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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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Teixeira: Can Biden’s Economic Strategy End Reaganomics?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Could Biden Be the New Reagan?

Obama said he wanted to do this too, in the sense of supplanting the Reagan economic paradigm by a new paradigm that would do to Reaganomics what Reaganomics did to the New Deal. He didn’t get there. Could Biden? Richard North Patterson thinks so and explains how/why in an excellent article on The Bulwark. I agree it’s a live possibility and one that progressives should exert all their efforts to supporting. If we get there, so many, many other things become possible.

“On Tuesday, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell warned lawmakers that “the economic recovery remains uneven and far from complete, and the path ahead is highly uncertain”—while minimizing the risks of inflation. Moreover, our unemployment statistics ignore people who have stopped looking for work, as many Americans rendered jobless by the pandemic have; if they are included in the total, the unemployment rate rises to a dispiriting 10 percent or higher.

Given all this, Biden refuses to cut his plan. To circumvent GOP opposition, he is using the budget reconciliation process which requires a mere majority in the Senate—meaning every Democrat plus Vice President Kamala Harris…..

Most likely, Biden will sign his proposal into law by mid-March—a major legislative victory which sets the template for his presidency.
But this is a mere down payment on his ultimate ambition: supplanting Reagan’s paradigm with his own.

His team envisions spending up to $3 trillion on a program which, as spokeswoman Jen Psaki described it, “will make historic investments in infrastructure—in the auto industry, in transit, in the power sector—creating millions of good union jobs [while] addressing the climate crisis head on.” His goal evokes the New Deal: creating a more resilient and inclusive economy through federal intervention financed by higher taxes on the wealthy.

Such a sweeping agenda will alienate Republicans and unnerve moderate Democrats. But, among other things, it is aimed at a problem which upended bipartisan support for free trade, and provoked Trump’s ill-considered tariff wars: the loss of American jobs through globalization—including to China.

In a penetrating article for the New York Times, Noam Scheiber describes its genesis: Biden’s desire to create stable jobs which would not require blue-collar workers to relocate their families or undertake extensive retraining. One focus is government investment in electric vehicles whose components could be manufactured in America—providing employment, addressing the climate crisis, and strengthening green energy innovation.

Such “industrial policy”—government intervention to fortify selected industries—has long been debated by economists and derided by conservatives. One effort during the Obama years, the failed solar panel company Solyndra, became a notorious example of federal fecklessness.

But, Scheiber notes, recent studies of governmental support for Chinese industries suggests enduring successes. If our archrival can strengthen its domestic manufacturers at our expense, the argument goes, why can’t we?

Between 2001 and 2007, Scheiber writes, America lost 3 million manufacturing jobs—most likely the result of our free trade policies toward China. Some prominent Republicans—Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and Mitt Romney—have become particularly vocal about China’s predatory practices and economic sway. Even Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, for years a dedicated free trader, acknowledges the need to protect American workers from the downside of globalism.

This may create some space for bipartisan agreement. The potential for job creation underwritten by government is considerable: making electric parts; building or upgrading manufacturing facilities; creating and installing chargers. Economic nationalism is no longer brain-dead protectionism, but a potential strategy for spreading prosperity.

Certainly, it’s past time to rebuild our infrastructure, strengthen our broadband capacity, and protect our energy grid from calamity. To do otherwise means abandoning a first world economy.

No doubt Biden won’t get all he wants; likely he will have to advance his goals through piecemeal legislation, or through the budget reconciliation process, which carries other risks. But in challenging times, average Americans are far more concerned with their families and their futures than the nostrums of limited government.”


