Why hasn’t the biggest economic crisis in two generations rekindled the political left?American leftists are not alone in asking this question; the failure of the latest recession to fuel anti-capitalist or at least anti-corporate rage in most of the developed world has European social democrats scratching their heads. The 2008 financial crisis was, from a left point of view, the perfect storm: greedy bankers in cahoots with corrupt politicians made obscene bonuses while engaging in an orgy of speculation that almost wrecked the world financial system — and then stuck the taxpayers with trillions in losses.So why didn’t voters turn left? Why aren’t bankers hanging from the lamp posts while unions make record gains? Why did the GOP surge in the 2010 elections, and why aren’t we well into another period of progressive political hegemony? Why is all the talk about the crisis in government debt and the need for government restraint when private irresponsibility was the cause of the crisis?This morning’s Financial Times offers some insight into that question that is particularly helpful to Americans because the article’s author looks primarily at developments in Europe. Sometimes it’s easier to see the big picture when you look beyond your own immediate neighborhood.“I told you so isn’t enough to save a left in crisis,” writes Philip Stevens. While voters in many countries still like the idea of social democratic benefits and protections in Europe, they are worried about the rising costs of the welfare state and think its benefits, however attractive, are unaffordable.Stevens doesn’t take the argument this far, but it seems to me that one key problem for the left in the US and elsewhere is it is trapped by its reliance on public sector workers. The left gets converted (or perhaps perverted) into a lobby for the producers of government-paid services. It is more interested in more money for teacher unions than in better schools: it focuses on getting more money into government bureaucracies and ignores growing evidence that voters think the relationship between money in and service out has broken down.A genuine populist left these days would combine Tea Party fury at the waste and featherbedding in government structures with populist rage against the upper middle class nanny state do-gooders who burden the real economy with increasingly elaborate and expensive regulations and then jump on the bankers. What would differentiate that left from the Tea Party is that it would not be an anti-government lobby per se; it would support many of the things that the New Deal state was set up to do but would demand ruthless reform in the ways programs work.That kind of movement could potentially be formidable in the US and elsewhere, but the stranglehold of the government producers and nanny state lobbies on the democratic left here and abroad prevents the emergence of a serious left alternative to the politics of retrenchment and right wing reform.To grow, the American left would have to escape the suffocating embrace of the public sector unions and upper middle class progressives. Like a thirty something still living at home with his or her parents, the left’s reliance on these two enabling backers keeps it from making its mark in the world.