DEMOCRATS vs. DEMOCRATS….Dan Drezner and Brad DeLong point us today to Clive Crook writing in the Financial Times. Crook spends his whole column telling us that he’s dismayed over the recent outbreak of populism among Democrats and suggests instead the following policy agenda:

There is an excellent centrist case to be made for tax reform, to lift the burden of income and payroll taxes from the low-paid and to increase the burden on the better-off. Universal healthcare is long overdue, a shameful state of affairs in so rich a country. Americans pay more than they should for their medicines. More generous and more imaginative assistance for Americans who lose their jobs because of trade — or because of changing tastes and technology — is needed.

One of the weirdest tics of mainstream columnists is to disparage liberal Democrats while simultaneously endorsing policies that every liberal Democrat I know would sell their grandmother into white slavery to achieve. It’s the damnedest thing. For years Democrats have been complaining that free trade agreements hurt the middle class and should therefore be paired up with policies that help take some of the sting out of increased globalization. Needless to say, we never get any of these policies, so over time our distrust of trade agreements has grown. But believe me: if Crook’s “centrist” agenda were on offer as the quid pro quo for supporting trade agreements, we’d snap it up in a heartbeat.

Surely Crook knows this? If, in return for supporting the Doha round and other free trade agreements, we got (a) a more progressive tax system, (b) universal healthcare, (c) the ability to bargain for lower pharmaceutical prices, and (d) serious assistance to workers displaced by all those trade agreements — well, do you think there’s a liberal Democrat in the country who wouldn’t jump at the deal? If that’s what Crook wants, Democrats aren’t his problem. His problem is with Republicans, who would rather have their big toes cut off than allow so much as a conversation about universal healthcare and higher taxes on the well-off. Why not write a column about that instead?

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