The Progressive Flank: Does It Exist?

Glenn Greenwald discusses a John Judis piece about the absence of a progressive flank in our political discourse. Both pieces are good and the themes not unfamiliar to readers of this blog. As if to confirm the thesis forwarded by Judis, Greenwald and others (including me), DemfromCt at daily kos played the "unhinged" card on Krugman, in the best traditions of A Sullivan (prior to his conversion from adulating Bush to adulating Obama) because Krugman was critical of Obama on the stimulus package. But it also brought to mind the attacks, led by Atrios , on Ben Smith, who suggested there would be little progressive pushback against "entitlement reform." Atrios wrote:

I believe this is what we in the professional blogging biz call "trolling," but I'll bite. The Left, including yours truly, will create an epic 360 degree sh[*]tstorm if Obama and the Dems decide that cutting Social Security benefits is a good idea.

I think Atrios is right on that particular issue (after all, in 2005 Josh Marshall in particular made his name on the fight against privatizing social security - the issue is too near and dear to the hearts of the progressive flank to let pass lightly), but is Smith's underlying premise really wrong? Is it not true that there is a "relative silence of liberal activists" regarding the Obama Administration's non-progressive actions? Is there any real pushback from the view that Obama is the 11 dimensional chess master when he triangulates? Not really imo.

We'll see if that changes.

Speaking for me only

< Judges Plead Guilty in Juvenile Detention Pay-Off Scheme | When Legal Realism Attacks >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    keeping the left honest (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Lil on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 08:42:09 AM EST
    that's what I love about you.

    And good for Greenwald and Judis (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 08:44:45 AM EST
    taking on this issue. they will get no love for it, but mauybe some results.

    Like Denby and Clark Hoyt do on occasion when they criticize MoDo.

    Squeaky wheel and all that.

    Heh (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Faust on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:51:29 AM EST
    Maybe OT but Sombery's recent article on Denby getting results had me rolling on the floor.

    Some people try to pass off MoDo as a "comedian" but they need to read more Sombery, that guy is a comdedic gem.


    I love reading Glen (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Jjc2008 on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 08:50:04 AM EST
    and you, BTD.

    I sort of understand the "emotional" aspect of what some Obama supporters do, because it is easy to get swept up in emotion.

    And for people like me, who have been frustrated as h*ll since the worship of Reagan began, it's scary to see the worship factor on my side of the aisle and how it impacts the left, or should I say blinds some to not doing what they need to.

    I do believe Obama is a good guy but I believe even more so he needs to be pushed by the left to stand firm when it comes to issues like education, health care, social security, medicare.   But so many of the Obama supporters are young.  Maybe the anti war stuff is more appealing to them than the "old people" issues or kid issues. Maybe they just were about the "win."  I don't know. I just know I am frustrated.

    I only know Obama is a pol (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 08:51:42 AM EST
    And pols are pols and do what they do.

    This is why it's ... (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Robot Porter on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:22:08 AM EST
    always best to keep your politics issue based.

    Then you can view politicians and policies more clearly.  The question is always the same:  Are they addressing the issues you care about?  

    This makes it much easier to be consistent.

    However, if you get swept up in supporting a specific candidate, it's easy for your consistency to go out the window.  And for you to become little more than a freebooting spin doctor.

    Whether or not Obama is a "good guy" is an issue that may be important to his friends and family.  I couldn't care two wits about it.  What actions is he taking?  That's the important question.


    "keep your politics issue based" (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by lambert on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 02:56:42 PM EST

    What is Obama planning to do (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by WS on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:11:58 AM EST
    with entitlement reform?  When the media (and obviously Politico/Stupidico) thinks of entitlement reform, they think of benefit cuts and privatization.  Obama better not be thinking of those options.  

    But he could be thinking about lifting the Social Security payroll cap.  He did promise to do that during the primary.

    You need to read this.... (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by trillian on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:19:50 AM EST
    yep (5.00 / 0) (#11)
    by jedimom on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:25:37 AM EST
    this is another aspect where Obama and Hillary clearly differed, Hillary said she would NOT EVER increase the SS payroll taxes on the middle class

    Obama not so much, initially he used figures like 72k as his threshold for higher payroll taxes, which is my family and IMO middle class for a family of 4...then when people like me, agitated all over against obama supporters usin that data, he began to use 93k then after debating Hillary a few times he moved it to 250k

    then he said no middle class tax increases at all for those under 250k and we would alsl get tax break

    that CNBC Bartiromo interview I cite often has her asking how will you balance the budget and keep your plans, what will you cut?
    Obama naming 3 biggest govt expenses as medicare medicad SS Defense, that said it all for me

    anyway his first tax break cuts off at 73 someodd thousand for singles

    he is reverting to his early rhetoric and


    Lifting the Payroll Cap (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by WS on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:13:25 AM EST
    and Raising Payroll taxes are two different things.  See my response below.  

