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Tilting at Windmills

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March 2, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

COMMIES vs. WIMPS....Over at MaxSpeak, Josh Bivens has a long and interesting post today explaining what he thinks are the four key differences between the center-left and left-wings of the Democratic coalition on economic issues. I'm a little surprised to find that, apparently, I'm considerably closer to the left wing than I am to the center-left.

Does this mean I'm a closet communist? Or does it mean that even Josh isn't as far left as he thinks? You'll have to read his full post to see what I'm talking about, but here's the nickel version of where I line up on his four key issues:

  1. Scale: I'm with Josh almost completely. Sign me up for national healthcare, early childhood education, and helping out the working class. (I probably need a little convincing on worker adjustment programs, though primarily on grounds of practicality.)

  2. Strategy: I'm a pragmatist. Whatever works. But I think Josh is almost certainly correct that trying to work with Republican moderates is a doomed strategy today (though I'm not sure that was quite so obvious in 1993-94).

  3. Primary vs. secondary interventions to address income inequality: Josh's examples of primary interventions are stronger unions and a higher minimum wage, and I'm for 'em. (Though I'm for fairer taxes too.) And I agree completely that a broad array of modest measures is better than trying to rely on just one or two big secondary measures.

  4. Full employment vs. balancing the budget: I'm basically on the full employment side, though I suspect Josh is more on the full employment side than I am.

I imagine that if we sat down and discussed the details we'd find more points of disagreement than are obvious here. And maybe Josh isn't fairly characterizing the center left. And of course, neither of us are kidding ourselves that any of these things are going to find widespread support anytime soon.

But interesting reading nonetheless. Maybe Gene Sperling will respond somewhere.

UPDATE: Josh Bivens wrote this post, not Max Sawicky as I originally indicated. Sorry about that. I've corrected the text throughout.

Kevin Drum 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (67)

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Comments

I've long thought I was slightly -- just slightly -- to your left, Kevin. But based on this, we're almost exactly at the same spot. Interesting.

Posted by: Roger Keeling on March 2, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Or does it mean that even Max is a pale shadow of his youthful self?

Tell you one thing...

Bob Dylan is a pale shadow of his youthful self.

Posted by: obscure on March 2, 2006 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

maybe Fukuyama will respond somewhere better yet..

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on March 2, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Once Al and Rush have had their morning fix of hillbilly heroin, you'll get your "Absolutely Truthy"(R) set of talking points as to why *anything at all* that helps anyone but the top 1% is a terrible, terrorist-loving, America-destroying idea.

Until then, I'll just say: Kevin, you are a commie nazi.

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on March 2, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

the current situation, to me, reminds me of a soft dictatorship. Ever since the fall of Newt its been the 'frozen scandal'


Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on March 2, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

As Nixon said, ultimately we are all Keynesians.

By the same token, even if you have an iota of capacity for rational thought, you are left wing.

Posted by: lib on March 2, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

This is a good post, that hits to an irritation of mine.

The things that Max mentions, are not "far left". They're not even leftist. They're simply moderate ideas of a different type. They're not so much about ideology, as they are pragmatic. Seeing problems that exist, and finding ways to fix them.

Health care is an obvious one. The increasing amounts of consumer debt, and lack of consumer spending, which is what really drives the economy..well..you make the economic outlook better for these people. A combination of raising the minimum wage, and trying to lower costs..(Health care is a big one. I suspect tax credits for building sustainable communities would also be nice)..to have people with more money in their pocket.

The GOP are unwilling to crack down on their worst offenders...let alone the borderline cases. Can't deal with a corrupt party.

But what I think what it comes down to, is that the left-wing is no more extreme than the center left. In fact, one could argue that the bankruptcy bill is more "out there" than anything that the left even supports.

But in the end, if one is going to argue that the blogosphere is the "extreme" section of the left side of the debate...note this. In 2004, the blogosphere supported Howard Dean and Wesley Clark, for the most part. Two centrists. The difference is that they were "outside the box" people who were willing to listen to an argument. My feeling is that it's the so-called "moderates" who are stubborn and stuck in their ways and allow their ideology to pave over a good idea.

BTW. No, our host is not one of those moderates:p. Look at the Lieberman/Marshall crowd:p

Posted by: Karmakin on March 2, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

But in the end, if one is going to argue that the blogosphere is the "extreme" section of the left side of the debate...note this. In 2004, the blogosphere supported Howard Dean and Wesley Clark, for the most part. Two centrists. The difference is that they were "outside the box" people who were willing to listen to an argument. My feeling is that it's the so-called "moderates" who are stubborn and stuck in their ways and allow their ideology to pave over a good idea.

