Wednesday, March 31, 2021

From Reaganism to Bidenism

There has been a spate of articles commenting on how the Biden administration's economic philosophy and policy approach marks a real paradigm shift from the neoliberal approach that has dominated both the Republican and Democratic parties since Ronald Reagan's presidency. They're not wrong. One can criticize many of the specifics of the Biden administration's approach, including in the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, whose details have just been released. But in many ways that's beside the point--of course there are still a lot of wires handing from the ceiling on this one, just as there were on Reagan's initial forays into neoliberalism. But the decisive break represented by Reagan's approach was clear and important, as is the decisive break represented by the Biden administration's approach today.
One of the better assessments along these lines is this lengthy article in the Wall Street Journal by Jacob Schlesinger and Andrew Restuccia. Read, ponder and wonder how this all happened under the watch of a 78 year old career pol.
"President Biden envisions long-term federal spending claiming its biggest share of the American economy in decades. He wants to pay for that program in part by charging the highest-earning Americans the biggest tax rates they’ve faced in years.....
It all marks a major turning point for economic policy. The gamble underlying the agenda is a belief that government can be a primary driver for growth. It’s an attempt to recalibrate assumptions that have shaped economic policy of both parties since the 1980s: that the public sector is inherently less efficient than the private, and bureaucrats should generally defer to markets.
The administration’s sweeping plans reflect a calculation that “the risk of doing too little outweighs the risk of doing too much,” said White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese. “We’re going to be unapologetic about that,” he said. “Government must be a powerful force for good in the lives of Americans.”....
The long-dominant paradigm Mr. Biden and aides want to change is one widely branded neoliberalism, framed by Ronald Reagan, who declared in his 1981 inaugural address that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” He ushered in an era of tax cuts, deregulation and federal programs increasingly designed to work through market forces....
While Democrats controlled the White House for nearly half the time since then, their policies often were constrained by the core Reagan principles, in the view of many progressives. Bill Clinton tried to juggle liberal goals with a focus on balancing the budget, expanding free trade, and deregulating the financial sector. Barack Obama created a new government health program, but to the chagrin of the left, worked through private insurers. His 2009 program to fight the recession was constrained by fears of big deficits."
Yup. The times they are a-changin'.

Liberals Need a Genuine Intellectual Infrastructure....and Right Now They Don't Have One

At The Liberal Patriot, John Halpin surveys the current progressive intellectual infrastructure and he doesn't like what he sees. He suggests we urgently need an alternative.
"If you’re baffled by the direction of so-called “progressive” politics these days, you’re not alone. An intellectual and political movement once grounded in the reformist policies of the earliest progressives—and the universal principles of 20th century American liberalism—has given way to a well-funded network of activists, academics, and social media denizens who reject these principles in part or wholesale.
In place of a commitment to individual freedom, political equality, and social welfare policies designed to offer people protection from hardship and a hand up in life, today’s progressives organize themselves around abstract theories of oppression and power relationships grounded in racial, gender, and religious categorizations. Where liberals and the early progressives saw deep flaws in American society and set out to create practical solutions to achieving greater equality and freedom for all people, modern social justice progressives see a country irreparably broken by “400 years of systemic racism” and seek to overturn perceived social and cultural hierarchies in favor of historically oppressed groups. Older liberals once fought for laws and regulations to overcome racial and gender discrimination and increase individual rights, while modern progressives increasingly fight over language, representation, group-based accusations, and who is allowed to say or think what.....
There are many different explanations for why this shift happened. But one that is often overlooked is the changed intellectual infrastructure sustaining liberal politics.
For starters, the sociological landscape that once underpinned traditional American liberalism—a working-class Democratic Party; labor unions; liberal churches, parishes, and synagogues; multiracial urban political networks; social reform journalism; and liberal academics and the social sciences—has atrophied. Rising in its place is a left politics grounded in a highly professionalized Democratic Party coming out of culturally radical environments in elite colleges and universities, wealthy foundations, corporate media outlets, and ideologically aligned non-profits and advocacy groups....
The lack of a fortified intellectual infrastructure supporting traditional American liberalism is a big challenge. So what needs to be done?
The first order of business for liberals is to recognize the depth of the problem. Identity-based politics, on the left or the right, will not just disappear on its own. The incentives for this kind of politics have grown immensely in recent years, and it will have to be counterbalanced by an equally well-supported effort from liberals on both the center-left and center-right."
Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot. And subscribe--it's free!
Liberals Must Rebuild Their Intellectual Infrastructure
Liberals Must Rebuild Their Intellectual Infrastructure
Sectarian politics will only be defeated through a long-term commitment to equal dignity and rights for all people

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

And Yea, The Trotskyists Will Always Be With You.....

