Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reid and Overton

The Overton window, or the span of ideas that people thing are more or less centrist, tends to fall between the ideas that are considered unthinkably radical on each end. This means that while right-wing nut-jobs don't get taken seriously, they do pull the "reasonable" span of ideas towards the right.

Democrats are as bad at this as tea partiers are good at it. While conservatives look moderate by pointing to Rand Paul's claim that the Civil Rights Act was a governmental overstep, the most radical thing democrats can point to is Elizabeth Warren's assertion that nobody makes a fortune without the help of government financed roads, schools, police and fire departments.

The net result is that the "middle" gets pulled progressively farther rightward, until sooner than later what was a moderate republican position (take for example Richard Nixon's Environmental Protection Agency) becomes seen as leftist.  Perhaps more importantly though, pundits like Thomas Friedman lament the absence of anybody to put forward a moderate centrist position such as expansionary fiscal policy now to help the recovery and long-run belt tightening to get the deficit back on track.  These same pundits miss the part where this is exactly the current position of the democrats.

Which is why I was relieved to see this headline:

Obama Says He Would Accept a Surtax on High IncomesBy HELENE COOPER49 minutes agoPresident Obama said on Thursday that he was “comfortable” with a Senate proposal to pay for his jobs plans with a tax surcharge on income above $1 million.
For once, the conversation is not between a slightly right of center idea and a radical right wing position, but instead between a moderately left of center and the same right wing position.  With Reid finally proposing policy that looks like it was written by a democrat, we might have a chance that with control of the senate as well as the white house the democrats might get something passed that is, at minimum, not too far right for Milton Friedman.

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