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Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I’m on a tear about how Missouri’s Democratic Senator McCaskill is undercutting progressive goals with her deficit peacockery – a term coined by The Center for American Progress to describe politicians who strut their deficit stuff instead of supporting serious economic solutions. It’s bad enough that McCaskill legitimizes arguable GOP claims about the need to prioritize the deficit during a recession, but she has gone much further and teamed up with Tennessee’s GOP Senator Bob Corker to propose spending caps that have been widely characterized, among other pejoratives, as “insane.”

Insanity like McCaskill-Corker may yet do in the Democratic party as a viable alternative to the know-nothing GOP. Today, we read that a small cabal of Democratic Senators may join up with Republicans who are willing to risk financial catastrophe in order to force budget cuts – cuts so harmful that they can only be secured by taking the nation’s economy hostage. McCaskill’s name is, so far, not publicly included on the list of Democratic quislings who want to trade budget cuts for raising the debt ceiling, but the irresponsible McCaskill-Corker spending cap is widely seen as the potential price that may be exacted.  

Do Democrats really want to highlight the difference between themselves and the Grand Old Plutocrats in 2012? Good luck with that as long as Democrats like McCaskill and her cabal are pushing for a spending cap that would inevitably necessitate cuts to Medicare and Social Security that could make the GOP look like pikers. As economist Jeffry Sachs notes, “the current budget negotiations have been a dialogue among the wealthy. The big debate has focused on which programs for the poor should be axed first.” Unfortunately, Democrats like McCaskill have completely bought into that perennial GOP framework.

The tragedy is that McCaskill’s type of deficit preening is unnecessary – she can still swan around gassing about fiscal responsibility, but without selling out her Democratic values. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) has proposed a budget that, as Paul Krugman describes it, is “is actually much more of a real response to the deficit worriers than all the nonsense we’re hearing from the right.”

The CPC budget would balance the budget in 10 years without inflicting the harm to our public and social infrastructure that is inherent in McCaskill-Corker. It is, in Sachs words, “humane, responsible, and most of all sensible, reflecting the true values of the American people and the real needs of the floundering economy.” It provides for the type of investment that we need to return to prosperity. Instead, to our shame, Democrats like McCaskill are putting forward unbalanced, draconian solutions to meet a nonexistent crisis – there is a potential deficit problem in the future if the economic recovery fails, but there is no looming deficit crisis. Sadly, simplistic solutions like McCaskill-Corker have the potential to stall the economic recovery, perhaps even increase the deficit, all the while creating a world of hurt for the American people.

The question is, if McCaskill is both a real Democrat and serious about deficit reduction, why isn’t she out beating the hustings trying to sell the CPC budget or something similar instead of buoying up the GOP narrative? She could get all the deficit-fighting glory she thinks she needs, while standing up for core Democratic values – values she claims to support.  She’d be doing the right thing and the base would love her – as well as a potentially big chunk of those independents – and even some Republicans – who think that we ought to raise taxes on the wealthy before we cut benefits to working and middle class taxpayers.

But of course, such logic ignores the premise behind the peacock label – which, to my mind, has something to do with the way that peacocks and pea-brains go together.

Addendum:  Read this report where McCaskill, speaking about Medicare and Social Security, says:

Rest assured, I, along with a lot of my Democratic colleagues in the United States Senate, are not interested in destroying Medicare as we know it and not interested in going back on our word in terms of what senior citizens can expect from Social Security

Then read this analysis of the McCaskill-Corker spending cuts, prepared by the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, and tell me if McCaskill is trying to pull somebody’s leg – or does she just not understand what happens down the road if her own proposal is implemented?