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Friday, May 11, 2007

I think that Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein might want to agree on a definition of populism or use other words before wasting their highly valuable time arguing the extent to which Bill Clinton ran as a populist in 92.

This started with a critique of Mark Penn.

Clearly Yglesias is right that Clinton's support for welfare reform has nothing to do with Penn's claims that Americans don't want redistribution from the very rich or corporation bashing. That is, American's opinion about redistribution depends from whom you take to give to whom (obviously).

Penn must know something I learned from a deputy assistant secretary of the treasury who I will paraphrase anonymously. The Clinton '92 campaign asked people if they wanted an increase in rich people's taxes to support x (x was health care reform, more education spending etc) and kept getting a large majority for yes until the pollster got frustrated and asked Americans if they wanted to raise rich people's taxes to fund more waste fraud and abuse and a plurality answered yes. This is raging loony class war populism.

Also during a debate Clinton vs Bush in 92 there was a continuous time studio poll in which people could push a button for "agree" for "disagree" or for "neutral". The studio audience was made of Clinton supporters, Bush supporters and undecided voters. When Clinton said "under the Republicans only the rich have gotten tax cuts" a majority of all 3 groups pushed the "agree" button. That is, the complaint about rich people getting off easy was well received by declared Bush supporters. Such an event is, of course, very rare.

I doubt that opinion has shifted against soaking the rich since then.

A simple heuristic works. Most Americans support tax and transfer programs which would increase the after tax income of the household with median income if the programs cause 0 deadweight loss.

Mark Penn must know this. He chooses to lie.


Anonymous said...

Fine argument. Since I am hopeful about Hillary Clinton on Iraq, I have not followed your lead on going after Mark Penn who sure deserves going after. Darn.


Anonymous said...

No; Mark Penn is irrelevant. The only adviser to Hillary Clinton worth attending to is Bill Clinton. Penn is of no consequence. If Bill Clinton is against the occupation of Iraq, then Hillary Clinton will be. Tjhat is all that matters. This is a different kind of campaign for the Clintons.


Anonymous said...

When I criticize Hillary on Iraq, I criticize Bill, because they are the team. The rest are superficial. All that matters to me is getting the heck out of Iraq completely and immediately, and I will fight or support Clinton solely on that basis.

I will do all I can to defeat any candidate who does not wish to leave Iraq completely and immediately. And, I will not vote for the lesser of evils on Iraq. Never!