    My response (none / 0) (#22)
    by WS on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:16:56 AM EST
    was above this line of comments.  

    oops (none / 0) (#12)
    by jedimom on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:27:32 AM EST
    ...rhetoric and calculations, which is what i expected but it is still not what he told the middle class he would do campaign and he had changed his numbers to get Hillarys voters once most of them were paying attention late in the, I fully expect SS to be coming....

    so sorry (none / 0) (#13)
    by jedimom on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:28:04 AM EST
    cant find glasses!!!!

    The SS Payroll cap (none / 0) (#18)
    by WS on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:07:34 AM EST
    is at 97K meaning that if you're income is at or below 97K, all your income would be subject to the payroll tax of I think 6.something percent for future Social Security benefits.  Any income above $97K will not have the payroll tax.  

    I don't recall Obama mentioning 72K and please provide links if you have it.  But I do remember Obama specifically mentioned in one of the debates that lifting the payroll cap can help in solving Social Security.  He later modified that by creating a "doughnut hole" where people making over $250K would pay into Social Security but those between $97K and $250K won't.  

    Hillary was more vague when it came to Social Security (I'm a Hillary supporter btw during the primaries) and she said she wanted a bipartisan commission on the issue.  

    That Nation article about a national pension system intrigued me.  Retirement security requires three stools; Social Security, Pensions, and Personal Savings.  With the collapse of pensions and 401K's issues, a reform on the pension leg of retirement security needs to be looked into.  Does a national pension system combine both personal savings and the pensions?  

    Obama did have a plan whereby 401K contributions would be the default option out of your paycheck unless you specifically say to take it out.  

    We'll see what Obama plans to do with this.  Because of the word's history, entitlement reform is not music to the ears of liberals.  We need to be vigilant but we also shouldn't always expect the worst.        



    In 2009 (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by daring grace on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:19:06 AM EST
    The Social Security payroll limit is $106,800.

    Are there any figures (none / 0) (#29)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:06:55 AM EST
    on what percentage of the population has either a pension plan or a 401(k) through their employer?

    That part of your three-legged stool doesn't exist for virtually everybody on the lower end of the income scale, for all of us who are self-employed, and for the vast majority of people employed by small business.

    You can't have a retirement security system that relies on three parts if a very large proportion of the population only has access to two of those legs.


    That's true (none / 0) (#33)
    by WS on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:21:39 AM EST
    but the three stools are the ideal form of retirement security by writers on retirement security; three sources of income in a person's later years.  Obviously, that's not the reality for a lot of people.  

    That's why protecting Social Security is vitally important and why the national pension idea intrigued me.    


    So many pensions have failed (none / 0) (#49)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 05:46:33 PM EST
    and I'm not looking for that to get better in the near future.

    SS should NOT be supported (none / 0) (#7)
    by ThatOneVoter on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:14:03 AM EST
    by a progressive tax structure, to remain politically viable. Making the funding of SS too progressive moves it in the direction of welfare.

    No one's talking about (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by cal1942 on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:02:41 AM EST
    a progressive FICA withholding rate.  The percentage would remain flat as it always has been.

    huh (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by souvarine on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:15:33 AM EST
    Thanks for that, ThatOneVoter's point has been running through my head since the primaries. I had not run across such a clear and succinct response to the concern.

    Though since I don't know what Obama intends with regard to Social Security my concern is not particularly assuaged. At least privatization is off the table.


    Um, that would be a progressive (none / 0) (#36)
    by ThatOneVoter on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:56:11 AM EST
    way to fund SS, because there is a cap on SS payments, right?
    A flat rate is not desirable.

    First (5.00 / 2) (#46)
    by cal1942 on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 02:25:13 PM EST
    I'm talking about withholding RATES.

    The withholding rate has ALWAYS been flat.

    The cap has been raised many times over the years.  The FLAT withholding rate was raised once in my working life, in 1983.


    Read Bruce Webb on this subject. (none / 0) (#37)
    by ThatOneVoter on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:01:11 PM EST
    SS privatization (none / 0) (#31)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:13:02 AM EST
    anybody who thinks this is even remotely on the radar is smoking something funny, given what's happened to the stock market. I think that idea is dead as a doornail for a couple of generations at least.

