What Went Wrong and What to Do About It

June 7th, 2011 at 5:00 pm

What with the Diamond withdrawal yesterday, the WaPo polling results on the economy out today, and the fact that the policies that would help the economy in the short run are locked in a trunk at the bottom of the ocean, it’s hard not to feel like we’re stuck in a bad place and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Of course, such defeatism is not the stuff we are made of here at OTE.  But let’s not leave the current depressing airspace too quickly.

The Diamond withdrawal is neither unexpected nor the end of the world, but as Ezra pointed out this AM (see his Wonkbook discussion of my pal Austan G’s decision to go back to the Univ of Chicago—will they let him back in the econ faculty lounge?), it’s emblematic of a bigger problem that we can’t get anywhere on the needed policy actions to boost jobs.

Why are we here?

One reason is that powerful people have decided that too many voters don’t believe that what’s needed—temporary spending to offset the persistent demand shortfall—actually works.

You can blame those powerful people for a) not fighting hard enough, b) not pushing a big enough stimulus in the first place, c) overselling the package they (ok, we) came up with, d) failing to effectively tout its benefits, e) not just doing what’s right regardless of electoral opinion…and you’d have some merit on all points.

But there’s also this argument I recently came across.  It’s a framing discussion, much of which sounded right to me, suggesting that traditional ways in which Democrats talk about Keynesian measures no longer resonate the way they used to.

I think this diagnosis is important.  When I/Krugman/Romer/DeLong, etc. say “there’s a lot more gov’t should do right now to target job creation,” too many people hear “there’s a lot of new ways politicians can waste your hard-earned, much-needed money on their pet projects which only gets in the way of the private market’s vast job-creation potential.”

If that’s true—and yes, no small part of this is self-inflicted by Democrats who agree too readily with the above—what do we do about it?  I found the analysis long on diagnosis and short on prescription, but this ‘graf caught my attention:

“On the issue of jobs and unemployment, for example, a typical statement from a person of this kind would be something like the following.

‘Well, you know, I can’t see any evidence that the stimulus really worked and I don’t think just making phony leaf-raking jobs is a real solution. But I also think there must be some way the government can get people back to work and I don’t think just laying off state employees or giving rich people lower taxes is the answer either.’”

Common sense ideas that I believe most people share: how do we get out of this mess if we’re going to whack away at schools?  And surely we need to fix stuff that’s falling apart.  And you know what: I kinda like the security of knowing there’s a guaranteed pension out there (Social Security) and health coverage I can depend on (Mcare).  And don’t tell me “sorry, we can’t afford that” while you want to cut taxes for the one group that’s actually been doing the best lately—the wealthiest among us.

If such sentiments don’t map onto Keynesian stimulus writ large, they do map onto:

–another round of fiscal relief for states;
–infrastructure investments;
–protecting entitlements;
–balance between revenues and spending cuts in budget negotiations.

I’m skeptical of framing debates because they seem to suggest that if you frame things the right way, you’ll win, when of course, life is more complicated.  Power often trumps frames, for one.

But I’m not ready to go gentle into that good night without a fight.  So instead of depression, I recommend common sense, fueled by a little bit of genuine anger about how screwed up our economic policy debate has become.

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29 comments in reply to "What Went Wrong and What to Do About It"

  1. ManOutOfTime says:

    One reason is that powerful people have decided that too many voters don’t believe that what’s needed—temporary spending to offset the persistent demand shortfall—actually works.

    Are you kidding? Dude, wake up and smell the polemic! The powerful don’t care what voters think: they are selling the voters on what corporate interests and the super-wealthy want for themselves. The continuing Medicare flimflammery tells you everything you need to know about the modern “conservative” movement: the voters don’t like what they are selling, so they will “update” their message. But at the end of the day, we’re still wrestling with their message while 15 million able-bodied American sit idle.

