Clive Crook vs. The Populist Democratic Politicians
Daniel Drezner directs us to Clive Crook:
danieldrezner.com :: Daniel W. Drezner :: Clive Crook vs. economic populism: Clive Crook's Financial Times column today ($$) plows a familar road -- the Democratic turn towards economic populism:
Whoever wins their party’s presidential nomination, the Democrats are preparing to fight the next election on a platform of left-leaning populism. The contrast with Bill Clinton is evident. He was a centrist, pro-trade, pro-enterprise president – an avowed “New Democrat”. The next Democratic occupant of the White House, if the candidates’ campaigns are to be believed, will be old-school.
Mr Clinton campaigned against the odds to secure passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Today the party is against such deals. Mr Clinton worked hard to get China into the World Trade Organisation. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are Senate co-sponsors of a new China-bashing law. And the move to the populist left is not confined to trade. All the Democratic contenders are turning up the volume on stagnating middle-class wages, soaring profits, swindling bosses, dwindling union membership (Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama back the abolition of secret ballots on union representation), tax loopholes for the super-rich, oil company gouging, insurance company gouging, drug company gouging and every other kind of gouging....
Mr Clinton’s conviction that globalisation was good for America owed a lot to the experts – including economists of the highest professional standing – who surrounded him. Recently, eminent economists such as Alan Blinder, Paul Krugman, Larry Summers (who served as Mr Clinton’s Treasury secretary) and Brad DeLong have all expressed new doubts about the benefits of globalisation for the US. It is all more complicated than we thought, they say. It was hard enough for Mr Clinton to fight for freer trade when every highly regarded economist in the country said it was good for the US. Now that their message has changed to “We might have been wrong about this. We’ll get back to you”, the prospects for liberal trade have dimmed....
Economic populism traditionally marries scepticism on trade with fear of big business: “It’s all about profit.” A striking feature of many Democratic proposals is the belief that cheaper petrol, cheaper drugs, universal health insurance, higher wages, more generous employment benefits, almost any good thing you can think of, can be achieved by demanding them, in one way or another, from companies, or else by raising taxes on the super-rich....
There is no question that the Democratic contenders are talking about the issues that concern most Americans. There is an excellent centrist case to be made for tax reform, to lift the burden of income and payroll taxes from the low-paid and to increase the burden on the better-off. Universal healthcare is long overdue, a shameful state of affairs in so rich a country. Americans pay more than they should for their medicines. More generous and more imaginative assistance for Americans who lose their jobs because of trade – or because of changing tastes and technology – is needed.
The present administration has little to offer on any of these questions. But the costs of reform cannot be confined to foreigners and plutocrats.
It's a somewhat odd column. The Democratic economists--Summers, Blinder, Krugman, and that other guy who doesn't belong in such company--are right to say that things are complicated: globalization has not delivered the growth-accelerating flow of capital to the developing world that it was supposed to, and the Clinton focus on restoring fiscal stability to America was then immediately undone by Bush who used the running room we had created to redistribute income upward. Knowing what we know now about the morals, competence, and values of the bush administration and the Republican congressional leadership, I do not know a single Democratic economist who does not wish that we had raised taxes on the rich more, reduced the deficit less, and spent more on infrastructure and social programs than the Clinton administration actually did. And while we are franticallhy and desperately trying to mark our beliefs to market with respect to international monetary and financial affairs so that we can give good policy advice, we have not yet succeeded in doing so. This is how things are: Would Clive Crook rather we sent our time telling lies?
It's a somewhat odd column. As best as I can tell, Clive Crook approves 100% of the Democrats' substantive policy agenda: "There is an excellent centrist case to be made for tax reform, to lift the burden of income and payroll taxes from the low-paid and to increase the burden on the better-off. Universal healthcare is long overdue, a shameful state of affairs in so rich a country. Americans pay more than they should for their medicines. More generous and more imaginative assistance for Americans who lose their jobs because of trade – or because of changing tastes and technology – is needed." If this be "populism," let us make the most of it.
What Clive Crook wants, I believe, is Whig measures sponsored by Tory men (and women). But that would reauire a very different Republican Party than America has today. Perhaps Clive Crook should devote himself 24/7 to trying to build such a party--certainly nobody else is. But until those reality-based Tory men (and women) supporting Whig meassures whom Crook wishes we could vote for emerge, we have the poiticians we have. The constructive strategy is then not to lament that they have populist goals, but to demand that they pursue their populist goals by adopting policies that might actually work rather than policies that sound good in focus groups. And the constructive strategy is also to demand that America's business elite that they support policies that make them partners with rather than adversaries of the rest of America.