In the pages of today’s Wall Street Journal, the leaders of the centrist think tank Third Way argue that the economic populism of Elizabeth Warren would be politically “disastrous” for Democrats. To embrace her policies, Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler argue, would send Democrats over a “populist cliff.” As an alternative, they suggest cuts to Social Security and Medicare to finance investments in infrastructure and public schools.
The authors rely on a seemingly random assortment of anecdotes (the mayor of New York City hasn’t won an election for Governor or Senator in 144 years!) to dismiss an array of policies championed by Warren — tax increases for the wealthy, closing corporate loopholes, breaking up large financial institutions. To bolster their alternative, they cite the election of 2008, even though Obama and other Democrats nearly unanimously rejected entitlement cuts that year.
One thing that’s missing: actual data. As it turns out, the policies Third Way trashes as “disastrous” are overwhelmingly popular with a broad spectrum of Americans. Meanwhile the alternatives proposed by Third Way are rejected by voters by even greater margins.
Third Way particularly derides Warren’s plan to expand Social Security, calling it an “economic fantasy” that only works in “midnight-blue Massachusetts.” The authors fail to mention the plan is also supported by Sen. Mark Begich, who represented bright red Alaska, and Sen. Tom Harkin, who represents purple Iowa.
The dearth of data hasn’t turned off all readers, however. Politico’s Mike Allen heralded Third Way’s op-ed as a “game change[r].”