Sunday, December 5, 2010


Michael Learner wrote an earnest article in Sunday's Washington Post in which he said the Obama presidency can only be saved by running a candidate against him in the Democratic primary in 2012 that is unabashedly "Progressive." Read it here. By the device of running a "true" Progressive, Mr. Learner hopes to discipline the errant Obama, who has been scrambling in heavy winds because of the the drubbing taken by Democrats in the November election.

Mr. Learner is himself a proud Progressive, a publisher of his own magazine, Tikkun, and a mucky-muck in the Network of Spiritual Progressives. I'm not familiar with either organization.

Here is Mr. Learner's Progressive shopping-list for his True Progressive candidate in the Democratic primary in 2012:
  • immediate pull-out in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan,
  • Global Marshall Plan that roots homeland security in a strategy of generosity and concern for the well-being of everyone on the planet.
  • a massive jobs program;
  • a freeze on mortgage foreclosures;
  • a national bank offering interest-free loans to those seeking to create or expand small businesses;
  • immediate implementation of the parts of the Obama health-care plan that would benefit ordinary citizens;
  • dramatically lower prices for drugs that treat critical diseases such as AIDS and cancer;
  • big carbon emissions tax;
  • immediate prosecution of those government employees involved in torture or cover-ups to justify the invasion of Iraq;
  • media to provide free and equal time to all major candidates for national office;
  • constitutional amendments requiring only public financing in elections;
  • corporations to prove every five years to a jury of ordinary citizens that they have a satisfactory history of environmental responsibility (much like the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment, or ESRA, advocated by the Network of Spiritual Progressives).
  • new New Deal, which in the 21st century could be the Caring Society: "Caring for Each Other and the Earth."
Conspicuously absent is any mention of how any of this gets paid for. Presumably not by Mr. Learner. The government is already running a deficit of 1 trillion or so a year. Just the "Marshall Plan for the Whole Earth" alone will probably cost many times the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict, so I think the answer to how we would pay for all this would look something like the chart which follows:
  • raise taxes by 5 trillion dollars (take money)
  • issue a bunch of debt worth 5 trillion dollars (print money)
Of course, this will literally and rapidly throttle the economy. Now, ruining the economy may be a Progressive goal. If it is, Mr. Learner's a genius. If not, the policies he outlines, taken together, are puerile. Anytime you start throwing policies around without getting real about how it gets paid for, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Which may be why Progressives did poorly at the polls in 2010. People hated to vote for "ruin the country" and "puerile," so instead they voted Republican. We will see how honestly Republicans tackle government spending. Last time they were in the majority they reminded me of Julie Hagerty in "Lost in America," losing the family "nest egg" in a night of compulsive gambling in Las Vegas.

Based on Mr. Learner's article, Progressives are convinced that huge government spending and high taxation are moral imperatives. Complain as they might, Obama is one of their own. I do not see the possibility of much change in Administration policy or practice between now and 2012. Deficits will continue to grow and Progressives will continue to insist that the only way to balance the budget is to raise taxes dramatically, because spending cuts in government are taboo. Can't make Progress if you don't spend gobs of taxpayer money.

Which is going to make an interesting election day in 2012.

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