An acute observation. Thanks.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me the divergence is almost completely foreign policy related, and wouldn't show up when limiting the conversation to economics. (Max is an economist, so his prescriptions are usually pragmatic, as the field itself it).

But moderate lefties just wanna kick muslim ass - think it's a reasonable response to our "terrorism problem". See Drum, Yglesias, Marshall, Klein, all of the NYT, TNR, etc.

Us moonbat lefties (like Max) DIDN'T think invading Iraq was likely to lead to cascading dominoes of democracy - many of us (like me) thought that, even if it could succeed, it was immoral, and a horrible precedent.

Posted by: luci on March 2, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Those were once fairly mainstream opinions, certainly in the Democratic Party. Which just shows how far right we have drifted.

Posted by: Mimikatz on March 2, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Karmakin, these items are hardly "leftist". It's like arguing that the direction south-west is "radically south" compared to west south-west.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on March 2, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

They're not so much about ideology, as they are pragmatic. Seeing problems that exist, and finding ways to fix them.

To a rightist, pragmatism is an extremist position.

They don't do collective problem-solving because they are emotionally incapable of entertaining contrary opinions.

(GWB, exhibit A.)

Posted by: obscure on March 2, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Somebody should do this for national security and foreign policy issues, so we can separate the wheat from the chaff.

Posted by: Alexander Wolfe on March 2, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Number four is a joke. Arguing about "full employment" vs. "balancing the budget" is about as relevant and useful in Bush's America as going to a 7-11 in Afghanistan and asking whether the Taliban prefers a beer because it tastes great, or because it's less filling. It doesn't matter. Those choices are academic.

And Kevin, I'm neither surprised that you're closer to the "left wing" by this standard, nor surprised that *you're* surprised that you are.

Posted by: Chris on March 2, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

This Al From article from Blueprint describes the rise of the New Democrat movement and the political landscape that allowed it to happen. From is pretty much spot on. Which is why I was a big supporter of the DLC back in 1992.

The problem with the DLC crowd (I don't like to call them moderates or center-lefties because I think I'm a moderate and I think they're idiots now) isn't one of ideology. It is one of identity.

If you read anything by the DLCers in the 1990's, you know that they had a real swagger. If not an arrogance. It was like they had found the holy grail of politics: Liberal goals achieved through conservative tools. The Republicans were fools because they had the wrong values. The paleo-liberals were wrong because they couldn't see how the tools they used were consistently ineffective. But the DLC was right! They were liberals who weren't afraid of guns and corporations and stock options and market-based incentives. They were Cool Democrats.

Anyway, this sense of righteousness was clearly intoxicating. The DLCers became drunk with centrism. So drunk that they failed to see how the rise of movement conservatism (later Bushism) was changing the political landscape.

As the political landscape became more polarized people were forced to pick sides. Now, the DLC crowd should have just found common cause with the left, who they really didn't have much of a disagreement with, ideologically. But their egos wouldn't let them.

Their entire identities were wrapped up in not being "liberals". They didn't want to be seen with the working class riff raff. Sure, they'd author a white paper explaining how they would improve the lives of America's working class. But hang out with them? Fuck that noise. Why do that when you can rub elbows with silicon valley CEOs? So, they just pretended the Gingrich revolution never happened and that the GOP didn't morph into a religio-fascist cult.

Eventually, the failure of the DLC to admit that there was no longer a meaningful political center in America became so laughably pathetic that many moderates, such as myself, abandoned them in disgust. And it has virtually nothing to do with policy disagreements.

Posted by: space on March 2, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Mimikatz: Those were once fairly mainstream opinions, certainly in the Democratic Party. Which just shows how far right we have drifted.

How far have we drifted (been dragged?) to the right?

If 73% of a political organization's members said:

George Bush should be impeached and removed from office, because he lied us into war, has used the NSA to eavesdrop on the conversations of Americans without a court order, and has violated the Constitution in other ways.

You'd probably think them on the left.

That organization is the John Birch Society.

Posted by: alex on March 2, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Great post!
In a way the Repubs have primed the American people for a new Dem approach. I think Dems need to convince the public that we will balance the needs of voters and business with some real, solid, tangible, well-designed policites that *help* the voters. Eg. health insurance, changing the meaning of free-trade to include rights & wages, etc.