Political Strategy Notes

Some key points from “Assessing the Impact of Absentee Voting on Turnout and Democratic Vote Margin in 2020” by Alan I. Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “While the 2020 presidential election saw a record volume of absentee votes cast, not all states made it equally accessible….Eased absentee voting rules contributed to higher voter participation rates….With higher turnout, President Joe Biden’s performance still tracked closely with Hillary Clinton’s state-by-state results in 2016 — he just performed slightly better across the board….All told, the sharp increase in absentee voting in 2020 wasn’t disproportionately beneficial to either presidential candidate.” Further, “The evidence presented in this study leads to two clear conclusions. First, the dramatic increase in absentee voting in 2020 contributed to increased voter turnout. Even after controlling for 2016 turnout and swing state status, the prevalence of absentee voting in a state was a significant predictor of turnout in 2020. Eased absentee voting rules were not the only reason for increased turnout in 2020, but they did make a difference. Second, increased absentee voting did not favor Joe Biden’s candidacy. After controlling for 2016 Democratic vote margin, the prevalence of absentee voting in a state had no effect at all on 2020 Democratic vote margin. These findings suggest that efforts by Republican legislators in a number of states to roll back eased absentee voting rules and make it more difficult for voters to take advantage of absentee voting in the future are unlikely to benefit GOP candidates. Not only is there no evidence that absentee voting leads to widespread fraud, there is also no evidence that it favors Democratic candidates.”

At The Washington Monthly, Bill Scher writes, “if Democrats continue to suggest they can take care of any minimum wage increase themselves—even at this point when they almost surely can not—then the inevitable failure rests solely on their own shoulders. Even worse, if Democrats bicker over controversial proposals during the pandemic relief bill legislative process, they risk taking the focus off the bill’s wildly popular elements—most prominently, the $1400 checks, which garnered 79 percent support in a recent YouGov poll. Turning a consensus bill into a controversial one would be political malpractice….A $15 minimum wage may not be quite as popular as government checks—it registered at 56 percent in the YouGov poll. But state ballot initiatives for minimum wage increases of varying degrees have proven very popular, even in deep red states including Alaska, Arkansas, Missouri and South Dakota. Just last November, Florida voters enacted a plan for a $15 minimum by 2026. So, by putting pandemic relief and minimum wage on separate legislative tracks, Democrats could force votes on each and really turn the screws on Republicans….Biden appeared to grasp the potential of separation by calmly preparing fellow Democrats for an unfavorable parliamentarian ruling, and assuring they could still win a wage increase after the relief bill passes. Biden is playing chess. Other Democrats are checkmating themselves.”

The Blue Tuesday Community reports that “There’s a new plan to turn Florida blue again inspired by Stacey Abrams, and it’s launching now” at Daily Kos, and notes that “State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando), “an energetic and forward-looking progressive who is one of the few rising stars that Democrats have in Florida” has a new plan to revive  the Democratic Party in Florida. “Last week, Eskamani announced that her political action committee, People Power for Florida, was now registered as a voter registration organization, a step required by the state’s democracy-averse laws.” In addition to voter suppression legislation on the books, the Florida Democratic Party may be the weakest of any of the swing states. “The FDP has a lot of trust to rebuild, even with its donors, Eskamani ADDS. “And meanwhile, you look on the ground and nothing is happening in the realm of voter registration….So our hope is that instead of just being one umbrella group that’s leading voter registration, we actually want to create 1000 new groups. We want to empower everyday people to do their own voter registration drives. They can use our banner, but our focus is creating new leaders, so we don’t want it to be about us. We want it to be about building collective power at a neighborhood level.”

Could legalizing weed be a good cause for Democrats at the state level? In “Virginia Becomes First Southern State to Pass Legislation to Legalize Marijuana” at slate.com, Daniel Politi writes, “Virginia lawmakers approved a bill on Saturday that will legalize recreational marijuana in 2024. The compromise bill that delays retail sales of the drug for three years turns Virginia into the first Southern state to vote to legalize marijuana for adults, joining 15 other states and the District of Columbia. The bill still has to be signed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who has been vocal about his support for marijuana legalization….The House passed the legalization measure 48-43 while the Senate approved it 20-19. The bill was approved without a single Republican vote in either chamber. The bill, which would legalize possession of an ounce of marijuana or less by those 21 or older, calls for the creation of an independent agency to regulate the marijuana market.” However, “The bill was so contentious that seven Democrats in the House and one in the Senate didn’t support it.” Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff certainly wasn’t shy about expressing his views in his upset victory in Georgia’s U.S.  Senate run-off: “Cannabis should be legalized, regulated and taxed. “I’m not just for decriminalization,” he said. “I’m for full legalization of marijuana nationwide and the expungement of all records for nonviolent cannabis-related offenses.”


