I’m sure there are at least some of you out there in Internet Land who wonder why I go on and on about how terrible Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were. The general attitude amongst most North American lefties is that Bill Clinton is some kind of a dignified elder statesman who went to bat for Obama in a rousing speech during the 2012 election, while Tony Blair is usually seen by most of them as someone who was principally bad because he supported George W. Bush during the time of the Iraq War, but otherwise he’s a figure of ancient history. More than once I’ve had to deal with the incomprehension of today’s left-wingers when I make a special point of warning against the dangers of Clinton/Blair ideology.
Okay, if you think that stuff is ancient history, check out this article.
Will Marshall, a writer for the Progressive Policy Institute thinktank, penned this gem. I challenge anyone who is currently worried about Barack Obama cutting Social Security to read this. Everything you are worried about and more is here. Marshall does not defend the Social Security cuts proposal as a congressional tactic that can show how, even when presented with their own policy proposals, Republicans block and obstruct. Marshall is in _favour_ of those cuts. He thinks the Left is hyperideological for not accepting the wisdom of large entitlement cuts.
The Progressive Policy Institute is, despite the name, a Clinton/Blair-ish centrist think tank with deep roots in the “New Democratic” movement among US Democrats (don’t be confused about the use of that terminology here, that term in the US means supportive of Clinton/Blair-style Third Way policies and generally aligned with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council).
You will note, in particular, that Marshall argues this in his screed, describing a recent meeting of left-of-centre world political parties: “There was wide agreement that the wrong answer is to revert to ‘borrow and spend’ policies that have mired transatlantic economies in debt, while failing to stimulate sustained economic growth.”
That is complete nonsense. The “borrow and spend” policies of Obama’s first term saved the country from utter decimation. Far from being a failed policy, it jolted the economy back to life after a free fall in the final months of the Bush presidency.
There is much merit in Obama’s attempts to steer investment money (read, more stimulus, because that is what it is) towards activities with more productive impact. It is great that he wants to invest in education and infrastructure, because the impact that is likely to have on productivity will boost the economic multiplier associated with those investments.
But that’s not what Will Marshall thinks is really going on here – his interpretation is that Obama has decided stimulus policies don’t work and that consumption doesn’t drive the economy. Marshall prefers a “cut and invest” strategy, where deep cuts are made in big, bad entitlement programs (you know they’re “entitlements” whenever they enable people at the bottom of the pecking order to, you know, support themselves economically). The stuff we “invest” in, by contrast, we know because it makes people productive – though in Marshall’s world, by people we evidently mean big business. (If it makes ordinary individuals more productive, it’s a handout and therefore an “entitlement”, got that?)
Check out this almost Orwellian passage: “This is just the kind of ideological rigidity that has put the Republicans in the voters’ dog house. As the baby boomers surge into retirement, the automatic growth of entitlement spending is squeezing out domestic spending, now just 14 percent of the federal budget and falling.” Okay, so spending on entitlement programs is now not “domestic spending”? Where do the people receiving the entitlements live? I was under the impression the vast majority of them lived in the United States.
That’s the kind of thinking that still lurks in the Democratic Party – people who receive any kind of substantive benefits from the government are – it is clearly implied – not real Americans, and certainly incapable of productivity. There remain Democrats who are itching to give those people the old chop. These Democrats are not very much like the one in the Oval Office, who fought hard in 2010 to keep unemployment benefits alive for those affected by the crisis, instead of conjuring up images of useless, unproductive, not even authentically American Americans.
The American Left needs to resist, and resist energetically, the loss of the Democratic Party (again) to people pitching this garbage.
Mr. Marshall seems to think Barack Obama is already with him in this kind of thinking. I don’t believe that’s the case, though I know many people who do think so. What we need is a firm rejection of this baloney, from the White House. What we need, in particular, is for the President to stand on his record as the person who saved the American economy from a free fall. Mr. Marshall’s efforts at rewriting history on that score must be firmly dismissed, by Barack Obama himself.
I know it’s a big-tent party, and Obama has more people to please than just me – but to concede that his economic policies were a failure that must be swept away when he did so much to save the US from a very complete ruin is to concede far, far too much. Any proposal may be entertained, even those that cut entitlement programs of long standing – but to seek an entitlement cut not because the Republicans offer something important in exchange, but because you _want_ to cut entitlements?
That should be radioactive. The Left is correct to say that, and I stand with them.