There’s no such thing as a fiscally conservative social liberal. No one should ever use this term again, ever

Our Man Palast strikes gold yet again. After reports covering everything from the August 2003 blackout in the Northeastern U.S. power grid, to the November 2000 “black”out of the Southeastern U.S. voter rolls, Greg Palast now documents the insidious effort by several power utility companies to work around a $9 billion recompensation plan due the State of California after all the 2000-era state energy crises, paying particular attention to gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger’s involvement in this malarkey.
You say you owe us one dollar? Let’s help you out, here — why not pay back one cent instead, after ensuring that your Republican candidate gets elected to manage the world’s fifth-largest economy? Wait a second, that makes this scale much larger: you owe nine billion dollars? Pay back nine billion cents! All’s fair in politics!
“But we’re running a deficit!”, you say. Well, we can cut state social programs, because there’s no way we’re taking money from the utility companies! Let’s deregulate!
Bah, humbug.

6 replies on “There’s no such thing as a fiscally conservative social liberal. No one should ever use this term again, ever”

as someone who spent nearly a year interning for WJC (no predictable jokes, please), i can safely say there’s a disparity between words/principles and actions, cf. the 1996 welfare reform act, nafta, gay marriage, blah blah blah.
R.I.P., “fiscally conservative social liberal”. it was nice knowing you.

…by the way, i know from hearing him speak a few times loosely about these matters that WJC is a well-meaning, people-loving fellow. but, like i said, there’s what you say, and what you do.
RIP, paul wellstone.

“Fiscally conservative” and “socially liberal” are descriptions of political philosophies. Yes, I’m sure that we can all come up with a pet liberal cause that WJC, as you insist on calling him, didn’t enact — although as I’m sure you appreciate, it was pretty impossible for him to push that kind of stuff through after the Gingrich Revolution. But your examples are revealing: both the 1996 welfare reform and Nafta are exactly the kind of things that a fiscally conservative social liberal would do, and are precisely where such a person would part ways from an old-fashioned leftist pinko liberal. “Fiscally conservative” doesn’t just mean “appoint Bob Rubin as Treasury secretary and then continue as you would otherwise have done”. It means doing real fiscal calculus on policy, and letting the numbers speak win out over tired leftist sacred cows every so often.

first, sorry about the obnoxious-sounding, in retrospect, “wjc” terminology. force of habit.
second, i suppose my primary point here, as per those examples, at least, is that by being fiscally conservative in any form, as with the 1996 welfare reform issue in particular, you have created circumstances that preclude the enaction of any and all socially liberal behaviors, i.e. ensuring a semi-respectable mode of life for any and all humans, at the very least.
i’m sure you’re aware of the great economic divide and subsequent (well-nigh unprecedented, cf. thomas frank) gap between high/low that ensued during the waning years of the 90s….fiscal calculus must take that into account. while that may be a sacred cow, it nonetheless flies in the face of some of the compassionate language i heard pouring forth from clinton’s mouth at times. he did legitimately ‘feel your pain,’ but…some compromises are just too painful to make, in turn.
there’s not really any solution, here. just a wish that people think twice about the terminology of the headline. they’re terms that are, more often than not, mutually exclusive.

No offense taken: I get into much bigger and dirtier fights over at 2blowhards and MemeFirst.
And I think we’re a very, very long way from showing that “fiscally conservative” and “socially liberal” are in any way mutually exclusive. To say that would imply that if you weren’t fiscally conservative then you could be more socially liberal, and I’m not sure that’s the case. I’m not just talking about the present administration, I’m talking about the long-term sustainability of social reforms. A lot of what passes for “socially liberal” on the left these days is basically just the same “let’s fuck our children” philosophy which is so elegantly exemplified by Bush et al.
Besides, there are lots of socially liberal things, like gay marriage, gays in the military, active and constructive participation in multilateral organisations like the UN and the Kyoto accord, etc etc, which have little if any fiscal cost.
So no, I don’t think that if you want to be socially liberal you have to be fiscally profligate. I think it’s politically incredibly difficult to be socially liberal at all in this country (and still be a successful — ie reelected — politician) but I’d wager that at the margin, you’ll be more successful if you combine your liberal activism with fiscal conservatism.

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