Tomasky: Another Way to Win a Minimum Wage Hike

Although Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough just ruled the minimum wage increase out of the COVID relief bill, Michael Tomasky argues in favor of the “Dems’ Tricky New Two-Step: First COVID Relief, Then a Wage Hike” at The Daily Beast:

Well, I think there’s a chance, and maybe a good one, that a minimum wage increase isn’t dead yet. But passing one is going to require courage, patience, and compromise. I know compromise is a dirty word. But that’s the legislative process when you didn’t win enough elections to have things the way you want them in our ridiculous system.

Tomasky makes the case that the Covid relief bill has great merit, even without the minimum wage hike., and says Democrats “should immediately start agitating for a stand-alone bill. This would require eliminating or changing the filibuster, which I’ve been saying for years they need to do.”

That will be tough. Manchin and Sinema have to go for it. Biden has to lean on them hard. Might they accede if Biden drops the number a bit from $15 and promises billions for their states? I don’t think it’s impossible. The key phrase above may prove to be “or changing”; Ian Millhiser of Vox recently wrote a comprehensive piece on how the filibuster can be changed, not eliminated, in ways Manchin and Sinema might be able to live with.

There is a significant upside for Dems pushing stand alone minimum wage legislation, according to Tomasky:

A stand-alone bill would pressure some Republicans who purport to be on the side of the working class to take a stand one way or the other. Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, a couple others; they talk populism sometimes, but their no votes on a stand-alone minimum wage bill would chisel their hypocrisy in stone. And Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a top Democratic target for 2022, would make himself more vulnerable with a no vote.

Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders proposes “an amendment to take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide small businesses with the incentives they need to raise wages.””

Tomasky notes another alternative:

The other way to go is to attach the minimum wage to a “must-pass” bill like a defense appropriations bill. That’s what happened the last time a minimum-wage bill passed in 2007. It was part of an emergency appropriations act that funded the Iraq War.

There will be plenty of those bills in the next couple years. What’s important now is that the White House keep everybody together, and that Democrats not let this setback start a corrosive dynamic. The Senate is a completely screwed-up place. Its rules constantly thwart a majority. These are the kinds of things that happen there. People can respond by getting more enraged—or by getting more strategic.

Tomsky concludes, “Bank the big win of the relief bill, which is coming, and find another venue to fight for the minimum wage. That fight is far from over.”


M4A Movement at the Crossroads

Natalie Shure has a sobering read, “Before Forcing the Vote on Medicare for All, We Must Build Power: Overcoming the ruthless opposition of the health care industry will take a mass movement” at The Nation. Among Shure’s insights:

“With Pelosi’s reelection in January, the best path forward for Medicare for All remains uncertain. While President Joe Biden staunchly opposes it, the razor-thin Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, as well as Democratic supermajorities in several states, could still present opportunities to advance the cause. Even if #ForceTheVote never materialized as initially conceived, many advocates continue to push for a floor vote as soon as possible. But the unfortunate truth is that the Medicare for All movement lacks the power to make such a vote effective.”

Bam! She’s not saying the M4A idea lacks popular support. She is saying that the movement for it is still too weak. The polling data is favorable overall, depending on the way the polling questions are phrased. (A public option is much more popular than eliminating health insurance companies). But the on-the-ground organizing needs work. Shure continues,

“More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, the case for single-payer has never been clearer: Millions of Americans have lost their employer-provided insurance; inadequate access to care has driven up the Covid-19 death count; and hospitals have found themselves underwater without revenue from elective procedures. The pandemic has given us an intimate look at our country’s unequal health outcomes, which Medicare for All would do more to address than any other systemic reform. But moral necessity isn’t enough to win against a $3.8 trillion health care industry that accounts for nearly 20 percent of the US economy and would be fundamentally upended if Medicare for All were to become a reality. With the health care sector already accounting for some of the top political spenders in Washington, there’s virtually no limit to the amount it would expend to topple reforms far more incremental than Medicare for All. Overcoming the ruthless opposition of the health care industry will take a mass movement willing to hit the streets, engage in direct action, and even go on strike to demand single-payer. Until Medicare for All has that kind of movement power behind it, it will easily be defeated by capital—a lesson we’ve learned repeatedly from health care reform battles in the past. And while it has popular support, polling between 40 and 70 percent, the same was true of national health insurance in the 1940s, until a major doctor-and-insurance-backed lobbying effort made the prospect of “socialized medicine” utterly toxic.”

