Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Reconciliation II, continued


Red-Green, by Eskemar.

Now he's re-upped it, or the link to it, at his SubStack venue: that Vox interview, which I remembered quite well though I don't seem to have written about it at the time, about how old "Rubin Democrats" like himself need to give up and pass the baton to the democratic socialists, because his own way would never have another chance to succeed:

The core reason, DeLong argues, is political. The policies he supports depend on a responsible center-right partner to succeed. They’re premised on the understanding that at least a faction of the Republican Party would be willing to support market-friendly ideas like Obamacare or a cap-and-trade system for climate change. This is no longer the case, if it ever were. 

“Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy,” DeLong notes. “And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not.”

Of course Romney hated his own health care policy, foisted on him by the Democrats of the Massachusetts legislature with Ted Kennedy acting as godfather, overriding his nine vetoes on the program, but let that pass. It certainly was market-friendly enough, and the point holds. And I'd say something else he doesn't quite say, that this was the only place people like him had left to go, into a kind of coalition with the left, if they wanted their accumulated wisdom to be of any use to anybody:

while I would like to be part of a political coalition in the cat seat, able to call for bids from the left and the right about who wants to be part of the governing coalition to actually get things done, that’s simply not possible as of now.

We shouldn’t pretend that it is, or that it’s going to be. We need to find ways to improve left-wing initiatives, rather than demand that they start from our basic position and do minor tweaks to make them more acceptable to their underlying position.

Which might be, don't you think, why he's thought of reposting it now, as Biden and his people develop their program in close consultation with Warren, Sanders, and Ocasio-Cortez and the rest of them, as if they were sort of following DeLong's advice. Thus, today, the first strong indications of Biden's Build Back Better infrastructure plan out in The Times, Washington Post, and NPR, which readers here will recognize as Reconciliation II, expressed in terms of what the $3 trillion raised by tax reform and other techniques are going to pay for, which is a lot:

hundreds of billions of dollars to repair the nation’s roads, bridges, waterways and rails. It also includes funding for retrofitting buildings, safety improvements,... and low-income and tribal groups, as well as $100 billion for schools and education infrastructure.

The infrastructure component is expected to include $400 billion in spending to combat climate change, including $60 billion for infrastructure related to green transit and $46 billion for climate-related research and development. The plan also would aim to make electric-vehicle charging stations available across the country. The measure would also include $200 billion for housing infrastructure, including $100 billion to expand the supply of housing for low-income Americans.

You notice what's missing from this picture? Carbon tax, for one thing, and cap 'n' trade mechanisms, They're going to spend money on developing the electric cars and creating the mass transit systems and building the charging stations everywhere. They're going to spend money, raised from people earning over $400,000 a year, on retrofitting buildings, rather than give landlords tax incentives to do it themselves. They're talking about $700 billion in savings over the ten-year period by getting pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices Medicare pays for prescription drugs. It's the market solutions, precisely, that are missing from this plan; the Biden administration is contemplating central planning on a de Gaulle or Mitterand scale. 

And they're going to do it because they don't need any Republican votes, for now (I wonder if the next leg of the Build Back Better initiative, featuring universal pre-K and free community college, is envisaged for the next reconciliation opportunity in 2022). 

The NPR version of the story, bylined by Mara Liasson (of course), is looking for some sign that Biden is looking for avenues in which Republicans are ready to cooperate (she's thinking about the compete-with-China angle, but if you don't realize that Republicans will drop fighting China the moment Democrats pick it up, you haven't been paying attention. I don't know, but if I was a concern troll I'd be advising Republicans to jump on anything they can, voting rights or pre-K, because Biden, and doing things, are starting to get really popular.

Like DeLong, I've been talking for some time about how there needs to be a collaboration between the left proper, at least its multicultural part, and liberal centrists, jumping the gun a bit in 2016

The Obama presidency has been a time for leftists and liberal centrists to work together, and we haven't done a great job of it, in point of fact, though Obama himself has done a few miracles in that direction. The oncoming collapse of the Republican party is an opportunity to rectify the failure, better than the opportunity Goldwater gave the Democrats in 1964, which was so fruitful in social progress in spite of the disaster of the Vietnam War.

It's even more possible now, if, as I believe, the basis for the traditional class struggle under capitalism is dissolving into some unpredictable (but probably not utopian) future alignment, as nobody is really in control of the means of production any more.

If "our job", as [Corey] Robin says, is to make politics into that kind of struggle, then working together now, hedge-fund Democrats and democratic socialists, to vote our American Tories into oblivion, is the way to do it. We can start fighting with each other again in December [we couldn't since nobody listened to me and Trump won the election], but not fighting so hard that we can't get some work done, because there's an awful lot of work to do.

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