August Break

Thanks to all of our wonderful readers for helping LPE Blog grow so much this year!

We’re taking a break for the month of August to bring you more of that LPE content you crave in September. Next year will be a big one for the LPE world, with launch of the Journal of Law and Political Economy and the LPE Project’s inaugural conference.

With gratitude,

Kate and the LPE Blog team.

Reclaiming Notice and Comment: Part II

This post is part of our symposium on democratizing administrative law. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Nancy Chi Cantalupo, Matthew Cortland & Karen Tani –

In an earlier post in this series, two of us (Cortland and Tani) described how the notice-and-comment process has entered the arsenal of a range of groups and organizers, many seeking to challenge the policies of the current administration. We made the case by highlighting grassroots efforts to explain to the public what notice-and-comment is and how to participate in it. The effects of these efforts seem clear. Note the more than 1,800 comments on Kentucky’s 2016 request for a Medicaid Section 1115 waiver (seeking to impose a work requirement, among other changes). Or consider the 266,000+ comments to the Department of Homeland Security after the agency proposed a rule that would make an immigrant’s use (or likely use) of public benefits grounds for inadmissibility.

Here we discuss a type of organizing that has followed in the wake of mass commenting efforts, focused on analyzing the content of comments and ensuring their due consideration. Our central example comes from the Department of Education’s recent notice of a proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the meaning of Title IX for complaints of sexual harassment (an umbrella legal term that includes sexual violence). Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the activism around the ED’s interpretation of Title IX in the Obama years, the agency recorded over 124,000 comments—and spurred the creative cataloging initiative we spotlight here. By analyzing comments themselves, participants in this initiative seek to support public engagement with administrative law and vindicate the democratic values at the heart of notice-and-comment mandates.

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Medicare for All: A Leap into the Known?

This post is part of our symposium on Medicare for All. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Nathan Cortez – Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 8.33.16 AM

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 was the most significant health legislation since Congress created Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, breaking a half-century of health policy incrementalism. But thanks to the Senate, the final bill failed to include a “public option.” And thanks to the Supreme Court, many states rejected Medicaid expansion. Ultimately, the ACA preserved private insurance as the main source of coverage, rendering the act much more incremental than originally envisioned.

Almost a decade later, we are seeing more ambitious reform ideas like “Medicare for All” which until very recently was a political nonstarter. My contribution to this symposium argues not only that some version of Medicare for All is necessary, but also that it may not be as radical as critics claim.

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Medicare for All and Medicare for America: What Are We Fighting Over? Part II

This post is part of our symposium on Medicare for All. You can find all the posts in the series here. You can view Part I of this article here.

Christina S. Ho – 

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 8.33.16 AM

In yesterday’s post, I evaluated Medicare for All and considered some of the implications of a single-payer system. Today’s post will assess the Medicare for America bill, which, by contrast, is a public option.  This label may not appear obvious, and is even disputed by some, since the bill sunsets the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges and individual private health insurance.  Instead, it enrolls the majority of Americans in a public Medicare plan with benefits close to what Medicare for All would offer.

While the Medicare for America bill is arranged with great promise and enormous care, its real significance lies not in this snapshot description but in the distributional and politico-historical dynamics that its opt-out structure unleashes over time.

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Medicare for All and Medicare for America: What Are We Fighting Over? Part I

This post is part of our symposium on Medicare for All. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Christina S. Ho – 

The early contours of the health care debate have featured a loose divide between those favoring so-called “single-payer Medicare for All,” and those who propose some kind of “public option.”

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 8.33.16 AMTo drill down to what’s really at stake, I looked at the leading and most detailed proposals representing these two basic outlooks.  To understand “single-payer Medicare for All,” I read the “Medicare for All Act of 2019,” H.R. 1384 introduced by Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Debbie Dingell, which largely tracks the Senate counterpart introduced by Bernie Sanders.  I also looked at the most ambitious and developed “public option” proposal, the “Medicare for America Act of 2019,” H.R. 2452, sponsored by Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Jan Schakowsky and drawn in part from the Center for American Progress’ (CAP) Medicare Extra for All plan.