    I am confident that you and Mr. Goolsbee know that Keynesian support to the semi- and unskilled working sector is the solution to a demand-side recession. So you would know first hand better than a sclub like me the extent to which Democratic politicians shy from progressive policymaking out of fear for what voters think – I will give you that – but the people are on the side of jobs jobs jobs. The right successfully moved the Overton window away from stimulus because they know this, not because they care what voters think.


  2. Dick C says:

    “One reason is that powerful people have decided that too many voters don’t believe that what’s needed—temporary spending to offset the persistent demand shortfall—actually works.”

    What do we elect — leaders or followers? If all these people do is stick their fingers in the air they ought to resign. Also, if they only choose policies that please big donors because they’re always looking toward the next election they ought to resign. WTH are they thinking? … are they thinking?

    If they just going to rely on polls, I’d have them poll people on what years they thought the country was doing best, then implement the same tax policies we had then.


  3. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Things that did not exist in the 1930s when Keynes was writing:
    - NASA, NOAA, EPA, television, radio networks, the Internet, a phone in every home, the interstate system, et cetera…
    – national parks were only about 16 years old, IIRC
    – in my state (Washington) the high school was a modern invention; science labs weren’t really built widely until post-WWII
    – movies were still in their infancy; most of America seems to have attended either church or synagogue each week
    – the Nightly News, and certainly 24/7 cable had not been invented; TIME and LIFE were in their infancy

    I don’t have the data off the top of my head, but I think the average family size was about 5 children; today, it is about 1.3 kiddos. (The pill and many social shifts explain this difference, but as far as I am aware it is the largest difference in such a short time span in human history.)

    Wikipedia’s page probably has plenty of data under a search for ’1930s’ on the hot developments of that decade, but my point is that people had community and family support structures that, due to the urbanization of the 20th century, were beginning to break down.

    The US Census has done some fantastic summaries of 20th c urbanization and population shifts in the US (which also helped make the Senate filibuster the hideously dysfunctional political neutron bomb it is today).

    Keynes was basically writing about a far different culture, a far different information environment, a far different society than the demographics, communication structures, and economic structures of today.

    So OF COURSE there is a problem framing the solutions of the 1930s in today’s culture.

    The conservatives seem to believe that all solutions must rest on ‘perfecting’ markets. This is complete nonsense in a tax-haven riddled world.

    For starters, the Dems never, ever talk about the Shadow Economy. Pardon me for saying that I think that is a scandalous outrage. They probably don’t want to talk about it because they acquiesced in its creation (and no doubt the CIA is fond of it).

    If the Dems don’t have the [balls] to start talking openly about the Shadow Banking System, then heck with them. The rest is blithering nonsense that skates above an economy riddled with fraud, incapable of going after brazen criminality, and offshoring the obscene profits of their criminal conduct.

    Enough already!
    Without a conversation of the implications and threats posed by the Shadow Banking System (which as near as I can tell now dwarfs the ‘real’ economy), the Dems should simply keep a decent silence.

    And if they do begin to speak, they should address the society and culture(s) of 2011, rather than a fiction that we left behind in the 1930s.


    • D Furlano says:

      Ever hear of post-Keynesian economics?

      That is what is mostly meant today when someone is referencing Keynes.


      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        I have heard of it. I think that I’ve heard at least six various definitions.

        I understood the post to ask: is the communication element of trying to explain the need for stimulus a part of the larger economic and political stagnation today?

        I think that it is.
        It is a *huge* problem.

        I see huge problems trying to communicate economic issues. Part of trouble originates in problems that involve government accountability, some involve government legitimacy, and some involve complexity.

        I agree with Jim’s point that Americans are very moralistic about ‘debt’. That makes communicating about ‘debt’ an extremely difficult challenge.

        In a world of 24/7 cable, the Internet, and enormous amounts of data filtering around the globe at any given moment, the need to communicate clearly about economics issues — not ‘finance’ and not ‘stock quotes’ and not specific companies, but the Big Picture, fundamental economic structures — is a huge and complicated problem.

        Keynes had it easy, compared with today’s environment.


