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Backwards, I Think

By Matthew Yglesias

"Backwards, I Think"

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I join many progressive critics in the belief that balanced budget monomania at times goes to far in left-of-center circles. That said, James Galbraith seems backwards here:

But these advances come at a price, which will be exacted in two areas: the world trading system and domestic fiscal policy. Both of these are far more fundamental to the Hamilton mission than any particular social policy reform. Indeed, one purpose of the Hamilton Project, it seems clear, is to propose just enough creative social advances–such as wage insurance, better teacher pay and healthcare reform–so as to divert discussion from the bedrock commitments to free trade and a balanced budget.

Progressives shouldn’t let this happen.

This seems to imply that progressives ought to have a bedrock commitment to an imbalanced budget; that when the Hamilton Project dangles the tempting candy of creative social advances in favor of the higher good of deficits. What I think we should say is that we shouldn’t allow our bedrock commitment to creative social advances be compromised by fanatical pursuit of fiscal discipline. At the same time, we should be willing to accept concessions and declare victory. If the Hamilton Project wants to roll out a good wage insurance proposals, let’s go get a wage insurance program implemented. After all, the budget is already non-balanced; keeping it that way isn’t much of a policy agenda.

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