Sunday, January 07, 2007

Frank’s Grand Bargain, Again

Posted by olvlzl.
Harry Bliss’ cartoon in my paper yesterday, had a huge devil overseeing a downward spiral of people going ever lower into the flames. At the bottom is sign announcing an eternal economics seminar. The only words coming out of one of the damned is, “It’s worse than I thought,”.

Not being foolish enough to invite comparison with Barney Frank by writing a lot here, you should read the transcript of his address to the National Press Club the other day. It is so full of ideas and sense that even a socialist who is extremely skeptical of the benefits of free trade, like me, has to take notice. Deep in the text is this:

Now, it's an interesting fact of life in American politics today how angry it's gotten that at this point I will report to you that both sides that I have approached in terms of the bargain think it's a bad idea because they think I'm going to sell out to the other one.

The degree of confidence Americans have today is fairly low. Fortunately, I've got a pretty safe district, so I can ride out the skepticism until we get to prove it. But here's what I'm trying to do.

I'm trying to show people, look, I am a liberal. I am a strong supporter of the liberal position. I have voted against the trade bills. I have been critical of many aspects of what the business community wanted, partly because I disagree in substance, partly because I will not support policies even if I might agree with them if they're going to have short-term negative effects and no longer-term benefits.

I disagree strongly with academic opinion. Those of us who have been opposing trade bills from NAFTA on have been characterized as protectionists. We're Luddites. We're selfish. We don't understand poor people overseas, et cetera.

When I think about some of my extremely conservative colleagues who start lecturing me about the need to worry about poverty in Africa, it is harder than usual for me to remain civil.

You can count me as a skeptic, though Frank is about the last person I’d expect to sell us out. If he turns out to be wrong in his Grand Bargain, he won’t be the one to flim-flam us. That is why it is so important for people on the left to study his ideas and to participate in the debate. This rather unglamourous topic can get pretty boring but so much is dependent on it, the environment, healthcare, collective bargaining, workers protection, outsourcing of jobs, driving down real wages.... We all have a vital stake in making certain that any bargains that are struck will not give us the NAFTA shaft again. And now that Barney Frank has made it clear, the “we” includes people around the world there is a possibility for them to advance without destroying the middle class here.

One of the most interesting ideas is to spend the money to buy out the option of developers and owners of housing to take their units out of price controls. The idea to use existing housing as a means of housing poor people is quite brilliant. I'd have to see how it would work. It would be wonderful for rampant homelessness to be considered a national disgrace again.

And, it being Barney Frank, there is humor, here is the way he began:

I was a little troubled when one of my Republican -- soon to be no longer a colleague -- in his campaign in Indiana said that if the Democrats won, Nancy Pelosi would allow me to implement the radical homosexual agenda. The problem is that he lost. He was the first Republican declared defeated on Election Day, and that apparently left some people expecting me to produce a radical homosexual agenda, and I don't have one. I felt inadequate.

I mean, I do think we should allow gay and lesbian people to serve in the military and get married and have a job but, by tradition of radical standards, being in the military, working for a living and getting married are not the stuff of radicalism. So I'm still looking for a way to satisfy that demand

Too bad he comes from the party that hasn’t had any ideas for the past sixty years.