The pandemic provides an important lesson for those who are willing to learn, that health insurance companies and state boundaries are both pretty useless in a global public health crisis. That part is not a tough sell. But Shure warns of the danger if premature congressional action:

From that perspective, the idea of putting politicians on the record regarding Medicare for All has no obvious value. For one thing, similar insight can already be gleaned from a list of the bill’s House and Senate cosponsors. But more important, given the current power disparity between the Medicare for All movement and the colossus it confronts, the unavoidable fact is that most of the elected officials who say they’re in favor of single-payer health care will never be true ride-or-die supporters until we can generate enough force to make the idea of bending to our will more compelling than bending to Big Health Care’s.

Rather than “bending to our will,” an effective social change movement wins over voters by persuasion and persistence. But Shure is right that building this coalition is the essential precondition that has to come before congressional floor votes, or even committee votes. Chase Iron Eyes makes the argument for pressing the case in congress in “We Can’t Miss the Next Chance to Force the Vote on Medicare for All: The tactic helps pinpoint which Democrats value donors over working people,” also in The Nation. He argues that “Forcing the vote lets the public see where our politicians stand. It feeds into other organizing and makes clear to elected officials that the people are watching them. It also helps the public pinpoint which Democrats value donors over working people.”

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders, inclding President Biden, Majority Leader Shumer and Speaker Pelosi all favor building on the Affordable Care Act over Medicare for All, and that’s what is going to happen — until the movement for Medicare for All reaches maturity.


Teixeira: Attaching “Equity” to All the Democrats’ Programs Is Not a Very Good Idea

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Back during the campaign, I wrote a piece that got around on “Common Sense Democrats“. I argued that “there is a need for political common sense to undergird…debates [within the party]. If polling, trend data, campaign history and/or electoral arithmetic make clear that certain approaches are minimum requirements for success, they should be front-loaded into the discussion. That way discussion can focus on what is truly important instead of endlessly relitigating questions that are essentially settled.

In other words, start with common sense and then build from there. There will still be plenty of room for debates between left and right in the party, but matters of common sense should be neither left nor right. They are simply what is and what anyone’s strategy, whatever their political leanings, must take into account.”

“Democrats should not run against Republicans with positions that are unambiguously unpopular. These include, but are not limited to, defunding the police, abolishing ICE, reparations, abolishing private health insurance and decriminalizing the border. Whatever merits such ideas may have as policy–and these are generally debatable–there is strong evidence that they are quite unpopular with most voters and therefore will operate as a drag on the Democratic electoral and governance success.”

There is another side to this proposition that could be 6a or maybe just a proposition of its own. Just as Democrats should not advocate unpopular policies, they should not advocate popular policies in a way that makes them less popular.

This is brought to mind by the current vogue for attaching the word “equity” to virtually everything the Democrats are advocating and frequently seeming to justify race-neutral and popular polices on the grounds that they would promote racial equity. As politics, this makes no sense. You are taking policies that have great appeal to persuadable voters–otherwise they would not be so popular–and framing them as equity policies, which will reduce their appeal to persuadable voters who have non-liberal views on racial issues.

This is a very bad idea, as this piece from Matt Yglesias’ substack (written not by Matt but by Marc The Intern–nice job Marc!) establishes. The analysis in the piece shows that there are far more persuadables who support progressive economic positions but are non-woke on racial issues than there are those that are woke on racial issues but don’t support progressive economic positions. So framing race-neutral, popular Democratic economic programs as equity programs is a very poor tradeoff in support and electoral terms.

“There’s a growing trend both in media and among elected politicians of deliberately highlighting racial equity as a key argument in favor of left-of-center economic policies.

Two UC Berkeley economists writing in the NYT: “To Reduce Racial Inequality, Raise the Minimum Wage”

Two more academics writing in the NYT: “What Canceling Student Debt Would Do for the Racial Wealth Gap”

And it’s not just in the newspaper. In January, Cory Booker and Ayanna Pressley rolled out a proposal for “baby bonds,” emphasizing the idea that this program would help close the racial wealth gap.

