Thursday, June 9, 2016

Don't Call It "The Grand Bargain" Call It "The Real Deal" or Isn't This More Important Than What The Friggin' Unreadable and Unread Party Platform Is Going to Say?

Rereading that Slate interview with Barney Frank, I noticed this passage.

How do you feel about Obama’s presidency, looking back?

Well I’m on the whole supportive. I will tell you this, I am now ecstatic about his interview with Jeff Goldberg from the Atlantic. That is the most thoughtful presidential statement on a major issue I’ve seen in a very long time.

The one thing that disappoints me is on trade. I think he bought into the orthodoxy that says trade is good for everybody. What he should have said is, “here’s the deal I will support for trade, I want fast track, but only as part of a package which would raise the minimum wage and re-energize unions and restore the legal rights of unions, and do a massive construction program.” That was a fundamental error, and I don’t understand why he didn’t do that, and why he gives Republicans what they want without demanding things. Other than that I think he’s been very good.

Which reminded me of Barney Frank, ten years ago, in the face of Democrats winning back the House, proposed making a deal, that before business got SOME of what it wanted, liberals were going to have to get some of our agenda passed, FIRST.   He mentioned much of what he mentioned this year as well as universal healthcare.

I remember being both intrigued with Frank's proposal in 2006 as well as a little skeptical. I wrote a blog post about it.   Intrigued because, as long as we went first in getting what we wanted before giving them SOME of what they wanted, we might get more of what we wanted than we had been used to getting.  Skeptical, probably because we'd gotten so used to getting nothing and, as orthodox leftist puritans, discounting whatever we had already gotten.

The radio show, Open Source, had an interview with Barney Frank at the time, followed by a discussion between the host Christopher Lydon, the Berkeley economist Brad DeLong, Jeff Faux of the Economic Policy Institute and the Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker.   I just listened to it again, after ten years, and an fascinated by both that idea and the analysis of why the Bill Clinton administration hadn't gotten what it wanted to get done through making the huge error of letting them get NAFTA without, first, getting what they wanted and what we wanted.  Of course, in 2006 Barack Obama didn't even figure into the discussion, though there is the fascinating point made that the House elected in 2006 was, in fact, the most liberal congress since the days of FDR and that having that congress, which Bill Clinton didn't have, would make passing some kind of national health care possible in the future.  Which turned out to be true.   It makes you wonder what a similar hand given to Hillary Clinton, either in 2016 or 2020 might pass.

It could be that Hillary Clinton, having 20 years of experience to learn from, will be the one to make good on the promise that Bill Clinton couldn't.  I doubt she will have not learned anything, if there is one thing that is obvious it's that she's generally the smartest person in any room she happens to be in. Look at her grillings before Congressional committees if you want proof of that.

And if there is someone I'd take seriously on that possibility, it's Barney Frank whose real bargain is still an idea worth bringing into the discussion.  You won't get the ideological puritans of the Sanders camp and the lefty magazines supporting it because it isn't pure enough, you might get a majority of real people in the real world where real people live supporting it because they're the ones who will have the biggest stake in it.

Here is the archived program.


  1. I love party platforms. Every four years they become the focus of intense effort by a handful of people; and every four years nobody knows what's in them except for the most outrageous portions.

    And every four years nobody can remember anything about them by September.

    For the years in-between we have the Oscars, which serve the same function.

    1. Maybe if we gave an Bernie for "Best Gaffer". I wonder what they give for the Raspberry Awards.