Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Progressives Denounce Pelosi for Obsession With 'Economically Illiterate and Politically Insane' Pay-Go Rule

"Instead of vowing budget chastity, Democrats should be articulating an agenda that excites voters so that they can unleash the full power of the public purse on their behalf."

Jake Johnson

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks with reporters during her weekly press conference at the Capitol on July 12, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

Even as recent surveys, major congressional primary results, and leftward shifts within the Democratic caucus continue to demonstrate a widespread desire for progressive change within the party, House Democrats' newly revealed 2019 legislative strategy—spearheaded by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—shows that party leaders are planning to cripple any move toward bold policy goals like Medicare for All by reimposing the fiscally conservative pay-go rule.

"Pay-go is a self-imposed, economically illiterate approach to budgeting."
—Stephanie Kelton, economist 
Pay-go—which Pelosi first implemented in 2007 after becoming House Speaker—requires that all new spending be completely offset by budget cuts or tax hikes. According to Axios, which first reported on the outline of House Democrats' strategy on Monday, Pelosi is "committed" to reviving pay-go if Democrats take control of the House in November, despite strong progressive opposition to the rule.

Stephanie Kelton, an economist and former adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), told The Intercept that "pay-go is a self-imposed, economically illiterate approach to budgeting," particularly as Republicans continue to disregard such restraints to deliver massive rewards to wealthy Americans and large corporations.

"Instead of vowing budget chastity, Democrats should be articulating an agenda that excites voters so that they can unleash the full power of the public purse on their behalf," Kelton argued.

 

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)—who introduced a plan in March to make public college debt-free for all—has echoed Kelton's critique of pay-go, arguing that Democrats shouldn't fall victim to deficit hysteria as Republicans freely ram through deficit-exploding tax cuts.

"Reviving 'pay-go' is one of the dumbest things Democrats could do."
—Pat Garofalo
" I just reject the idea that only progressive ideas have to be paid for. If it's defense spending, nobody even considers paying for it," Schatz said in an interview with New York Magazine. "If it's a tax cut, nobody really talks very seriously about paying for it. But when it comes to a progressive priority, even liberals scurry around, wondering what the pay-for is—and I just reject the premise of a totally unfair debate."

But Pelosi—who has not joined the House Democrats' growing Medicare for All caucus or expressed support for tuition-free public college—appears firmly dedicated to placing arbitrary boundaries on the Democratic Party's agenda and ignoring grassroots demands for an ambitious policies like single-payer and a federal jobs guarantee.

As David Dayen noted in an analysis of House Democrats' strategy for The Intercept on Tuesday, Pelosi's commitment to reimposing pay-go "continues a trend of Democrats caring far more about deficits than Republicans."

"Deficit fears stop Democrats from moving forward on social programs, while Republicans plow ahead with tax cuts when they get to power," Dayen added.

 

 

With Pelosi already facing growing pressure from both the grassroots and inside the Democratic Party to step aside, the House Minority Leader's commitment to pay-go is likely to spark intense backlash from progressive incumbents as well as left-wing insurgent newcomers who are likely to defeat their Republican opponents in November.

The Washington Post's Jeff Stein offered a partial list of the "left coalition" that could pose a serious threat to Pelosi's efforts to stop the Democratic Party from moving in a more progressive direction and embracing bold policies like Medicare for All, which is supported by over 120 House Democrats.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Peace Advocates Sound Warnings as Progressive Lawmakers Go All-In for $40 Billion Ukraine War Package

"Russia's invasion of Ukraine must be condemned," says one activist. "But the administration has been telegraphing for weeks that its war aims now go well beyond defending Ukraine."

Brett Wilkins ·


Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass Strictest US Abortion Ban While Roe Still Stands

Reproductive rights supporters vowed to fight against the ban that begins at fertilization and, like legislation in Texas, "creates a bounty-hunting scheme" for enforcement.

Jessica Corbett ·


Judy Blume, Mo Willems Among 1,300 Children's Authors to Condemn 'Wave of Book Suppression'

"Reading stories that reflect the diversity of our world builds empathy and respect for everyone's humanity."

Kenny Stancil ·


Now Do Windfall Tax, Say Climate Groups After Passage of Big Oil Price Gouging Bill

"Voters will reward politicians who stand up for people, not polluters," said one campaigner, "and taxing windfall profits is wildly popular in every part of the country."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez: Maloney Should Quit DCCC Post If He Runs Against Mondaire Jones

"It's completely inappropriate" for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to be in charge of the House Democrats' campaign arm "if he's going to challenge another member," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo