pretending otherwise. read more »
July 29, 2013

Swopping Conservatives

(originally published on the Comment page of the UK’s University of Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute) read more »
June 30, 2013

Half-forgotten or Totally Forgotten – Poverty in America?

              Successful progressive politics require widespread popular support for progressive programs, and there is no way in which that support can be created without those programs being fully and regularly explained. But on so many important issues, that is simply not happening right now. True, the scale of unemployment[1] is periodically decried by politicians […] read more »
June 14, 2013

European Lessons for an America in Debt

With the Senate currently preoccupied with immigration and the House of Representatives with abortion, you might be forgiven for thinking that there is nothing seriously awry in the American economy right now – nothing so awry at least that it requires determined and detailed political action. But you would be mistaken. There are lots of […] read more »
June 13, 2013

Observing British Labour Politics from Afar

  Reflections on the strategic dilemmas currently facing the British Labour Party, originally published (June 13, 2013) as “Walking Forward, Looking Back” on the Political Insight/Blog webpage of the U.K. Political Studies Association read more »
May 25, 2013

The Half-forgotten Debt Crisis

            The attention span in Washington DC these days is remarkably short, and multi-tasking is something at which Congress seems particularly inept. So right now the focus there is overwhelming on just one thing, scandals – some genuine, some imagined, all minor – while the real business of the American people goes largely unexamined. The […] read more »
May 6, 2013

America’s Half-forgotten Housing Crisis

            On the housing front, the good news is that the President wants Mel Watt to head the FHFA. The bad news is that, precisely because the President wants him, there is no certainty that Mel Watt will be confirmed. read more »
May 2, 2013

Gridlock in Washington: Conservative Heaven!

Commentary on recent developments in American politics, written for a British audience read more »
April 19, 2013

The Forgotten Jobs Crisis

Perhaps it is the sheer size of this country that makes important problems invisible – with each problem so localized and personal as not to count in public discourse. Or perhaps it is the sheer size of the problems themselves that enables them to hide in the open –with each so large and so ubiquitous […] read more »
April 9, 2013

Tomorrow’s Presidential Budget: Questions of Judgment?

The President is likely to have a bad week with his progressive base, if what we are told to expect in his budget tomorrow turns out to be true. We are told that his budget will trade “modest entitlement savings,” read more »
March 27, 2013

Budgets to the right of us, budgets to the left of us: budgets, budgets everywhere!

              It’s been quite a month for budgets – both here and, as it happens, in the U.K. too. In London in March, the coalition government provided another round in its continuing pursuit of economic growth through fiscal austerity[1] – an economic growth which continues to elude it – while here in the U.S. […] read more »
March 13, 2013

The Problem with Charm Offensives: If They Are Needed, They Have Already Failed

  Faced by insurmountable odds as the Carthaginians swept down the Italian peninsula during the Second Punic War, the Roman general Fabius Maximus simply retreated and retreated, wearing the opposition down by declining to engage with them at all. Watching the Republicans play the President right now, the scorched earth policy that the Romans used […] read more »
March 12, 2013

America in Trouble

First posted on the Comment page of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institite (SPERI) website, University of Sheffield, UK Watching the economic policy debate in both Washington and London is a deeply frustrating experience. read more »
February 25, 2013

Going beyond the President’s Manufacturing Strategy

Amid the urgency of the sequestration crisis, many things of substance are likely to fade into the background of public debate – at exactly the moment when they should not. read more »
February 13, 2013

Cataloging Weaknesses in the State of the Union Address

  So, the State of the Union is strong, is it? Well, maybe it is for the people the President chose to speak about last night. But what about the ones he only mentioned in passing, or the ones that he omitted to mention at all?  What about the state of the union for those […] read more »
February 6, 2013

Waiting for the State of the Union Address

  SOTU addresses at the start of a second presidential term are relatively rare phenomena, and in recent times they have also been also relatively ephemeral ones. George W. Bush used his SOTU Address in 2005 to make a prolonged pitch for the partial privatization of Social Security.[1] That pitch went nowhere. read more »
January 21, 2013

Second Inauguration: Third Growth Model?

  Half-way points in two-term presidencies are inevitably moments to take stock and to consider redirections of policy.  Right now, the political blogosphere is properly full of that stocktaking and redesign. Lists abound on policies needed[1] and priorities to be pushed,[2] which is why there is no need to add to those lists in any […] read more »
January 5, 2013

A Progressive Second Term? (II) Possibilities

              Two previous recent postings[1] explored the parameters and the prerequisites for a progressive second presidential term for Barack Obama. Each of those postings triggered three broad responses from a largely skeptical audience. read more »
January 2, 2013

A Progressive Second Term? (I) Prerequisites

            Amid the scampering up and down the fiscal cliff that now dominates political life in Washington, some more important and basic questions are in danger of vanishing from view, questions about the general character and progressive potential of Barack Obama’s second term. Questions such as these. Will this Administration in the end prove to […] read more »
December 19, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff, the Republicans and the Ghost of Christmas Past

  Co-authored with Don Frey[1]   As reports thicken of a possible deal between the White House and the House Republicans – a deal which will supposedly avoid the rest of us going over some fiscal cliff on January 1 – it is worth remembering at least four reasons why such a deal is probably […] read more »
December 5, 2012

Obama at Half-Time: The Big Question

            Public conversation in and around Washington D.C. is currently preoccupied with the question of the fiscal cliff.  And rightly so, for very big things are at stake. Not least whether or not a political crisis will tip the economy back into recession, and whether an election result that mandated a tax increase on the […] read more »
November 15, 2012

Ensuring that the “Grand Bargain” is genuinely a Bargain.

  It is lobbying week in Washington DC. Tuesday was labor’s day at the White House. Wednesday it was the turn of the business community. Friday it will be the usual politicians – Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, Pelosi, Reid – in other words, the usual political gridlock masquerading as democracy in action.[1] read more »
November 2, 2012

Behind the Republican Rhetoric: The Misleading Appeal of Free-Market Capitalism

  Basic belief systems, if regularly reinforced by carefully orchestrated advertising campaigns, are enormously difficult things to shift. Paradigms of thought, once established in dominance, are hard to get rid of. We have just lived through 30 years of an orchestrated consensus on the wonders of free-market capitalism. No matter that the business deregulation it […] read more »
October 17, 2012

The Second Debate: In Pursuit of Women Voters

(co-authored with Eileen Coates: National Board Certified Public School Teacher)             One of the most telling questions in the second of the debates between the presidential candidates focused on the gender pay gap: asking in what ways the candidates would “rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females only making 72 percent of what […] read more »
October 15, 2012

Memo to the Presidential Candidates: Cut the Warfare State, Not the Welfare State

  If you listen only to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, you could be forgiven for thinking that the United States is not simply in need of strong interventionist leadership abroad. It is also short of military hardware and troops. read more »

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