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House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and House Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) attend a House Rules Committee meeting as negotiations continue on funding the government to avert a shutdown at the U.S. Capitol on December 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Seen as Undermining Bold Agenda, Progressives Rip Dem Leaders' Embrace of 'Absurd' Pay-Go Rule

"The old guard of this pathetic, impotent party needs to retire or be voted out."

Jake Johnson

Embracing the kind of deficit phobia frequently deployed by the GOP and corporate Democrats to undercut ambitious goals like Medicare for All, free public college, and a transformative green energy plan, Democratic leaders are vowing to reinstitute "fiscally hawkish" pay-as-you go rules if they retake control of the House in 2018—a move progressives denounced as severely wrongheaded and "actively harmful."

"There really is no better time to push bold ideas. It's long past time for Democrats to stop letting this albatross hang around their necks."
—Paul Blest, Splinter

"The pay-go thing is an absurd idea," argued Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in response to The Hill's report on Wednesday that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) are putting the so-called pay-go policy at the top of their party's agenda for 2019.

"It would be, I think, irresponsible to try to tie up Congress's ability to respond to economic downturns or, in the current discussion, to slash programs," Grijalva added.

Putting the matter more bluntly in an analysis on Wednesday, Splinter's Paul Blest artfully argued Democratic leaders' embrace of the pay-go rule—which would require all spending that adds to the deficit to be offset by program cuts or tax hikes—is a strong indication that "they'll do fuck all to put forward a positive vision for the country they want to run" if they retake the House in 2018.

Others echoed Blest's sharp critique, declaring that the renewed push for pay-go in the midst of growing calls for a bold agenda show that "the old guard of this pathetic, impotent party needs to retire or be voted out."

While pay-go has long been an obsession of the Democratic Party's right-wing Blue Dog Caucus, progressives argue the rule would hamstring the possibility of achieving ambitious and morally necessary policies like Medicare for All, which is soaring in popularity among the American public.

"Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer remain 100 percent committed to losing, and if against all odds they somehow win, doing nothing good with their power," wrote The Intercept's Jon Schwartz, noting that support for a regressive policy like pay-go is a serious strategic mistake.

As Blest notes, pay-go is a particularly absurd policy for Democrats given that Republicans just completely ditched their deficit fearmongering—which was never genuine in the first place—to ram through massive tax breaks for the rich and massive corporations.

"There really is no better time to push bold ideas that actually make a material difference in the lives of people who the government and business have left behind," Blest concluded. "No one gives a sh*t about the deficit anymore, if they ever did at all. It’s long past time for Democrats to stop letting this albatross hang around their necks."

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