Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Bang the Drum repeatedly

Kevin Drum notes that Obama did stuff for the middle class. Later in the same post, he asks what Democrats could possibly do to convince the middle class that Democrats are on their side. He notes that he keeps asking this question. In comments I note that I keep answering it and he keeps ignoring me me meeee.

Drum (my bold)

In broad terms, I agree with Schumer's critique. Democrats need to do more to appeal [to] the working and middle classes, not just the poor. But Schumer is maddeningly vague about just what that means. And as it relates to 2009, in particular, he's full of hot air. In the first few months of the year, Obama passed a big stimulus. He rescued the auto industry. He cut everyone's payroll taxes
. Then he changes the issue from winning politics to effective policymaking and asks

"what big ticket items are left that would buy the loyalty of the middle class for another generation?"

(how about permanenly reducing the payroll tax (say cut it in half) and replacing the lost revenue with higher taxes on corporate income, capital income and capital gains ? That big ticket enough)

I'm all in favor of using the power of government to help the middle classes. But what does that mean in terms of concrete political programs that (a) the middle class will associate with Democrats and help win them loyalty and votes, and (b) have even a snowball's chance of getting passed by Congress?
Hey wait how did "getting passed by Congress" get added ? Earlier the issue was "appeal the working and middle class" now it has become actually helping them, rather than just getting their votes. Drum is too public spirited and high minded to be willing to talk about political strategy without slipping into a discussion of practical effective policy making. That means that he is not interested in proposals which aren't enacted.

Of course you have to actually deliver in order to win the votes of socially conservative working class voters who don't give a damn that Republicans claim to be pro-life since they haven't managed to reverse Roe V Wade. Oh and who also don't care at all about prayer in school or teaching the kids to respect tradition and their elders. Oh and Republicans gained nothing from trying to block the ACA, because they failed. I think that purely political calculation doesn't have a snow ball's chance in hell for occupying Kevin Drum's brain for an entire blog post.

The world would be a better place if we were all like Drum in this way. But it would be a worse place if all Democrats were like that yet in that imaginary world as in this real one most Republican politicians are mainly interested in political strategy.

my comment at his blog.

You keep asking the same question and I keep giving the same answer. To appeal to the working and middle classes, Democrats should propose raising taxes on the rich and cutting taxes on the working and middle classes. You note that they have done this "He cut everyone's payroll taxes."

Now I'm not claiming that a proposal to increase tax progressivity has a chance in hell of being passed by this congress, or even by this senate with a thermonuclear option eliminating the filibuster -- it would be blocked by conservadems even if there were no house and no filibuster.

But the original question was about using policy proposals as a political strategy. In general, people judge parties by results and a proposal which isn't enacted doesn't have much effect. However, tax progressivity is a very simple issue where Republicans and the vast majority of US adults have strong diametrically opposite views.

I think that proposing tax increases for the rich and tax cuts for the middle class works even before the policies are enacted. The reason I think this is that two democrats have done this. They are Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. They are also the only non-incumbent Democrats elected at a time when the income tax was constitutional and the top marginal tax rate was less than 69%. They are also the only non incumbent Democratic presidential candidates who promised such direct and clear class war. Obama even delivered on his promise.

This is a long long sad story in the comment section of this blog. I recall (with pleasure) how you and Felix Salmon say people in the USA oppose higher taxes on the rich. Then I pointed you to the Gallup polls starting in 1992 all of which show solid to huge majorities think the rich pay less than their fair share of taxes. Being a classy guy, you noted this and even quoted me and said you had been wrong. Being a classless guy, I keep reminding you and also keep reminding you that there might be a whole lot of political support for soak the rich class warfare.

The Democrats have tried it before, and it has ever failed them yet.

Oh it would also be good policy if enacted, but that's not so relevant, since that won't happen.


Anonymous said...

Kind of odd that Chuck Schumer, who is The Senator from Wall Street and has done what he can to keep the Dems from going all Elizabeth Warren on the malefactors of the financial crisis, is saying the Dems need to find a broader populist message.

The obvious "bang the drum" message is to throw the bums in jail.

I don't think that is what Chuck has in mind.

John Quick said...

My suggested tax rates and brackets here:

Robert said...


Ah Schumer what a jerk. he protects the financiers (even resisting a proposal for more regulation of credit rating agencies made by George W Bush's SEC chairman !!!). Then he says the ACA wasn't populist enough. Then he works with the Republicans on a bipartisan bill to make corporate tax cuts permanent without making expaned EITC and Child tax credits permanent.

I conclue that he is a schmuk -- a miserable excuse for a human being and scum (but much better than a majority of Senators).

Also, It doesn't matter, but I use Bang the Drum to mean "criticize Kevin Drum". It doesn't logically imply "criticize Drum for his refusal to recognise that most people in the lower 99% are eager to fight back in the on going class war," but that's the only criticism of Drum I feel regularly inclined to make.

This is Drum's fault. On June 9 2010, in his high traffic blog, he wrote a post on how I had taught him that in Gallup poll after Gallup poll solid to huge majorities said hing income people paid less than their fair share of taxes (also corporations in answer to another question).

Many many other pollsters have asked similar questions since then, and many commentators have learned that most US adults support higher taxes on the rich (I have known this since 1994 when Brad DeLong told me about Clinton campaign internal polling including the fact that a plurality then supported higher taxes on the rich to fund more "waste fraud and abuse"-- also since I saw a debate with a dial agree or disagree focuse group in which a solid majority of declared Bush sr supporters dialed agree when Clinton said something like "only the rich have gotten tax cuts").