Lob any insult at a Republican politician—fascist, war hawk, religious zealot, racist ideologue, misogynist bigot—and they’re unlikely to flinch. Yet for mainstream Democrats, the slight they can’t abide is “tax-and-spend liberal.”
Democrats have a long-standing aversion to the charge that they’re willing to run higher deficits to fulfill policy objectives. Yet again, they have codified this trepidation by passing a rule that will both hamstring anything resembling a progressive agenda while also locking in austerity.
The so-called “pay-go” rule pushed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership requires any new tax cuts or spending increases to be offset by budget cuts or tax increases elsewhere. On Thursday night, the House passed a rules package including pay-go. The implementation of such a rule will tie the hands of Democrats when trying to pass major initiatives, from Medicare for All to a Green New Deal, at the very time the party’s base is demanding just such bold proposals.
By clinging to pay-go, despite calls from leading progressives to drop the rule, Pelosi and her fellow establishment Democrats are demonstrating that they’re content to turn back to the party’s cowardly past rather than meet the demands of the moment. In doing so, Democrats are proving to be their own worst enemy, embracing both bad economics and bad politics in order to fulfill the goals of a centrist ideology that has proven time and again to be an abject failure.