by Scott Winship
Longtime readers of TDS–by which I mean those of you who read it last fall–remember the, um, spirited debate we hosted over an essay by Third Way, “Missing the Middle“. Authors Anne Kim, Adam Solomon, and Jim Kessler argued that Democrats’ economic message to the middle class failed to resonate with voters because it was unduly pessimistic and focused on security rather than opportunity. Their critics responded that economic insecurity is prevalent–often with good reason. Secondarily, discussants asked, “Where’s the Beef?”, noting the absence of a coherent policy agenda that flowed from their analysis.
Today Third Way rolled out its initial effort to respond to these criticisms–“The New Rules Economy: A Policy Framework for the 21st Century“. The report begins by debunking “myths” of neopopulism and conservatism. It then takes the next step of presenting nine “new rules” of today’s economy, as well as proposals to address the gaps between our old-rules policy framework and the new rules. You could think of it as a “third path”, no, a “middle way”, or….what’s the phrase I’m looking for?…….
Hil-larious kidding aside, progressives will recognize that there is nothing mushily centrist about Third Way’s policy agenda, though because it rejects the neopopulist critique of the new economy it is not as expansive as many progressives would like. Still, there’s no denying the progressivity of an agenda that advocates wealth-promoting and inequality-reducing “worth at birth accounts”, making college more affordable, greater funding for continuing education, training for workers in industries vulnerable to foreign competition to prepare for better employment in high-growth industries, expanded portability of fringe benefits, expanded child care funding, and having the federal government take over responsibility for some of the health care costs that businesses currently bear (among other laundry-list items). To be sure, it’s a framework viewed from 10,000 feet, but Third Way has a permanent project dedicated to fleshing out the details of these and other ideas.
Seems like an agenda even neopopulists could embrace. Give it a look-see. How does it compare with other progressive policy agendas you’ve seen?
by Scott Winship