Louis Uchtelle’s “Here Come the Economic Populists” in The New York Times Week in Review spotlights the internal struggle within the Democratic Party between “economic populists” and “the Rubinites.” While the marquee conflict between the two groups has been globalism vs. protectionism (or ‘free trade’ vs. ‘fair trade’), there are other major issues at stake, as Uchitelle explains:
As the two groups face off, Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, contends that the populists are pushing much harder than the Rubinites for government-subsidized universal health care. They also favor expanding Social Security to offset the decline in pension coverage in the private sector.
Fortunately, there are common areas of agreement uniting the two factions:
Both would sponsor legislation that reduced college tuition, mainly through tax credits or lower interest rates on student loans. Both would expand the earned-income tax credit to subsidize the working poor. Both would have the government negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare’s prescription drug plan. And despite their relentless criticisms of President Bush’s tax cuts, neither the populists nor the Rubinite regulars would try to roll them back now, risking a veto that the Democrats lack the votes to override.
The economic populists clearly have the momentum as a result of the November 7 election, and their numbers will swell when the freshman are sworn in. But the Rubinites may still have considerable leverage in the Party. The one thing that seems certain is that the era of runaway globalism is coming to a close.