The Repubs have shown us all what it means to have contempt and a basic lack of care for the citizenry. It is their basic flaw. To address this basic flaw, the Dems need what Bivens is calling the policies of the left-wing.

Posted by: camille royi on March 2, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Josh Bivens otherwise excellent summary touches only incidentally on international trade, which I think is one of the major areas of difference between the center left and left. The center-left generally takes a fairly uncritical, classical economists view of tradethe more and the freer, the better. The left takes a more critical view: just as capitalism within nation-states had to be restrained and its harshness mitigated by a century of progressive (or social democratic or, in the U.S. liberal) policies, so do we need a policy framework to control the consequences of globalization. Construction of that framework has barely begun, but it needs to go hand in hand with the extension and liberalization of international trade and investment. Until it does, international trade agreements need to be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Posted by: Anthony Greco on March 2, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

We already help out the working class in this country. We have a variety of programs, some of which work well, some of which work modestly well, and some of which don't work at all. If this is about banging the 'national health care' drum, it isn't going to work, because NHC doesn't work very well -- ask the Canadians.

Early childhood education could be very helpful, but not if you let the same people who run/operate inner city schools run this. Unfortunately, I don't see any sentiment amongst either 'left' or 'center-left' Democrats to prize the grip of politicans, hacks and school union offiials off the inner city schools.

Republican moderates would be willing to work with moderate Democrats. Exactly who is that these days? The Repubs have drifted some to the right, but that drift is matched by the movement of the Dems to the left.

And Kevin, everyone is for 'fairer' taxes. It's all in the definition.

Full employment: remember when that was defined as 6%, since economists told us that any lower and we'd have rampant inflation? We have 5% unemployment now and had it for a while in the latter part of the 1990s. Is that full enough? What's the new goal? The 'full employment' versus 'balancing the budget' debate is the same, tired argument we had in the 1970s and 80s, when the AFL-CIO wanted a 'New Marshall Plan' for 'full employment'. Basically, that involved spending tons of money on various make-work projects and projects that would employ lots of union people, and people who would join unions. Is that your argument today?

If this is the argument of 'left' versus 'center-left', Gene Sperling is 'center-right', because his views (in his book, at least) aren't anywhere close to this.

Posted by: Steve White on March 2, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Alex
One of our strengths as "liberals" is our willingness to look at problems from many perspectives. Rather than dogma, we reach conclusions based different sources of information.
That being said, I DO hope you showered after visiting the Birch site...

Posted by: DK2 on March 2, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

It bothers me that self-described liberals/leftists/progressives like to claim sole propriety for these issues. I don't consider myself left-wing because I am generally for welfare reform (and, yes, I know people who are or were on welfare programs) and against protectionism (on moral grounds), amongst other things. But health care, minimum wage, unions and everything else mentioned are more common sense, not left-wing and right-wing. I resent when the right claims a monopoly on security and morality and also resent the left claims a monopoly on everything.

The devil is in the details about how to achieve these goals. Conservatives can claim to care about universal health care, but many truly believe that the problem is that we are "overinsured" and anyone who thinks otherwise is an idiot. The left-wing generally wants a single-payer system and anyone who thinks otherwise is an idiot. I'm happy with something that works.

Having read Sperling, I think he generally agrees with many things on the list.

Posted by: gq on March 2, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

The Repubs have drifted some to the right, but that drift is matched by the movement of the Dems to the left.

I love statements like this. The Democrats have moved to the left? In what universe? Can anyone name a stance that Democrats are currently holding that would have been deemed too liberal 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago?

Posted by: space on March 2, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Steve White: NHC doesn't work very well -- ask the Canadians

I did ask them - the last thing most of them want is a US style system.

Posted by: alex on March 2, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

DK2: I DO hope you showered after visiting the Birch site...

Nah, in the Bush/DeLay/Frist/Limbaugh/O'Reilly/Coulter era, those people are starting to sound pretty reasonable.

Posted by: alex on March 2, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

How about wage subsidies as opposed to minimum wage? Already in force through the EITC and the tax code, and more accurately targets and incentivizes employment; perhaps more politically palatable for repubs framed as a tax credit than a minimum wage hike is.

Posted by: clb72 on March 2, 2006 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Anthony Greco: The center-left generally takes a fairly uncritical, classical economists view of trade the more and the freer, the better.

