Democrats and Obsolescence

Steney Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi

Steney Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi

Do you want to know why Nancy Pelosi should retire already? This is why.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other top Democrats are vowing to abide by fiscally hawkish pay-as-you-go rules if they seize the majority next year, rejecting calls from liberals who feel they’d be an impediment to big legislative gains.

Pelosi, who adopted “pay-go” rules when she held the Speaker’s gavel more than a decade ago, says she’ll push to do it again if the Democrats win the House in November’s midterm elections.

“Democrats are committed to pay-as-you-go,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said Tuesday, affirming the policy would be a 2019 priority.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, is also endorsing the notion that a Democratic majority should adopt the budget-neutral rules next year. “The pay-go rule is a good rule and we ought to reinstitute it,” Hoyer told The Hill last week.

This was a good rule 20 years ago. Now, it’s a disaster.

Chalres Pierce:

In fact, it’s a stupid rule. It is entirely counter-productive to progressive policy goals. It puts the Democratic Party in conflict with the blog’s First Law Of Economics – Fck The Deficit. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money – and it revives Zombie Simpson-Bowles to stalk the halls of Congress again. In case nobody in the Democratic leadership has noticed, the rising energy in the party is not coming out of the budget-hawk cryptkeepers. This takes seriously the laughable fiction that the Republicans care about deficits and will use them as an effective club on the Democrats. Right now, the country is giving serious consideration to things like Medicare-for-all and some sort of free college. This isn’t the time to go all Al From again. It also guarantees a serious intraparty skirmish that’s already underway.

Paul Waldman:

Now that Republicans have stopped pretending to care about the deficit, it’s time for Democrats to stop actually caring about the deficit.

Unfortunately, we have a situation where one party invariably balloons the deficit whenever it takes power, yet somehow retains a reputation for “fiscal conservatism,” while the other party works hard to make sure everything it does when it’s in power is fully paid for, yet somehow gets tagged as profligate spenders squandering taxpayer resources.

The way out of this losing game would be for Democrats to stop playing. …

…Pay-go has its origins in a 1990 budget agreement, but when Republicans have been in charge, they’ve tended to waive it so they could pass what they wanted. When Democrats took back Congress in 2006 (under Pelosi’s leadership), they proclaimed their commitment to pay-go as evidence that unlike George W. Bush — who used deficit spending to fund a couple of wars and a couple of tax cuts — they’d bring back fiscal probity. In 2010, they even passed a law, which President Barack Obama signed, mandating that new spending had to be paid for with tax increases or cuts elsewhere (there’s more of an explanation here).

So it winds up being something that binds Democrats but has no effect on Republicans, who are happy to waive the requirements whenever they like or find some other way around them. Only Democrats ever bother answering the “How are you going to pay for this?” question for their legislative priorities.

Once again, Democrats think they have to cater to the mythical center while telling their own base to go play in traffic.

So what are the consequences of Democrats making this pledge? If they’re successful in winning back Congress this year and winning the White House next year, it could seriously hamper their ability to pass progressive legislation without imposing spending cuts. And given the metronomic swings of power that have characterized Washington in recent years — one party wins the White House, then two years later the other party wins Congress, then as soon at the opposition takes back the White House it loses Congress, repeat ad infinitum — they may only have two years starting in 2021 to advance the progressive goals they’re in the process of formulating. Every one of those efforts that involves federal spending could be bogged down in excruciating negotiations about where spending cuts or tax increases are going to be made to pay for it all.

Politically, this serves almost no purpose. Whatever tiny benefit Democrats might get from telling everyone how responsible they’re being will be dramatically offset by the risk that they’ll have trouble passing their (extremely popular) agenda. Are they really foolish enough to think that it matters whether some corporate-funded centrist think tanks scolds them for not holding the line on deficits? Who cares?

Yesterday at a press conference, Pelosi was asked about Medicare for All and promised to evaluate it. Yeah, that’ll fire up the base.

