If Barack Obama wins tomorrow, chances are you'll hear a lot of skeptics warning that he'll have to fight Congress if he want to push through ambitious spending initiatives. They'll note that many of the newly elected House and Senate members are joining the Blue Dog Coalition, which focuses on fiscal responsibility. They'll also note that Bill Clinton faced the same problem in 1993, when he took office.
But the analogy breaks down for a number of reasons--no least among them, changing opinions in the Democratic brain trust. Back in the 1990s, the Blue Dogs were able to press the cause of deficit reduction, even if it meant sacrificing some of Clinton's most popular proposals, in no small part because many of Clinton's top economic advisers were offering the same advice. And probably nobody in Clinton's circle made this case more fervently, or more persuasively, than Robert Rubin.
Today, though, Rubin appears on the op-ed page of the New York Times making the case for deficit spending, universal health insurance, and more spending to cushion the blow of globalization. More remarkably still, he co-wrote the article with economist Jared Bernstein. Bernstein works at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, and like many of his colleagues there he spent much of the 1990s dissenting from Rubin's view of the world.
It's a bit like, well, let me turn it over to Bill Murray, at 2:20 in this out-of-synch YouTube:
The left-center convergence among Democratic policy advisers isn't news to anybody who read my colleague Jonathan Chait's classic article, "Freakoutonomics," when it first appeared two years ago. Nor will it surprise anybody familiar with the Obama campaign's economic brain trust. (Both Bernstein and Rubin serve as outside advisors.) But it's a reminder that if the Blue Dogs and other more moderate Democrats want to block spending this time around, they might have a harder time.
Update: Convergence everywhere! Matthew Yglesias says exactly what I just did. Only, um, he did it a few hours before I did.