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Clark is correct when he acknowledges that Claire McCaskill did Missouri proud with her votes on DADT and the DREAM Act – and also with her vote for the START Treaty today. He is equally correct that if she really is serious about fighting for reform of rules that permit the abuse of the filibuster, we will owe her majorly. We need to give our Senator a little Christmas gift and let her know how much we appreciate her willingness to line up with the real Democrats on these issues. Her support for these measures justifies to a certain extent those people who continue to say that no matter what she has done, she is still better for Missouri than her GOP opponent, Jim Talent, would have been.

These generous-minded folks are right, but, Grinch-like, I still have to take back some of the Christmas goodwill McCaskill may have generated in progressive circles in the last week. The reason I am still seething deep down is her propensity to sign on to really bad ideas, ideas that can hurt us all seriously if she can’t be persuaded to change her mind.

This month, while she was doing the right thing on DADT, DREAM and START, she also signaled her intent to vote against the omnibus spending bill had it made it to the floor. Although the congress did manage to push through a temporary spending extension, the failure to pass the omnibus bill hands the GOP the tools they need to deny funding for implementation of the Affordable Care Act (AFC) and the financial reform bill.  Thanks for nothing, Claire.

Why did McCaskill do this to us? She wants to impress small-town Missouri that she’s serious about the big, bad deficit so she’s pushing the asinine spending caps that she and her GOP ally, Jeff Sessions, have been shopping around the Senate for the past year or so:

She says a similar spending policy worked in the 90s when America was operating at a surplus, not a deficit. Along with spending caps, she says there were slightly higher taxes and Pay Go, meaning new programs had to be funded before they could be implemented.

What’s wrong with this? Last time I heard we’re in a recession – not the boomtime 90s and not the right time to cut government spending. And guess what else: the tax rate got lower a long time ago – it’s one of the reasons we’re in such bad shape. Doesn’t sound like the 90s environment to me at all. Am I foolish to expect my Senator to address our current situation? We certainly shouldn’t be putting the breaks on stimulative, short-term, spending hikes in order to address long-term problems, like the deficit, that we can deal with more intelligently when we are in better shape job-wise. I bet if I were to ask her why she doesn’t go at the deficit from the perspective of raising revenue (taxes to you and me), she would say that a recession isn’t the right time to do that – well, the same thing goes double for cutting stimulative government spending.

It would be bad enough if McCaskill were consistent in her misdirected war against government spending, but she’s not. Last week she signed onto a letter at the behest of Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) to extend ethanol subsidies – a bad idea at any time since ethanol is of questionable value as an alternative energy source, and subsidizing its production amounts to little more than shoveling pork at chemical and big agricultural interests. And this particular bad idea comes at a cost of $5.3 billion dollars. Coming from Senator “Earmarks-hurt-my-brain” McCaskill, who thinks “entitlements” like Social Security have to be “fixed ASAP,” it’s inexcusable.

Paul Krugman, last Sunday, described the failure of the pragmatic left as a failure to stand firm against what economist John Quiggin calls zombie economics, “ideas that the crisis should have killed, but didn’t.” Krugman contrasts Reagan and Obama:

People tend to forget that Ronald Reagan often gave ground on policy substance – most notably, he ended up enacting multiple tax increases. But he never wavered on ideas, never backed down from the position that his ideology was right and his opponents were wrong.

President Obama, by contrast, has consistently tried to reach across the aisle by lending cover to right-wing myths. He has … adopted G.O.P. rhetoric about the need for the government to tighten its belt even in the face of recession, offered symbolic freezes on spending and federal wages.

None of this stopped the right from denouncing him as a socialist. But it helped empower bad ideas, in ways that can do quite immediate harm.

Sound like somebody we know here in Missouri? Understand why I’d like to be McCaskill’s own private Grinch? But still … as all my gay and lesbian friends who have been fighting for equality for so long would attest, she’s much, much better than Talent would have been. She’s certainly the closest approximation to a Democrat we have to run against the raggedy GOP crew that’s lining up for a go at her Senate seat – unless we get really lucky between now and 2012.