Monday, August 26, 2013

When Did the Democratic Party Platform Abandon Full Employment?

If you are, like me, somewhat of a history geek, then you will love the resources of USCB's American Presidency Project, particularly the database of past party platforms. You can learn a lot about the evolution of our political parties by reading their platforms--seeing which issues rise and fall, seeing how frames and principles change.

A study of the relationship between the Democratic Party platform and the goal of full employment, for example, is quite revealing.

The term "full employment" refers to the economic state in which everyone who is eligible and willing to work is gainfully employed.  Unemployment would only be "frictional," i.e. that resulting from transitions between jobs. The term "full employment" is most commonly known as the goal of Keynesian economic policy, and as a goal, it was a defining feature of the post-war economic consensus. Unsurprisingly, mentions of "full employment" began in 1944.

For the next four decades, full employment was featured as a prominent part of the economic agenda presented by the Democratic Party platform. The first year that the Democrats abandoned discussion of full employment was 1992. The term "full employment" has never been mentioned in a Democratic Party platform since.

The abandonment of "full employment," perhaps unsurprisingly, aligns with the ascent of the Clintonites of the Democratic Leadership Council and the so-called "New Democrat" or "Third Way" wing of the Democratic Party, who sought to move away from the New Deal liberalism of the past and embrace the fundraising potential of an affinity with Wall Street.

Read the rest on my Daily Kos page

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