The DLC Readies Itself for a Democratic Majority

Ok, so let's talk policy for a sec.  Here's what Bruce Reed and Rahm Emanuel intend to implement should Democrats gain some measure of control in 2006. Policy is being hashed out by something called the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institute, which is what Bruce Reed is going to use as a basis for his book 'The Plan' later this year.

The Hamilton Project, which will be based at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, will be run by Peter Orszag, an economist and senior fellow at Brookings. Policy papers unveiled yesterday proposed vouchers for summer schools and giving teachers tenure based on standards for effectiveness. "That is not consistent with certain orthodoxies we are familiar with. I think that's a fairly controversial proposal. I wouldn't say that's a yawner," said Mr Altman.

The white paper also called for entitlement reform but acknowledged the political constraints that helped stall Mr Bush's drive to reform Social Security. "The principal problem is one of political choice and will and what is most needed is a bipartisan approach for deciding among the options," it said.

Even so, Mr Rubin turned down a private approach last month from Mr Bush to join his proposed bipartisan commission on entitlement reform. He argued that it should be widened to become a fiscal commission.

Barack Obama, a Democrat senator from Illinois, welcomed the initiative as a way of transcending "tired ideologies".

So if Democrats take control of a House, there will be a fight within the party over entitlement reform, otherwise known as gutting Social Security and Medicare, over school vouchers, and over trade.  Right now, the centrists are in the drivers seat.

What's driving this fight is, as Stirling repeatedly points out, a failure to understand where the next wave of economic growth is going to come from.  I mean, it's not like building more housing actually creates wealth production capacity, especially when the housing is built around hour long plus commutes that suck up garish amounts of oil.  Free trade and immigration are debated in this light - the question is never about how to increase flows of money or people to create wealth, but about how we can allocate a dimishining amount of prosperity by controlling and limiting these flows.  We don't, for instance, have free trade, we have very unfree trade that benefits well-capitalized interests and no one else.  That's why protectionism works, politically speaking - why should I vote to outsource my job so that pareta efficiency can go up slightly?  Yet, protectionism is a dead end and will only lead to catastrophe, as it did in the 1930s.  The temptation to take by military force resources is just irresistable.  So we must have free trade, it's essential, but we must have the type of free trade that distributes its benefits widely.  

But that's not the real point.  The issue for progressives is how to develop a political engine that creates broad-based prosperity and a political consensus to support that engine.  American infrastructure will need to be overhauled - energy systems, transportation, housing - all will have to transition to a light-weight sustainable basis.  The 20th century limitless oil well is over, which means that we will have to move away as citizens from the Super Size desire.  What we see on the internet, particularly in new social network sites, is a different relationship of citizens to space, the ability to grow inward and upward.  It's a bit more than a sketch; there is real community online, real trust, real bonds of authority, and these have the makings of a new social and political system.

The next forty years are going to be hard work, for real.  But first, whether Democrats win or lose in 2006, we'll have to save Social Security again, and maybe this time from the Democrats.

Tags: Bruce Reed, DLC (all tags)




Hmmm, perhaps if Ned Lamont does  take down Joe Lieberman, it won't set as much of an example as I hope.  After all, the netroots already helped to stop social security destruction, thanks to Josh Marshall, but the DLC has failed to learn anything at all from that experience.

by One Hand Clapping 2006-04-09 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: The DLC

Somewhere in that policy mix the party had better start talking about restoration of labor rights, living wages, and healthcare.  And in some manner build fairness into the tax code.  Absent some "new" plan, everything I've read indicates SS may be "fixed" by simply raising the cap, no?

For once in 26 years I'd like to hear more voices than John Edwards talking about disparity and class division.  "Entitlements" are skewed heavily to the top 5%, with absolutely no net gain for the rest of us.  This new "plan" sounds dangerously close to conservativism.

All we got from that is yellow snow.

by rba 2006-04-09 10:20AM | 0 recs
Re: The DLC Readies Itself for a Democratic Majori

Matt, I just spent a few minutes poking around the Hamilton Project website at Brookings and I would advise a more cautious initial approach to this as their core principles seem reasonable to me and many of the folks on the Advisory Board are academics or policy wonks whose work I respect.

