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The Nation, March 5, 2007
In a debate over the Democratic future, no one should confuse the Hamilton Project with the Republican past. Robert Rubin and his associates have invited a broad dialogue on economic inequality and strategic investment, and on many specific policy questions—including education, health, taxes and wages—they will define the high-profile, wholly respectable neo-Clintonian position in the season ahead. There's nothing wrong with that.
But these advances come at a price, which will be exacted in two areas: the world trading system and domestic fiscal policy. Both of these are far more fundamental to the Hamilton mission than any particular social policy reform. Indeed, one purpose of the Hamilton Project, it seems clear, is to propose just enough creative social advances—such as wage insurance, better teacher pay and healthcare reform—so as to divert discussion from the bedrock commitments to free trade and a balanced budget.
Progressives shouldn't let this happen. And yet we have our own work to do: Our trade position is obsolete, and there is for now no clear progressive fiscal policy. We need to be talking trade and budgets, not simply because they are too important to bargain away, and not just to contest Rubin's worldview, but to build one of our own that is realistic, compelling and also serves larger purposes, including environmental survival and social justice.
Copyright 2007 The Nation