        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          Over at NakedCapitalism today (6-8-11) Philip Pilkington has a post that dovetails beautifully with this thread.

          One thing that I didn’t manage to articulate on my first comment here is this: the corporate structures of today are vastly different from the corporate and business structures of 1930. That’s one key element of the economic problem that the Dems have not articulated well at all.

          That post at NC is worth listening to (via the time-saving Odiego links). Some here will probably chuckle, as I did, over his recommendations about what to do regarding the WaPo, FoxNoise, and the Pete Peterson mob who actively spread economic noise and misinformation ;-)


  4. foosion says:

    As others have said, what voters believe about economics is essentially besides the point. The Republicans are trying to kill Medicare despite overwhelming public support for the program. Why would you think that voter support for stimulus would make any more difference to GOP politicians than voter support for Medicare?

    The public saw taxes go up under Clinton and the economy boomed. The public saw taxes go down under Bush, coupled with massive deregulation, and the economy tanked. If the public believes cutting taxes and deregulating is the answer to today’s problems, they’re massively delusional.

    –another round of fiscal relief for states;
    –infrastructure investments;
    –protecting entitlements;
    –balance between revenues and spending cuts in budget negotiations.

    -Giving money to the states just encourages states in their profligate spending.
    -Infrastructure is another word for wasteful govt spending
    -This wins
    -It’s better to do a little harm than a lot. I suppose that’s what we’ve come to.


  5. Jim says:

    I strongly believe that the problem is deeper than simply saying the public doesn’t easily accept Keynesian policy. They didn’t accept Keynesian policy in the 30′s either and were easily led into deficit cutting in 37. The real problem is that the public has always looked at debt as somehow immoral and saw an equivalence between private debt and public. This is completely wrong, of course, since the government is the sole issuer of the currency. How can a society be in debt to itself?

    So called “center-left” economists are the real ones to blame because they refuse to accept the reality of fiat currency and lead the public into accepting the right wing position that government deficits are evil and morally wrong.

    I’m wondering if you are familiar with the functional finance view of Abba Lerner and its outgrowth Modern Monetary Theory?

    I wrote a blog post on the subject of public opinion on debt and stimulus almost a year ago and I think it’s a truly critical point that center-left economists need to wake up to. To quote briefly:

    Conservatives are making huge gains on a fundamental inconsistency in the case for fiscal stimulus. Here is the two part position of the center-left: 1) we need to increase the public debt in order to provide needed stimulus; and 2) the level of the public debt is of critical concern and has the potential to bankrupt the nation. Given these contradicting positions, is it any wonder the public is confused? I believe these two positions cannot simultaneously be held and successfully sold to the public. Simultaneously holding both positions is, in political terms, an irreconcilable dilemma.

    http://commentsongpe.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/stimulus-and-deficits-the-irreconcilable-dilemma/

    Jim


  6. foosion says:

    How about – just end the Bush tax cuts and our wars and the deficit problem is largely solved. It’s relatively easy and doesn’t do too much damage.


  7. Kevin Rica says:

    People care about outcomes. People think that the fiscal experiment has been tried and it didn’t work. You can’t blame them for being empiricists. If “All the King’s horses and all the King’s men, couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” did the King need even more fiscal stimulus?

    Besides, fiscal policy is a short-term remedy, not a long term fix. Like it or not on fairness grounds, Bush’s tax cut did no good: we had a very slow recovery from the 2001 recession. Bush’s tax cut did use up a lot of long-term borrowing capacity. So now it’s harder to do fiscal policy.

    The big mistake was trying to persuade the PRC to quit manipulating their exchange rate. They are not persuadable. They needed much stronger action. It was not forthcoming. As long as China (and others) keep our external deficit high, we will drag that anchor and go nowhere.

    Here is a good idea: Tax China’s holding of U.S. Treasury’s. See this article by Joe Gagnon and Gary Hufbauer in Foreign Affairs:

    http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67810/joseph-gagnon-and-gary-hufbauer/taxing-chinas-assets

    If China can’t or won’t buy U.S. Treasury bills and bonds, they CAN’T fix the exchange rate.


