First, let’s admit that Biden’s arguments about the Republicans’ opposition to raising the debt limit without reductions in the deficit have some merit. The Republicans raised the debt limit repeatedly during the Trump administration. The Republicans, also, increased the deficit and the debt level by passing significant tax reductions during the Trump administration.
Biden has indicated that he will not compromise on the issue of the debt cap and expects the House to approve an increase without any conditions.
Based on its actions, the Republican Party is not concerned about the debt or the deficit level. What they do want is lower taxes and less government spending, particularly on social welfare programs. They also want the drama of a showdown with the Democrats, to excite their base. They are happy to use the leverage of resisting increasing the debt cap to accomplish these latter two objectives.
A Centrist View
Unlimited government spending and an escalating debt to GDP ratio is a bad thing. Shutting down the U.S. government or putting it into default are bad things.
As President Obama said, “elections have consequences.” The Republicans gained control of the House and governing requires compromising with them. In the past, attempts by the Republican Party to use the debt ceiling as a tool have backfired politically. I am guessing Biden hopes that history will repeat itself. Unfortunately, for the Democrats, taking the position that they will not compromise on the issue, in any way, puts the blame for a government shutdown and possible default at least partly on them.
A Centrist Recommendation
The Democrats need to concede that compromise is appropriate and necessary. They need to offer something to the Republicans in return for an increase in the debt cap.
My recommendation would be to address the problems with Social Security in a bi-partisan manner. Republicans want to raise the age for future eligibility to benefits. Democrats want to raise the income limit on the Social Security tax. Why not do both? Calculate the amount of money it would take to keep the system solvent for the foreseeable future and raise half the money by raising the income limit on the tax and half by extending the age for future eligibility. For more detail on the Centrist Independent Voter’s position on this issue visit the Social Security policy position.
This is not the only compromise that could be offered, but it is a simple, straightforward one that is also good public policy.
For a more detail discussion of the Centrist Independent Voter’s policy position on the questions of the deficit and the national debt visit the policy position on Taxation, Spending, and Debt.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, formerly a Democrat, announced recently that she is now an independent. She has vowed not to caucus with the Republican Party and expects to retain her committee assignments. I suspect she has an arrangement with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D), the Senate Majority Leader, that will allow her to retain her committee assignments in return for her support in giving the Democrats full control over the Senate. Even as a Democrat, she did not regularly attend the Democratic Caucus meetings to discuss party strategy. Whether one could say that she now “caucuses” with the Democratic Party is a matter of how one defines the term.
She has supported the Biden administration legislatively about 93% of the time. However, she broke with the Democratic Party on a number of key issues. As a self-described social liberal and fiscal conservative, she voted against the $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” bill. She opposed dispensing with the filibuster rule and believes it should be re-instituted for judicial appointments and approval of presidential nominees for other positions. She voted against a minimum wage bill, although she is on record supporting increasing the minimum wage. I suspect her opposition was about the magnitude of the increase in the minimum wage being proposed. She is also opposed to packing the Supreme Court. Sinema voted against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett and for Ketanji Brown Jackson. She is a strong supporter of abortion rights.
Her motivation for becoming an independent may be nothing more than the fact that the Democratic Party is now incapable of accepting her, sometimes, moderate views and she therefore expects to have a well-funded, far left opponent in the 2024 primary. The Democrats are irate. Twitter is awash with snarky criticism of Sen. Sinema from the progressive left. The progressives fear that their candidate will have to split the Democratic votes with Sinema and that a Republican will win the Senate seat from Arizona. The solution for the Democrats ought to be the one that Democrats in Utah adopted: don’t run a candidate and endorse the independent. Surely a Senator who votes with you 93% of the time is better than a Republican one, who will rarely side with Democrats.
Given the kind of candidates the Republican Party has offered up lately in Arizona, I have little doubt that the Centrist Independent Voter would endorse Sen. Kyrsten Sinema for another term in the U.S. Senate.
Evan McMullin’s Failed Bid as an Independent in Utah
The Centrist Independent Voter did endorse Evan McMullin in the U.S. Senate race in Utah in 2022. The Democratic Party in Utah also endorsed his candidacy rather than offer one of their own. McMullin is a conservative but he would count as a moderate in the current Republican Party. Mike Lee, who is an election denier and Trump supporter, defeated McMullin by casting doubt on McMullin’s ability to effectively represent Utah given McMullin’s pledge that he would not caucus with either party.
