Oh, there is nothing better for American conservatism than periodic examples of untrammeled liberalism. Lyndon Johnson, after 1964, had huge majorities in Congress, had his way. Republicans won five of the next six and seven of the next nine presidential elections. Let [new mayor Bill De Blasio] have his way in New York City and let people see what happens.A differing view of the same history.
A small reminder that the last President with genuinely progressive domestic policies was Lyndon Johnson. Too bad his Administration crashed and burned in Vietnam, but at least he wanted to expand the New Deal, not cut it. And, yeah, we’re talking 50 years ago. Since then, we’ve had varying degrees of timid, let’s not scare the chickens moderation to full bore, rape the earth uber-Reaganism. Johnson’s War on Poverty was gutted decades ago. The biggest financial disasters of our lifetimes came about because New Deal regulations were cut so that markets could be freer. Every time we let the Right get its way, things get worse.The ways in which life has gotten better, or gotten worse, over the past fifty years, will likely keep the few remaining social scientists who understand how to get their hands dirty with data busy for the next fifty years. The public policy debate, however, remains mired in warmed over Henry George.
But anything that might actually rein in capital and especially the financial sector, empower labor, significantly redistribute wealth or expand the welfare state — well, we can’t have that now, can we? Virtually unregulated markets with a little welfare capitalism penciled in — some midnight basketball, perhaps? That’s Rubinomics in a nutshell. Unless the Democratic Party can find a way to free itself from the iron grip of the Wall Street types, we’ll be left an economy in which high rates of unemployment and soaring levels of inequality continue to ruin the lives of millions of Americans. Progressives need to dream bigger and bolder. Myerson provides an example of how to do this. Progressives may argue about the particulars of his plan, but I strongly suggest emulating his basic approach.That passage, mind you, is the work of the kind of person who argues with Democrats yet votes for Democrats. But rediscovering Henry George, or Robert Bellamy, is what passes for new thinking these days.