No, the so-called center-left (DLC) takes a "kiss corporate ass and pretend it's solid economics" approach.

What we have now is hardly free trade. If nothing else currency manipulation makes a joke of it. While I'm no free trader, I do think that free trade would be an improvement over what we have now.

BTW, I also agree with you criticisms, and would add that most "trade theory" is a simplistic joke intended to promote a poltical view. At least Ricardo didn't pretend otherwise.

Unfortunately I think Kevin Drum is clearly in the DLC's bed on this one. He bought the propaganda and has not examined it critically. His suprise a while back that most economists expect that "free" trade will adversely affect lower income people shows the extent of his ignorance on this.

Posted by: alex on March 2, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kleiman: But, as Lieutenant Colombo would say, there's just one little thing: Bush's job-performance rating, and his popularity, are now lower than the proverbial whale-dung on the bottom of the sea. You can re-weight the numbers any way you like: 34% job approval is bad, but 29% personal favorability (v. 53% unfavorable) is catastrophic.

. . .

The first rule of advertising is repetition. The second rule of advertising is repetition. And the third rule of advertising is repetition.

George W. Bush isn't just an awful President; he's also a miserable excuse for a human being. Saying so, back when he was popular, wasn't an immediate vote-winner, but it paid long-term dividends. Saying it now long, loud, and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again isn't just truth-telling, it's also obviously good politics.

And rdw and gang said calling Bush a liar over and over would never work.

Once more we see advice from GOP lemmings about what will win elections is worth less than dung they wallow in.

And now, with the video transcript of Bush's meetings on Katrina showing he was warned of possible or even likely levee failure, that his administration knew that this was a possibility, and that Bush himself lied to the nation when he said no one predicted the levees would fail . . .

. . . drip, drip, drip . . .

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

We have 5% unemployment now and had it for a while in the latter part of the 1990s.

Unemployment is actually around 10%. And worse, if you count the underemployed.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on March 2, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing much new here. More centralized control over the economy, and more wealth redistribution. Everything else is a matter of degrees.

"My total wish-list comes to about seven percentage points of GDP over and above what we currently spend."

We currently are running around 20 percent of GDP for Federal outlays. Adding seven percent to that would take us to the highest level of government spending as a percentage of GDP since 1945.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 2, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz

It does not behoove you to soil yourself by coming to a commie pinko forum like this.

Posted by: lib on March 2, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

As tbrosz's post shows, there's no point trying to moderate one's calls for sensible economic policies in the hopes of winning conservative sympathy: as far as the GOP folks are concerned, just having an economic policy at all makes you a Communist.

I mean, just because I support nationalizing the commanding heights of industry and redistributing all the fertile land equally among the peasants, then sending capitalist wreckers to labor camps so they can learn how to work like honest people, they consider me some kind of Communist! Go figure.

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 2, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Steve White: The Repubs have drifted some to the right, but that drift is matched by the movement of the Dems to the left.

Rubbish. That's nothing but mindless regurgitation of Rush Limbaugh's vomit. Since at least the Clinton presidency, and arguably going back to Carter, the Democratic Party has moved steadily to the right. Clinton was in no way whatsoever a "liberal". He was a southern conservative. In fact Clinton was actually the "compassionate conservative" that Bush falsely claimed to be when he needed to deceive the voters in 2000 in order to get close enough to steal the election.

What was the reaction from the Democratic establishment to the 2004 presidential primary campaign of a genuinely left-leaning candidate, Rep. Dennis Kucinich? Ignore, ignore, ridicule, marginalize, and ignore some more. And the mostly conservative Howard Dean was castigated as a "leftist". Claims that the Democratic Party has moved to the left are just garbage.

In America today, the Democrats are the conservative party; the Republicans are the party of naked greed and criminality; and the only thing resembling a "liberal" or "left" party is the Green Party which is not (yet) able to compete at the national level.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Something more to brighten of the tbrosz' day.


Two highly classified intelligence reports delivered directly to President Bush before the Iraq war cast doubt on key public assertions made by the president, Vice President Cheney, and other administration officials as justifications for invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, according to records and knowledgeable sources.


The president received highly classified intelligence reports containing information at odds with his justifications for going to war.

The first report, delivered to Bush in early October 2002, was a one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate that discussed whether Saddam's procurement of high-strength aluminum tubes was for the purpose of developing a nuclear weapon.

