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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Raised Stakes

It’s safe to say that a new conventional wisdom arose in Washington last week, which solidified over a weekend of gabbing: Barack Obama’s budget proposal does indeed reflect an effort to implement a generation of progressive policy thinking–nothing more, nothing less. It’s all there, and it’s all that’s there, from restored progressivity in income tax rates, to a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, to a step towards a privately-delivered but publicly-guaranteed universal health care system, to a big increase in the federal involvement in elementary and secondary education, and so on through a long list.
That the budget is being almost universally denounced by Republicans as the work of the devil, or of Lenin and Stalin, is a sign of how little progress progressives have made towards implementing their consensus agenda over the last couple of decades.
One reason for conservative shrieking about the Obama budget is that they may be at an institutional disadvantage in defeating it, as opposed to the economic stimulus package. If Obama and his congressional allies are able to get the bulk of the legislation contained in a budget “reconciliation” package, it will be subject to special time limitations and will be immune from a Senate filibuster. That’s how Ronald Reagan got much of his agenda enacted in one bill in 1981. If, as the Right has been saying lately, Obama is determined to end the Reagan era once and for all, it’s certainly appropriate that he use the same fast-track procedures as the Gipper.

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