Yesterday Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled Democrats’ new slogan and what it means for the party and the American people. (More)
“A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future”
“We were too cautious, we were too namby-pamby,” Schumer said on ABC’s This Week. “This is sharp, bold and will appeal to both the old Obama coalition, let’s say the young lady who’s just getting out of college, and the Democratic voters who deserted us for Trump, the blue-collar worker. Economics is our strength, and we are going to get at it.”
The New York senator said the new Democratic agenda, set to be unveiled on Monday, would include proposals to “just go after these drug companies when they raise prices so egregiously and people can’t afford these drugs” and a plan to “change the way companies can merge,” mentioning the cable, airline and gas industries.
“How the heck did we let Exxon and Mobil merge?” he said. “And that was Democrats.”
The new slogan won’t be mere words, Sen. Schumer insists. It will be backed up by concrete policies:
Democratic leaders shared few details to preserve suspense around the plan, which is scheduled to be unveiled Monday at an event in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, where the party hopes to defeat incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R). But some lawmakers, aides and outside advocates consulted on the new agenda said that it is expected to focus on new proposals to fund job-training programs, renegotiate trade deals and address soaring prescription-drug costs, as well as other issues. It is also expected to endorse long-held Democratic principles, including “a living wage” of $15 per hour and already unveiled spending plans for infrastructure that would expand broadband Internet access into rural counties.
Stephanie Kelton, a former economics adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), said that she was consulted as Democrats crafted “A Better Deal.” Party leaders, she said, seemed to understand that “establishment economics just can’t accommodate a bold, progressive economic platform.” She said that meant worrying less about the deficit and more about whether voters were seeing their quality of life improve.
Trump “is using the budget to serve a handful of billionaires and large corporations,” Kelton said in an email. “I’d like to see the Democrats practice their own version of this by talking always (and only) about how their policies will meaningfully improve life for the rest of us.”
By “establishment economics,” Kelton means the so-called ‘Washington Consensus’ that has dominated our political dialogue over recent decades:
In economic circles, however, “neoliberalism” is most identified with an elite response to the economic crises of the 1970s: stagflation, the energy crisis, the near bankruptcy of New York. The response to these crises was conservative in nature, pushing back against the economic management of the midcentury period. It is sometimes known as the “Washington Consensus,” a set of 10 policies that became the new economic common sense.
These policies included reduction of top marginal tax rates, the liberalization of trade, privatization of government services, and deregulation. These became the sensible things for generic people in Washington and other global headquarters to embrace and promote, and the policies were pushed on other countries via global institutions like the International Monetary Fund. This had significant consequences for the power of capital, as the geographer David Harvey writes in his useful Brief Introduction to Neoliberalism. The upshot of such policies, as the historical sociologist Greta Krippner notes, was to shift many aspects of managing the economy from government to Wall Street, and to financiers generally.
That Vox article by Mike Konczal identifies several areas where Democrats began to shift in 2016, including college tuition and policies aimed at full employment. As part of that continuing shift, the Washington Monthly’s David Atkins writes, Democrats will spotlight who is really holding back hardworking families:
He is also laying down a marker that Democratic candidates will be moving away from the “rising tide lifts all boats if we all love each other” pabulum, and communicating the more credible, effective and fundamentally true message that corporate power is the real villain in the decline of the American middle class.
Schumer also indicated a willingness to consider single-payer and other significant expansions of healthcare guarantees beyond just saving the Affordable Care Act exchanges. This is particularly important, as single-payer advocacy has been one of the bitterest fault lines between the party’s progressive and moderate wings – especially in blue states like California.
Yes, some of this is a leftward turn. But much of it is simply a change of focus that refocuses Americans’ legitimate economic anxiety. For decades, Republicans have blamed government for every economic and social ill, blithely ducking the fact that they controlled government much of the time and in much of the country. The Wealthcare Act fully exposed the GOP’s “pamper the rich and punish the poor” agenda, and Americans hated it.
Democrats need to both hang that around the necks of the Grand Oligarch Party and also draw a sharp contrast with our ideas. And that’s what “A Better Deal” is all about.
Good day and good nuts