Monday, December 18, 2017

Talking About Deficits Is Always A Conservative Trap For Progressives


Yesterday on Face the Nation Bernie made a boo-boo, fallng into an old neo-liberal trap while discussing the GOP Tax Scam. John Dickerson asked him about what he referred to-- in neo-liberal parlance-- "entitlements" and asked "If the Democrats take control of the Senate, and you caucus with the Democrats, what's the promise to America about what will be done to reverse the state of affairs that you're so unhappy with?" Bernie responded that "At a time of massive income and wealth inequality where the people on top and large corporations are doing phenomenally well our job is to pay attention to the needs of working families. We talk about a childcare tax credit in this bill. Truth is that depending on where you live in America good quality child care can cost $12, $15, $20,000 a year. Our job is to move to universal childcare so that every working family in this country knows that their kids have good quality care... While the Republicans are spending all of their time providing massive tax breaks to the rich... 9 million kids are going to lose their health insurance."

That's when Dickerson pounced: "But if you-- Democrats take control, are corporate taxes going up? Bernie started out pitch-perfect: "I think we're going to take a very hard look at this entire tax bill and make it a tax bill that works for the middle class and working families. Not for the top 1% and large multinational corporations" but then Dickerson asked a Pete Peterson asinine kind of question: "But there's no question that in order to achieve all of the things you want taxes are going to have to go up on corporations. If they're down to 21 as a result of this legislation, you can't find the money anywhere else."

Bernie didn't push back on the assumptions inherent in the question and, instead, answered, "Absolutely.
Dickerson: All right. Let's go on to now the budget and spending question. The Republicans, when Democrats have said, "Medicare is going to have to be cut because of the so-called Pay-Go rules," what Republicans say is, "Democrats are going to waive those rules next year, that those Pay-Go rules are always waived. And so it's kind of a false attack to say that they are going to be automatic cuts for Medicare." Your response?

Bernie: No. It is not a false attack, John. It's simply listening to what the speaker of the House has said. And what he has said is after they do this tax bill the next order of business is so-called entitlement reform. And please understand that when Republicans talk about entitlement reform what they are talking about are massive cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in the budget that they already passed.

They proposed a trillion-dollar cut to Medicaid, which would be disastrous to people who have loved ones in nursing homes, for children, and for working families who are on Medicaid. This is what they have already proposed. So they are going to come back in my view in order to offset this deficit with terrible cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

...Right now it is no secret that the middle class is hurting. The Republicans have been unable to reauthorize, for example, the community health center program providing healthcare to 27 million Americans. The CHIP program. The Children's Health Insurance Program. They have ignored the fact that for three months the CHIP program for 9 million children in this country has not been funded.

We have a crisis in pensions in this country. A million and a half hardworking people who were promised their pensions are going to see their pensions reduced by 50 or 60 percent. We have a rural infrastructure crisis where people can't even get broadband. We have 30,000 vacancies in the Veterans Administration that have not been filled. Our job is to take care of the needs of working families and the middle class. Not just worry about the 1 percent. So I believe that as we talk about the new spending bill those are the issues we must demand that Republicans address.

So what was the boo-boo? Bernie ended up sounding like he was saying that kids must suffer UNLESS AND UNTIL we can "find the money" to alleviate their suffering. Wrong framing for a progressive like Bernie.

It's imperative that progressive candidates say-- as Bernie usually does-- that we must look at taxes and reverse the kinds of giveaways that have led to the grotesque concentrations of wealth and income and that they would use the opportunity to do more to raise the incomes of those who are struggling to survive. He should never have conceded that it will be "necessary" to raise the corporate (or any other tax) in order to fund an ambitious progressive agenda. Progressive leaders should just plainly say that they will fund an agenda that looks after the 99% because we can always create the money to do it. Bernie almost always gets this right.

If there's one thing I've learned from Professor Kelton-- if only she was at Stony Brook when I was there... although she wasn't born when I was taking Economics 101 from Bob Lekachman-- it's that budget cuts are absolutely not mandatory.  If they happen, they happen because Republicans voluntarily make cuts. Republicans can waive the rules as they have whenever its politically convenient or feasible for them; they do it often enough. Waiving the rules means cuts don’t have to happen. So what Congress should do, in fact, is to waive the rules and protect vital programs for current and future generations. When we have them on the ropes-- when Bernie has them on the ropes-- that is the time to beat them into submission. Funding programs is always a political choice. Ryan knows this because Greenspan made it abundantly clear. "Why," Kelton told me, "can’t Democrats saddle up and ride that gift horse? I caught this Twitter thread from the progressive economist and former chief economist to Bernie Sanders and the Senate Budget Committee Democrats, Stephanie Kelton, someone all DWT readers should be paying close attention to:

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At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's only a trap because Bernie and others are too afraid to say that, yes, taxes on the top and on corporations must be raised. It's political cowardice. But when the left is a total wasteland, anyone who can form a sentence without proclaiming that the sick, poor and kids must be killed so the rich can own more yachts and planes... well you get the idea.

Truth is that americans, including those on the left, are too greedy to give one more nickel of theirs to keep any of the needy alive. They'll give their nickels to the billionaires and bitch about it. But they'll also re-elect the monsters who write that lege.

Truly a shithole, this.

At 11:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernie led a huge horde to the edge of greatness, then folded like a cheap suit at the DINO-Whig coronation. There is no chance of reclaiming that moment now, not with the Internet given away to corporations and the tax breaks necessary to maintain control over We the People for generations. A new organization like Bernie's would be stuck in the slowest possible Web traffic lane while anything boosting the GOP gets priority and speedy conduct. Today, under these conditions, he'd never get his movement off the ground.

Sic Semper Corporatism


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