A while ago, in discussing deficit ‘hawk’ conservative Democrat Kent Conrad, I wrote this about so-called moderation:
Stupidly, Democrats have never pushed back against the idea that a hard-line deficit reduction hawk is a ‘moderate’, which I think might be what leads an astute political observer like Steve Benen to describe Senator (D-ND) Kent Conrad as a “moderate.” To me, a moderate is someone who attempts to synthesize and find the balance among several objectives that may contradict with each other: while I think limiting the stimulus package was stupid fiscal policy, arguably that’s a ‘moderate’ policy, in that there is an attempt to balance out different concerns…. Granted, some will view moderation as sensible, while others will belong to the Jim Hightower school (“Only dead armadillos and yellow stripes are found in the middle of the road”). But someone who has a single guiding principle above all else–let’s just take a purely hypothetical example of slavish devotion to deficit reduction–isn’t a moderate….
As I’ve noted before, Conrad isn’t so fanatical when it comes to ag subsidies in his home state (without which, North Dakota would be an economic wasteland). Nonetheless, Conrad is not a ‘moderate’–he is a radical deficit hawk who is more than willing to harm progress on a core Democratic issue like healthcare.
Well, Time columnist Joe Klein seems to have finally figured this out:
This year, however, I do feel that there is an argument that, to an extent, the Dogs brought this on themselves by being penny-wise, dogpound-foolish. The argument goes like this: a larger stimulus package might have helped the economy recover at a faster clip, but the Dogs opposed it on fiscal responsibility grounds. A second argument: the public really has had it with Wall Street, but the Dogs helped water down the financial regulatory bill, gutting the too-big-to-fail provisions. There is real merit to both points. If the stimulus had been bigger and the financial reform package clearer and stronger, the public would have had a different–and, I believe, more positive–sense of the President’s agenda…..
The point is, ideological myopia is counter-productive whether it’s found on the left, the right…or the center.
The real problem is that what is often referred to as ‘moderate’ is nothing of the sort. It’s really just a kinder, gentler conservatism that tries not to be seen as such. Fiscal responsibility is the prioritization and the fetishization of the budget deficit over the employment deficit, which is profoundly stupid in a low inflation environment*. In English, Blue Dog Democrats are more worried about the bond markets than they are people’s livelihoods.
Well, the other real problem is that the Mad Biologist, who is just another asshole with a blog, figured this out long before Joe Klein did, who is paid lots of money to supposedly inform his readers. Fantastic business model, that.
*The Treasury recently sold securities that have a de facto negative interest rate. Clearly, inflation should be our top priority. Or something.