I thought that McMullin’s pledge not to caucus with either party was a mistake. Maybe it was a quid pro quo for the endorsement of the Democratic Party in Utah. I think he would have been better served by a more nuanced approach like the one Sinema is taking: agree to support the majority party on establishing control in the Senate, in return for getting your desired committee assignments, but otherwise remaining independent. I don’t think this is the strategy adopted by the other two independent Senators, Bernie Sanders and Angus King, who appear to actively participate in the strategy discussions within the Democratic Caucus.
The Emergence of an Independent Caucus
If McMullin had won, it would have been easy to imagine he and Sinema forming an Independent Caucus. There would have been 50 Democratic votes (including Sanders and King), 48 Republican votes, and 2 Independents. If the Democrats wanted full control of the Senate they would have to negotiate with the Independent Caucus on committee assignments. If the Republicans wanted to keep control of the Senate split, they, too, would have been forced to negotiate with the Independent Caucus. Perhaps Sinema and McMullin could have persuaded Angus King, the moderate independent from Maine to join them. In that case they would be the key to passing any legislation in the Senate. Sadly, McMullin’s failure to win in Utah precludes this scenario for the time being.
A Potential Role for Georgia in the Creation of a True Independent Caucus
Georgia played a dramatic role in this year’s Senate race. Perhaps it could be even more important. Georgia is unusual in that it requires that candidates in the general election receive a true majority in order to win. If no candidate gets a majority, the top two candidates participate in a runoff. This happened in 2020 and 2022 for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Raphael Warnock. During one of the debates in Georgia in 2022, the Libertarian Candidate noted that this means that voting for your true preference in the general election, in Georgia, never means wasting your vote. If some other candidate gets 50+% your vote would not have made a difference anyway. If your candidate fails to get 50+% you will have a chance to vote for one of the other, “lesser of two evils” candidates, in the run off. If your candidate makes it into the top two, you will have a chance to put them over the top in the run off. A serious, well-funded moderate, independent candidate could win in Georgia. This is particularly true if the Republican Party continues to listen to Trump and nominates another flawed candidate. While Herschel Walker garnered a significant number of votes, he did so only because so many Georgia Republicans cannot abide being represented by a progressive Democrat in the U.S. Senate.
You might say that they had that choice with the Libertarian candidate. While there are some appealing aspects to libertarianism, their embrace of isolationism in international affairs, opposition to progressive taxation, Social Security, and Medicare keep them out of the ideological mainstream in American politics. A moderate, socially liberal and fiscally conservative, independent candidate, unburdened by Libertarian ideology, could win in Georgia. Combine that candidate with Sinema and King and you have a powerful Independent Caucus. You also have a better alternative for Evan McMullin to offer the voters in Utah, if he choses to run again.
An Ideal Outcome
My personal wish list would be an Independent Caucus comprised of Sinema, King, McMullin and a moderate, center-right candidate from Georgia. Two moderate, left-of-center Senators matched with two moderate, right-of-center Senators sitting astride a 48-48 split between the Democrats and Republicans might rescue American politics from polarization.
The official reason for re-ordering the Democratic primaries, to allow South Carolina to go first, is to increase the influence of Black voters in the selection of the presidential nominee. A second reason is clearly to strengthen President Biden’s position if there is a contest for the Democratic nominee for President.
Why Iowa Was Always a Bad Starting Point
I was never a fan of giving Iowa outsized power in the selection of presidential candidates. For decades it has forced otherwise sensible candidates, like Sen. Bill Bradley (a moderate Democrat from New Jersey), to reject reason and embrace subsidies for “gasohol.” Subsidies for gasohol are irrational and merely a subsidy for corn production.
The Upside of Iowa for the Country
That being said, there was some value to allowing the Iowa caucus vote to come first. Winning in Iowa requires meeting with small groups of voters. Candidates whose appeal is based on a manufactured media presence are at a disadvantage in Iowa, relative to those with real personal appeal.