President Joe Biden, 10 days before he took office, described his completely race-neutral small business proposals as prioritizing “Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American owned small businesses.”

None of the actual ideas are bad ideas. We should raise the minimum wage. We should cancel some student debt. We should give more money to poor people (baby bonds are just one way of doing this). We should help small businesses during a pandemic.

It’s also true that these ideas would disproportionately benefit people of color. After all, poor people in America are more likely to be non-white. Literally any policy that helps the poor regardless of race advances racial equity. This is not just true in theory — anti-poverty programs in this country have already reduced racial inequities.

But the premise of this style of argument seems to be that there are lots of people who are skeptical of race-neutral social welfare programs who will become more enthusiastic about them when the policies are framed as winners for racial equity.

With some help from the Voter Study Group, we can see that data clearly supports that this framing is counterproductive — almost everyone who cares a lot about racial justice also supports an expanded welfare state, whereas lots of people who support progressive economic policies have conservative views on racial justice questions.”

The piece proceed to demonstrate this by marching through a series of crosstabs of views on progressive economic positions with views on racial issues. They are well worth your attention (I reproduce one below, but there are quite a few of them.) The piece concludes:

“[I]t’s completely true that left-of-center economic programs advance racial equity.

But nearly all Democrats would continue to advocate for anti-poverty programs even if the poor were a perfectly racially representative group.

Racial issues are fashionable in progressive circles, so it’s useful in intra-progressive status competitions to say that your pet issue has a racial equity angle. But this approach risks losing many more cross-pressured voters than it has any chance of winning.

Whether you think people are skeptical of things that seem to help some races at the expense of others (this is my take), or if you think Americans are simply really racist (probably someone’s take), the conclusion is actually the same: if you want to advance racial justice, you have to win first. And you can’t win by alienating all the populists.

This was conventional wisdom until very recently. Obama knew focusing on race would hurt him, allowing him to be popular enough to win states like Indiana once and Florida, Ohio, and Iowa twice…..

So I don’t think this should be taboo to say: Americans, on average, are in line with (or even to the left of) Democrats on economics, but they are not in line with the Democrats’ new focus on making everything about race, including the very economic ideas that give them a fighting chance to win elections.”

Please read the entire article; it’s an important piece.


Russo: Rush Limbaugh and the Myth of the Conservative Working Class

The following article, by John Russo, visiting scholar at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and Working Poor and co-editor of the blog, Working-Class Perspectives, is cross-posted from Newsweek:

Rush Limbaugh, who passed away on Wednesday at age 70, was conservative talk radio’s most flamboyant and influential provocateur. Boasting an audienceof 15 million, Limbaugh is often credited with persuading working-class voters to embrace a Republican Party whose pro-business, free trade economic policies went against working-class interests. As Kevin Wagner, a professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University, explained, “Limbaugh was on the forefront of trying to take conservative policies and explain them in a way that appeals to a demographic that typically would not favor the Republican Party.” The result, Wagner suggests, can be seen in “the strength of the Republican party has among working-class Americans.”

But is it really true that Limbaugh, who could be misogynistic and racially inflammatory in his broadcast, appealed primarily to the working class? In fact, as Rick Perlstein has suggested, Limbaugh’s listeners are more aptly described as “the petty bourgeoisie, the Joe the Plumbers, the guys with their own bathroom fixture businesses, the middle managers.”

This case of mistaken identity, of misidentifying people who are actually quite comfortable as “working class,” is one that has plagued coverage of American conservatism for years now—and was a crucial error in how people interpreted the participants in the Capitol riot. Many of those arrested after the January 6 riot were middle-class business owners, doctors, lawyers, IT specialists and accountants.

So why do so many continue misidentify them—and former President Trump’s supporters more generally—as working class? We can trace the error back to its grain of truth: the economic displacement that explains why white working-class people are so angry.


