The DLC Readies Itself for a Democratic Majority
by Matt Stoller, Sun Apr 09, 2006 at 09:20:55 AM EDT
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.