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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Third Way responds to TDS Editor Ed Kilgore’s comments on the recent Wall Street Journal editorial

Yesterday, TDS Editor Ed Kilgore commented on the recent Wall Street Journal editorial penned by the principals of the group Third Way in both his Political Animal column at the Washington Monthly and in a TDS Strategy Memo. Ed’s comments appear in the post below this one.
Today we are pleased to print a response from Jim Kessler, the Senior Vice President for Policy of Third Way.

Ed – As a fellow centrist, I always appreciate your views, so please allow me to respond to your posting.
First, Senator Warren and Mayor DeBlasio are important voices within the Democratic Party and they are valued for their passion, dedication to the poor and middle class, and for many of their ideas. They each bring energy and ideas to the Democratic Party. We did not write or even suggest that there should be an intra-party purge. In fact, as you know, some have actually called for the party to be purged of moderates/centrists and have funded efforts to push them out of office. We believe the opposite – that Democrats are best as a big tent party that can and must have passionate policy and political debates. So rather than a “purge,” the question we posed in our op-ed is whether their vision of progressivism is right nationally. And on this question, we do not agree.
Second, there is nothing in our op-ed that suggests antagonism toward New Deal programs. But there is a brewing entitlement crisis in this country – in our view. The number of senior citizens will grow by 80% over the next several decades, while the number of working age Americans (those who pay for their programs) grows by 8%. Meanwhile, as entitlement spending increases unabated, other investments suffer. We’ve seen that over and over again. There are various ways to address the entitlement crunch. A few years ago we proposed to expand benefits to those at the bottom and middle and feel strongly that is crucial to do. But we don’t think that every single senior citizen should get a larger Social Security benefit no matter how wealthy they are or whether or not they paid more into the system. We need to take care of senior citizens, for sure. But in 2011, one out of every nine senior households earned more than $100,000. Why should we increase their COLAs?
What we find concerning about economic populism is that, in our view, it adheres to a belief that we can have it all. We can expand entitlement programs, we can invest more in kids, and we can adequately defend the nation all by increasing taxes on the wealthy. Absolutely, we need to increase taxes on the wealthy – let’s be clear. But there just aren’t enough of them to cover the costs of these programs. So what happens is that programs for kids and investments get hit (like sequestration). It’s happening in the federal budget and it’s happening in state budgets.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond.
Jim Kessler.

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