Among other things, the report stated that the Energy Department and the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research believed that the tubes were "intended for conventional weapons," a view disagreeing with that of other intelligence agencies, including the CIA, which believed that the tubes were intended for a nuclear bomb.

The disclosure that Bush was informed of the DOE and State dissents is the first evidence that the president himself knew of the sharp debate within the government over the aluminum tubes during the time that he, Cheney, and other members of the Cabinet were citing the tubes as clear evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program. Neither the president nor the vice president told the public about the disagreement among the agencies.

When U.S. inspectors entered Iraq after the fall of Saddam's regime, they determined that Iraq's nuclear program had been dormant for more than a decade and that the aluminum tubes had been used only for artillery shells.

The second classified report, delivered to Bush in early January 2003, was also a summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, this one focusing on whether Saddam would launch an unprovoked attack on the United States, either directly, or indirectly by working with terrorists.

Posted by: lib on March 2, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe:

Sorry, I'm open for correction. Maybe I read it over too fast. Which of the proposals discussed did NOT call for increased centralized control of the economy and more wealth redistribution?

Raising spending 7 percent of GDP over existing levels? While keeping the deficit under control? (Exactly what IS a "sustainable deficit?") The entire defense budget, as one point of reference, is about 3.4 percent.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 2, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

NHC doesn't work very well -- ask the Canadians.

. . . a Gallup poll, published in "The Toronto Star" on September 13, 1993, can provide a more accurate understanding of Canadian opinion. 96% of Canadians prefer their own health care system. 2% of Canadians have no opinion.

Since then, Canadian confidence in their system has waned, but primarily due to decreased government funding, the exact opposite of what you would propose to "fix" their system.

Moreover, a substantial majority of Canadians continue to support their own system of universality of health care over systems like the US.

Maybe you should look beyond Rush Limbaugh for your ideas and information.

Rush lies.

Don't repeat his lies.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: More centralized control over the economy

Of course centralized control of the economy (not to mention the federal government) by an unelected, unaccountable, ultra-rich, hereditary, neo-fascist corporate-feudalist ruling class (a.k.a. the "top one percent" a.k.a. "Bush's base") is just fine with you.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist: Wow...can you actually spout that line of leftist boilerplate without stopping to take a breath? Makes me nostalgic for my college days, when hairy fools would buttonhole me at the student union and rail about this kind of stuff, almost word-for-word. At least on the internet I don't have to deal with the halitosis.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 2, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Sarasota Herald-Tribune columnist says Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) lied to him about her contacts with Mitchell Wade.

-- Josh Marshall

That's not going to help these numbers . . .

Rasmussen: Harris still trails Nelson by nine percentage points, 49% to 40% . . . Among voters not affiliated with either the Republicans or Democrats, Harris trails badly, 64% to 18%.

Wonder how long it will take for the Florida GOP to abandon her, after recently endorsing her, now that she's been tied to Mitchell Wade, the former president of the defense contractor MZM who recently pled guilty to bribing Rep. Duke Cunningham, and lied about it.

Drip, drip, drip . . .

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: . . . and rail about this kind of stuff, almost word-for-word.

Certainly no worse than the boilerplate conservative tripe of yours that appears to be word for word out of White House press releases.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, didn't you once say that it's only on the blogsphere that you're considered center-left, and that by Real World(tm) considerations, you're pretty liberal?

Anyway, really, I don't think that the left-wing is as extreme (ideologically) as advertized. Most propositions I see are more pragmatic than ideological. Even with nationalized health care, which has to be the largest program advocated by lefties, the proponents usually believe that nationalization would make the system better and the cost less than what we currently have.

Usually, when extremism on the left comes up, it relates to only one thing: the Iraq War. And I have yet to understand what's so ideologically extreme about not wanting to do a stupid thing for stupid reasons in the stupidest manner possible. Very few people arguing against this war are peaceniks. (In fact, the only person I can think of who was opposed to the war in afghanistan was Ted Rall.) They just think it's bad implementation of a bad policy that'll hurt us in the long run.

Posted by: Royko on March 2, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

The anger from a lot of core democrats with the DLC or the so called moderates in the Democratic party isn't really a question of left, right or center. It has more to do with whether you will stand up for your values or not.

Because look at this list: full employment, health care for everyone, fair taxes, etc. These are basic government objectives in just about every industrialized country in the world. They are overwhelming supported by most Americans, according to opinion polls.