Brookings Forum on Equity for Black Americans Explores Strategies for Biden Administration

The Brookings Institution has a forum, “Around the halls: What should the Biden administration prioritize in a policy agenda that promotes equity for Black Americans?,” which includes presentations by Brookings experts on 14 subtopics, including:

Ensure access to vaccines and prioritize jobs and income – Camille M. Busette
Baby bonds and the child tax credit – E.J. Dionne, Jr.
Enforce higher standards on artificial intelligence – Alex Engler
Economic reforms should redress injustices of the past and provide equal opportunity now – William G. Gale
Ensure Black Americans are included in the COVID-19 vaccination programs and economic relief, and continue pursuing police reforms – William A. Galston
Prioritize teacher diversity in public schools – Michael Hansen
A policy agenda to support Black America must prioritize drug reform – John Hudak
Require all banks to offer very low-cost basic accounts – Aaron Klein
To embrace Black humanity, the Biden administration must embrace restitution – Rashawn Ray
Focus in particular on the barriers to opportunity faced by Black men and boys – Richard V. Reeves
Ensure Black Americans have access to the ballot box – Molly E. Reynolds
Address exclusionary zoning laws and encourage pathways to build wealth outside homeownership – Jenny Schuetz
Create a “Tech New Deal” for Black America – Nicol Turner Lee
Reduce the barriers to entering the legal profession – Clifford Winston

Here’s a sample contribution from “Prioritize teacher diversity in public schools” by Michael Hansen, Herman and George R. Brown Chair, Director of the Brown Center on Education Policy, and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies: ”

“I urge the Biden-Harris administration to prioritize teacher diversity in public schools as a policy lever to both advance the status of students of color and promote a more inclusive, multicultural democracy for all. The demographics of the nation’s student body crossed the 50% nonwhite threshold in 2014, becoming officially “minority majority” status overall. Yet, the nation’s public teacher workforce remains disproportionately white—roughly 80% according to the latest data.

In recent years, the empirical evidence drawn from many rigorous studies across many different schooling contexts has coalesced around an important finding: exposure to teachers of color increases many short- and long-term outcomes for students of color and promotes greater tolerance and empathy among white students. School systems nationwide should capitalize on this evidence base and start using teacher race as a policy lever for stronger and more equitable public education.

Since the waning days of the Obama administration, many states and districts have taken actions to promote diversity among teacher ranks, though often these efforts are targeted to urban settings, often with high shares of nonwhite students. The problem, though, is that student diversity is growing more diffuse, quickly increasing in the suburban and rural areas that previously served almost exclusively white student bodies; thus, current efforts likely misdirect teachers of color away from the areas where they could be most impactful.

Beyond recruiting greater numbers of teachers, school leaders also need complementary strategies both to provide more exposure opportunities to nonwhite teachers for all students, and to help train existing teachers to work with and support students of color without projecting their unconscious biases onto them. Fortunately, the evidence base on these areas is deep enough to point to the strategies leading to more inclusive schools where all students can learn on a level playing field.”

In addition, “For more information, you can read more Brookings experts’ analysis on race and American public policy, watch a recent webinar featuring Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr., and subscribe to receive updates with future research in this field.”


Teixeira: Biden’s Biggest Move

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

What’s the Biggest Thing to Happen in the Biden Administration So Far?

No, it isn’t the impeachment trial. No, it isn’t the executive orders. It’s this, as lucidly captured by John Cassidy of The New Yorker:

“If there were any doubt that Joe Biden’s economic proposals represent a big break with the policies of the Obama and Clinton Administrations, the debate about Biden’s $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief plan dispelled it. For good or ill—and, in my view, it is very positive—the Biden White House is pursuing a bold and aggressive program of Keynesian economic management, the likes of which Washington hasn’t seen since the nineteen-sixties.

The argument began, last week, with a warning about the Biden plan from Lawrence Summers, the Harvard economist who served as the Secretary of the Treasury toward the end of the Clinton Administration and as the director of the White House National Economic Council during Obama’s first term. Whatever good the Biden spending package might do in boosting output, wages, and profits, Summers wrote in the Washington Post, it was so large that it could also “set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation, with consequences for the dollar and financial stability.” Over the weekend, Olivier Blanchard, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, seconded Summers’s concerns, tweeting, “The 1.9 trillion program could overheat the economy so badly as to be counterproductive.”

