Yves here. Stuart Zechman is a keen observer of how corporatist policies are peddled through various Rubinite/Hamilton Project organizations and other mouthpieces and skillfully messaged so as to snooker or co-opt bona fide progressives who ought to know better.
His article mentions Third Way. For benefit of those who have been so fortune as to have limited contact with the netherworld inside the Beltway, here is a brief description from an earlier post:
And make no mistake about the role of Third Way. Third Way runs the policy apparatus of the Democratic Party. In Congress, staffers attend regular Third Way policy briefings, where the group hands out pre-packaged legislative amendments in legal form, generic press releases, polling around those policy ideas, and talking points. It’s a soup-to-nuts policy apparatus. Most of these ideas are harmless – like increased volunteerism – but some are not, like various tax proposals.
The group has enormous juice. On the Congressional side, it has six honorary Senate co-Chairs, and seven House-side co-Chairs. Jim Clyburn, a co-Chair, is in the House Democratic leadership. Two current cabinet members are former co-Chairs. Steny Hoyer, the House minority whip, held regular briefings for the freshmen member staff in the last Congress.
On the administration side, former Third Way board member Bill Daley is now White House chief of staff. Ron Klain, who was Biden’s Chief of Staff, is now with Third Way. The White House is pretty much full of Third Way-style apparatchiks.
Third Way also echoes, nearly entirely, the White House’s political line (though it is slightly ahead on gay rights). Here’s Third Way praising the Gang of 6 talks, opposing cut, cap, and balance, encouraging entitlement cuts, pushing various free trade agreements
Finally, most of the Board members are from the FIRE Sector (Wall Street and real estate), including the head of equity trading for Goldman Sachs and one of the heads of investment banking for Morgan Stanley.
It’s a highly optimized political operation for the White House and Congressional Democrats, with PR muscle, elite validators, access, and policy-making infrastructure.
By Stuart Zechman, an entrepreneur and technologist, co-founder with Jay Ackroyd of the blog “Political Lagoon, and a frequent commenter at TIME Magazine’s political blog “Swampland”.
Well, well, well.
It seems as if some of you purists out there have been grumbling again about the President’s latest “jobs legislation,” even though his recent speech to Congress contained some cautiously populist rhetoric designed to get you to clap, vote and give your hard-earned money to his re-election campaign. How predictable of you movement liberals, never giving Our President credit for anything. What exactly do you people want, a Works Progress Administration, or something equally rife with New Deal orthodoxy?
Don’t you movement liberals understand that our neoliberal, Third Way program is the least rightist agenda that can ever be achieved in the United States? Haven’t you been listening to Dem-leaning pundits? Are you still insisting that there could actually be a separate, distinct, movement liberal, political-economic philosophy than what is currently held by the “center-left coalition” that runs the Democratic Party and its associated message shops and think tanks? Don’t you get that, if you’re anywhere left of movement conservatives, we’re all there is?
What is wrong with you magical-thinkers? Why can’t you accept that political reality dictates that you not exist!
And yet, there you are, complaining about inept policy blundering again, moaning about an obvious, overwhelming lack of positive economic results from our Consensus program for ordinary American voters. Listen, the Democratic President of the United States stood in front of Congress and literally demanded that this body pass his Administration-endorsed National Infrastructure Bank! He called for the passage of Kerry-Hutchison, loud and clear! He said “jobs” many times!
Wait…am I hearing that the National Infrastructure Bank proposal is just not good enough for you moldy, old Glass-Steagall types? Seriously?
But it’s Fareed Zakaria’s favorite policy!
But the New America Foundation loves it!
But the Progressive Policy Institute included it in their “New Book of Memos to the New President,” just as soon as Obama took office!
But Norman Anderson, the president and CEO of CG/LA Infrastructure, LLC, a “Washington, DC based Consulting Firm dedicated to the creation of Public Value via Consulting, Publications and Rankings and The Leadership Forum ( Infrastructure Conference)” made the case for Kerry-Hutchison again for PPI in March! Even such a policy and political genius as Tom Friedman was in attendance at this desperately needed Infrastructure Conference!
But Dr. Everett M. Ehrlich, one of the nation’s leading business economists, whose firm, ESC Company, combines economic analysis, business development, and communications skills to solve a wide range of business problems thinks it’s the best policy ever!
And Dr. Ehrlich (he of the “Everyday Economics” blog) said not to worry about how a National Infrastructure Bank proposal addresses unemployment at all!
This is more a vision of infrastructure policy than a blueprint for the immediate future. Admittedly, it will take years and a meticulous reorganization to produce this configuration. But the best way to measure our progress in infrastructure policy (and the merits of the administration’s proposal) is not to see how quickly we adopt the Bank’s specific features, but to see how the Bank addresses the underlying infrastructure policy flaws it is designed to fix.
And, maybe most importantly, liberal Democrats all over America heard the President say “Build schools, repair bridges, high speed rail, etc”, and they probably don’t even know about the “underlying infrastructure policy flaws” that the National Infrastructure Bank “is designed to fix”!
How can you not reluctantly, but gratefully accept this policy proposal, given the challenges of perpetual conservative ascendency in a fundamentally center-right nation that “senior Democrats” have identified for us?
