‘Common Law’ Explores How To Reduce Economic Insecurity

Columbia Professor Michael Graetz ’69 Proposes Solutions To Address ‘Wolf at the Door’
Michael Graetz

Columbia Law School professor Michael Graetz taught at UVA from 1972-79, and is also professor emeritus at Yale Law School. Photo by Lucas Field

March 9, 2021

Focusing on employment policies can help reduce the threat of economic insecurity in the United States, Columbia Law School professor Michael Graetz ’69 says on the latest episode of “Common Law,” a podcast sponsored by the University of Virginia School of Law.

Americans today can expect to change jobs 12 or 15 times in their lifetime, says Graetz, a UVA Law alumnus and former professor. That may be a welcome challenge for the college educated, he says.

“But when you take a middle-aged man or woman who has only a high school education, who's been working for a number of years, becoming unemployed is really devastating, not only to their way of life economically, but also psychologically,” he says on the show. “We just don’t have a good safety net in the United States.”

Graetz recently co-authored “The Wolf at the Door: The Menace of Economic Insecurity and How to Fight It” with political scientist Ian Shapiro, the latest in a string of books he has written on the economy and on tax law.

In the book and on the show, Graetz suggests the solutions to economic insecurity should focus on employment, and range from a national unemployment insurance program to building more infrastructure, which will create jobs. Graetz doesn’t object to raising taxes on the wealthy, he said, but “I just don't think that increasing taxes on the wealthy alone is going to solve the problems of economic insecurity.”

"The Wolf at the Door"

He also discusses the importance of health insurance, child care and the earned income tax credit, and covers the history of how economic insecurity has grown over the past 70 years in the United States.

Graetz, who is also a professor emeritus at Yale Law School, is a leading expert on national and international tax law. He frequently testifies on Capitol Hill about tax matters, and his honors include being elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and receiving a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship.

Hosted by Dean Risa Goluboff and Vice Dean Leslie Kendrick ’06, the show’s third season is focusing on “Law and Equity.”

While the themes of the first two seasons were temporal — the first focused on “The Future of Law” and the second looked back at “When Law Changed the World” — this season looks across time at a variety of legal issues, asking what equity means and examining how it interacts with law.

“Common Law” is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, YouTube, Spotify and other popular places you can listen to podcasts. The show is produced by Emily Richardson-Lorente.

You can follow the show on the website CommonLawPodcast.com or Twitter at @CommonLawUVA.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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