The GOP is trending in various extremely dangerous directions.
There’s only one way to keep them out of power: pass enough good legislation—in the face of monolithic GOP obstruction—that people will enthusiastically vote Democrat in 2022/2024.
Obama failed to pass enough good legislation during his administration. As a result, the GOP took over Congress. And once the GOP had Congress, nothing could pass. And then we got Trump in 2016.
Will the Dems pass enough good legislation or won’t they? The answer to that question will determine America’s—and the world’s—fate.
Time is running out.
I was honored/thrilled to be able to interview Dean Baker. See below my interview with Baker. I edited the interview for flow, and added hyperlinks.
1) What do you think about Biden’s agenda so far, relative to the interesting agenda that you laid out in the interview that I published on March 9th?
The recovery-plan was very ambitious and should get the economy back to full employment quickly.
This is hugely important, since it means that workers at the middle/bottom of the wage-ladder will have the bargaining-power to get better wages and/or better working conditions.
The more-generous ACA-subsidies are also a huge deal. If these can be made permanent, they will hugely reduce insurance-costs for 10s of millions of moderate- and middle-income families.
The Child Tax Credit is also a big deal. It reduces child-poverty by roughly 50%. It will make a huge difference if he can extend the credit beyond 2022.
He has very good infrastructure/family-support proposals. His infrastructure-package is a very big foot in the door to advance clean energy—and he proposes getting the country to universal broadband, which we should’ve done long a long time ago. He also has important plans for universal pre-K and for free community-college.
It remains to be seen what he’ll do to extend Medicare. He doesn’t seem to be pushing for a Medicare buy-in—perhaps he’ll pick that issue up later. If he looks to lower the Medicare eligibility-age, it’ll be expensive to go as far as 60. My view has always been that it’s better to get something rather than nothing, so even just lowering it to 64 would be a good start. He also has to fix Medicare so that it covers vision/dental and so that it has an out-of-pocket cap.
Extending Medicare becomes more affordable if Biden decides to confront the big actors in the healthcare-sector: drug-companies, medical-equipment suppliers, and doctors.
He sort of went after the drug-companies when he supported the WTO-proposal to waive vaccine-IP. To make Medicare far more affordable, he could decide to go further. He could push down domestic drug-prices and he could—ideally—fund open-source research so that new drugs could be sold as cheap generics.
He’s done nothing yet to address the corruption in the corporate-governance system or to rein in the financial-sector bloat. But it’s still early.
He potentially made a very bad move when he ramped up Cold War–type rhetoric about competing with China. It’s great to improve education/infrastructure to make our economy more productive, but it creates serious grounds for concern when this is justified as a competition with China. We should look to cooperate with China—most importantly in healthcare/climate.
2) To what extent should progressive activists push to alter Biden’s agenda?
We should look to create footholds that can open the door to future change.
Free community-college fits that bill, since it can be a step toward eventual free college.
The same holds true for lowering the Medicare eligibility-age—even by just a year.
It could be a very big deal to get some money to fund open-source drug-development. If people see new drugs selling as cheap generics, it could make them much more supportive of additional funding.
In these and other cases, the issue wouldn’t be expanding the total amount of spending—which is likely limited by centrist Democrats like Manchin/Sinema—but rather directing it to areas that open the door for additional funding later.
The infrastructure-plan’s clean-energy spending also has this character.
3) Is it crucial to pass the For the People Act as soon as possible in order to keep the GOP out of power in 2022 and in 2024?
It’s crucial to pass a bill that limits the Republicans’ ability to suppress votes, to gerrymander congressional districts, and to overturn elections—with the emphasis on the last point.
The For the People Act does nothing to impose serious criminal penalties on politicians who try to overturn an election.
4) What exactly can be done to get Biden’s agenda passed? How can progressive activists help to get Biden’s agenda passed?
Everything will depend to a very large extent on what Manchin is willing to go along with.
Progressives have pretty much zero ability to pressure Manchin. Building nationwide public support for progressive measures might make Manchin more likely to go along, but it’s hard to see what else can be done to move him.
If Manchin proves unpersuadable, then you have to go back to the drawing-board on the executive actions that Biden can do unilaterally. If persuading Manchin is out of the question, then Biden has nothing to lose by being as aggressive as possible.
5) What part of Biden’s agenda doesn’t require filibuster-elimination in order to pass?
He can use reconciliation for anything involving spending/taxes, but this rules out voting-rights, the minimum-wage, and gun-control.
6) Should the filibuster be eliminated? The Dems won’t be able to use the filibuster against the GOP (in the future) if there’s no more filibuster.
The Dems have nothing to lose from filibuster-elimination.
If the GOP gets control of the Senate and the Dems use the filibuster to stop bills that McConnell really wants, McConnell will just eliminate the filibuster himself. If we’ve learned anything over the past 15 years, it’s that McConnell has no principles. He’ll do whatever he thinks will advance his power.
7) What opportunities are there to eliminate the filibuster?
You need 50 votes in the Senate.
8) To what extent have there already been opportunities to eliminate the filibuster?
It’s not clear.
The Dems had more than 50 votes from 2007 to 2014.
But it’s not clear that they had 50 senators who would’ve supported filibuster-elimination. You had lots of Democratic senators—including relatively progressive ones like Tom Harkin—who took the Senate seriously as an institution and would’ve been reluctant to go along with such a major change. And at that point, we hadn’t seen as much Republican filibuster-abuse as we’ve now seen.
9) How would you respond to the idea that Schumer/Biden ought to be hesitant (about filibuster-elimination) because filibuster-elimination would give McConnell the perfect excuse to kill every proposal, to eliminate any possibility of any kind of compromise, and to resort to obscure rules to keep the Senate from meeting? If you threaten McConnell, he might go nuclear, and then there will be zero legislation.
They can change the rules so that McConnell no longer has the ability to go nuclear.
And they can make the Senate-rules on debate similar to the House-rules.