  8. dougR says:

    I think the notion that framing, and the inability to craft messages that really resonate with Americans, are huge problems for Democrats. Start with the fact that the Obama administration doesn’t seem to know what it believes in any more. (Hard to articulate a resonating, memorable message when it boils down to, ‘we did our best, now just be patient.’ The spectacle of Goolsbee floundering on a national program trying to defend Obama’s inaction was telling, and hugely depressing.)

    All the talk about framing, of course, requires one believe that Obama and the Democratic establishment wanted and believed in the policies they said they wanted during the campaign, rather than the slow downhill slide for the middle class, and the utter abdication of the rule of law, and the continued enrichment of the financial elites, that they now seem perfectly content with. Indeed, this is a point I would love for Mr. Bernstein to address: exactly how much of the deficit mania among the Obama administration, and the mistaken, catastrophic notion that it has to be redressed out of what’s left of the middle class safety net, is something they actually wanted all along? Inquiring cynics would like to know!)


  9. Sandwichman says:

    It’s nice to see narrative policy analysis getting some airplay but will it get any traction? Levison seems to assume that the Democratic narrative he cites is right or at least is the best of the only two narratives in the game, the Democratic and the Republican.

    Actually, you can take just about any two dominant narratives and draw out of them a couple of more neglected or repressed narratives. Emery Roe shows how to do this in his 1994 book, Narrative Policy Analysis. But I will give an example that should be more readily accessible. It is the analytical matrix at the core of Elinor Ostrom’s 2009 Nobel Prize lecture, “Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems.”

    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economics/laureates/2009/ostrom-lecture-slides.pdf (see page 10 for the matrix).

    Ostrom looks at two variable characteristics of goods, their “subtractability of use” and their “difficulty of excluding potential beneficiaries.” Goods can be rated on either of these characteristics on a continuum from low to high. The analytical matrix generates four “ideal types” of goods only two of which, public goods and private goods figure in the standard Democratic and Republican narratives cited by Levison.

    What I would suggest is that instead of trying to devise a strategy for promoting the traditional Democratic narrative, some serious thought needs to be given as to whether either of the two extant narratives are at all pertinent to the unique conditions we face today.

    I’m afraid that one common mistake is made by both sides. That is to assume that if the other guy’s argument is obviously wrong, that makes your argument right. Not so. It is possible for both arguments to be utterly wrong.


    • Kevin Rica says:

      Sandwichman says:

      “I’m afraid that one common mistake is made by both sides. That is to assume that if the other guy’s argument is obviously wrong, that makes your argument right. Not so. It is possible for both arguments to be utterly wrong.”

      Absolutely right!

      Both parties are a lot more ideologically homogeneous and a lot weaker intellectually than they were 40 or 50 years ago. They suppress ideas that they don’t like rather than rebutting them or (Heaven forfend!) evaluating them.


    • John says:

      Those last two paragraphs, Sandwichman – I couldn’t agree more.


  10. comma1 says:

    We know that Obama et al, don’t understand the long game. For example, they seem to think that health care reform started when he took office as opposed to when Clinton — failed– at getting it accomplished during his term. That is the definition of the long game. Obama passed health care because Clinton failed to.

    Dems have been losing the long game for years now. Why? Because they don’t recognize it and they don’t play it. They didn’t notice the propaganda networks creeping up, nor the think tanks — all organizations bending the answers in those polls toward Repubo ideas. And you know what? Repubos actually argue for their ideas. No matter how obnoxious, ie Medicare. It is why even today Obama is talking deficit reduction rather than jobs. I have an idea, you’re the president, act like one.

    Americans may not think that Government stimulus creates “real jobs” — who cares? Why not lower the unemployment rate — that’ll convince people. If you can’t do that, then argue it, make the case, play the long game. Forget jobs, Obama didn’t even do that with the Bank bailout. Here we have this massive support for a banking disaster, it worked, and he didn’t even make the argument that bank bailout funds saved the economy. Just successfully making that argument would have created a better atmosphere for further stimulus. But no, rather he pivoted over to health care and put a line in every speech saying “it could have been worse.”

