The Washington Post Trashes the Left: Imagine If a Billionaire Paid People to Trash the Center

Daniel X. O’Neil from USA • CC BY 2.0

Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor of the Washington Post, used his column today to say that people on the left had developed Trumpian ways of viewing the world. For example, he said they value “the simple over the complex,” using the example of people pushing the universal Medicare system in Canada as a solution to U.S. health care problems. He warns about choosing “scapegoats over solutions,” telling readers, “if your candidate starts telling you that everything would be fine if we just went after billionaires, or big banks, or big tech, or . . . be nervous.” And he also warns of “winner-take-all politics over compromise.”

Hiatt of course works for Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, who owns the Washington Post. While it is unlikely that such a billionaire, or even hundred millionaire exists, imagine one ran a newspaper where people got paid to ridicule centrists like Hiatt. There certainly is much material in Hiatt’s column and which appears regularly in the Washington Post.

Starting with Hiatt’s last point, if a Democratic candidate is running on a platform where they claimed they would work with senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, that person is dangerously out of touch with reality. There was a Democratic presidential candidate who tried this, named Barack Obama.

When he proposed his stimulus package he got openly said that it was a starting position. He asked for Republican input. He said that he wanted the package to pass the Senate with 80 votes. After much work, and compromise, he got three Republican votes in the Senate, one of whom subsequently switched parties to become a Democrat. He got zero Republican votes in the House.

Obama tried the same approach with the Affordable Care Act, delaying the vote for many months as he allowed Republicans to debate and amend the bill. This got zero Republican votes in either the House or Senate. (One House Republican cast his vote in favor after the bill already had a majority.)

Perhaps Hiatt is too young to remember this history.

In terms of favoring simple over complex, how about centrists who insist that we need lower deficits or balanced budgets. These folks have literally cost our children tens of trillions of dollars of lost output, meaning the economy will be permanently smaller, because they blocked larger budget deficits that could have sped the recovery from the Great Recession. It’s much simpler to say that smaller deficits and debt are good, just like a family budget, than to deal with how the economy actually works.

We could also point out how people like Hiatt never discuss government-granted patent and copyright monopolies as burdens the government imposes on the public. These monopolies are ways in which the government pays for things it wants done (e.g. developing new drugs or developing software) without directly spending money. They are equivalent to privately imposed taxes. This burden comes to around $370 billion a year in the case of prescription drugs and perhaps over $1 trillion annually taken altogether.

In terms of scapegoating, we can point to the centrists who repeatedly have told workers that the problem for most workers is that they don’t have the right skills, not policies like trade or a weak economy. In spite of great efforts, the data just won’t support the centrists efforts to blame workers for the upward redistribution of the last four decades.

Yes, there are plenty of grounds for ridiculing the center as Trumpian, but rich people don’t pay for that sort of thing. So, enjoy Fred Hiatt’s trashing of the left, that’s what Jeff Bezos pays for.

This article originally appeared on Dean Baker’s blog.

Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC.