#MeToo and #TimesUp protests about the treatment of women in the workplace have brought renewed attention to gender pay equity. This brief looks at three legislative solutions that aim to close the gap by increasing pay transparency and pushing employers to set salaries to the position, not the history of the person doing the job.
Across the world’s most industrialized economies, the financial crisis of 2007 caused a contraction of state budgets and stimulated attempts to reform debt-burdened governments. In the United States, a system of fiscal federalism meant this turn towards austerity took a uniquely fragmented and geographically diverse form. Drawing on case studies of recent urban restructuring, Cities under Austerity challenges dominant understandings of austerity as a distinctly national condition and develops a conceptualization of the new US urban condition that reveals its emerging political and social fault lines.
The contributors empirically detail the restructuring that is taking place across the United States, its underlying logics, its local impacts and the ongoing processes of challenge and resistance that influences how it is shaping the lives of citizens. The new American political economy, it is argued, needs to be understood as composed of a mosaic of urban experiences that both build upon a differentiated foundation and creates new divergences.
As state reforms continue to interact with this diverse urban political economy of the United States, this collection provides a state-of-the-art survey on how postcrisis convergences and divergences in urban economies and urban politics have laid the foundations for the new political geography of the United States.
Hinkley, Sara. “Austerity as the New Normal: The Fiscal Politics of Retrenchment in San Jose, California.” In M. Davidson & K. Ward (Eds.), Cities under Austerity: Restructuring the US Metropolis. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. 2018.
The Great Recession unleashed a wave of fiscal stress in the USA, with austerity measures such as spending cuts, service reductions and privatisation predictably taking centre stage. Decades of federal withdrawal from urban policy and funding, combined with state retrenchment, have contributed to a landscape of urban fiscal stress exacerbated by the prolonged effects of the post-2007 recession. This article examines the experience of fiscal crisis in four US cities (Detroit, Dallas, Philadelphia, and San Jose), focusing on the narratives used by city and state government leadership to publicly describe local crises. Shared elements of the framing of urban fiscal crisis in this diverse set of cities provide insight into the unfolding of austerity in local politics. Blame for the crisis has centred less on social spending than in previous crises, and more on local governance failures, public pension commitments, and ongoing global economic precarity. Crisis governance has become widespread, even in fiscally resilient cities, driven by a vision of lean government in a ‘new normal’. While retrenchment effectively shrinks the state through spending cuts and privatisation, the governing power of cities is also being diminished by the narrative of fiscal responsibility reflected in the national move toward public pension restructuring and expanded state interventionism.
Hinkley, Sara. “Structurally adjusting: Narratives of fiscal crisis in four US cities.” Urban Studies, 54(9): 2123-2138. July 2017.
The Participatory Budgeting Project has a guide for communities that want to participate in decisions about the use of funds from Tax Increment Financing districts. The governance structure associated with Tax Increment Financing varies by state (and not all states have TIF), but there are potentially significant amounts of funding at stake. TIF districts capture the increased property tax increment in a set geographic area and use it to finance private or public projects. They use of funds often lacks transparency, and is often predetermined when the district itself is created.
I’ve been following the move to participatory budgeting for a while, and this is an important acknowledgement by PBP that a lot of public money is outside even the difficult-to-engage standard budgeting process.
Download their guide here: PB with Tax Increment Finance Funds
We are enduring one of the slowest economic recoveries in recent history, and the pace can be entirely explained by the fiscal austerity imposed by Republican members of Congress and also legislators and governors at the state level.
EPI’s Josh Bivens examines the reasons beyond our slow economic recovery (one that has progressively slowed with each recession).
Given the degree of damage inflicted by the Great Recession and the restricted ability of monetary policy to aid recovery, historically expansionary fiscal policy was required to return the U.S. economy to full health. But this government spending not only failed to rise fast enough to spur a rapid recovery, it outright contracted, and this policy choice fully explains why the economy is only partially recovered from the Great Recession a full seven years after its official end.
The question of why the economic recovery has been so tepid is a vital part of the presidential election discourse. Clinton says she will increase employment through a public investment program. Trump says he will cut taxes to spark employment growth (and further limit spending).
Bivens argues that it’s federal policymakers who are most to blame, since structurally only the federal government can maintain spending levels in the face of revenue declines (through monetary policy and debt increases). State and local governments lack these tools (with some caveats around borrowing). But I think this lets state and local officials off too easily; many of them also embraced austerity as reason for pushing through tax cuts that will be almost impossible to reverse. And state lawmakers (which control the revenue options available to cities) lacked the courage to grapple with structural fiscal issues that each recession has made progressively stark.