As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, January 09, 2009

Dance, Senators, Dance!

As I said yesterday, there's a good kind of Democratic disunity, the kind where Senators stand up for liberal values and push against more centrist measures. The New York Times covers the tension on those business tax cuts in the stimulus bill today. And Tom Harkin used the words "trickle down."

"There's only one thing we've got to do in this stimulus, and that's create jobs," Harkin told me. "I'm a little concerned by the way Mr. Summers and others are going on this ... it still looks a little more to me like trickle-down."

Likening Barack Obama's economic recovery plan to the failed supply-side excesses of the Reagan and Bush years is a bit of a Cassandra moment. But Harkin didn't back down. "What I'm hearing from Mr. Summers is that they've got a different approach -- tax breaks, and this and that," he said. Harkin warned that, much like the outcome of George Bush's $600 stimulus package last year, recipients of quick tax cuts "are going to be salting it away, not spending it."

When I asked if he felt his concerns were heard during the meeting, he looked to the floor and slowly shook his head. It was almost forlorn.

Chris Bowers looks at this and thinks we need to fight. But Digby thinks it's a dance, noting that the leaders of this effort have been John Kerry and Kent Conrad.

And this actually may be good news. It seems very unlikely to me that Kerry is acting out of school, but is rather playing the role of the liberal stimulus spending obsessive who will (hopefully) balance out the tax cut fetishists in the senate negotiations, giving Obama some space to compromise at least somewhere to the left of The Club For Growth. (Unfortunately, that still leaves us with the Blue Dog deficit hawks, but maybe Rahm has pictures or something.)

It's all just a guess, of course, but I simply don't believe that Kerry and Conrad are out there running at Obama from the left on their own. They just don't have it in them. They are staking out this position for negotiating purposes on his behalf. Obviously, we don't know how far any of them will go to fight for it, but at least the liberal economic argument looks like it will be made.

I see no reason why they aren't both right. Even if this is a game for the cameras to give Obama space to his left, it doesn't mean that progressives shouldn't rally to Kerry and Conrad and make the argument. In fact, it seems to me that is the whole purpose - to "make Obama do it," as it were, and create a bottom-up rally for a real, liberal stimulus with a focus on job creation.

Which progressives ought to do. But that doesn't mean that Larry Summers is necessarily in on the game. It's entirely likely that he just believes in neoliberalism and corporate power, and is making the argument from the other side. We can win this one, but that's not foreordained.

...significantly, the business tax breaks was practically the one proposal that Obama didn't mention in yesterday's speech. That's something I'd love to see quietly dropped.

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