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Center-Right Leftism | The Nation

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Ari Melber

Ari Melber

Law, politics, new media and beats, rhymes and life.

Center-Right Leftism

We know one thing about President Obama’s new plan to cut the deficit by taxing millionaires more. It’s popular. Really, unusually popular. But not according to the Beltway press.

First, the facts: 81 percent of Americans say millionaires can pay more taxes to cover the deficit. It’s the most popular approach to deficit reduction. (A spending freeze comes in at 68 percent, while voucherizing Medicare only interests about 45 percent of the public.) So even if this thing doesn’t pass, the president forces Republicans to reject their own constituents’ views on a populist economic issue.

If you relied on some of the Washington media’s coverage, however, you’d think the president is out on some leftist crusade right now.

Ben Smith, the influential Politico reporter, covered the tax plan under the headline “Obama Chooses The Left.The Hill went with “Obama Plays to Base with Tax Plan,” and PBS blared “Obama’s Deficit Plan Rallies His Base.” ’Cause you know that Democratic base goes crazy for deficit plans!

It’s all a little crazy.

Large majorities of voters support taxing millionaires and protecting social security. Yet the DC agenda has been so right for so long, a plan that moves back to the broad, popular center is depicted as a liberal bonanza. But there is no such thing as a “left-wing deficit plan,” just like there is no “right-wing universal healthcare plan.” Right-wingers don’t want universal healthcare (no matter how you get there), and right now, left-wingers don’t want to prioritize deficit reduction. Liberals want government revenues going towards job creation. This is not a deficit crisis, as Nation editor-in-chief Katrina vanden Heuvel has said, it’s “a jobs crisis.”

In fact, the entire deficit obsession reflects a conservative victory. They have set the political agenda. Only in Washington can the pursuit of a conservative agenda, with centrist policies, be depicted as liberal reform. 

Video: The Nation’s Ari Melber delivers a version of this piece in a commentary segment on MSNBC:

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