The parts of their site that I find most objectionable are the ones that refer to this as some major new project that doesn't have to do with ideology and doctrine, but rather evidence and experience. I think this is both politically pretty dumb and also simply not true. The principles that they espouse are an ideology and a doctrine, but what distinguishes these folks from the people at Cato or Heritage is that they do not (hopefully) allow their ideology to blind them to evidence and or facts if their policy beliefs don't work.

Anyway, I'm going to take a more wait and see attitude to this effort and I also suggest we reach out to some folks over there to see if we can learn more about their direction/focus. Unlike David Sirota, I'm not going to just try and destroy this project before it really even begins... Maybe I'm being naive, or perhaps I'm keeping an open mind.... or perhaps those are the same thing in today's world.

by Marc Laitin 2006-04-09 10:48AM | 0 recs
Re: The DLC Readies Itself for a Democratic Majori

Agreed.  I checked out the site and don't see anything about gutting Social Security or Medicare.  In fact, I give them credit for floating some new policy ideas even if not all of them make sense.  The Dem party has become very stagnant when it comes to policy and we need to think out of the box sometimes.  I think that was where Obama was going with his statement the other day even if it wasn't said artfully.  

When I think entitlement reform, I think shoring up SS and Medicare so they can continue to pay full benefits well into the 21st Century.  Rubin and Reed were part of the architects of Save Social Security First, Clinton's proposal to use surpluses for Social Security rather than tax cuts.  They are not part of the give SS to Wall Street crowd.

by John Mills 2006-04-09 06:33PM | 0 recs
Re: The DLC Readies Itself for a Democratic

If anyone has the time, I could use a brief explanation of what fair free trade would look like. I've agreed with the position for a while but it occurs to me I don't really understand what it means, what policy differences in entails.

by js noble 2006-04-09 10:59AM | 0 recs

"why should I vote to outsource my job so that pareta efficiency can go up slightly?"

Do you mean Pareto efficiency? If you do, Pareto efficiency is not a level; an allocation of resources is Pareto efficient if no one can be made better off without making someone worse off.

by eldepeche 2006-04-09 10:59AM | 0 recs
Fair Free trade

To me it means that any products allowed in either are from countries that actively promote and protect labor safety issues, labor rights and mimiumum of living wages guareenteed. That environmental rules are in effect and protected. Any less then that and a tariff is levied so that it becomes cheaper for those countries to protect labor rights and the environment then pay the tariffs.

Labor and the environment get more and better protection then investment capital.

by Rational 2006-04-09 11:15AM | 0 recs
Thanks for disentangling Stirling

I pretty much read his piece as you have, but sometimes I think I'm missing stuff.

by Jeff Wegerson 2006-04-09 11:29AM | 0 recs
This is just silly!!!!!!!!!

Just got back from a tour of the South and I can tell one and all if the Dems don't adopt a old time Populist Campaign nothing will change.  The real, nonpolitical folks out there don't see a dimes worth of difference between the Repubs and the Dems.  The Repubs are just more owned than the Dems.

I think the Dems have a nasty lesson coming this fall.  Since they don't see any difference between the two I'm expecting a super low voter turnout in Nov. and that the Repubs will squeak by to keep control of both the Senate and the House --

by mwfolsom 2006-04-09 11:55AM | 0 recs
Davos Democrats and K Street Republicans

Rahm Emmanuel is staking out Hillary's positions -- and this stuff is exactly what's wrong with the DC Democrats. They pay lip service to the working class, but they have sold their souls to the multi-national corporate crowd.

The Davos Democrats never met a free trade agreement they couldn't support, the consequences to this country be damned. The K Street Republicans never met a corporate bribe that they wouldn't sell out the tax code for, the consequences be damned -- but they don't forget to throw bones to the red meat base of their party.

