There are two economic issues--one extremely timely, one essentially permanent--in the news these days. The timely one is the attempt by Wisconsin's Republican governor to bust his state's public employee unions by blaming them for a budget deficit that was not their fault, but his. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post has written the best brief description I've read of the situation, and why the governor's efforts are not truly meant to fix the problem, but are instead taking advantage of his own reversal of a budget surplus to try to kill unions (some unions--not the ones that traditionally vote Republican). The short version--he and the Republican-majority legislature held an emergency session and destroyed their state's economic footing. The unions had nothing to do with it. The Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature are heroes for leaving their state in order to prevent this union-busting vote. And lest anyone complain too loudly about unions, just keep these words in mind: weekends, sick pay, middle class, 40-hour work week, child labor.
The other issue is Social Security. The drumbeat in the media these days is echoing that on the right, where they've never cared for SS as a concept. It's broken, it needs to be "fixed," and that fix needs to take the form of reduced benefits, later retirement ages, or privatization. Those "fixes" are all meant to make Social Security less popular and therefore more easily overturned once and for all. The whole point is that it's universal, that we all participate and we all benefit--and there's never been a better way of making sure that when people are aged or infirm and can no longer earn a paycheck, they don't have to sink into desperate poverty. The fact is that the fix is a very simple one, and that Social Security has never added to the national deficit and never needs to. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who was once a Social Security trustee and knows the turf, explains.
EDITED to add a new piece on the same basic topic, by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman. We have real problems to tackle. Let's face them with real solutions.