    I just wonder whether history is going to look at this incompetent administration and see the death of progressivism for decades to come. I mean, imagine if Roosevelt hand bungled the New Deal. That is the situation we are in. This guy couldn’t have come into office with more good will– the first black president, more proof of failed Repubo policies, more momentum to create change.

    Near four years ago, I stood out in the rain to make sure people got out to vote. Today, my job situation is worse. My wife’s job prospects are worse, and I can tell you that we won’t be standing in the rain again.

    I keep on seeing Obama in a flight suit, with a sign behind him that reads “Stimulus Accomplished.”


  11. Sid F says:

    When you have someone like Sen. Shelby who is totally unqualified to judge whether someone is qualified to serve on the Fed board

    http://dismalpoliticaleconomist.blogspot.com/2011/06/sen-shelby-shows-his-ignorance-and-rep.html

    and you have a Senate that refuses to change its rules so that even a little bit of democracy can exist, as lampooned here

    http://dismalpoliticaleconomist.blogspot.com/2011/06/senator-shelby-to-block-obamas-2nd-term.html

    then the Peter Diamond issue is what you get. The genuinely sad part is that Obama still wants to pursue “bi-partisanship”. Why doen’t he get it?


  12. DarkLayers says:

    Understandably, people have focused on Paul Ryan’s Medicare provisions in the House GOP plan, but some claim that it works better in surveys with the context of a broader package about the economy. I can see how that would work, but, it seeems like the Ryan budget should inspire attacks from the economic growth side, not just values. And it seems like the kind of thing that ought to warrant that kind of criticism as well. Center-left elected officials, activists, and so forth should question whether it really lives up to its title. It seems like many of the key ideas in Ryan’s budget are ideal for inspiring doubts among Levison’s “ambivalents.”


  13. JoeBoxer says:

    I agree. The economic and traditional policy setting debate has been infested with opportunistic doomsdayers who tend to attract more media attention due to the nature of their polarizing & flawed opinions. Politicians, media personalities, & (some) bloggers alike have become the modern day snake oil salesmen who offer quick, cheap, & unproven subscriptions to our economic ill’s. Recessionary & difficult times tend to lead to an environment where demagogues & individuals who prey on peoples emotions, can eventually dictate policy goals. This sociological phenomenon requires the effort by the ‘fact based crowd’ (particularly those supporting additional well targeted spending to offset the demand glut & the effects of deleveraging) to ‘frame’ the issues to the public in such a way that it is understandable & rational for them to support the correct subscriptions. Readily available facts, supporting evidence & historical lessons are sometimes not enough to convince the collectively flawed groupthink of the GOP/Teaparty ideology (which in itself supports the flawed supply side economic ideas of the past).


  14. Fr33d0m says:

    “I’m skeptical of framing debates because they seem to suggest that if you frame things the right way, you’ll win, when of course, life is more complicated. Power often trumps frames, for one.”

    And this is why Dem messaging is such a train wreck. Because we can’t seem to understand that how we explain something can help us get where we are going. We just expect everyone to understand. That or we expect “power” to win the day.

    Here’s a thought. Ever since television and politics crossed course we’ve seen telegenic politicians. Not because having a telegenic politician means you win the day, but because it sure helps a lot.

    You can talk all day about power, but if you cannot communicate your ideas, you will not have power. One would think that would be clear by now. This administration let the public option die after it was framed as a plan to kill grandma and became too toxic to defend. The result of that was less support and loyalty from some on the left. Since when did less support and loyalty from the left relate to more Dem power? Certainly not in 2008. So pack your useless fantasy about power away for a day when you can actually wield the power to convince.


