No, Nancy. No, Steny. Just…no.
Pelosi, who adopted “pay-go” rules when she held the Speaker’s gavel more than a decade ago, says she’ll push to do it again if the Democrats win the House in November’s midterm elections. “Democrats are committed to pay-as-you-go,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said Tuesday, affirming the policy would be a 2019 priority. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, is also endorsing the notion that a Democratic majority should adopt the budget-neutral rules next year. “The pay-go rule is a good rule and we ought to reinstitute it,” Hoyer told The Hill last week.
In fact, it’s a stupid rule. It is entirely counter-productive to progressive policy goals. It puts the Democratic Party in conflict with the blog’s First Law Of Economics-Fck The Deficit. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money-and it revives Zombie Simpson-Bowles to stalk the halls of Congress again.
In case nobody in the Democratic leadership has noticed, the rising energy in the party is not coming out of the budget-hawk cryptkeepers. This takes seriously the laughable fiction that the Republicans care about deficits and will use them as an effective club on the Democrats. Right now, the country is giving serious consideration to things like Medicare-for-all and some sort of free college. This isn’t the time to go all Al From again. It also guarantees a serious intraparty skirmish that’s already underway.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who heads the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), said the Democrats would be foolish to adopt the fiscal restraints, especially in light of the Republicans’ newly adopted tax-reform law, which is estimated to add almost $2 trillion to the debt over the next decade.
“The pay-go thing is an absurd idea now given the times and given what’s already been done to curry favor with corporate America,” Grijalva said. Grijalva noted that the revenue losses created by the tax law are already squeezing federal programs favored by Democrats. Adopting pay-go rules on top of that, he argued, would only pinch them further. “It would be, I think, irresponsible to try to tie up Congress’s ability to respond to economic downturns or, in the current discussion, to slash programs,” he said. “We’re going down a path that I think helped cause the Great Recession.”
I back up to nobody in my respect for Pelosi as a legislative leader. (Hoyer? That’s another bowl of noodles.) But committing to this little piece of 1990’s DLC thinking is a serious error from both a policy and political standpoint. (And before we hear more howling about replacing Pelosi, let’s remember that the primary people pushing for that are not progressives but white-people-whisperers like Tim Ryan from Ohio and hold off on that for a while.) This is a serious misstep and, worse, an unnecessary one. It’s June and the Democratic leadership in the House already is committed to profound flinch on fiscal issues five months before one of the most critical midterm elections of our time.
Sometimes, I really wonder about these people.
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