9 thoughts on “Democrats and Obsolescence

  1. Rep. Raúl Grijalva: “The pay-go thing is an absurd idea now given the times and given what’s already been done to curry favor with corporate America,” Grijalva said. Grijalva noted that the revenue losses created by the tax law are already squeezing federal programs favored by Democrats. Adopting pay-go rules on top of that, he argued, would only pinch them further. 

    So if the dems take back the House, the GOP wouldn't have to do much to play the deficit scold role in this never ending GOP blow up the deficit on wars, “defense” and tax cuts, democrats take responsibility, put progressive policy on hold and fix it game.  Pelosi and pay go does it for them.

    Then again, this is the perfect cover for establishment dems to stick to the incremental changes they love that won't anger their paymasters.

    Democrats are positioned more so than ever to give voters the change they want, in health care and other areas, they’ve been crying out for and that they now realize the GOP isn’t giving them. It would be a damned shame to squander it if the dems take the House.

    But if they keep on like this…

  2. Democrats are like that nerdy kid who's always one step behind on every trend. 

    He finally loves The Beatles, and everyone is now into The Stones.

    He gets into The Stones, and the hip kids now demand to 'see' and 'hear' The Who, and not be 'dumb' about what they think hit their senses.

    Now, as for my not-organized party:

    Leave the Right and Center-Right to the fruitcake GOP, and ALL Democrats need to stear to the left, and explain our… our… our "plan…"?

    Is there a plan?



    Well… obviously if I gotta ask for one, then obviosly there ain't one!


  3. To expand on how I perceive your point, C U N D, and please correct me if I am wrong, the democrats are like a souless wanna-be that will say whatever they need to in order to sound like opposition.

    Health care?  Promise a public option and blah blah blah blah — and then enact a republican plan without the PO which entrenches insurance companies so deeply into the system, that now the entire thing only works if they act in good-faith.

    Does anyone really think we can trust insurance companies, based on your experience with them, to allow Obamacare to last?

    I think our 2-party system is not unlike a venture to the outhouse.  You can do a #1 or a #2, but each contributes to the stench of the place.

    There is a difference between repugs and dems, but it is not great and the repugs have used this to move to become neonazis.  In other words, the difference between them now is an illusion based on the fact that powerful republicans know they can act bat-sh!t crazy because the mainstream dems will support their former agenda anyhow.

  4. "Leave the Right and Center-Right to the fruitcake GOP:"

    Gulag: There is no center to the GOP they aren't really even a political party at this point, they are an organized crime enterprise! Not sure why I'm even posting this, my last few posts never make it through the twit filter, sort of pointless?

  5. This commits them to piecemean undoing of the GOP tax cuts.

    A dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

    • “This commits them to piecemean undoing of the GOP tax cuts.” They should be committed to that, anyway. But implementing Pay-go doesn’t require undoing the tax cuts.

  6. Look at it this way. The Dems take Congress this year and adopt Pay-Go. That generates a recession in 2020 which the Dems blame on Trump. 

    What's not to love?

  7. One again, the GOP suckered the Democrats into a bad position ("pay-as-you-go").  But "deficits don't matter" isn't the answer either; it's wrong both as academic Theory* and practical politics.  Keynesian Theory/Policy isn't that hard to explain:

    1. When times are bad, borrow & spend (Deficits spending is good cure for Recession/Depression).

    2. In good times, pay off your debts (Deficit spending during a boom worsens speculative bubbles, hastening the inevitable crash).

    Pelosi & crew have been working from a defensive crouch so long that they can't stand up straight.  The tricks the GOP has used on the Democrats ("Deficits are bad… except when the President is Republican") won't work in reverse. 

    But more important than Deficits is what we actually spend money on.  Investment in public goods – Infrastructure, Education, Safety Net, Science, etc – makes the future better, AND trains people in skill which make them good at making the future better. 


    * – MMT wasn't taught when I got my BA in Econ back in the Stoned Age, so I might be wrong about this.

    • “Pelosi & crew have been working from a defensive crouch so long that they can’t stand up straight.” True words.

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