  15. John says:

    I like you, Bernstein. I always have. You just frustrate the heck out of me. So does your recent boss, who I also like a lot and always have, and his boss, who I voted for. Heck, your recent boss said out loud he didn’t like the ideal of universal health care, let alone single payer, during the ’08 primaries. But I still greatly admire him. I just wouldn’t have voted for him.

    I’ve been a socialist for well more than 30 years. I’ve always voted for Democrats. Last year my state added a Socialist primary. Out of principle, I’m not voting for another Democrat, ever again. Just socialists. If Bernie Sanders can be drafted for 2012, look out Obama.

    I have never disagreed with the analysis that there’s a general lack of demand, and excess industrial capacity. But those are problems, not solutions. And they are not root problems, just symptoms. I would think that would be stating the obvious. The financial crisis, the housing/mortgage crisis – also symptoms, not root causes.

    Heck, even stagnant wages and employment are not root causes, but just symptoms.

    What does it tell you that among the things for which there is a lack of demand is labor itself? That has been manifested for 30 years now in stagnant wages, and now in unemployment. And while there’s this lack of demand even for labor, business profits are generally at an all time high? Anything come to mind?

    So what do you folks do? You throw money at those making record profits. As if something is gonna change and they’re gonna fix something with that extra money. I stress _extra_. They didn’t need it. Flushing down a toilet would do more good, as it then wouldn’t add to their political influence – as it has done.

    That framing to which you linked postulates Democratic vs. “red state” narratives. Indeed, conservatives have attacked the Democratic narrative. But Democrats haven’t attacked the “red state” narrative – folks like you and your recent bosses appear from all indications to agree wholeheartedly with that “red state” narrative. And all that creates is cognitive dissonance. That’s why voters don’t buy what you’re selling. When conservatives call you socialists, the average person agrees with them, because really, you are socialists, so by denying it you sound like conspiratorial liars. As a socialist I know better, but I wish you really were socialists.

    It should be stating the obvious that the only real alternative to the “red state” narrative would be a socialist narrative. You refuse to go there. You folks wont’ even put it “on the table.”

    If businesses are not always ready to create new and “real” jobs, it really doesn’t matter why. What you should be doing is attacking that very premise. It’s really not hard to do. But that attack is a socialist’s attack. You folks are still capitalists at heart – and mind.

    As for solutions – once you can argue that private business is not the solution, you have to consider public ownership. And you already did consider – in the bailouts. And yes, that’s socialism. But in denying socialism, you didn’t do it very well. You didn’t make it permanent, and you didn’t nationalize any of those record profits. That’s what a socialist would do, in a heartbeat.

    A dictionary definition of socialism: “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production, in the community as a whole.”

    Nothing there about “markets” vs. “central planning.” Nothing there about atheist authoritarianism. Nope, no more than one would see mention of white supremacy in a definition of Christianity (white supremacists are almost universally self-described fundamentalist Christians).

    Wal-Mart does central planning globally. It’s now called supply chain management. Biggest company in the world in revenue terms. But not socialism.

    The USPS is a market operation. A corporation like any other, except that it’s publicly owned. That’s socialism.

    You and your bosses would not even allow single payer health care to get a vote. That would be stimulus that would help. That should be stating the obvious. Why no vote on it? Because it’s socialism, and you might get called socialists? You’ve been called socialists anyway – better if you actually were.

    How about nationalizing some of the corporations that are stuffing both tax cut money and stimulus money in the pockets, so that those record profits become public revenue – it could replace the income tax, for goodness sakes.

    You know, computers and robots don’t need incentives to work. And they certainly don’t need health insurance as they age. Actually, they don’t age much – they get replaced, eventually, by newer faster smarter models that cost less than they did. And that’s where demand for labor is going, and has been going for 30 years now, progressively so. To machines, away from real people. And you folks call that lack of demand “cyclic.” That’s such a poor use of the English language that it took me the last several years just to figure out why you called it “cyclic” at all.

    What you need to do is figure out how to help real people survive if there’s no demand for their labor and that demand is not ever coming back, no matter how much stimulus you throw at the problem. That’s why there’s no demand for money either, and interests have hit the zero lower bound. Corporations don’t need or want loans if they’re swimming in liquidity.