The Dilemma of Iowa for the Democratic Party
The disadvantage of Iowa from the viewpoint of the Democratic Party is that the voters, even the Democratic voters, are overwhelmingly White. It may be true that this tilts the contest away from candidates whose primary appeal is to Black voters. Nevertheless, it may provide a kind of advantage to Black candidates. Barack Obama’s strong performance in Iowa provided evidence that he could garner significant support among White voters. It is not helpful to either Black voters or Democrats in general, if the primaries produce candidates who have limited appeal to White voters. Remember, the voting public in the general election remains predominantly White.
The Long-Term Consequences of Leading with South Carolina
Let’s consider a post-Biden election. In 2028, it is easy to imagine a primary battle between Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris. Buttigieg is not popular in the Black community, as evidenced by his poor performance in the 2020 South Carolina Presidential primary. It is hard to say exactly why this is the case. It may be because Buttigieg is openly gay and it may be because African-Americans disliked his response to policing issues when he was Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Kamala Harris has stronger, but not unqualified, support from the Black community. If Harris wins the nomination, she would likely go down to defeat in the general election because she is deeply unpopular, a bad campaigner, and is tied, rightly or wrongly, to the chaos at the border. Buttigieg did well in Iowa because he is a good campaigner. He would do well in the general election because, in addition to being a good campaigner, he is a relative moderate and is not linked to the most unpopular aspects of the Biden administration. If South Carolina goes first, it improves the odds of Harris winning the nomination and, in my opinion, lowers the odds of the Democrats winning the Presidency.
A Better Choice for Both Parties
I think the most rational thing for the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party for that matter, is to lead off the primary season in a state where the party’s demographics (racial and political) mirror those of likely voters in the general election. As a first approximation, I would suggest considering the so-called “battle ground” or “purple” states including: New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada. Ideally, the selection requires matching up the party’s political and racial demography in each state with that of general election voters. If anyone is aware of sources for this kind of data, please let us know.
The Centrist Independent Voter endorsed Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) in the general election. I have been asked whether that endorsement applies to the runoff election. It is not a trivial question. The situation has changed. The Republicans have secured a slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Democrats have secured at least 50 votes in the U.S. Senate. Nevertheless, the outcome of today’s runoff election in Georgia matters. With 51 votes in the U.S. Senate, the Democrats will have complete control of committee assignments and a majority vote on those committees. The Democrats will also have the ability to appoint judicial nominees without Republican consent. Those things matter. If the Republican Party was a center-right party and if Herschel Walker was a reasonable candidate, we might endorse the Republican candidate in the runoff in order to force the Senate to operate in the most bi-partisan way possible. Sadly, neither of those things is true.
The inability of Republicans, generally, to speak out and condemn Donald Trump for his threats to the U.S. Constitution and his association with a white-nationalist, anti-semite suggests that the Republican Party needs to experience another major setback to give them a little spine. The power of the “Freedom” Caucus in the U.S. House also illustrates that the Republican Party is far to the right of center-right and needs to step back before they can step forward again.
If the Republicans in Georgia had nominated a reasonable center-right candidate with a background and temperament that suggested he would be able to fulfill the responsibilities of a U.S. Senator competently and speak out against the far right elements of the Republican Party including Donald Trump, we might reconsider. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Herschel Walker is the handpicked candidate of Donald Trump. But for Trump, Walker would not be on the ballot. That alone is sufficient reason to oppose his election to the U.S. Senate. Beyond that, he is totally unqualified. His rambling incoherent answers to questions about the issues should give anyone pause in imagining him in the Senate.
What About Warnock and the Democrats?
You might respond by saying: yes, all of that is true, but do you really want to increase the power of the far-left by handing the Democrats a majority in the U.S. Senate. There are two major things to fear from the far left: first, eliminating the filibuster rule in the Senate and second, packing the Supreme Court. The first concern is unlikely since the Democrats would not be able to pass any legislation without consent of the Republican controlled House. Eliminating the filibuster rule creates an enormous downside for Democrats, should they lose control of the legislature and the Presidency in 2024, without any upside. The second concern, packing the court, is impossible with a Republican controlled House.
It is true that we can expect a Democratically controlled Senate to add some left-of-center federal judges. With the U.S. Supreme Court now solidly right of center, there seems little to fear from a leftward tilt in the lower courts.