Is it any wonder the red state working class Americans vote GOP? The GOoPers at least give them something.

Talking about how the Dems need to reach out to folks with gun racks and confederate flag decals is easy -- coming up with a program that actually does it is something else altogether.

We are waiting, DC Dems -- and a plan to gut Social Security and Medicare for the benefit of the Davos Class ain't it . . .


by ck 2006-04-09 12:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Davos Democrats and K Street Republicans

Since they named themselves after that great elitist Alexander Hamilton, a closet monarchist, I don't think they are even paying lipservice to the working class. Sorry.

by Dameocrat 2006-04-09 06:58PM | 0 recs

Rahm knows best. That's why Center-Right think tanks are writing Democratic policy statements now.

Explain to me again why people don't know what Democrats stand for...

by michael in chicago 2006-04-09 12:03PM | 0 recs
The Dems will not get close to controlling senate

The House is likely to be won, but polls suggest that the gain will be minimal. 1-3 seats, as compared to 6 needed to gain control of the senate.

by kingsbridge77 2006-04-09 12:41PM | 0 recs
Great Post - Progressives Need to Pay Attention

Its important to point out to folks here in the progressive blogosphere that the DLC is in the driver's seat in terms of policy at the moment. They're also still very close with the establishment, which came of age in the 1990s, a time when the DLC reigned supreme (i.e.: Rahm Emmanuel.)

Progressives need to realize that they need to develop their own vehicles of change. A few scattered think tanks just won't do it. Strong, well funded think tanks with influence, combined with training academies coupled with farm teams, built into a strong grassroots organization in every precinct is what its going to take to (1) elect progressives to office and (2) maintain momentum in a progressive direction even when times get tough.

by gatordemocrat 2006-04-09 12:51PM | 0 recs
So that's it?

The DLC's platform for a Democratic majority is to out-rethug the rethugs? Thereby first depriving voters from an alternative when they go to the polls and then, if we still happen to win, squandering the victory only to further erode whatever credibility the Dems have left?

Gawdamnit! And that as we have global warming and peak oil and energy dependence and a health care crisis and on and on and on to worry about.

This is insane.

by brainwave 2006-04-09 12:55PM | 0 recs
can you back up your claim?

"So if Democrats take control of a House, there will be a fight within the party over entitlement reform, otherwise known as gutting Social Security and Medicare, over school vouchers, and over trade."

Brookings is a pretty non-ideological think tank, and i didn't see anything about "gutting Social Security and Medicare", and only minimal stuff on school vouchers (for summer school) and nothing on free trade.

the name bother me though, would rather have a "Jefferson Project".

by colorless green ideas 2006-04-09 02:32PM | 0 recs
Re: can you back up your claim?

they won't call it "gutting," they'll call it "reform."

by wu ming 2006-04-09 03:40PM | 0 recs
Re: can you back up your claim?

of course. i really just didn't see anything specific to worry about... yet, perhaps?

by colorless green ideas 2006-04-10 12:43AM | 0 recs
Re: The DLC Readies Itself for a Democratic Majori

I think all this handwringing over Rahm Emanuel, Brookings and entitlement reform is much ado about nothing. First of all, Peter Orszag (who is a hell of an economist) was a warrior in protecting Social Security from privatization. He was appearing on every panel possible fighting the CATO guys & Peter Ferrara while fielding attmepted "gotcha" questions from Santorum, Trent Lott & the like. Why don't you head over to Brad DeLong's place & ask him how much Peter Orszag contributed to saving social security.

Second, please drop the wingnut conspiracies about the DLC. Not only did the DLC not have nearly as much power in it's heyday as it's feverish antagonists pretend, it has even less power now. Upon the next Democratic administration taking office, no  more than a handful of people will have any affiliation with the DLC. It's just that Democratic wonks, our best minds, the guys that make up OUR smart set, are going to have more in common intellectually with the policy wing of the DLC (but not the politics) than most grassroots activists will. And that doesen't just go for Brookings, New America & PPI. It also goes for CAP & those guys.

