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Balloon Juice

The Democrats: They Have a Plan

Hilzoy writes:

Obsidian Wings: But What Would The Democrats Do?: Now we know. From the Washington Post: Democrats have been planning what they will do if they regain control of the House of Representatives.

"House Democrats have formulated a plan of action for their first week in control. Their leaders said a Democratic House would quickly vote to raise the minimum wage for the first time since 1997. It would roll back a provision in the Republicans' Medicare prescription drug benefit that prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from negotiating prices for drugs offered under the program.

It would vote to fully implement the recommendations of the bipartisan panel convened to shore up homeland security after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Democratic leaders said.

And it would reinstate lapsed rules that say any tax cuts or spending increases have to be offset by spending cuts or tax increases to prevent the federal deficit from growing."

All of these proposals are very good, and very important. Reinstating the PAYGO rules, in particular, is crucial. These are the rules that kept spending in check, and helped bring down the deficit, in the 1990s. And it's pretty clear why: it's a lot easier either to cut taxes or to increase spending when you can just defer all sacrifices for the indefinite future. Money for nothing: what could be more delightful? Of course, it's not actually free; future generations will have to pay for our profligacy. But since they aren't here to object, why not party on?

Reinstating the PAYGO rules prevents this from happening: when you actually have to propose cuts in order to pay for your new proposals, their costs become clearer, and representatives who might not behave responsibly otherwise are forced to do so. It also means that Democrats are serious about bringing down the deficit: they are proposing not just airy, unspecified "spending cuts", but an actual proven mechanism to force Congress to behave. That's very good news.

Raising the minimum wage is also a really good idea: as the Post notes, it hasn't been raised in ages, and it should be. (A good discussion of the policy questions, including the evidence that suggests that raising the minimum wage does not decrease the number of jobs available to low-wage workers, is here; a statement by 562 economists, including four nobel laureates, supporting a raise in the minimum wage is here (pdf).

The Homeland Security part is a no-brainer. If anything was obvious after 9/11, it was the need to really strengthen homeland security. But, as the federal response to Katrina showed, we have actually regressed in disaster preparedness, and we're still debating whether or not to do anything serious about such crucial areas as screening incoming cargo.

The Democrats also have a very good security plan. It was easy to miss when they announced it, since as soon as they announced the press conference at which they presented it, President Bush announced a press conference of his own that started ten minutes earlier, and that preempted media coverage.

Repeating the claim that the Democrats have no ideas and no plan does not make it true.