How to get a functioning government

Winning Progressive had a very interesting and thoughtful post this morning by NChrissie B.

We need political fringes because that’s where most new ideas begin. Many will be bad ideas, like the House Republican Budget’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program. Others will be good ideas, like the financial transactions tax in the Congressional Progressive Caucus “Back to Work” Budget. As the Economic Policy Institute report noted, that tax would “raise significant revenue while dampening speculative trading and encouraging more productive investment.” It would also discourage individual investors from day-trading and other mistakes that churn their savings into brokers’ profits.

New ideas tend to start on the fringes – right and left – because the fringes don’t have to govern. Think tanks, academics, pundits, and bloggers can kick around ideas without worrying about whether the ideas are politically viable. We did that at BPI when we discussed a Guaranteed Basic Income, an idea from and still on the political fringe. We didn’t talk about whether it could pass in the House or Senate. It couldn’t, at least not soon. But it might gain traction in some form, at some point, and such discussions open our eyes to other perspectives on work, wages, and the social safety net.

I wrote in my unpublished dissertation that social movements need racial fringes to make the movement look mainstream.  NChrissie B.  is arguing that the same is true of  legislating.  The danger, however, is that the Democrats ignore their progressive or left wing while the Republicans are ruled by their right or Tea Party wing.  This is where we seem to be right now and nothing is functioning.  We need to get back to a place where there is a middle ground.  NChrissie B. uses the Overton Window as an illustration.

overton window

I’d like to see the window moved a little more to the left and I think that could happen if Harry Reid would just fix the damn filibuster rules.  I also think the Democrats (and President Obama) need to take the Progressive Caucus budget a little more seriously than they do.  It would also help if Mitch McConnell grew a backbone.

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