This article in In These Times by 8 veterans of the democratic socialist left has a timely warning for the DSA about the dangers posed to DSA by the entry of democratic centralist organizations:
"As DSA has grown in size and political influence, so too has the interest it has attracted from small political groups to its left. These ​“sects,” short for sectarian organizations, see opportunities for themselves in the large numbers of young people new to politics who have joined DSA, viewing them as potential recruits for their emaciated ranks.
The recent announcement of the Trotskyist organization Socialist Alternative (SAlt) that its members were coming aboard, followed by a similar declaration from its leading member, Kshama Sawant, has simply made public a process that has been underway for some time — that various marginal Trotskyist organizations have infiltrated the DSA in a practice known as ​“entryism.”
The authors go on to provide a useful overview of entryist tactics on the US left and the generally baleful effect such tactics have had on the health of mass progressive organizations like the Socialist Party and SDS. In my view, the DSA has already moved far enough to the left (note the slogan on the DSA activist's shirt in the photo) that they've probably set a fairly low ceiling on how large and influential the organization can get. More Trotskyist and other democratic centralist entryism would simply ensure that course corrections to raise that ceiling would become impossible and even raise the specter of precipitous organizational decline.
Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Joe Biden: Keep on Doing the Voodoo That You Do!

I've got to hand it to Biden. So far, he has kept his eye on the ball and is concentrating on doing the big, popular things that will benefit a wide swathe of the electorate, particularly working class voters of all races. That's smart and exactly what the Democratic party should stand for. A good article on HuffPost reports on the positive reaction Biden's moves are getting from Democratic politicians in competitive states and districts.
"Across the country, Democrats are uniformly lining up behind the most essential parts of Biden’s policy program, aggressively trying to sell the already-passed American Rescue Plan ― which sent $1,400 checks to most Americans and which Democrats say will help crush the coronavirus pandemic and reopen schools ― with Biden himself embracing a prediction of 6% economic growth at his press conference last week.
They are eagerly anticipating his next legislative proposal, which Biden is expected to lay out in a speech in Pittsburgh this week. Early reports indicate the more than $3 trillion package will contain hundreds of billions in infrastructure spending, a permanent expansion of the child tax credit, free community college, aid for caregivers, and a package of tax increases on wealthy Americans and corporations.
Driving this party-wide political bet is a conviction that robust economic liberalism can renew Americans’ faith in their government, give them a political advantage on economic issues and stem continued defections among working-class voters of all races to a GOP almost exclusively focused on culture war issues.
“We’re going to keep building until every American has that peace of mind and to show that our government can fulfill its most essential purpose: to care for and protect the American people,” Biden said Tuesday during an event at Ohio State University in Columbus, with Ryan in attendance. “When we work together, we can do big things, important things, necessary things.”....
“I think people are starting to get confidence in the government again,” [Tim] Ryan [Democratic House representative from the Youngstown area of Ohio] said. “You can already feel a lot of voters saying, ‘I didn’t vote for Biden, but I appreciate what he’s doing.’ And if we keep going down this road, a lot of these people are going to approve of it.”
It’s the hope of Ryan and other Democrats that many of those voters are members of the working class. While Democrats made gains with college-educated voters during the Trump era sufficient to gain total control of the federal government, Republicans’ continued gains among voters without higher education ― including substantial gains among Latino and Hispanic voters in 2020 ― threaten the party’s viability in crucial states and districts. (American politics’ bias toward rural states and regions gives voters without college diplomas disproportionate political power.)....
Chuck Rocha, a Democratic consultant who has often been critical of the party’s outreach to Latinos, said the coronavirus relief package was more important to winning over Latino voters than any of Biden’s early moves to reverse Trump’s hard-line immigration policies.
“The biggest thing Joe Biden did is to secure a better chance at winning more of the Latino vote was to get that bill passed and send everybody checks last week,” Rocha, who worked for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and now runs Nuestro PAC, told reporters in a briefing this week. “That was a huge deal.”
So far, so good. The legislative politics around the second spending package, which Biden will apparently outline on Wednesday, are quite complicated. But I am encouraged by the level of focus the administration has shown so far and hopeful they will effectively manage this challenge and get something big and important through Congress.
Over the longer term, some course correction is needed on issues where the Democrats are vulnerable (like, ahem, immigration) but for the time being the administration is commendably focused on the moves that will pay the richest dividends for the country and potentially swell the ranks for their working class sympathizers. First things first.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Wages of Moderation

They're actually pretty good, especially if you're running in a tough, competitive district. Of course, if you're running in +30 Democratic districts like AOC and the members of the Squad, who needs moderation since your cat could get elected on the Democratic line. 538 has the data. (Note Antonio Delgado, who doesn't get the ink of the Squad but should).
No photo description available.