The Fruits of The Peterson Solutions Project

The latest crusade up in FireDogLake land is to castigate the Roosevelt Institute, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities for having the temerity to participate in the Peterson Foundation’s effort to get six think tanks to write down scored plans for reducing the long-term debt load of the country. I take it that the selloutery of my colleagues at the Center for American Progress goes without saying to such an extent that we don’t even warrant a mention in Yves Smith’s righteous condemnation. But personally I’ve always liked EPI’s work, and CBPP’s, and Roosevelt’s, so I’ll be happy to welcome them into team sellout and let Jane Hamsher keep tending the lonely flame of true faith.

On another level, I believe we should judge an exercise like this based on its outcome. And it seems to me that progressives have a lot to be proud of here. Four of the six proposals (CAP, EPI, Roosevelt, and Bipartisan Policy Center) argue for defense spending cuts. Four of the six proposals (CAP, EPI, Roosevelt, and AEI) argue for a carbon tax. Three (CAP, EPI, Roosevelt) call for financial transaction taxes, and three (CAP, EPI, Roosevelt) argue for a public option. Four (CAP, EPI, Roosevelt, BPC) call for short-term fiscal stimulus. Five of the six proposals feature good ideas about farm subsidies. Four of the six proposals feature higher income revenues than called for by current law.

Now of course there are also of plenty of bad ideas on the table in this exercise. I disagree with the vast majority of AEI’s ideas, basically all of Heritage’s, and many of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s. But the point is that when you look at the debate as a whole inside the Peterson Fiscal Summit, it’s actually a debate that’s titled way to the left of the official debate that’s playing out in congress. On Capitol Hill right now, bank taxes and carbon taxes and defense cuts and income tax hikes are all marginal ideas. Inside Pete Peterson’s Stealth Plan To Destroy The Welfare State they’re at the heart of the debate. That, to me, sounds like a job well done. It sounds to me like progressives ideas have real merit, and that the main thing we learned from this exercise is that progressive policy prescriptions will have to be a major part of any realistic long-term fiscal solution.