I am always wary of any organization claiming to be above the fray by stifling dissent. Our most challenging task most challenging task at Coffee Party USA was learning not to stifle dissent and a difference of opinions. When any organization entertains policy debates that seem to originate from the Right cloaked as devoid of labels, it is problematic, read No Labels.
I have had many concerns with No Labels. I did not do any research on them because as one who knows without a doubt that only Progressive policies are capable of reinflating the middle-class and empowering the poor, what they came up with was likely of no interest to those of us who are looking for real change.
Well, it seems the Intercept has the goods on No Label. Clio Chang lays it out in a well-written article titled "Here's a Better Name for No Labels: Republicans." In other words, the continuation of neoliberal policies on steroids cloaked in a facade of moderation.
SINCE 2010, A group called No Labels has embodied a particular approach to politics and policy in Washington, D.C.; it’s one that insists the real problems are partisanship, divisiveness, and incivility, and that if only sensible centrists from both parties could be brought together under the right conditions, the halcyon days of the past will return.
Yet curiously, the sensible solutions so often proposed by No Labels and its ilk have an uncanny likelihood of benefiting one particular element of our nation’s political economy: the superrich, or more precisely, the finance industry.
A new report on Monday from the Daily Beast adds a sweeping array of details to what many long knew or suspected about this movement, which allegedly wants to remain above the fray: It’s funded by the barons of hedge funds and private equity.
He points out that most of their carousing is in fact with Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans.
Far from remaining aloof from politics, No Labels has consistently been swooping down into the fray in recent years on behalf of Republicans and conservative Democrats. The House Problem Solvers Caucus, which was produced and is funded by No Labels, made headlines recently in its quest to hold up Nancy Pelosi’s speakership bid unless she supported their “Break the Gridlock” rule changes. But the full suite of reforms would have just ended up benefiting the GOP; after all, it’s not like the Problem Solvers Caucus pressed for these rules when Paul Ryan was up for the position. Selectively tying the hands of Democratic leadership in the wake of a Democratic rout in the midterms isn’t balanced governance, it simply helps the right.
While it was easy to see through the Problem Solvers Caucus’s (failed) ploy to undermine Pelosi, last week saw another effort to push conservative ideology under the guise of pragmatic bipartisanship. A working group consisting of experts from Opportunity America, the Brookings Institution, and the American Enterprise Institute (supposedly liberal- and conservative-leaning counterparts in the think tank world) released a policy report on solutions for the working class. It was touted as a “bipartisan plan of action” developed in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. Ostensibly representing the “liberal” side of the working group as one of three Brookings fellows is Bill Galston — one of the co-founders of No Labels and the organization’s most public Democratic face.
Clio referenced a David Brooks New York Times article to should give everyone pause. It turns out the policies that he was glowing over continued to be failed policies the Right continues to push.
In exchange for rather uncontroversial and moderate policies — like expanding the earned income tax credit for childless workers; making the child and dependent care tax credit refundable; and more funding for career education and training — the working group recommends adding work requirements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and promoting marriage. They have also put forward proposals to “reform unemployment and disability insurance to promote work,” including forcing unemployment insurance beneficiaries to pick up their checks at unemployment offices and cracking down on disability insurance claimants.
Many of these policies are debunked right-wing ideas that have continuously been given the veneer of credibility from the “centrist” think tank establishment. Take, for example, adding work requirements to SNAP. The efficacy of work requirements has long been debunked: When the same conditions were added for welfare recipients in 1996, employment did not increase in the long term. That’s not to mention the fact that most low-income people receiving benefits who can work are already doing so.
He points out their misguided support for "moral engineering" supporting the sequence of going to college, then marrying, then having children to ensure a successful life. Of course, they forget to take into account is two incomes that lift many out of poverty. Moreover, some have to save up together to send each other to school.
Clio provides the trump card that illustrates there is nothing middle-class centric about No Labels.