I argue that there may not be as much of a difference between the two plans as the Presidential primary camps will be motivated to portray, and I want to lay out why – with the caveat that at this stage of the debate, no one’s views should be immune from revision, least of all mine.

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Medicare for All as a Democratic Movement

This post is part of our symposium on Medicare for All. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Allison K. Hoffman – 

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 8.33.16 AM

Medicare for All (MFA) has become the symbol of a larger, brewing movement that is attempting to bring major change to how we pay for and regulate health care in the United States. Even if MFA never becomes law, the conversation around it is building popular support for significant reforms and is creating fissures in the decades-old market-based approach to health care financing and regulation—and in the justification that this approach promotes choice.

Many Americans are well aware that our current health care system is failing them, as nearly 27.4 million people (14 percent of adults) remain uninsured, even after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and even those with insurance are struggling to pay for the care they need. The U.S. spends twice as much per capita on health care than the average OECD nation and has worse outcomes on critical measures, like life expectancy and infant mortality.

Over the past three decades, the primary policy solution to the mismatch between high spending and poor outcomes has been to turn to consumerism and market competition for a fix. The underlying theory is that if people have options—options for health plans, hospitals, prescription drugs, providers, and so on—they will choose the higher-value options. In turn, competitors will in theory produce higher-value options to win more customers.

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Inaugural LPE Project Conference – Call for Papers!

Call for Papers: “Law and Political Economy: Democracy After Neoliberalism”

Over the past several years, a growing group of legal scholars have begun to center questions of “law and political economy” as part of a deliberate effort to enable a critical transformation in legal thought. Joined by the insight that the “the economy” cannot be separated from questions of power, distribution, and democracy, these scholars have advanced new conceptions of antitrust, constitutional law, criminal law, labor law, intellectual property, international trade, and other areas that begin to spell out what it means to reunite what decades of legal scholarship and governance have kept apart. In so doing, these scholars have highlighted law’s role in the perpetuation of racial and gender injustice, the devaluation of social and ecological reproduction, and the violence of the carceral state under capitalism. They have also sought to offer alternative visions for law’s role and concrete legal reforms designed to move beyond neoliberalism and toward a genuinely responsive, egalitarian democracy, with critical attention to the need for power and movement-building as part of any such transformation. There is still, however, much work to be done to map the path of this new scholarly initiative. 

The Law and Political Economy (LPE) Project’s inaugural conference, to be held April 3rd & 4th, 2020 at Yale Law School, will be an opportunity for LPE scholars to come together to identify and develop pressing questions for law and political economy as a movement, and for the current political moment.  Many of us already gather in generative sub-field conversations, so rather than reproduce conversations happening elsewhere and convening panels by topic (“labor,” “trade,” “criminal law”), we hope to organize panels to surface critical analytic questions that must be answered if we are to dislodge the status quo in legal thought. This aim is ambitious, so what follows is longer than the usual CFP. Please see this as an invitation to connect our work through productive lines of critique. Challenge or develop the prompts further as you see fit. 

In hopes of fostering a more open dialogue, we welcome proposals for traditional legal scholarship (law review works-in-progress), as well as shorter pieces (of about 4000-5000 words that might be more suitable for online “forum” publication or other non-law review formats) addressing these difficult questions. In addition to proposals for individual papers (which will be placed onto panels), we also welcome proposals for fully formed panels. Drafts of all papers must be made available/circulated to all participants two weeks prior to the conference. Please submit proposals of no more than a page, clearly indicating whether for an article-in-progress or a shorter piece, to Sarah Harwood at sarah.harwood@yale.edu by September 15, 2019. 

The LPE Project will ensure that cost is not a barrier to participation for all selected panelists. There will not be a conference fee. We will cover all participants’ hotel accommodations. We will also cover travel expenses for anyone without sufficient funding from a home institution. 

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The Tensions in Democracy: Interview with Astra Taylor

Astra Taylor is an independent writer, documentarian, activist, organizer, and musician. She recently completed a project on the concept of democracy, which produced both a movie–What is Democracy?–and a book–Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss it When It’s Gone. Both treat democracy as a paradoxical and tension-filled ideal that nevertheless must be fought for. Both have many insights that can help left lawyers as we think through the thorny questions that come with the institutionalization of equality and self-governance. Taylor shares some of them in this interview.