For God’s sake, its ideological centrism and partisan Democratic rhetoric drew strong contrasts with rightist Republicans! Our President’s been out selling it to the country as a boondoggle-stopper for at least the past year!
This week, President Barack Obama proposed exactly this sort of bank, as part of a Labor Day push for jobs. The national infrastructure bank would “leverage private and state and local capital to invest in projects that are most critical to our economic progress,” the White House said. “This marks an important departure from the federal government’s traditional way of spending on infrastructure through earmarks and formula-based grants that are allocated more by geography and politics than demonstrated value.”
By Annie Lowrey | 09.10.10 | 12:40 pm
NIB is not literally privatization like that bad ol’ Heritage Foundation-GOP stuff, it’s the Third Way’s ideologically-based, private-public partnership policy agenda proposed with sophisticated New Democrat Network messaging designed to appeal to both Democrats and Independents! It’s the stuff a New Democrat’s successful presidential campaign is made of! As Muniblog helpfully explains,
Currently almost all American infrastructure is funded either through municipal bonds or federal funding. Even as federal funding has been constrained, municipal bond issuance has been very low this year, running at about half of last year’s rate. There is plenty of capacity to fund infrastructure with municipal bonds. From a funding standpoint it’s not clear why we need an infrastructure bank, especially a paygo infrastructure bank.
The AIFA legislation is very specific about the type of projects that can be funded:
Highway or road
Air traffic control systems
Passenger rail, including high-speed rail
Freight rail systems
The legislation seems to require public-private partnerships for funding. In the bill’s criteria for loan approval, there’s a preference for those projects which maximize private investment (page 41):
“the extent to which the provision of assistance by AIFA maximizes the level of private investment in the infrastructure project or supports a public-private partnership, while providing a significant public benefit”
The essence of the American Infrastructure Financing Authority is to use the full faith and credit of the U.S. government to loan funds at below-market rates to public-private partnerships — in other words, to privatize the cash flows from public assets.
When you read the congressional testimony and materials about the proposed bank you always hear about the vast sums of private money waiting in the wings to be invested. When Robert Wolf, Chairman and CEO of UBS Americas and close confidant of President Obama, testified to the Senate Banking Committee last year he said:
Preqin, a private equity industry consultant, estimates that there is over $180 billion dollars of private equity and pension fund capital focused on infrastructure equity investments. This capital can play an important role in bridging state and local budget gaps.
There is no question that private money is interested in being used for loans to infrastructure projects and guaranteed by the federal government and taxpayers. It’s almost identical to senior bondholders who loaned money to too-big-to-fail banks. It’s the best setup for private money because there is no loss.
So what are you un-pragmatic leftists demanding, anyway? Not to have the citizenry held hostage by the self-interested demands of money-center banks ever again? That’s crazy old 1930’s talk!
See, the National Infrastructure Bank proposal firmly, yet thoughtfully rejects old, liberal orthodoxies about ordinary people not having to rely on giant, corrupt, unaccountable market actors for almost everything of importance in their daily lives, and falls squarely within the 1990s Democratic program to “modernize” the government (and the population) to cope with the realities of the 21st century, global economy!
The President said that he was going to fight the conservatives and the Republicans, just like depressed liberal Democrats have been whinging and begging him to do, and take this policy of depending on the continued confidence of shitpile peddlers and inveterate gamblers (instead of dedicated tax revenues ) to be ratified by the public, where he’ll refer to it uncontroversially as “Jobs Plan! Pass It Now! Jobs Plan!”. Much of the liberal blogosphere just put on their Team D uniforms, picked up their pragmatist pom-poms and yelled “Give me an O!” when they heard the familiar strains of ’08 campaign-speak, so what more could you possibly want?
Are you one of those ideological purists who’s unhappy with anything that isn’t the total abolition of the DoD, and free pot for everyone, who lives to scream “Sellout” at the professionals who are trying to Get Things Done in the capital? Isn’t it your duty to praise the Administration whenever they offer the slightest hint of putting up a fight, and to leave the hard thinking about the agenda they’re pushing to the practical folks primarily concerned with “progressive unity” and Democratic Party success? Aren’t you afraid of being called a whiner for not “getting everything?” Have you been penitent enough about your role in Bush-Gore 2000, yet?
Can’t you see that, in order to defeat the GOP right, the “center-left coalition” has to all get behind the Third Way’s decade-old, National Infrastructure Bank dream date fantasy, toute-de-fucking-suite?
So how could this policy be wrong, if the only people who question it are rightists and un-Serious, non-establishment, magical-thinking, hippie-type liberals who, once given a taste of contrast-drawing 2012 campaign rhetoric, will endorse it anyway –whatever it does or doesn’t do for actual unemployment in the near term, however horrible in practice this lunatic policy actually turns out to be over the next decade, if passed?
Aren’t you being just like those unreasonable, crazee House Republicans, demanding the ideological and impossible instead of the Third Way and wonderful –sorry, I meant, “the most liberal it could be, given the circumstances?” Can’t you just shut up and vote for us and this policy, again, like we know you will?
Or don’t you live to see Our President re-elected next year?