If you want something different, harass their future employers & harang them out of office. If you think they're doing a bad job, get an M.A. in economics from Yale & go tell them what they're doing wrong.

by Epitome22 2006-04-09 02:51PM | 0 recs
Re: The DLC Readies Itself for a Democratic Majori

Good post.  And I'd like to add that both Reed and Rubin were part of the Save Social Securiy First crowd which was Clinton's proposal to put the surpluses into SS rather than tax cuts.  They are not for giving SS to Wall Street.

Also, Rubin proposed a whole bunch of good policy ideas in 1993-94 that were against his personal economic interests including raising the top tax rate to 39% and increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit.  He understood that good fiscal policy lead to a strong economy and that helped everyone even if he had to pay more taxes.  Compare the increase in middle class incomes between Clinton and Bush.  There is no comparison and a number of the people on the Hamilton project were architects of 1990s economic policy.

by John Mills 2006-04-09 06:53PM | 0 recs
Re: The DLC Readies Itself for a Democratic Majori

There is a good chance that the US is becoming less wealthy relative to the rest of the world. This means that there will be an effective decrease in the GDP when balance of trade issues are taken into account.

If this turns out to be the case, then neither party has any program to deal with a smaller pie. Both preach that growth will solve all problems. Some countries like the UK managed to deal with the loss of empire without too much social unrest, but right now the US still thinks it rules the world and refuses to plan for any alternatives.

by rdf 2006-04-09 02:55PM | 0 recs
Re: The DLC Readies Itself for a Democratic Majori

Just want to mention none of this cute little set of policy crap deals with the real problems: imperial overstretch and galloping unsustainability of our resource extraction economy.


by janinsanfran 2006-04-09 04:47PM | 0 recs
Centrist Bilge

Yes, once again Barack Obama mistakes centrist stagnation for a dialectical transcendence.  His "third way" stance is becoming increasingly intolerable, and his desire to neutralize the socialist impulses that saved this country in the 1930s and 1940s is simply unacceptable.  

But more importantly, I have a few questions.  How does one measure an educator's performance?  And how does this effect the development of alternative or more innovative pedagogies?  What effect will this have on the humanities and the fine arts?  I also desire to know how these economists plan to stave the seemingly inexorable growth of multinationals.  Will they at least consider the entrepreneurial model spearheaded in Quebec, which funds small businesses and creates the urban conditions for the viability of such businesses, or will they pour more money into an increasingly homogenous realm of strip mall stores that rely on automobile transportation and a lower quality of goods and services?  Will these economists find a way to divert funds or increase taxes in order to increase the quality of life for all Americans, or will they implement policies that will simply exacerbate the economic destitution that is a result of problematic trade agreements, dysfunctional tax corporate laws and a crumbling health care system that precludes the ability of small businesses and manufacturers to provide acceptable health care to their employees?  
Their attempts to obfuscate their presuppositions with the rhetoric of innocent empiricism is what I find most insidious about their program.  Whenever anyone tries to substitute the word evidence for bias, one must always cast an incredulous gaze in their direction.  And based on what I have read thus far, I am convinced this policy group will not create the conditions wherein the United States can emerge as a stabile economy in the wake of globalization's deadening grip on the world economy.  
Quebec can certainly serve as a useful model at this point.  When will we finally listen?

by illinois062006 2006-04-09 05:10PM | 0 recs
Re: The DLC Readies Itself for a

It is very clear that the big coming economic boom is going to be retooling our economy away from oil and toward utilization of alternative energy.  Increases in energy efficiency, transforming vehicles to run on electric and biofuels, new efficiencies and methods of home heat.  Rebuilding US infrastructure.  With government investment to grease the skids, the US can come out a world leader in technology that everyone must have.

by bakho 2006-04-09 05:27PM | 0 recs
Re: The DLC Readies Itself for a Democratic Majori


The Dems aren't even back in power yet and I'm already thinking I might have to consider the Green Party again.  Hmph. Sigh.

by attorney at arms 2006-04-09 09:07PM | 0 recs


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