Since the financial crisis I have read Brad Delong, an economist and former Deputy Assistant Secretary official under Bill Clinton. He has always said he was a proud “Robert Rubin neo-liberal”.
Last week he wrote this
On the center and to the left, those like me in what used to proudly call itself the Rubin Wing of the Democratic Party—so-called after former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin, and consisting of those of us hoping to use market means to social democratic ends in bipartisan coalition with Republicans seeking technocratic win-wins—have passed the baton to our left. Over the past 25 years, we failed to attract Republican coalition partners, we failed to energize our own base, and we failed to produce enough large-scale obvious policy wins to cement the center into a durable governing coalition.
Neo-liberalism has become something of an epitaph for many on the left. It was, in fact, based on a serious set of ideas, ideas that certainly guided the Clinton Administration.
Still what Delong wrote is significant. In the Vox interview he notes:
It means argue with them, to the extent that their policies are going to be wrong and destructive, but also accept that there is no political path to a coalition built from the Rubin-center out. Instead, we accommodate ourselves to those on our left. To the extent that they will not respond to our concerns, what they’re proposing is a helluva better than the poke-in-the-eye with a sharp stick.
Until something non-rubble-ish is built in the Republican center, what might be good incremental policies just cannot be successfully implemented in an America as we know it today. We need Medicare-for-all, funded by a carbon tax, with a whole bunch of UBI rebates for the poor and public investment in green technologies.
So Delong says there really isn’t a moderate position that can win. What is interesting in this is that a central argument from the moderate wing of the Democratic Party is that a more left-wing Democratic Party cannot win. Their ideological argument has been crafted in tactical political terms.
But a former senior member of Clinton’s economic team is saying the exact opposite.
I could be confident in 2005 that [recession] stabilization should be the responsibility of the Federal Reserve. That you look at something like laser-eye surgery or rapid technological progress in hearing aids, you can kind of think that keeping a market in the most innovative parts of health care would be a good thing. So something like an insurance-plus-exchange system would be a good thing to have in America as a whole.
It’s much harder to believe in those things now. That’s one part of it. The world appears to be more like what lefties thought it was than what I thought it was for the last 10 or 15 years.
I would have said the same thing. I was once a neo-liberal in some ways. I believed in making the market work for social democratic means.
But looking back over the last 15 years, I would agree with him, the left has been more right than I have been.