    However, although Josh Marshall et al were aggressive and dogged in their pushback against privatization when it was a looming possibility, I do not think they would respond the same way to raising the retirement age (what do they care?  They're "knowledge workers" and still a long way from retirement in any case) or raising payroll taxes on all of us or on benefit cuts, especially if it's Obama who proposes or supports such things.


    What I worry about... (none / 0) (#38)
    by Dr Molly on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:02:20 PM EST
    Josh Marshall and other 'progressives' pushed back against privatization ideas when those ideas came from republicans,  but I worry whether, if and when similar ideas emanate from Obama's mouth, they will push back similarly or instead decide that these are now wise ideas because they are coming from their idol.

    Maybe Josh et al. will decide that those ideas will now be mysteriously wonderful tenets of Obamaism instead of the same old horrible ideas that enrich the rich and leave the rest of us hanging. They are just so in love with him and so irrational now.


    privatization is an easy sell to the (none / 0) (#39)
    by ThatOneVoter on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:09:24 PM EST
    public, IMO, without concerted pushback.
    "It's YOUR money, you should be able to do what you want with it" is a pretty effective argument.
    Of course, the privatizers would come up with a new name for it, next go round.
    Don't forget, they have some really big lies about SS to help sell privatization: saying that SS has depressed savings rates, for instance---a thesis promoted via fraudulent data manipulation by the adviser of one of Obama's economists.
    The Republicans will say that SS needs to be privatized because it has ruined the US economy, and "everybody knows it". The collapse of the stock market is just more evidence that we should have privatized.

    Define "privatized". (none / 0) (#44)
    by Samuel on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 01:56:35 PM EST
    The 2005 proposal was not to privatize but to put a portion of SS revenue into the stock market.  It was called privatization to maintain the illusion that libertarians/fiscal conservatives/neocons are the same thing when in fact the first two reject the economic policies of the latter.  GWB planned to do this w/o reducing spending - making the plan as follows: place a portion of SS revenue in the stock market collecting 6%, replace that portion in the budget through foreign borrowing at 4%.  

    Actually privatizing SS would involve lifting the legal requirement for wage earners to submit a portion of their earnings to the government for "saving".  Neither party has any interest in doing this.  

    Just curious, could you briefly explain how you think SS works in this country?


    Angry Bear has a fine wrap up (none / 0) (#48)
    by lambert on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 03:00:30 PM EST

    So I suggest that there is a logical time to move on Social Security which is in fact dictated by current law. We can and should wait until the Trust Funds actually fall out of balance which is to say 9 years before the TF ratio is projected to fall below 100. Under current projections that date is set at about 2038 meaning we would need to start planning to adjust the system around 2029. Unless of course things continue to improve.

    But there is exactly no reason to move on this in the near future. Because those that insist that 'we can't afford to wait' and 'delay will only make the fix harder' are dead wrong. Because 12 years of delay have left us with a much smaller projected fix.

    If we can't depend on the A list for information any more, perhaps we can look to the saner econoblogs.


    this problem is not new (none / 0) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 08:40:51 AM EST
    and, to be fair, not limited to Obama support.

    My criticisms of Move On have always been along these lines.

    I wrote a lot about it during the Iraq Debates of 2007 and after.

    There is no wall (none / 0) (#8)
    by kidneystones on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:15:03 AM EST
    The worst part of the bill for the Iraq invasion and for the Bush second term has is just starting to come due and I don't see any 'left-flank' squaring up to the nightmares detailed on the editorial pages of the IHT. The Israeli left firmly supported the recent Gaza operation and all four parties have drawn a hard-line over Iran's nukes.

    Dems did next to nothing in the run-up to the Iraq war and are doing less now to oppose the fiscal melt-down and looming war in the ME. It's possible that a pony will magically fly-out of this pile-o-crap stimulus bill to turn the US economy around. The time-line for an Israeli attack on Iran is probably under eight months.

    Japanese bankers accuse this administration of being 'too scared' to even discuss the scale and size of the banking crisis. Israelis of all political stripes are preparing for all-out war.

    Nothing I read suggests there is anything like a loyal opposition or active 'progressive flank'.

    Plenty of outside observers see the US heading straight into a wall. Maybe the wall really isn't there. Looks like we're going to find out the hard way.

    entitlemet reform (none / 0) (#9)
    by jedimom on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:17:38 AM EST
    I will take Atrios' bet on SS reform coming
    it is coming in a big bad way methinks the pols think the ay only Nixon could go to Chins, only Obama could frak with SS..