But somehow leaders of the Democratic Party have advocated not standing up for them - and claim that would be good politically.

But the real salt on the wound; the one that drove lots of folks just crazy, was of course the war in Iraq. Here was an administration proposing war on patently bogus excuses. It was a re-run of Vietnam. But leaders of the Democrat party and the DLC refused to question the administration, and denounced those who did.


Posted by: Samuel Knight on March 2, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Royko: Usually, when extremism on the left comes up, it relates to only one thing: the Iraq War.

As I mentioned upthread, the John Birch Society is also opposed to the Iraq War. I guess you don't have to be very far left to take that position.

Posted by: alex on March 2, 2006 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

I mean, just because I support nationalizing the commanding heights of industry and redistributing all the fertile land equally among the peasants, then sending capitalist wreckers to labor camps so they can learn how to work like honest people, they consider me some kind of Communist! Go figure.

Brilliant. Really extra super duper good!

Posted by: craigie on March 2, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing much new here. More centralized control over the economy, and more wealth redistribution. Everything else is a matter of degrees.

Yeah yeah. I bet - honestly - that I could sit down with Tom and the two of us could come up with a set of economic policies and funding levels that we both found acceptable, if not ideal.

The only sticking point might be my insistence on a 100% tax for people whose last names are lacking in vowels. But apart from that, I really think it's possible, once you get past the boilerplate non-thinking from both sides.

Posted by: craigie on March 2, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

craigie: The only sticking point might be my insistence on a 100% tax for people whose last names are lacking in vowels.

What is it you have against Mr. Ng?

(BTW, how do you pronounce that name?)

Posted by: alex on March 2, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Full employment leads to inflation and all that follows. Therefore, it's in the economy's interest that there be about 4-6% unemployed and it's more cost effective for those to be blue-collar workers than management. Nothing personal - just the way it is.

Posted by: A Capitalist on March 2, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

It's kind of like Nyew.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the links. There is one point worth commenting on from the get-go, namely the question of dealing with "moderate" Republicans. My take: This should not be seen as an ideological issue so much as a matter of learning from experience.

What recent experience shows us (let's say from 1995 to the present) is that there aren't any moderate Republicans. This is not to say that there couldn't some day be moderate Republicans; there surely were some prior to the 1990s. Republicans cooperated in passing the Civil Rights Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act. Republicans cooperated in forcing Nixon to resign. That was then. This is now.

Since the Republicans have adopted rules in both houses of Congress that effectively erase Democratic input, it is ridiculous to suggest that any Democrat of any ideological persuasion should ever cooperate with the other party. Since the other side has declared war, why not take notice of current reality and fight back?

May I suggest that the results might be surprisingly beneficial: Forcing Republicans to defend their positions would force them to whittle back on some of the more indefensible ones.

In other words, this is tactics, not basic principles.

Posted by: Bob G on March 2, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Full employment leads to inflation and all that follows. Therefore, it's in the economy's interest that there be about 4-6% unemployed and it's more cost effective for those to be blue-collar workers than management. Nothing personal - just the way it is. Posted by: A Capitalist

You must be young or a "new economy" "capitalist" or you would know that 4% unemployment used to be thought of as inflationary.

In any case, that's 4-6% being accounted for. True unemployment figures always run a couple percentage points higher.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: SecularAnimist: Wow...can you actually spout that line of leftist boilerplate without stopping to take a breath? Makes me nostalgic for my college days, when hairy fools would buttonhole me at the student union and rail about this kind of stuff, almost word-for-word. At least on the internet I don't have to deal with the halitosis.

Now Mr. Brosz, usually you refrain from the wild personal invective. Whatever bit you?

And if I may, you ought to recall the advice for people in glass houses; the only folks on campus less cognizent of their personal hygiene than the long-haired hippie sorts were the bearded Heinlein libertarians, all of whom had blizzards of flakes on the shoulders of their overworn leather or army canvas jackets.

(Which is not to mention the prospect of "getting any", at which the hippies excelled, the libertarians were completely left out of, and while the Young Republicans "got some" what they got was hardly worth getting.)

Damn, now I've gone petty, too.

Posted by: S Ra on March 2, 2006 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

One word: Joementum.

Posted by: Doofus on March 2, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah,

The "what works" part.

That another part that's added fuel to the debates within the Democrats. The wholesale ignoring of the "what works" bit.

You lose Congress, lose the Presidency, lose it again, and lose the Supreme Court. And what's the advise from the New Democrats? Let's deal with the moderates and move to the center - again.

