If you talk to leading progressives these days, you'll be sure to hear this message: The Democratic Party should embrace the economic populism of New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Such economic populism, they argue, should be the guiding star for Democrats heading into 2016. Nothing would be more disastrous for Democrats [...]Translation: Wall Street is scared shitless of De Blasio and Warren. But we knew that already. Head below the fold to see just how scared they are, and what they really want. Hint: it's something to do with Social Security and Medicare and their taxes, and none of it is good.
The political problems of liberal populism are bad enough. Worse are the actual policies proposed by left-wing populists. The movement relies on a potent "we can have it all" fantasy that goes something like this: If we force the wealthy to pay higher taxes (there are 300,000 tax filers who earn more than $1 million), close a few corporate tax loopholes, and break up some big banks then—presto!—we can pay for, and even expand, existing entitlements. Meanwhile, we can invest more deeply in K-12 education, infrastructure, health research, clean energy and more.It's nice of these Third Way jokers to clarify, way at the top, that this is all really about protecting the banks and the assholes who run them.
Social Security is exhibit A of this populist political and economic fantasy.Surprise! They want to cut it. Nothing infuriates bankers more than a retirement program that they can't profit from. Although to their credit, they do point out that the program is fine until 2031, so ... PANIC NOW! To their discredit, they don't recommend simply raising the cap on payroll taxes.
Even more reckless is the populists' staunch refusal to address the coming Medicare crisis.Cut that, too!
On the same day that Bill de Blasio won in New York City, a referendum to raise taxes on high-income Coloradans to fund public education and universal pre-K failed in a landslide. This is the type of state that Democrats captured in 2008 to realign the national electoral map, and they did so through offering a vision of pragmatic progressive government, not fantasy-based blue-state populism. Before Democrats follow Sen. Warren and Mayor-elect de Blasio over the populist cliff, they should consider Colorado as the true 2013 Election Day harbinger of American liberalism.Cute. That Colorado referendum didn't just raise taxes on high-income Coloradans, it raised them on all Coloradans. Would that referendum have played any differently if it raised taxes on the wealthy but cut them for everyone else? Who knows. But that would've made it "populist" and relevant to this discussion. All we found out was that Colorado residents didn't want to pay more in taxes.
2012 was a triumph of populism. Sure, there was Warren in Indigo Blue Massachusetts (in a race that no other serious Democrat wanted to make because Scott Brown was seen as unbeatable). But there was also Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin. Chris Murphy kicked Third Way hero Joe Lieberman to the curb in Connecticut. Martin Heinrich in New Mexico, Jon Tester in Montana, and even Heidi Heitkamp in North freakin' Dakota won with the populist playbook. That's a Purple state, a Blue state, and two Red states, for those keeping score. Bob Kerrey, on the other hand, got crushed in Nebraska by running on cutting Social Security and austerity.
And let's not forget, Newt Gingrich employed Occupy "1 percent" rhetoric to win South Carolina's GOP primary in 2012, extending his party's nomination contest. Had he stuck with it, he might've even gone further. But his party's establishment shut that whole thing down. And of course, there was the marquee presidential race, where Mitt Romney went down despite every historical advantage (i.e. shitty economy) because of his close association with Wall Street.
Third Way still thinks it's 1994, that the electorate is dominated by "Reagan Democrats", and that people don't f'n hate Wall Street, its banks, and everyone associated with it. But it's an understandable blind spot. Look at their board. It is almost entirely dominated by Wall Street interests. Laughably so, in fact.
So consider Third Way a trade group, one lobbying to keep their taxes lower and the pitchforks at bay. That might make them greedy selfish assholes, but it sure doesn't make them Democrats.