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The Mediocre Democrats


An overwhelming majority of Democrats and half of Republicans support both the fully-funded version of the BBB, and taxing the rich to pay for it:

As debate over Democrats’ Build Back Better Act has intensified, the $3.5 trillion social spending bill has remained strikingly popular in polls. That may be both a blessing and a curse for lawmakers because it’s now clear that the bill will need to shrink to pass. And like Congress, Americans don’t all agree on which of its big-ticket items are most important.

But at least one thing seems clear from public surveys: People want to pay for the bill by taxing the rich.

Vox and Data for Progress poll, conducted October 8-12, found that 71 percent of voters support raising taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to pay for the bill. Eighty-six percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans backed the idea. Other tax provisions focused on the wealthy that could be included in the bill — such as tax increases on corporations and capital gains — found 65 percent or more support overall.

Sixty-three percent of voters in the poll said they supported the $3.5 trillion overall plan that includes spending on health care, long-term care, child care, and clean-energy jobs.

Now I realize that if you’re sending Maddie and Connor to “good” schools you sure don’t feel rich if you’re household income is at the edge of the 98th percentile, which is currently $386K per year. Nor do people whose various sources of net worth can be scraped together to just touch the 98th percentile in that category ($6.6 million) feel like it’s fair to compare them to the guys building private spaceships.

But the fact is anybody anywhere in the top two percent of either category in America in 2021 is almost inconceivably wealthy by both historical and comparative standards, and needs to cough up a little extra to pay for the overwhelmingly important public goods that the BBB bill is trying to help finance.

Now despite the bill’s overwhelming popularity it can’t be passed in anything like its present form, because of The Wisdom of the Framers, as manifested in the glorious persons of Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema. Which reminds me that I’ve been meaning to make the following proposal: We need to stop calling people at the far right of the Democratic party “moderates.”

Under current political conditions, that’s just an extremely stupid label. Why? Because to “moderate” is ameliorate something that, politically speaking, is going too far, i.e., an extreme. By that definition, moderation is automatically a good thing. But the position that “moderate” Democrats like Manchin and Sinema take is essentially that an ethno-nationalist authoritarian minority party should be able to block extremely popular legislation, unless it’s watered down radically, to suit the interests of energy companies and Big Pharma.

That’s not the moderation of extremism: that’s the toleration of evil for venal motives. Sure it’s in the middle of the American political spectrum, because currently 45% of the public is made up of people who are either enthusiastic about or basically OK with authoritarian ethno-nationalism. But the middle, under such circumstances, is not “moderate” in any praiseworthy sense: it’s just the middle. And the technical name for the middle of a distribution is mediocrity.

The mediocre Democrats are helping to kill liberal democracy in this country — and mediocrity under these circumstances is as a practical matter just Evil Lite.

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