LPE: In a recent post for this blog, Samuel Bagg argues that democracy is best understood in terms of what it’s not, or rather, what it’s against. Do you agree? How do you think about arguing for the value of democracy without having an easily articulated concept of what it is? Is history more valuable than philosophy here?

I see democracy as a kind of moving target, something that we can never define definitively and close the case on. But I do think having a minimal definition helps, and I’m happy to start here: the people (demos) rule or hold power (kratos). The problem is that who the people are and how they rule is always open to debate.

Bagg’s approach reminds me of a scene in What Is Democracy? where I’m talking to the political theorist Wendy Brown and I tell her that I really wrestled with making democracy the theme of the film. And it’s true, initially I was open to the idea of jettisoning the word since it’s been so corrupted. But the more reading and thinking I did, the more my perspective shifted. I began to see democracy’s disorienting vagueness as a source of strength, in that the concept can always be contested and reimagined. Researching the book also just drove home the fact that elites have always hated democracy, even as they have attempted to co-opt and contain it—which means there must be something to it. Elites don’t care for democracy because it implies the leveling of hierarchy, including hierarchies of wealth. (Here, I’m also partial to Aristotle’s definition of democracy as rule of the poor, since the poor always outnumber the rich. In my view, even a very minimal definition has a material or class dimension.)

In any case, during the interview Wendy empathized with my plight. We keep coming back to democracy, she says, because the alternatives—or in Bagg’s terminology, all the things democracy is not—are worse. The alternatives to ruling ourselves are pretty unappealing: we could be a ruled by a tyrant, an aristocracy, an oligarchy, a technocracy, and so on. Which is why, as Wendy says, we keep coming back to the word democracy, to the idea of ruling ourselves.

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To Reimagine Intervention Strategies: The Political Economy of Domestic Violence

Deborah Weissman

In recent years, mainstream anti-domestic violence programs have moved away from a fixation on the criminal justice system to undertake economic justice initiatives designed to “respond to, address, and prevent financial abuse” related to domestic violence.  The shift reflects the growing realization that strategies of remedy through the penal state have tended to fracture the domestic violence movement and marginalize disenfranchised populations, particularly poor communities and communities of color.  As programs have endeavored to refocus their efforts, advocates have properly identified consumer credit as a critical issue to address, as credit problems are a frequent, if underappreciated, effect of domestic violence. Indeed, as consumer debt has become a way of life, credit problems affect a victim’s chances of purchasing or renting a home, obtaining utilities, finding affordable car and home insurance rates, and accessing employment opportunities. The solution to these economic challenges lies within the realm of political economy. An LPE approach would conceptualize how current political and economic arrangements affect victims—as well as abusive partners—and thereby to assess justice strategies in relation to structural capitalist economic modalities.

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The Uber/Lyft Drivers’ Association, Unionization, and Labor Law Reform

N.B.: Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs posted a response to Part II of Veena Dubal’s pieces (here’s Part I) comparing solidarity unionism with company unions. In the spirit of debate, we’re cross-posting from On Labor. 

Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs –

In her second post on the Uber/Lyft drivers’ association, Veena Dubal rightly celebrates the success of the recent Uber/Lyft work stoppages.  The example of workers, who have no labor or employment law rights, engaging in the kind of collective action that she describes is inspirational.  Dubal also raises some important criticisms of the IDG, criticisms we take very seriously.

As Dubal recognizes, however, none of the actions by Uber and Lyft drivers have yielded collective bargaining rights, yet. So the question is what is the best path forward toward the securing of those rights. We agree with Dubal that winning union status and collective bargaining power at Uber and Lyft will depend critically on the continuation of the kind of solidarity actions that Dubal describes. But, in our view, a fundamental reshaping of labor law (at the state or federal level) will also be necessary. Unfortunately, even if an “uncompromised” version of California AB 5 passes, that won’t get us there.  Although that bill would constitute enormous progress, it would not on its own equip Uber and Lyft drivers to organize and bargain collectively.

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