    I yearn to be proven wrong, but I fully expect to get an increase in my retirment age, AGAIN, an increase in my S payroll taxes which 2 of Team Obama econ a team supports and partial privatization as well as reduced bens...

    jason furhman and his ilk will ensure it and Obama used to talk about it before last march...

    but on point I think we will hear how BRAVE Obama is when he takes on SS...betcha

    Any argument loses me. . . (none / 0) (#14)
    by LarryInNYC on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:36:01 AM EST
    if it's based on the concept of "progressivism".  Since this is a term without agreed meaning, used by both far-left-ers and middle-way-ers, any argument that calls for more progressivism is basically a complaint that people aren't doing exactly what it is the writer wants them to be doing, whatever that may.

    Any argument loses me .. (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Robot Porter on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:12:39 AM EST
    that's about terminology.

    It's like children arguing about the rules of a game.

    Even fungible terms have meanings which can be deduced from context. And, BTD, and others, add specifics when they suggest a policy isn't progressive enough.

    And, of course, in terms of tax and monetary policy, progressive has a very specific meaning.


    Fair enough. (none / 0) (#40)
    by LarryInNYC on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:11:47 PM EST
    And BTD is generally not among the abusers of the term.

    But man does that term cheese me off.


    Sure ... (none / 0) (#43)
    by Robot Porter on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 01:39:18 PM EST
    and, of course, the left has a long history of making ridiculous distinctions between terms.

    It's all a very LIFE OF BRIAN, People's Front of Judea vs. Judean People's Front sort of thing.

    From where I sit, it's best to ignore the terms and look at the specifics.


    Splitter! n/t (none / 0) (#45)
    by LarryInNYC on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 02:11:06 PM EST
    One down . . . (none / 0) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 09:40:49 AM EST
    Like I've said for years... (none / 0) (#25)
    by Dadler on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:28:15 AM EST
    ...there hasn't been a left wing of any consequence in this country for decades, and that has seemed obvious for a LONG time.

    I should add the other obvious fact (none / 0) (#26)
    by Dadler on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:30:11 AM EST
    Polictics in this country is entirely corporate.  More than anyplace on earth, I belive.

    Hmm, I didn't see Atrios as "attacking" (none / 0) (#27)
    by masslib on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 10:46:13 AM EST
    Ben Smith.  I worry that the Left will give Obama too much freedom with "entitlement reform" because bad policies will sound better from a Democrat.  What they fail to realize, or are too naive to consider, is that the same forces pushing Bush's privatization scheme will/are lobbying Democrats for the same plan.

    Calling him a "Concern troll" (none / 0) (#30)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:12:37 AM EST
    is obviously attacking him.

    Don't be ridiculous.


    Ok, I didn't read it that way. (none / 0) (#41)
    by masslib on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:28:08 PM EST
    I agree completely with you then because Ben is right.  That is happening.  Obama keeps saying "entitlement reform" and Dem's keep putting their head in the sand.

    Go ahead . . . (none / 0) (#32)
    by allys gift on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:15:11 AM EST
    get rid of SS; just make sure we replace it with a Basic Income Guarantee http://www.usbig.net/whatisbig.html of at least $24,000 non-taxable income per adult.  Fund it with a much higher tax on $75k/150K single/couple income and above.  And enact HR 676 Medicare for all.  Poverty solved, retirement solved, medical care solved.  That was easy.

    we better get one (none / 0) (#35)
    by jedimom on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:35:17 AM EST
    we better find a progressive flank to push HARD LEFT QUICK, Obama said no cramdown in the housing fix but Donovan is mumbling it is coming IN 100 DAYS..he doesnt HAVE until April!!

    The Big banks halted foreclosures today for THREE WEEKS to get the housing plan thats it

    also they are avoiding any meaningful HOLC like measures that would address the underwater middle that is the next shoe to drop on housing

    what the hell are they messing around with already? this is ridiculous, its like obama is voting present and trying to avoid any hard decisions HE needs to LEAD HE needs to use the stick not just the carrots..

    LATIMES today

    and the reports this morning on the housing plan, the ANYTHING but progresisve housing plan

    Although I roundly applauded (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by oculus on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 12:37:27 PM EST
    the Obamas for going to Ailey celebration at Kennedy Center, I'm somewhat puzzled about their going to Chicago "for the first time since the inauguration" to see family and celebrate Valentine's Day.  Isn't being President a full time job, especially now?