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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Like Matt Yglesias I agree with E. J. Dionne

He asks if Democrats should just say no. He concludes "To everything there is a season. There is a time for the Politics of No. When the time for Yes comes around, it ought to be about affirming bigger ideas and larger purposes."

I think, however, that he makes a very simple answer appear to follow from an needlessly complicated question. The straw man paradox is that some people argue, correctly, that Democrats would be fools to attempt to compromise with Republicans and some people argue, correctly, that the Democrats should offer "a compelling alternative vision.". Obviously there is no contradiction here. Offering a compelling alternative vision is nothing at all like compromising.

I think that three points are obvious. Democratic senators should not try to craft compromises with Republican senators, because the house Republican caucus has an unamerican level of discipline, final bills will be written by conference committees and the Republican leadership has decided to abuse to the fullest its authority to nominate members to conference committees. Compromise is not unwise, it is impossible. Since Democrats are totally out of power, there is no way their initiatives can be enacted. For Democrats it is impossible to reform or legislate. This is, by the way, the normal situation for most political parties in the world. US Democrats are so used to being in the majority that they have trouble understanding that they are currently in opposition.

So no compromise, legislation or reform. What's left ? Clearly the Democrats can make proposals which are voted down (or if passed by near miracle vetoed). Such proposals are, of course, really submitted for consideration by voters. If they are popular enough Democrats will win enough seats to enact them. Such proposals are not attempts at compromise nor are they introduced with the hope that they will be enacted before 2006. This is all obvious.

I have been tirelessly and tiresomely advocating one such proposal. It is to propose that the FICA ceiling be eliminated thus making the social security trust fund solvent without cutting benefits or raising taxes on the non wealthy. This is a no brainer.

Another no brainer is to make the income tax more progressive by cutting taxes for all but the richest 1% and eliminating the Republicans cuts for the very rich. Again this is good policy which is likely to be very very popular. The Democrats would be able to tell voters that, if the Democrats had been in power and if the voter's family income is less than say $ 200,000, then the voter's family would have been $ x richer. I am sure this is good policy and I am also sure that it is very very popular. Why don't they propose such a reform as an amendment to every bill that comes past ? Are they afraid of some (rich) pundits accusing them of class war ?

Vision my posterior. The Democrats don't need vision. The Republicans are offering them such a wide target that they just have to take some pot shots with their eyes closed.

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