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Liberals are winning budget debate within Democratic Party

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Philip Klein

Throughout the Obama administration, liberals have been incensed by what they see as deficit hysteria in Washington. In President Obama’s very first month in office, they lamented that the economic stimulus legislation was capped at around $800 billion — which they viewed as too small — because of arbitrary budget pressures. They wanted even more generous subsidies in Obamacare, but Obama had promised a bill that would cost “around $900 billion” over a decade. Liberals bristled at Democrats over the past two years, convinced that they were playing on Republicans’ turf by buying into what they see as exaggerated claims about the dangers of deficits.

To liberals, instead of cutting spending, the federal government should actually be boosting spending to stimulate the economy, which, in turn, will help shrink deficits over time.

In the past week, it looks as though Democrats have migrated toward the liberal approach. On Wednesday, in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Obama warned against adopting a “crisis mentality” with the debt. (An argument that my column pushed back on.) And on Thursday, Democrats released a budget that actually increases spending on a net basis, as spending cuts are more than offset by undoing the sequester and adding $100 billion in new economic stimulus.

It looks like Democrats are trying to return to their successful political strategy during the 2005 Social Security fight, when they denied there was a crisis and attacked Republicans for going after the elderly for no good reason. The shift may not be as dramatic as liberals would ideally like, but they are definitely winning the battle within the Democratic Party.

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Philip Klein

Commentary Editor
The Washington Examiner