And that's really the crux of the issue. If you look among the biggest name "wild lefty" bloggers
what striking is really how few of them are lefties in any real way. Atrios, Drum, Kos are NOT New Left sixties radicals, Marxists, nor socialists. They might be angry, but they as heck aren't reds.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on March 2, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, I'm open for correction. Maybe I read it over too fast. Which of the proposals discussed did NOT call for increased centralized control of the economy and more wealth redistribution?

Things like tax cuts also redistribute wealth, in the sense that the rich get relatively richer and everyone else gets relatively poorer, so it's only bad if it doesn't directly benefit the already rich, I guess.

Posted by: tbonz on March 2, 2006 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

OK, Space, I'll take you up on it: issues on which the Democratic Party is farther left than it was 40 years ago (1966--Johnson's presidency).
1) School prayer was legal 40 years ago
2) Abortion was illegal in most states 40 years ago.
3) Reverse discrimination was illegal 40 years ago.
4) Democrats were generally in favor of military intervention to serve US interests 40 years ago.
5) Tax rate on wages was ~5% 40 years ago (vs 15% now).

To my knowledge, the Democratic Party as a party was not trying to change any of these things 40 years ago.

Posted by: SamChevre on March 2, 2006 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, one more big one: homosexual actions were illegal in most states 40 years ago.

Posted by: SamChevre on March 2, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

There has been a socialist left in the US for a long time, though it has been pretty pitiful in its influence recently (i.e. the last 50 years...). Neither of the two points of view that started this discussion are in any historical or international perspective 'leftist'.

Posted by: Closet socialist on March 2, 2006 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

SamChevre:

1) School prayer was legal 40 years ago
2) Abortion was illegal in most states 40 years ago.

[...] To my knowledge, the Democratic Party as a party was not trying to change any of these things 40 years ago.

Both of those things changed as the result of Supreme Court actions; it had nothing to do with the Democratic Party, or any action of either of the elected branches of government (legislative or executive), for that matter.

All of the changes that you refer to are improvements.

Reverse discrimination is still illegal. Affirmative action is not reverse discrimination, no matter how many times Rush Limbaugh lies about that and tells you that you are a poor helpless victim of the liberal elites who run the government (even though right-wing extremist Republicans are actually in charge of all three branches of government).

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2006 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

SamChevre,

To make an effective argument your evidence has to have some a) citation and b) connection to your premise.

Posted by: obscure on March 2, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

***SamChevre,

There is a legitimate argument that popular culture is more tolerant today than it was 40 years ago. Like, the fact that it is universally uncool to express homophobic views on network television.

Most of us consider that a good thing.

Also, your #4 re military intervention is just a puff of hot air. Unsupported, untrue and irrelevant.

Posted by: obscure on March 2, 2006 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

SamChevre: 4) Democrats were generally in favor of military intervention to serve US interests 40 years ago.

You mean like Vietnam?

Actually, most Democrats today probably favor military intervention to serve US interests, if "US interests" is defined as "the national security of the USA."

However, Bush's illegal war of unprovoked aggression against Iraq, based entirely on lies, which has directly resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, the deaths of thousands of Americans, and the mutilation and impoverishment of many thousands more of both Iraqis and Americans, does not in any way "serve US interests." It undermines US interests. It only serves the interests of the cronies and financial backers of the criminal gang that occupies the White House, masquerading as "conservative" politicians.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting piece, Kevin.

Bivens is talking about the difference between center-left and left -- just wanted to give my two cents worth from the center-right.

Believe it or not, a lot of people of my ilk are more in agreement with the like of Bivens (and Drum) than you might imagine (remember, I'm center-right, not right). And that's because, from my perspective, one cannot be concerned with prosperity and living standards and fail to notice the problems this country is facing with income distribution, and increased pressure on the middle class, and eroding social mobility.

Now, obviously, one of the most important prerequisites for dealing with such problems is ample economic growth. Growth alone may not be sufficient, mind you, but it is most definitely a necessary precondition for addressing some of these issues. Whether it's simply a matter of jobs and wages, or generating the tax revenue to pay for needed saftey net measures, growth is pretty high on my list of things to have in place in order to give people a chance at a decent quality of life.

