Trichotomy

This is my reply to Libby Spencer’s post of yesterday in particular to:

My friend Jay Ackroyd would argue it’s because today’s Democratic party doesn’t want to win the fight since their [GOP and “establishment Dems'”] agendas are virtually the same.

I do not in the least think the GOP and the administration agendas are the same.

On health care, for instance, the centrist/Obama position is for private/public partnership, where the government provides guarantees (the individual mandate) and price controls (the Medicare pricing schedule) to the existing health care industry.
This is very different from the GOP position that would eliminate the mandate and the subsidies, and leave it to individuals to make their own health care decisions, with consumers subsidized directly with tax free health savings accounts.
But the centrist/Obama plan is ALSO very different from a liberal position. Liberals support systems like those in the rest of OECD, with universal health care (funded in different ways in different countries) available to everyone, built-in mechanisms to foster the use of preventative care and strict regulation of prices for procedures and pharmaceuticals by the government.

Likewise, Liberals would not have given an SOTU that decried deficits; we consider unemployment the most pressing national problem, and do not fear short term deficits.

Brad Delong, for instance, has seen the light, that the neo-liberal/centrist agenda he had embraced had elements he did not fully grasp:

I thought that no advanced country government with as frayed a safety net as America would tolerate 10% unemployment. In Germany and France with their lavish safety nets it was possible to run an economy for 10 years with 10% unemployment without political crisis. But I did not think that was possible in the United States.
And I thought that economists had an effective consensus on macroeconomic policy. I thought everybody agreed that the important role of the government was to intervene strategically in asset markets to stabilize the growth path of nominal GDP. I thought that all of the disputes within economics were over what was the best way to accomplish this goal. I did not think that there were any economists who would look at a 10% shortfall of nominal GDP relative to its trend growth path and say that the government is being too stimulative.

The fact that the centrists and the GOP agree that the deficit is more important than unemployment does not make the same. The GOP opposes spending programs the centrists support, like NPR and infrastructure improvement.  Moreover, they claim to oppose (I think they’re lying here, but it’s what they say) the entire basic idea of the Federal government providing a safety net in the form of Social Security and Medicare. The centrists would prefer to turn those into means tested poverty programs, but that is not the same thing, at all, as eliminating them.
One of the sources of difficulty  in our discourse is that we are happier (and the press is MUCH happier) talking about two sides in a debate or a conflict. The reason the criticism of the left irks everyone in the Beltway so much is because it messes up the narrative. They HAVE to paint those opponents as shrill parts of a strange Code Pink fringe (even when they include a Nobel prize winning economist writing on the oped pages of the paper of record) or their whole “he said, she said” thing gets disrupted.

That’s why Bernie Sanders is not ever on Meet the Press.

———————-

I would add that there is something else going on with the press side of this. Criticisms from the right, so far, have been given wide coverage. This is partly a FOX/Limbaugh/Drudge phenomenon; the movement conservatives are very good at getting their views characterized as mainstream conservative views because they control those very prominent media voices.  But I think we see (as we saw with Paul Ryan’s conveniently forgetting his roadmap last night) that access to those seats across from Dancin’ Dave will involve capitulation to the GOP leadership.

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