And what about Sen. Raphael Warnock? Warnock is no centrist. He is a solidly left-of-center Democrat, but he represents a purple state. If he wants to remain in the Senate, he knows he cannot drift too far to the left. Brian Kemp’s solid defeat of Stacy Abrams illustrates the point. Whatever you think of Warnock’s policy positions, he is intellectually and temperamentally suited for the U.S. Senate. Sadly, that cannot be said of his opponent, Herschel Walker.
The recent U.N. Conference on Climate (COP27) ended with a commitment for so called rich countries to provide “loss and damage” transfers to poor countries to help deal with the consequences of climate change. The Centrist Independent Voter believes that climate change is a serious problem and supports a variety of solutions including a significant greenhouse gas tax and tariff system.
I, personally, do not believe that wealth transfers from richer to poorer nations should be a part of that policy package. In my opinion, there are two major reasons to exclude these wealth transfers from the public policy approach to climate change. The first is political and the second is ethical.
The Political Case Against Loss and Damage Payments
Given the general animosity in the U.S. and Europe toward the loss of jobs to third world countries from free trade, which provides substantial benefits to rich countries, I see the likelihood of popular support for loss and damage programs as close to zero. It strikes me that we will need all of the political capital we can muster to get the consent of the citizens of rich countries to accept the kind of carbon tax systems necessary to help slow the rate of climate change. It would be a shame to squander that political capital trying to get the citizens of rich countries to also accept wealth transfers to poor countries.
The Ethical Case Against Loss and Damage Payments
Loss and damage payments to poorer countries are often defended because most of the carbon in the atmosphere got there as a result of the use of fossil fuels to feed the industrial revolution in rich countries. While that is certainly true, we don’t charge poor countries for the benefits of the industrial revolution either. If faced with the choice of living without the technological changes or the global markets that emerged as a result of the industrial revolution or dealing with the consequences of climate change, I think most poor countries would opt for the technology and the markets. That might not be true for the Maldives, or other nations that face catastrophic losses from climate change, but I think it would be true for most poor countries.
The Centrist Independent Voter does support a number of responses to climate change that will benefit poorer countries.
First and foremost is the tax and tariff solution, which holds out the best hope for actually having an impact on the rate of climate change. These taxes will be borne disproportionately by consumers in rich countries who consume significantly more energy, and therefore fossil fuels. The benefits in terms of reduced climate change impacts will be enjoyed globally.
Second, we support federally funded basic research into technological alternatives that will reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Basic research is by its nature a public good and other nations, rich and poor, will be able to take advantage of this research at no charge.
Third, we support research in and potential use of geo-engineering solutions to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. If these technologies prove to be economically justifiable, they will be available globally and the benefits of using them will be felt globally.
Fourth, we might support loan guarantees and insurance arrangements funded by the IMF or World Bank that are intended to offset “market imperfections” that retard private investment in climate friendly technologies in poor countries. I am suspicious of this argument because the “market imperfections” that are often cited are not market imperfections at all. For example, the expected rate of return necessary for a private sector investor to build a solar or wind power generation facility in a poor country might be significantly higher than that required to induce the same investment in a rich country. The reasons are many but include: unstable economic and political (tax) environments and corrupt, or potentially corrupt, government officials. These risks are real and do not constitute market imperfections. If, however, the World Bank and IMF have sufficient clout in poor countries that the participation of these organizations can actually lower the likelihood of expropriation through taxation or corruption then these kinds of loan guarantees or insurance programs for private sector investment might be justifiable. It should be obvious that a quid pro quo for any such programs would be participation by the host country in a climate tax and tariff arrangement. It should also be obvious that threats on the part of poor (debtor) countries to withhold interest payments on debt in order to extract “loss and damage” payments are counterproductive to efforts to create these loan guarantee or insurance programs.
Fifth, I think it also might be reasonable to add incentive arrangements for some countries to the list of policy options to deal with climate change. Rich countries might pay countries that control sensitive ecosystems to restrain the rate of development of these ecosystems. An obvious example would be paying Brazil to restrict the development of the Amazon rain forest.
