Each month, members of the Progressive Democrats of America across the country drop letters at the offices of our national representatives. Here is the letter we are delivering to our Senators this month. (This is the Whitehouse letter. The Reed letter is nearly identical.)
In the Spirit of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., we call on you to mark the 50th Anniversary of the historic March on Washington by cosponsoring, speaking out, and supporting Senate 123: The Voter Empowerment Act of 2013. Right-wing state legislators in states like North Carolina, Texas, and Rhode Island are launching an unprecedented assault on the right to vote. It is time to take a stand and protect the most fundamental right of our democracy.
We are also writing to encourage you to introduce a Senate version of Representative Keith Ellison’s Inclusive Prosperity Act (H.R. 1579). Also known as the Robin Hood Tax, this financial speculation tax would generate hundreds of billions of dollars to fund job creation, help the economy, and protect the social safety net. Ultimately, the goal of the Inclusive Prosperity Act is to strengthen the Harkin-DeFazio compromise bill you have cosponsored.* Without a large number of Democrats endorsing a fully robust financial speculation tax, the compromise effort runs the risk of being watered down even further.
We would like to thank you for your work to prevent a hike in student loan interest rates. We do believe it would have been wiser to make a stronger bill like Elizabeth Warren’s the initial Democratic offer, allowing for Senator Reed’s bill as the final compromise. However, we view it as an extremely positive development that a group of anti-debt Senators got organized to fight this battle. The wing of the party with sensible views on economic issues has been far too silent for far too long. We hope that our Senators will continue to work with Elizabeth Warren, Mazie Hirono, Barbara Boxer, Richard Blumenthal, and other pro-growth Senators to fight for common sense policies designed to help restore growth to our lagging economy.
Progressives find it frustrating that, even though there is widespread agreement among economists (including fairly conservative ones) that monetary stimulus programs should be expanded, liberals in Congress do not push for more easing. Instead, liberals, if they do weigh in on monetary policy, tend to defend Bernanke (who was, let us not forget, a Bush nominee) against the extremist Ron Paul/Ayn Rand stance of the modern Republicans. Even some of the most moderate of today’s Republicans would like to see an actively deflationary monetary policy of the sort that caused the Long Depression in the late Nineteenth Century.
As a result, monetary policy winds up falling somewhere between where Bush’s Fed would like it and where Paul Ryan would like it. What this means is that monetary policy has been so tight that the Fed has actually allowed the inflation rate to fall below its target (a target that liberals would argue is far too low). This is such a violation of old-school conservative monetary policy that we recently had the spectacle of the notedly hawkish conservative James Bullard voting against Bernanke’s monetary policy because it was so tight!
If Democrats in Congress were willing to push for more expansionary monetary policy, we would probably wind up with roughly centrist policy, which would probably entail pushing unemployment down to around 5-6%, allowing inflation to rise to around 4-5%. This would make Obama very popular and ensure that we keep the Senate in 2014 and the Presidency in 2016. We fear that a status quo candidate like Yellen, while better than Summers, might actually continue with Bernanke’s plan to “taper” monetary stimulus programs in 2014, weakening the economy right before the 2014 elections and handing the Senate to the Republicans. But if even a small handful of Senators push for an expansion of monetary stimulus, we will likely prevent the looming monetary austerity package.
We strongly encourage our Senators to push for an expansion of easing programs to fight low inflation and high unemployment. So while we are happy that you signed onto the letter because its implicit goal was to oppose Summers, we still do have considerable concerns about Yellen and would prefer a more pro-growth Fed Chairwoman, with Christina Romer probably being the most realistic acceptable choice.
Finally, we join with the George Wiley Center to thank you for fighting to maintain the SNAP program, and we ask that you provide us with the names and contact information for your staffers responsible for all of these issues.
*Senator Reed has not cosponsored Harkin-DeFazio.