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An Interview with Jorge Castaneda

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Project Syndicate: As you note in your latest PS commentary, the problems exposed by America’s triple crisis of COVID-19, economic recession, and mass protests over racial injustice and police violence are rooted not in President Donald Trump’s failures, as dangerous as they are, but in the country’s “founding conditions.” That is why the United States has

Jorge G. Castañeda: It is true that previous attempts at overhauling the social safety net in the US have failed. But, this time, the need for major reform is clearer than ever before. The pandemic has highlighted the health-care system’s inadequacies. The protests have driven more people to acknowledge the extent of systemic racism in the country, spurring discussion about everything from reform of law enforcement and criminal justice to broader affirmative-action policies and even reparations. And the burgeoning economic crisis has underscored the need to strengthen support for people’s livelihoods, such as through unemployment insurance, universal childcare, and a higher minimum wage.

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    As a result, the share of voters who back such reforms is growing, and their support is deepening. It helps that the share of minority voters – in particular, from the Latinx and Asian-American communities – is growing. If voter turnout among black Americans and young people increases as expected, the Democrats could win a landslide election victory in November. Owing their success, at least partly, to voters who support strengthening the social safety net, they will be under pressure to deliver.

    PS: You suggest that Trump’s successor should pursue “a New Deal-like overhaul of US social, economic, and political structures.” What specific policies or reforms should lead the agenda?

    JGC: The reforms that a Democratic landslide could enable were suggested, in one way or another, by most of the contenders for the party’s nomination. They include livelihood support, such as universal child care, a $15 minimum wage, universal paid family leave, and stronger unemployment insurance (roughly double today’s average). Universal health care – possibly, but not necessarily, a single-payer system – is also high on the list, as is reforming or eliminating the Electoral College.

    To address inequality, many advocate tax reform – including a higher tax rate for the highest earners and a wealth tax on those who own the most assets – as well as........

    © Project Syndicate