The Radical Centrists

Horrible band name. A while ago, some asshole with a blog noted the following:

Typically, when the machinations and pirouetting of West Virginian Democratic Senator Joe Manchin are discussed, it’s framed as Manchin is a Democrat who is trying to keep his seat in a very conservative state. What this ignores is how much of a New Democrat/neoliberal sensu this ideologue Manchin is.

Consider his state’s governor, Jim Justice (by the way, “Governor Justice” is a superhero name, if there were ever such a thing). He was a Democrat who switched parties. Justice is the political opportunist: he recently called for approving the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. That is, he tacks rightward on social issues (e.g., guns), but he is more than willing to take buckets of money (though West Virginia does need said buckets). That’s the survival play: social conservative in the streets, Keynesian in between the sheets.

Manchin is the ideologue here. He hates deficit spending and likes market-based solutions–and absolutely doesn’t want to grow government any larger. There’s a reason he’s sympatico with the radical centrist think tank Third Way (to his credit, he is a Democratic loyalist, as he left another bipartisan radical centrist group that supported Republican senators against Democrats).

One of the things that currently has Manchin most chuffed is the idea that someone who earned $80,000 in 2019, in the Before Times, might receive some assistance in 2021, so they won’t receive $1,400 survival checks. This means 12 million people–whose earnings might be very different after a year of The Plague–won’t get assistance. Eric Levitz explains the radicalism (boldface mine):

So, what do Democrats gain at the cost of denying checks to 12 million potential 2022 voters? How much money did Joe Manchin “save” the U.S. Treasury?

According to a Democratic who spoke with the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein: $12 billion.

Which is to say, it makes the relief package 0.63 percent cheaper.

Slate’s Jordan Weissmann reports that the move is partially motivated by the byzantine rules of the budget-reconciliation process, which imposes a cap on how much money each committee is allowed to spend. One reason the Democratic leadership decided to cave to moderates on checks was that they wanted to make sure that the Senate Finance Committee’s appropriations remain under its assigned limit once the Congressional Budget Office scores the bill. Twelve billion dollars isn’t much in the context of the entire bill, but could be enough to keep the Finance Committee’s section under its ceiling.

But this still doesn’t constitute a rational basis for creating a 70 percent tax rate on income above $75,000 — while giving 12 million voters a reason to resent your party. The Finance Committee has jurisdiction over the $350 billion pool of fiscal aid to state and local governments. That is more than six times larger than the revenue shortfall these governments are expected to collectively face this fiscal year. There are sound reasons for providing state and local governments with more fiscal space than they require to meet existing obligations; in many parts of the country, municipal governments have been hollowed out in recent decades. But from a political and substantive perspective, shaving $12 billion off a pile of money that many red states are probably going to spend on tax cuts makes more sense than canceling relief checks to a significant minority of the Democratic base.

Moderates must stop putting their fringe obsessions ahead of the Democratic Party’s best interests. Now is not the time to put centrist ideological purity above political pragmatism.

If you have the stomach for it, this article clearly explains the ideological underpinnings of the radical centrists. I’m not convinced Manchin, Sen. Shaheen, or their fashion-forward sidekick Sen. Sinema understand the argument, but they avail themselves of its cover.

They’re not moderates tacking towards the political center, they’re radicals hewing to a failed ideology and behavioral tendency.

This entry was posted in Conservatives, Democrats, Economics, Fucking Morons. Bookmark the permalink.