As expected, Nancy Pelosi won the House Speakership this week and has thereby solidified her position as chief Democratic Party austerian in service to the rich.
Widely praised as a genius at extracting campaign cash from wealthy oligarchs for her members and for deftly co-opting their loyalty in the process, one of her first orders of business was reinstating the so-called PAYGO rule, which requires that all new spending be offset either by new taxes or by cutting funds from other programs. Critics say the move — which passed on Thursday with only three Democrats dissenting — is a deliberate attempt to prevent such progressive policies as Medicare For All from ever reaching the floor for debate, let alone a vote for actual implementation.
It’s also an ideological return to the Obama-era austerity politics that immiserated millions of people and paved the way for the Donald Trump victory.
Defenders of the rule point out that it is actually only a toothless little offshoot of the real PayGo law, and that this law, enacted in 2010, can be waived at any time and indeed, has been waived in the past. Of course, the most recent waiver benefited only the richest of the rich, via Trump’s deficit-ballooning tax package.
And that leads skeptics to ask why Pelosi would insist on such a redundant rule in the first place.
Even Paul Krugman of the New York Times, while gushing that Pelosi is “the best House speaker of modern times,” observes:
In fact, even the deficit scolds who played such a big role in Beltway discourse during the Obama years seem oddly selective in their concerns about red ink. After all those proclamations that fiscal doom was coming any day now unless we cut spending on Social Security and Medicare, it’s remarkable how muted their response has been to a huge, budget-busting tax cut. It’s almost as if their real goal was shrinking social programs, not limiting national debt.