While much can, and should, be done to reduce the impact of climate change on poor countries, direct wealth transfer programs are both politically counter-productive and ethically unjustified. Nevertheless, the fact that climate change will often have devastating effects on poor countries should help motivate rich countries to embrace the kinds of public polices that will reduce or slow climate change such as: carbon tax and tariff arrangements, funding basic research on climate friendly technologies and geo-engineering alternatives, loan guarantees through the World Bank and IMF that would reduce the disincentives for private investment in climate friendly investment in poor countries, and incentives for the preservation of critical natural environments (such as the Amazon rain forest). The argument here is like the one for free trade: we should do these things because they are good for us and because they are good for others.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has raised the issue of legacy admissions as a greater inequity in the admissions process. She is right on moral grounds and the Centrist Independent Voter also opposes legacy admissions. Perhaps the obvious inequity of eliminating racial preferences in admissions while retaining legacy admissions will shame more colleges and universities into abandoning both practices. There is, however, a key difference: legacy status, or lack thereof, is not a protected status under the 14th Amendment or the Civil Rights Act; race is. We would happily support legislation to ban legacy admissions at any institutions that receive federal aid (essentially all). Nevertheless, the law bans racial discrimination and it is time for the Court to enforce the law.
Will The Supreme Court’s Decision End Racial Preferences in Admissions
These institutions are up front that their motivation for dropping the requirement for standardized test scores is to preserve racial diversity in their student populations. Connecting the dots is pretty easy. African-American students perform significantly worse on standardized tests than other ethnic groups. If standardized tests remain a requirement, disparities in test scores are tangible evidence of the use of racial preferences in admissions. The solution, in the minds of the colleges and universities, is to bury the evidence.
Up until now, standardized tests and reliance on them for ranking schools did not significantly interfere with most school’s diversity objectives. The scores are reported on the basis of the top 75th percentile and the bottom 25th percentile. This system allowed colleges and universities to admit students with exceptionally low standardized test scores (provided that they didn’t change the score associated with the bottom 25th percentile) without adversely affecting their rankings.
By dropping standardized test requirements, colleges and universities have eliminated the most visible evidence of racial preferences in admissions. If the Supreme Court does declare racial preferences in admissions to be illegal, colleges and universities can still be sued for using racial preferences in admissions but proving the case will be far more difficult. Individuals or groups that feel they have been discriminated against because of the use of racial preferences will have to obtain evidence that admissions officers were biased in their evaluation of soft evidence, like grades, activities, and essays.
The bottom line is that a Supreme Court decision on racial preferences will not end racial preferences in college and university admissions any more than Brown v. the Board of Education ended racial segregation in public schools. The system adjusts. Colleges and universities will no doubt continue to use standardized tests on a voluntary basis. This information, as virtually the only objective tool for evaluation, is just too useful to abandon completely. Students who score poorly on these exams will opt to withhold them. Students who have a claim to be in a disadvantaged minority will find a way to communicate that information even if universities can no longer ask for that information on the application.
Can We Move Toward a Racially Blind Admissions System?
The only way to move the system toward being truly racially blind would be to redact the names of the students and their schools on the applications. We would also need to abandon the use of essays. The loss of the essays seems to me to be a benefit, rather than a cost, since there is no way to know who wrote these essays. The redaction of school information does benefit minority groups since minority schools are generally less competitive in terms of grades. In the absence of standardized test scores there is no easy way to account for differences in grading procedures. In fact, those states that have banned racial preferences, like California and Texas, have substituted a system that grants preferences to students who graduate at the top of their high school classes, regardless of test scores. This gives a competitive advantage to students who go to less competitive high schools. The flagship universities in these systems are over-represented by Asians and under-represented by most other ethnic groups, but they still have a significant number of African-American students.
Dropping Standardized Tests Also Hides the Evidence of the Failures of Our K-12 Educational System
I think everyone would like to see greater diversity, of all kinds, on college campuses: racial; ethnic; class; geography; and political. The failure of colleges to achieve racial diversity is not, primarily, due to the college admission system but rather due to a K-12 educational system that does not prepare all students to fulfill their potential. You can’t fix that problem by sweeping it under the rug by abandoning standardized tests. Really fixing that problem would require attracting more and better teachers, paying those who perform well salaries that will keep them, and firing those who do not perform well. None of this can be accomplished while the teachers’ unions have a stranglehold on public education. Banning collective bargaining for teachers in public schools, eliminating tenure, and instituting pay-for-performance systems would help a lot. Voucher systems and charter schools may be a part of the solution. We should certainly give these alternatives an honest chance and evaluate their performance.
