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February 13, 2008

The Hamilton Project: Same Corporatist Whine In New DLC Vessels

Posted in: 2008 Election,Barack Obama,Hillary Clinton

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The Hamilton Project – the Financial Times loved it:

In that context, we welcome the launch yesterday by the Brookings Institution of a new platform – the Hamilton Project, named after America’s first Treasury Secretary – to address America’s looming economic challenges. Although composed mostly of Democrats, the group states a clear preference for market-based solutions to America’s problems. It rejects the latent signs of protectionism recently visible on Capitol Hill. But it makes a strong case for the state to play a more constructive role both in improving the efficiency of America’s market economy, but also in addressing the growing inequity of market outcomes.

And why shouldn’t the FT love the Hamilton Project? The Project was created by corporatists, Wall Street uber-powers, and DLC insiders.

In a suite of offices three doors down Massachusetts Avenue from the Brookings Institution headquarters, Hillary Clinton’s closest Wall Street allies are drawing up economic policy for the next Democratic administration.

The offices belong to the Hamilton Project, a small think tank created by Robert E. Rubin, Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary and key economic adviser, and former Treasury deputy secretary Roger C. Altman, who would be a front-runner for the same job in a new Clinton administration.

The project’s research, so far, would be familiar to students of the first Clinton administration: creative, wonky proposals for softening the impact of globalization without interfering with international trade, most of them crafted with an eye to fiscal austerity and a balanced budget.



The key advisory role played by Rubin and Altman, two pre-eminent Democratic Party economic centrists, has drawn criticism from more left-leaning economic voices, who also tweak the presumptive nature of the project, given that not a single vote has yet been cast in the 2008 campaign. "One wag told me that their effort looks a lot like drafting the 2009 budget," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank aligned with the more populist, labor-friendly segment of the Democratic Party.

[snip]

Rubin is a key Wall Street ally of both Clintons, and a dominant player in Democratic Party economic policy. Altman served as a liaison between Sen. Clinton and Wall Street leaders as she ramped up her presidential campaign late last year, according to a New York Democrat.

The tension between the Hamilton Project’s work and Sen. Clinton’s more populist economic talking points on the stump is one of the things that has made her place in the long-running party debate over trade, deficits and globalization less than clear.

Clinton critics point to her Wall Street allies as a reason Democrats should look elsewhere. "The people that are close to her … don’t have much really to point to in terms of the interest of working men and women," said former Michigan congressman David E. Bonior, Edwards’ campaign manager, who called President Clinton’s trade policies "a disaster for working people."

Lauded by the Senator who made time in a busy schedule for the Project’s launch:

I would love just to sit here with these folks and listen because you have on this panel and in this room some of the most innovative, thoughtful policymakers, people who have both ideas but also ways of implementing them into action. Our country owes a great debt to a number of people who are in this room because they helped put us on a pathway of prosperity that we are still enjoying, despite the best efforts of some. (Laughter)

I want to thank Bob [Rubin] and Roger [Altman] and Peter for inviting me to be here today. I wish I could be here longer. I am going to have to run after a few minutes because we do have an important issue relating to U.S.-India relations. But when Roger originally called to invite me, not only to this forum but to invite me to engage in this project, I couldn’t help but think that this was the sort of breath of fresh air that I think this town needs.
We have all known for some time that the forces of globalization have changed the rules of the game—how we work, how we prosper, how we compete with the rest of the word.

We all know that the coming baby boomers’ retirement will only add to the challenges that we face in this new era. Unfortunately, while the world has changed around us, Washington has been remarkably slow to adapt twenty-first century solutions for a twenty-first century economy. As so many of us have seen, both sides of the political spectrum have tended to cling to outdated policies and tired ideologies instead of coalescing around what actually works.

For [liberals - kjm], and I include myself in that category, too many of us have been interested in defending programs the way they were written in 1938, believing that if we admit the need to modernize these programs to fit changing times, then the other side will use those acknowledgements to destroy them altogether. On the right, there is a tendency to push for massive tax cuts, as Peter indicated from my speech at Knox College, no matter what the cost or who the target is, a view that stems from the belief that there is no role for government whatsoever in the challenges we face. Of course, neither of these approaches really works.

[snip]

That is what I hope we will see from The Hamilton Project in the months and years to come. You have already drawn some of the brightest minds from academia and policy circles…. So I know that there are going to be wonderful ideas that are generated as a consequence of this project.

Not every idea will I embrace, and I hope that one of the roles that I can play, as a participant in this process, is to not only encourage the work but occasionally challenge it. I will give one simple example. I think that if you polled many of the people in this room, most of us are strong free traders and most of us believe in markets. …So, hopefully, this is not just going to be all of us preaching to the choir. Hopefully, part of what we are going to be doing is challenging our own conventional wisdom and pushing out the boundaries and testing these ideas in a vigorous and aggressive way.

But I can’t think of a better start, given the people who are participating today. I am glad that Brookings has been willing to provide a home for this wonderful effort.

Oh – the Senator who made time for the christening of the new corporatist think tank… the love child of the Clintons’ BFF Robert Rubin?

Sen Barack Obama.

What a party: two free traders duking it out for the nomination.

Tweedle corporatist-Dum, Tweedle corporatist-Dee.

I’d ask someone to wake me up when the nominations are decided, but no need to baather.

Stampeding sheep make quite the sound and fury.

Especially when the reasons for the hue and cry are woolly to start with.

[photo credit: quinn.anya]


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