Now, the American way is to utilize economic liberty and trade as fundatmental tools to acquire this necessary economic growth. And here's where the safety net comes in. Because as we all know, capitalism -- especially as it manifests itself via trade with other nations -- creates its share of losers. It's pretty obvious from my vantage point that suppport for what Europeans would call Anglo-Saxon liberalism is a great deal weaker when the safety net is in tatters. (Side note: does anybody seriously doubt that the recent announcement of massive auto layoffs in North America was greeted with a bit less horror by Ontario workers than by those in Michigan?). Hence my original point about moderate center-righties like myself, and our common ground with folks like Bivens. We think trade and economic freedom are necessary for prosperity, but that the political coalition in support of this worldview can only be maintained if people who play by the rules know they possess some measure of economic security.

But here's my problem with his ideas: Bivens candidly tells us his wish list would cost eight points of GDP. I appreciate his specificity. My math tells me that's a number approaching a trillion bucks. Even if Washington's finances were in good shape, how the heck can anybody argue for $1 trillion in increased spending and taxes without first calling for reductions in the flow of federal dollars to rich folks? The Bivens and Drums of the world would have a lot more credibility, and a lot more potential for deal-making with centrists (and thus a lot more potential to see their visions enacted), if they'd be willing to acknowledge that their expensive plans would be a lot more affordable if we didn't waste money on the pensions and medical bills of rich people. When did subsidizing the rich become such a fundamental tenent of contemporary American liberalism?

Posted by: P.B. Almeida on March 2, 2006 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

"And of course, neither of us are kidding ourselves that any of these things are going to find widespread support anytime soon."

but, but, but Kevin...isn't your favorite meme that the reason democrats keep losing elections is because the left already won the ideology war, that America is so liberal that we don't need to win any more, that republicans can win elections but they already lost all big issues? Isn't that your favorite line o' crap?

Posted by: pluege on March 2, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

kevin, you're no lefty. you're a big phoney pretender talking sort of talking like a lefty until it counts. when push comes to shove, when its time for the tire to meet the road you always, ALWAYS go scurrying to your 'but maybe repukelicans are right this time' BS (e.g., iraq illegal unnecessary invasion, Dubai port deal, etc.). No kevin, they're not right, they're shit; just like your BS.

Posted by: justfred on March 2, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist,

On my point #4--Viet Nam is exactly what I was thinking of; remember, 1966 is before Tet--Kennedy had gotten us into Viet Nam, Johnson was increasing our involvement--and so far as I can tell, the Democratic Party as a whole was still supporting him.

On point 1 and 2--yes, school prayer law and abortion law changed because of the Supreme Court. My point was that the Democratic Party was not trying to change them in 1966, but is trying to keep them from changing today.

I'm not taking a position on whether the changes are for the better or for the worse--I'm arguing that the Democratic Party has moved left in the last 40 years.

Posted by: SamChevre on March 3, 2006 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a little surprised to find that, apparently, I'm considerably closer to the left wing than I am to the center-left.
I've been pointing this out for about a year and a half now.

What's a guy gotta do around here?

Posted by: conspiracy nut on March 3, 2006 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

The Bush argument is that if you're not for him you're a radical leftist enemy combatant (even if you're a registered Republican). But, to be for him you have to allow him to be a dictator, tossing the U.S. Constitution aside.

So, if you're for the Constitution you're a Commie terrorist.

Those who get their campaign monies from fewer, but richer, people tend to serve only that narrow range of people. That puts you in the Conservative category.

So, if you favor government serving a narrow range of the public, then you're a Conservative, whether Repub or Dem. If you hate (or play off the hatred your constituencies have of) Blacks, then you're a Republican, otherwise Democrat. If you claim to be pro-choice, but are registered Republican then you are a Moderate, which means nothing -- you're still Conservative.

If you favor at least a majority of the public being served by government, then you're Liberal.

If you favor everybody benefitting from government then you're a Communist.

These are strange times.

Posted by: MarkH on March 3, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I also forgot to mention that on policy there is another way of deciding who is Conservative, Liberal or anything else.

First, everyone accepts FDR's form of activist government. That makes everyone Liberal by 1920s standards. That includes Moderate and Conservative Republicans!

The more distant ends of the spectrum are given lip service, but mostly ignored or trashed.

Arguments about sane policies is debated, but we're all Liberal in terms of domestic policy.

Could you imagine any governor or mayor in America arguing that he shouldn't do anything to encourage the local economy or to stimulate job growth? Heh, we're all Liberals, even those who don't realize it.

Posted by: MarkH on March 3, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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