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” on Sunday, the Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen…said that the possibility of inflation picking up as the economy rebounds from the pandemic was “a risk that we have to consider,” but she also insisted that policymakers have the “tools to deal with that risk if it materializes.” Delighting Democrats who want to break with the past, Yellen emphasized the need to pull the economy out of its covid-19 slump rapidly and restore full employment. Citing a Congressional Budget Office study that predicted that the jobless rate wouldn’t return to its pre-pandemic level until 2025, she said, “There is absolutely no reason why we should suffer through a long, slow recovery.” CNN’s Jake Tapper pressed Yellen on how quickly the Biden plan might bring down the jobless rate, which is now at 6.3 per cent. (Before the pandemic, it was just 3.5 per cent.) Given the danger of making a bold promise that opponents could seize upon, most politicians would have punted on Tapper’s question. Yellen tackled it head on. “I would expect that if this package is passed we will get back to full employment next year,” she said…..

The message implicit in the Biden plan is that prior Democratic Administrations have been too modest in their ambitions and too committed to the old orthodoxy about the relationship between inflation and unemployment. Biden’s advisers haven’t made this argument explicitly, but Josh Bivens, an economist at the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, laid it out clearly last week. “The U.S. economy has run far too-cool for decades, and this has stunted growth and deprived millions of potential job opportunities and tens of millions of potential opportunities for faster pay raises,” Bivens wrote, praising the Biden plan. Ever since the inflation of the nineteen-seventies, policymakers, led by the Fed, have sought to exert downward pressure on rising prices, a policy of “opportunistic disinflation,” Bivens noted. “The Biden plan is essentially the reverse of opportunistic disinflation—it’s opportunistic go-for-growth.”

As such, it marks a return to an older Keynesian tradition, which dominated economic policymaking in the nineteen-sixties, when the U.S. government sought to keep unemployment at very low levels to spur wage growth and capital investment. (In 1968, the jobless rate hit 3.4 per cent.) Skeptics will point out that this period ended with rising inflation and higher unemployment—the phenomenon known as stagflation. As Yellen made clear, the Biden Administration hasn’t discounted the risks of going big. But its policies are based on the conviction that these risks are far less serious than the danger of not doing enough to revive the economy and alleviate the suffering that Americans have endured over the past year. “We have got to address that,” Yellen said on CNN. “That’s the biggest risk.”

Somewhere John Maynard is smiling. As for Summers and the newly-awakened deficit hawks–to hell with them! Full speed ahead!


GOP, a.k.a. ‘the Cop Killers Caucus’ Bets on Public Apathy, Amnesia

MSNBC commentator Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, has taken to calling the G.O.P. “the cop-killers caucus.” Harsh, yes, but it’s fair insofar as the likely acquittal of Trump will give a free pass to the primary instigator of the vicious riot that took the lives of a capitol policeman, Brian Sicknick. Two others, Howard Liebengood and Jeffery Smith dies by suicide in the wake of the riot.

So much for the “Blue Lives mattter” mantra of Republicans who profess to be champions of the police who risk their lives to protect the public — and members of congress.

Every Republican Senator knows Trump instigated the treasonous riot at the capitol. Every Repubican knows that the riot would not have happened and the seven lives would not have been lost without Trump’s agitation. Yet, if more than 10 of 50 Republican Senators vote to hold Trump accountable, it will be a surprise.

The impeachment managers did an outstanding job of presenting the case against Trump. As E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, summing up their work:

The House impeachment managers moved efficiently on Wednesday to close off the escape hatches and back doors for Senate Republicans. Quietly but passionately, they put the lie to the sham alibis that weak and cowardly members of the GOP are likely to invoke if they decide to do Donald Trump’s bidding one more time.

Those who vote to acquit the former president will now own it all: The incendiary speech that made the nation’s capital a killing ground but also the months of incitement and lying that built up to the violence.

They will own the threats against elected officials who refused to cheat on Trump’s behalf, the attacks on Black voters in big cities, and the savage mendacity of his all-caps tweets. Voting to acquit will mean joining in Trump’s rejection of the democratic obligation to accept the outcome of a free election and in his declarations even before the voting began that this was a “rigged” and “stolen” contest.