Politically, the Democratic Party needs to make a choice. Does it intend to represent the interests of the teachers’ unions or the interests of poor and minority students who have been short-changed by the teachers’ unions? The teachers’ unions have tried to fool the parents of minority kids into thinking that they are on the parents’ side by embracing “woke” teaching ideologies. These “woke” teaching approaches will still produce kids who can’t read or do math, but who have unrealistic expectations and grievances. If the Democratic Party does not embrace these solutions, it will continue to see its support among poor and minority voters slip away.
The Republican Party also has a choice to make. The end of racial preferences is a victory for the Republican Party. It will prove to be a pyrrhic victory if Republicans fail to acknowledge that these preferences existed for a legitimate reason. Slavery and Jim Crow left African-Americans handicapped in America. Neither the end of slavery nor the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts caused that handicap to magically disappear. Racial preferences were a counter-productive solution to that problem. Better solutions exist. Among these solutions are significantly increased support for effective K-12 education, subsidized health insurance (including expanding Medicaid nationally), and a Guaranteed Basic Income. These solutions disproportionately benefit African-Americans, without being race-based. They are also good public policy.
I don’t think that either party should be particularly proud of their performance during the 2022 Mid-Terms.
The Democrats, faced with a bushel basket of bozo Republican candidates, managed to only lose control of the House and maybe keep their razor thin majority in the Senate. The Republicans, with the tail wind of a mid-term election against the party in power and an unpopular President, just barely managed to grab hold of the House. That despite high inflation, a border crisis, rising crime, and “woke” Democrats spouting obvious nonsense.
Either party could have turned this election into a rout by just being reasonable. Sadly that did not happen.
The Upside of Divided Government
Divided government may be the best government we can hope for and it is not all bad.
A Republican House gives Biden the opportunity to govern as a centrist. The Progressive wing of his party can no longer pass outrageous left-wing legislation in the House and abuse Biden, Schumer, Manchin and Sinema for not dispensing with the Senate filibuster rule. Biden can defend centrist legislation as the only legislation that has a chance and not get slammed by his own party.
The left can stop pushing for expanding the Supreme Court, or looking for a federal legislative fix on abortion, and get on with the business of trying to legislate abortion rights at the state level. Numerous legislative victories, during and before the mid-terms, suggest that this is likely to be a successful strategy even in red states.
The Biggest Loser is Trump
It finally looks like Republicans are starting to realize Donald Trump’s toxicity. Trump is delaying any announcement on running until he can try to recast the narrative. Donald Trump promoted the candidacy of a bunch of losers in races that could easily have been won by reasonable Republican candidates. DeSantis won big. Pence has obvious credibility as a true conservative and a defender of constitutional democracy against personal threats.
The best course for the Republican Party is to distance itself from Trump and discourage him from running. Virtually any other Republican candidate for President would stand a better chance of winning than Donald J. Trump. Sure Trump could be the nominee, if a crowded field challenges him and his base remains loyal. At that point Biden should be able to win a second term by an even larger margin of victory. Can anyone doubt that Trump is a less attractive candidate now than he was in 2020? Biden on the other hand, with the benefit of a Republican House, can move sharply to the center.
Both Republicans and Democrats talk about inflation. Neither has anything useful to say.
A number of political analysts have observed that inflation has displaced other issues as the dominant issue in this election cycle. That may well be true, but should it be?
The left at first tried to dismiss inflation as transitory. When that was clearly false, some said inflation is not that harmful. When voters clearly appeared to believe that inflation matters, the left switched to “it’s not our fault,” citing high levels of inflation in many other countries and blaming supply chain disruptions and Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The last of these has at least a little bit of merit, but there are many low inflation countries that suffered from these same problems. The unifying feature of economies with high inflation is loose monetary and aggressive fiscal policies to combat the Covid induced recession.