    That’s the reality of _now_. The conventional wisdom of capitalism won’t even get you to root causes, let alone solutions.

    So I’m not voting for you folks anymore. Too much cognitive dissonance for me.

    The root cause of the problem, Bernstein, is your beloved capitalism. The solution is the socialism you folks run from. Give me a reason to believe you get it, and I’ll reconsider.

    And I’m sure I’m not alone. Maybe I was when I was commenting to your posts on TPM Cafe’. Not anymore.


    • John says:

      And by the way, don’t tell me about a lack of power.

      ’08 to ’10, you had everything but a cloture-proof majority in the Senate. If you can’t get your own folks in line, you just didn’t try very hard.

      We’d have Medicare for All if you could have just pushed Lieberman in your direction, since it was him who opposed it.

      He was a Democrat. If you couldn’t get his vote, it’s because you didn’t really want it.

      A real socialist thinks an individual mandate to buy private insurance is authoritarian. I was saying as much in ’08. It was a Republican idea – and it’s clear now that even they wouldn’t have made it law – they agree with me, and are now arguing that it’s unconstitutional. So why am I better off having voted for you guys?

      Here’s a free one for you, from a socialist: Medicare is a protected privilege now, as established by law, but it violates equal protection by only being available for seniors. So it wouldn’t require legislation to get to single payer – just a court case. Like DADT, which was no more clear a case on equal protection grounds. 80% – 80%!!! of Americans would favor such a approach.

      I don’t want to hear about “could,” Bernstein. Not then, not now, and not in the 2012 campaign season. I’m voting socialist, thank you very much for less than nothing.


      • Victoria says:

        Wasn’t Lieberman an Independent, having lost the Dem primary to Ned Lamont? He still held a Democratic committee chairmanship though. Homeland Security? Surely Harry Reid could have used that to pressure him. I can only conclude that he was the beard the Dems needed. I wish Bernie Sanders would primary Obama.


      • Jim says:

        John,

        Well said & couldn’t agree more. The Obama administration has been a disaster to the left and I can’t see any possibility I’d vote for him again. I commented elsewhere in this post that a great deal of blame must also be directed at the center-left economists including of course Mr. Bernstein. They wear the cloak of Keynes yet endlessly propagate the right wing fear of deficits. Yet we (society) control the currency and can create it at will. The idea that austerity can ever be justified is abhorrent and against every principle of the left.

        Obama and the center left economists are the faux left and they do great harm to society.

        Jim


    • John says:

      Another “oh by the way.” Let me state the obvious.

      Ryan’s Randian budget isn’t being attacked for its attack on Keynesian. It’s being attacked for its attack on socialism.

      If you defend Medicare as what it is – socialism – you might be surprised. People might not decide they don’t like it because it’s socialism, they might decide they actually like the socialism that it is, and tell you they want more of the same.

      That’s what I see has been happening since even before ’08, when I was arguing to folks like you that you needed to stop running from the “socialist” label. You weren’t having it.

      And you not only could do worse – you are doing worse.


    • Sandwichman says:

      There’s one of the excluded narratives heard from. The fatal flaw in Levison’s analysis is that it discounts a fully-developed, articulate analysis, like John’s, while elevating mythical “ambivalent voters” to strategically decisive status.


  16. Alexander Doty says:

    It seems to me that the precription could be to shrink the size of government during prosperous times in order to create space for expansion of the size of government during times of economic recession. Of course, this would require rewiring our attitudes toward the expected normal role of government. Is this possible?


  17. Carol says:

    “…if you frame things the right way, you’ll win, when of course, life is more complicated.”

    Life is more complicated, but voters and politics are not. All you have to do is look at the simplistic misinformation and outright lies that the republicans have convinced people are gospel.

    One complaint against the Democrats has been their lack of framing, but they have a bigger problem now. They don’t have an ideology to frame.


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