Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Everything New Old is Old New

Valley of Fire Slot Canyon, Overton, Nevada. Via Roadtrippers.
One of the hazards of moving that Overton Window at all hours of the day and night is the way the other side gets stretched and thinned till there's only room for a single file, the slot canyon west of Overton Gap, where a girl can find herself, as suggested in Brooksy's review of the Clinton economics speech,
way to the left of where her husband was and to the left of where Barack Obama was in 2008 or 2012
well within the general election mainstream.... not with the edgier, angry economic policy you find among Bernie Sanders and the cutting-edge left.
As Rubeus Hagrid remarked, "I should not have said that!" Brooksy's having a tough time with his assignment, of making the candidate look frightening and boring at the same time. Instead he's just making Bernie look high-fashion.

The funniest bit, for me, when he's talking about her tone:
But there was a wonky authenticity to this speech, which would not have been there if she had tried to sound like a pitchfork marauder. She has echoes of Hubert Humphrey or George McGovern in her voice, or a more liberal Michael Dukakis.
People who would steal your pitchforks? That sounds like Cruz. Or maybe Scott Walker. But no indeed, not especially wonky. Then again the rest is a little hard to figure out. The civil rights boy wonder stuck with LBJ's war, the prairie populist lifted on an antiwar tide, the assuredly wonky Massachusetts governor afraid to use the word "liberal" until the week before the election, what did their voices have in common that separates them from other Democratic candidates of the era from Kennedy to Clinton?

I know, teacher! They LOST! It's a roundabout way of saying she's stupid and ugly and doesn't have any friends!

He appeals for authority on what's going on to
the progressive commentator Matt Yglesias 
which is kind of funny, as Matty explicitly presents himself in the post as the exemplary neoliberal, or paleoneoliberal, in contrast to the neopaleoliberal Clinton:
The keys to the neoliberal approach that dominated both the Clinton and Obama administrations are, roughly:
  1. The main way the government can impact the pre-tax distribution of income is by providing high-quality education to as many people as possible.
  2. Financial markets should be regulated to guard against catastrophe, but also should take a leading role in driving investment decisions across the private sector.
  3. To the extent that the education path fails to generate a satisfactory distribution of economic resources, progressive taxes should fund redistributive programs to produce a better outcome.
The paleoliberal approach denies most of this, harking back to an era in which government regulation and labor unions played a more direct role in compressing the pre-tax distribution of labor income and the financial sector was deliberately regulated in a heavy-handed way rather than allowed to lead the economy.
Which Brooks rereads as a parody of itself:
This neopaleoliberalism is built less on going after Wall Street and the rich and more on a tremendous faith in government to manage the economy more intelligently than the private sector. It’s less a negative assault on the elites and more an optimistic faith in the power of planning. The private sector is not evil or power hungry, just kind of dumb.
As I've said before somewhere or other, Matty is really smart, just strangely afflicted with a belief in everything he was told in Econ 101, odd in one otherwise so fond of being contrarian. Brooks is evil, status hungry, and stone dumb. And her words about going after Wall Street criminals were remarkably strong, and she didn't say that the private sector can't contribute to managing the economy, only that its units shouldn't be "too big to fail" or criminal, both of which are, I would have thought, essential elements of the liberal society as everybody from Adam Smith onward has understood it. And if Yglesias were right and progressive taxation were off Hillary's table, that wouldn't make her more "paleoliberal", it would just make her wrong. Fortunately, that's not the case: her tax proposals (ending the carried interest deduction for carried interest, implementing the Buffett rule) won't bring in a lot of revenue, but they are an egalitarian start.

He should at any rate have listened to the speech, or looked at something written after it (Yglesias's piece was a speculative preview). Jonathan Allen at Vox summed it up pretty clearly, and Clinton's big picture, it seems to me, is pretty big, kind of bridging the neo and the paleo in original ways, a little impatient with some of the excessive caution shown by presidents named Clinton and Obama in the past—
as she laid out her economic vision in a Monday speech that rejected Republican theories without embracing hard-left policies, Clinton did something that's been difficult for her in the past: She spoke to both the head and the heart of the Democratic Party.

Clinton promised to prosecute financial fraudsters, defend and expand the Affordable Care Act, and "fight back against these mean-spirited, misguided attacks" on unions.

.... taken as a whole, that vision is clearly left of center. Some of what she laid out sounded pretty progressive — for example, creating incentives for companies to share profits with their employees, increasing regulation of the financial industry, and prosecuting the financial crimes of individuals at big institutions. (Liberals have criticized President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder for failing to win convictions on Wall Street and for selling low in settlements with banks).
—but in that practical new tone we get from Thomas Piketty (Brooks: "This speech was more Children’s Defense Fund than Thomas Piketty"—not really, that's the speech you were imagining from something you saw in the Weekly Standard 14 years ago), reminding us always that economic justice is pro-growth; that they don't merely not impede each other but are interdependent:
I believe we have to build a "growth and fairness" economy. You can’t have one without the other.

We can’t create enough jobs and new businesses without more growth, and we can’t build strong families and support our consumer economy without more fairness.
I'm actually pretty encouraged by the speech, feeling much more able to vote for her than I did a week ago, partly because of the input she's getting from inequality specialist Joseph Stiglitz (that other shrill Nobelist). That's not what Brooks wrote about at all, and to that extent you might as well just ignore what he said. Although now that he's a philosopher you might want to giggle at this:
Personally I find this faith epistemologically naïve. 
Like, he's more with Bishop Berkeley than Dr. Johnson, and not inclined to assume the validity of the evidence of his senses? Or like he doesn't know what "epistemologically" means?
Clinton seems to have no awareness that many of the programs she endorsed have been tried and did not work. The Obama administration spent mightily on green energy jobs programs and they did not work to significantly increase employment. Empowerment zones, which she endorsed, have mostly failed to help low-income neighborhoods. Clinton displayed no awareness that most federal requirements involve difficult trade-offs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, raising the minimum wage to even $10.10 an hour would increase pay for millions of workers, but would cost roughly 500,000 jobs.
Thus he makes assertions entirely contrary to fact about the value of green jobs programs (Krugman, via Driftglass), the fact that some empowerment zones (e.g., South Bronx) worked much better than others, for reasons that are subject to study and investigation, and of course that that CBO report on the $10.10 minimum wage not only said that it might cost the jobs of 500,000 people or 0.3% of the work force (about the number of jobs created in the last couple of years every two months—all those people would be employed again inside of a year) but also raise the incomes of some 16.5 million people, including lifting almost a million out of poverty. Then again as Paul Krugman keeps trying to tell us, the CBO's theoretical apparatus for deciding how many job losses a minimum wage hike will cause is way out of date, since we've known that it won't, since 1993.

Finally, we learn most voters disagree with Clinton, but that won't stop them from voting for her anyway:
Clinton’s unchastened faith in the power of government planning is not shared by most voters.... But this agenda does pull off a neat trick. It will excite the progressive base without automatically alienating the rest of the country.
Neat trick indeed. Or maybe Brooks doesn't have a clear idea where the beliefs of Clinton and most voters overlap. The Overton Window doesn't let in a lot of light down the corridor.

Update: Sorry, this isn't that much fun, is it? Go read Driftglass, take 1 and take 2.

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