Republicans certainly share the blame for loose monetary policy. Political pressure from both parties has encouraged the Fed to keep interest rates far too low for far too long. Other countries have experienced a similar dynamic to varying degrees. Democrats bear most of the blame for just how aggressive fiscal policy has become, but Republicans share some of the blame for actions taken during the Trump administration.
Democrats say that Republicans complain about inflation but offer no solutions. On that the Democrats have a point. The Democrats offer solutions, that aren’t solutions. The “Inflation Reduction Act” was about climate change subsidies. Most economists agree its role in terms of inflation will be minimal. Student loan forgiveness is a wealth transfer. If unfunded through tax increases on someone, student loan forgiveness will just make inflation worse in the long term. Price controls on drug prices, like all price controls, just make markets less efficient. Real reform here would require U.S. drug companies that receive U.S. patent protection grant “most favored nation” status to U.S. consumers. Under this rule drug companies would be free to set prices, but they could not charge any U.S. consumer, including Medicare, any more than the least expensive price they charge outside the U.S. This would be good public policy, but it has nothing to do with inflation.
What is inflation?
Remember, inflation is a rise in the general price level. Higher or lower prices for individual commodities are not inflationary or deflationary. For example, in the absence of accommodating monetary policy, higher energy prices just mean lower prices for other goods (or recession, but that requires a much longer discussion).
What would help?
So what should both parties be saying on inflation. First, it is a serious problem. Second, the Fed is doing the right thing by raising interest rates, and we (the politicians) will avoid pressing the Fed to back off before the job is complete. Third, if elected we (the politicians) will not make the Feds job harder by cutting taxes or increasing spending.
What role should inflation play in the mid-term elections?
Neither party is saying anything like that. So from my perspective, inflation is not an issue for the mid-terms. Maybe it should be, but it certainly does not help me decide on who to vote for. In any case, we will have divided government for the next two years, even if the Republicans gain both the House and the Senate, since Biden is President. Divided government means that we are unlikely to see either tax cuts or major spending legislation. That may be the best we can hope for since it will make the Feds job easier.
If not inflation, what issues should drive the election?
Vote on abortion rights, there are clear choices to choose from, no matter where you stand. Vote on preserving democracy and election integrity, there are clear choices. Vote on America’s commitment to NATO and the defense of Ukraine against Russia, there are clear choices. Vote on climate change or energy security, there are clear choices.
But please don’t vote on inflation. There is no party that offers a good answer here.
The Washington Post just published a story about 30 members of the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party who have urged Biden to bypass Ukraine and negotiate directly with Putin to end the war against Ukraine. This plays directly into Putin’s narrative about the war and has no chance of accomplishing a lasting peace.
Anyone who does not realize that lasting peace in Ukraine, and Eastern Europe generally, requires Russia’s defeat and Ukraine’s admission to NATO has not been paying attention.
Russia’s word on any peace agreement is meaningless. They previously agreed to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, including Crimea, in return for Ukraine handing over Soviet era nuclear weapons to Russia. The U.S. and the U.K. were co-signatories to that agreement. If America fails to support Ukraine, our word will also be meaningless.
If Russia is able to carve up Ukraine because it has nuclear weapons and Ukraine does not, we can expect all independent countries to acquire nuclear weapons in short order.
It is common for the far left and the far right to both be wrong. It is ironic that they are both wrong on this issue and are both taking, more or less, the same position. In this case both the extreme left and the extreme right have decided to play the role of “useful idiots” for the Kremlin.
Here is what I’d like to see happen at the end of the 2022 mid-terms. The Senate would remain split 50-50. The Democrats would remain in control of the House by just 1 vote.
If this happens it will probably be because Trump-endorsed Republicans will have lost in contests that a more moderate Republican could easily have won. This outcome will also make it clear to Democrats that they have no mandate. Their success was the result of the other side’s foolishness (or their own hypocrisy in promoting Trump-endorsed candidates in the primaries), not because America hungers for a progressive agenda.
This outcome should make it clear to both sides that success in 2024 requires moving toward the center. Republicans should abandon Trump, as political poison. Democrats should find and promote centrist candidates within their ranks and do their best to hush up the far left. Both parties should accept that rallying your base at the expense of alienating the center is bad campaign strategy.
If you have a different vision of centrist success, please comment below.