Dionne adds that “Importantly, the managers showed how Trump’s criminality involved not just whipping up the shameful, quasi-fascist violence (although that alone would justify conviction) but also his attacks on the entire democratic process, an argument carried by Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif). “He had absolutely no support for his claims,” Swalwell said. “But that wasn’t the point. He wanted to make his base angrier and angrier. And to make them angry, he was willing to say anything.” Dionne concludes,

This is why we will owe a debt to the House impeachment managers for many years to come. They have created an indisputable record. They catalogued lie after lie about the election’s outcome. They laid out Trump’s long history of promoting political violence, including his praise, shortly before the attack on the Capitol, for Rudolph W. Giuliani, right after his lawyer had called for “trial by combat.”

The punditry says that fewer than 10 Republican Senators are likely to vote for Trump’s conviction. This will be an outrage, a sign that a once great party has surrendered to craven opportunism or, worse, brutal authoritarianism. But thanks to the work of the impeachment managers, the country will know how spineless the party has become.

The Democratic impeachment managers showed Americans that one party is doing its job with impressive thoroughness and commitment. Those Republicans who will vote to acquit will be placing a cynical bet that most voters either don’t care or will forget their cowardice and hypocrisy in time for the next election. The job of Democrats is to prove them wrong.


How Absentee Voting Saved America

Nathaniel Rakich and Jasmin Mithani explain “What Absentee Voting Looked Like In All 50 States: It was historically popular — and historically Democratic” at FiveThirtyEight. As Rakich and Mithani write,

According to preliminary findings from the 2020 Survey on the Performance of American Elections, a poll of 18,200 registered voters run by MIT political scientist Charles Stewart III, 46 percent of 2020 voters voted by mail or absentee — up from 21 percent in 2016, which at the time was considered high. Only 28 percent of people reported voting on Election Day — less than half of the 60 percent who did so in 2016. In-person early voting also reached a modern high (26 percent), although the change from 2016 (when it was 19 percent) was less dramatic.

Of course, the primary reason for the surge in absentee voting was the Covid-19 pandemic. The turnout was likely boosted by Trump’s alarming denial and incompetence in addressing the pandemic as it spiked upward across the nation.

And it was a broad increase, with few exceptions, across the 50 states. As Rakich and Mithani note,

….According to the SPAE, 47 states and the District of Columbia saw their rates of mail voting rise from 2016 to 2020. The only exceptions were the three states that have held predominantly mail elections for years: Colorado, Oregon and Washington. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest spikes in mail voting occurred in places that went the furthest to encourage mail voting (i.e., those that automatically sent every registered voter a ballot), especially those with little history of mail voting prior to 2020. These include New Jersey (where only 7 percent of voters voted by mail in 2016, but 86 percent did so in 2020), the District of Columbia (12 percent in 2016 versus 70 percent in 2020) and Vermont (17 percent in 2016 versus 72 percent in 2020).

By contrast, the five states that clung to the requirement that voters provide a non-pandemic-related excuse in order to vote by mail (Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas) saw some of the smallest increases. For example, Texas’s rate of mail voting in 2020 was only 11 percent (barely changed from 7 percent in 2016), while Mississippi’s was only 10 percent (just a tad higher than the 4 percent in 2016).

Here is FiveThirtyEight’s graphic display of the absentee voting increase in the states:

Rakich and Mithani add that “If we had data for all 50 states, we would likely see Trump winning the Election Day vote in almost all of them and Biden winning the absentee vote in almost all of them….the fact that these votes were so Democratic is very likely due to Trump himself. By casting doubt on the security of mail ballots, he all but ensured that most of his voters would cast their votes using traditional methods, leaving the pool of absentee ballots strikingly — but not surprisingly — blue.”

They note further that ” Some states are thinking about making their expansions of vote-by-mail permanent, while other states have shown little interest” and they warn, “still others are even considering bills to restrict absentee voting.” Voter asuppression is what Republicans do. Yet absentee voting is far easier on state budgets and remains highly popular with voters. Democrats should be prepared in all the battleground states for an extended fight over absentee voting — if they want to keep it.