PERHAPS THE PARTS of the report that best reveal the veneer of the working group’s bipartisanship are the policies that the authors write off from the start: free college and universal basic income. The first idea, they argue, fails to target the working class and the latter, they say, “devalue[s] work.” Yet there is no similar condemnation of radical right-wing policies — like, say, the $1.5 trillion Trump tax cut for corporations, which the authors merely say is “beyond our remit.” This is despite the fact that the regressive bill is going to deepen inequality between low-income workers and the wealthy, something that should surely be within the purview of a report on the working class.
The Problem Solvers Caucus is the most noxious and obvious recent example of pragmatic bipartisanship that ends up benefiting the GOP. But think tanks like the Brookings Institution have long given credence to conservative policies — which end up being disastrous for the working class — under the guise of working across the aisle.
Clio ends with a profound statement. No Labels
Elite think tanks fail to come up with genuinely useful bipartisan proposals because their definition of the partisans involved only includes other elites within their own circles. Indeed, there is overlap between the Daily Beast’s list of donors to No Labels and the donors that the Brookings Institution named on its 2018 annual report: Howard Marks, co-founder and co-chair of Oaktree Capital Management, is listed as having given between $100,000 and $249,999 to the think tank; and the foundation of Andrew Tisch, co-chair of Loews Corp, gave between $250,000 and $499,999. The Walton Family Foundation gives to Brookings, while Christy Ruth Walton is a donor to No Labels.
But if the benchmark for a bipartisan policy is that a significant chunk of both parties, along with independents, support it, No Labels and its fellow travelers would have a lot more ideas to work with if they looked at the preferences of voters rather than politicians. All of a sudden, policies they’d written off — free public college, “Medicare for All,” and even a jobs guarantee — reveal themselves as genuinely bipartisan solutions to genuinely intractable problems.
That it apparently didn’t occur to Brookings or American Enterprise Institute to prioritize the interests of people over those of the elite tells you precisely who these so-called centrist solutions are intended to benefit.
Clio then enumerates courtesy of The Daily Beast, the millionaires, and billionaires who are the benefactors of No Labels.
- Josh Bekenstein, CEO of Bain Capital, who gave $250,000 in 2015.
- John Douglas Arnold, head of Centaurus Advisors, LLC, who gave $200,000 in 2017.
- John Catsimatidis, president, chairman, and CEO of Gristedes Foods, who gave $100,000 in 2016 and was labeled a “reoccuring donor.”
- Douglas Durst, president of the Durst Organization, who gave $10,000 in 2016 and was labeled a “reoccuring donor.”
- Carl Ferenbach, co-founder of Berkshire Partners LLC, who gave $20,000 in 2016 and was labeled a “reoccuring donor.”
- Former Rep. James Charles “Jim” Greenwood (R-PA), who gave $15,000 in 2016.
- Kerry Healey, former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, who have $25,000 in 2016 and was labeled a“reoccuring donor.”
- George Hume, president and chief executive of Basic American Foods, who gave $25,000 in 2017.
- Ted Kellner, a Milwaukee business executive, who gave $20,000 in 2017.
- Franklin Pitch Johnson, Silicon Valley venture-capital pioneer, who gave $25,000 in 2016 and was labeled a “reoccuring donor.”
- Howard Marks, co-founder and co-chairman of Oaktree Capital Management, who gave $125,000 in 2016 and was labeled a “reoccuring donor.”
- Nelson Peltz, founding partner of Trian Fund Management, who gave $500,000 in 2016 and was labeled a “reoccuring donor.”
- Marc J. Rowan, co-founder of the private-equity firm Apollo Global Management, who gave $150,000 in 2016 and was labeled a “reoccuring donor.”
- Andrew Tisch, co-chairman of Loews Corp., who gave $62,500 in 2016 and was labeled a “reoccuring donor.”
- Christy Ruth Walton, a Walmart heiress, who gave $25,000 in 2017.
- Eric Zinterhofer, founding partner of Searchlight Capital Partners, who gave $50,000 in 2016 and was labeled a “reoccuring donor.”