Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Ballad Of The Huma

With Anthony Weiner's epic second meltdown entering the realm of true absurdity the new hot thing to do in political punditry is to talk about all-Weiner-all-the-time and his charming wife Huma Abedin. It reminds me a lot of Frank Rich's take on the Gary Condit/Chandra Levy fiasco from the lazy summer of 2001 from his great book "The Greatest Story Ever Sold":
In retrospect, the Condit affair (or nonaffair-we never did find out) was the last gasp of the fin-de-siecle Clinton culture and its bread and circuses of sex scandals. With Bill Clinton gone from center stage, the country had to settle for a dim-witted price club surrogate-and did. Desperate pundits worked overtime to turn a pale understudy into a star.
Pundits being pundits are expected to write about this sort of celebrity gossip/political news during Congress's August recess and the second term of a presidency, but I don't think we should have to take it lying down. At the very least I wish someone would explain to me why Huma Abedin is such as important figure.

As Slate's Dave Weigel pointed out her whole media persona seems to be based on the old tried and true method of attaching oneself to a more "in the news" person that yourself and once you've gotten the first profile piece written about yourself becoming more and more "in the news" by being, well yourself:
But back to Abedin. It's very nice that her friends are feeling for her in this time of self-inflicted hardship. What, though, is missing from our politics if Abedin's not in it? Before this week, she had a sterling reputation (based in part on how she didn't appear at Weiner's press conferences, but oh well) based on ... what, exactly? If you return to the early profiles that created Abedin's image, they're based on very little. The first big Abedin take-out ran in the New York Observer in April 2007, when the New York media was hungry for coverage of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. "Ms. Abedin is responsible for guiding the Senator from one chaotic event to the next and ensuring that the many hundreds of situations that arise at each—the photo ops, the handshakes, the speeches—go smoothly," wrote Spencer Morgan.
The rest of the profile was a write-around—a very funny one—about how stylish and unflappable Abedin was.
I think that sums it up quite well. She became "in the news" via Hillary and then even more "in the news" via her crazy husband (twice in fact). This in turn made her a sort of rorschacht test for pundits and bloggers eager to find yet more evidence that the world does in fact follow along with their theories. To feminists she was proof of double standards and other nefarious practices; to people who just want to write about the Clintons she is a good excuse to do so; heck the story is even an excuse for the high and mighty to talk up some polls and dish about that schmuck Weiner and his wife.

Occasionally, and only occasionally, we get to learn that Huma is some sort of expert or something. Unfortunately we never get much background on why she's such an expert or what she's an expert on, other than "The Middle East." I don't want to sound like I'm picking on her, in fact I bet she's probably pretty good at what it is she does, after all Hillary Clinton doesn't hire slouches as body people or deputies. (She has hired incompetent jerks to run her campaigns, but that's another story.) Which is entirely the point. I have no idea what it is that she does, and it seems that neither do most people who write about her. Is she an expert because she worked for Hillary? Because she read a lot of books? Because she went to George Washington and interned at the White House? That's not very helpful because the world is full of graduates from prestigious private schools, people who read lots of books and staffers. That's why there called staffers. Indeed the world is full of smart people who know a lot. They all don't deserved recognition as a contemporary cultural heroine. As Dave puts it:
Standing by your husband when he keeps disappointing you is, sadly, an ordinary thing. Making connections in D.C. and then cashing in on them is also pretty ordinary. The single most irritating aspect of the Weiner scandal is that we're being asked to buy tickets for this third-rate psychodrama. The Weiner-Abedin marriage is to the Clinton marriage as Sharknado is to Jaws.
I wish all the best to Huma, but please don't ask me to have an opinion of her. She really doesn't deserve any of our collective attention.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Weinermania and St. Elsewhere

One of the things I find interesting about the Weinermania scandal that has overtaken New York is how little reporting is being done on the actual mayor's race. Instead we get a lot of armchair psychiatrist speculation on why Weiner does crazy things. It's not very helpful. It's a good reminder that because so many news reporters, producers, bloggers ect. live in the New York Area and their are several major local tabloid papers there, the goofy stuff they are obsessed with becomes national news. Which is a pretty big bias when you think about it.


Over at the Good Men Project I had an article about how liberals should go about influencing Obama, Liz Cheney's decision to run for the Senate and some great pieces of news for Obama that slipped under the news radar.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Detroit: I Did Mind Dying

Jonathan Chait published a great piece the other day reflecting on his own experience growing up in suburban Detroit and his relationship with the city. The main thrust of the piece is that rather than being an indicator of America's future, as some conservatives have claimed:
Detroit is a synecdoche for America — not America’s future, but its past...Everything that happened in the United States in the middle of the twentieth century happened in and around Detroit, but moreso. The enormous mobilization of industry during World War II (“Detroit is winning the war,” said Joseph Stalin in 1945); that industry’s creation of the world’s first mass-affluent working class, a place where families lacking high school diplomas routinely had nice things; and finally the collapse of that economic paradise and the racialization of American politics that split the New Deal coalition.
It's hard to remember now, but Detroit was once the fourth largest city in America.

I've talked before about James Fallows' theory about why George W. Bush was a terrible president. In Fallows view, and my own, he was terrible not just because of one factor, but rather because of a number of factors that were each individually dangerous and when combined caused utter disaster. Chait makes a similar point about Detroit, where destructive dynamics built upon each other to create a disaster larger that the sum of it's political parts:
Ze’ev Chafets, a native of the Detroit suburb of Pontiac, borrowed “Devils Night” for the title of his 1991 book about the city and its political culture. He compared Detroit to a liberated colony, whose politics was defined by continued resentment of the departed white occupier. White and black politics were locked into mutually reinforcing pathologies. Whites fled the city, blamed blacks for its destruction and, in many cases, gloated in its failures. Hostility toward the white suburbs shaped Detroit’s politics, which frequently amounted to race-to-the-bottom demagogic contests to label the opposing candidate a secret tool of white interests, with the predictable result on the quality of government. The worse Detroit got, the more whites hated and feared, fueling black racial paranoia, which made the city worse still.
Add in the fact that Detroit the city was one of the biggest, sprawlingist cities in the country and it's 20th Century economic monoculure of focusing mainly on cars as the sole engine of it's economy and you get a recipe for rust belt disaster on a grand scale. In short, economic problems caused political problems which in turn exacerbated the economic problems and made the political situation even worse.

The result was a urban metropolis divided by a kind of invisible wall. As Chait recalls:
I grew up in Oakland County in the eighties. Many of my classmates’ parents forbade them from venturing south of 8 Mile Road, the Detroit city boundary, when they got their drivers’ license...going to the city, going to Detroit was more an act of civic boosterism — charity, almost — than something you did for fun. It wasn’t, Let’s go to such-and-such, in Detroit!, but, Let’s go to Detroit! What should we do there?
I have no idea how to "fix" Detroit. There are a lot of ideas out there (I like Matt Yglesias idea of Detroit visas). The good news is that the bankruptcy might let the city escape from the legacy of past mistakes and mismanagement and there is a small boom going on in Detroit's once vacant downtown. Hope springs eternal, but we shouldn't forget Chait's points about the sins of the father being still leveled on our own heads.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What We Talk About When We Talk About Charter Schools

I recently read a good primer on charter schools and their impact over at Slate. Education reform in general and charter schools in particular have become a hot button issue as of the last few years, but unfortunately a lot of the debate surrounding them is confused. In fact it seems to me that a lot of smart opinionated folks out there don't really know what charter schools are or even what the term "charter school" means. So in the interest of honest debate here's my take.

While the term get's thrown around a lot the term "charter school" is only a general description of the way a public school is created, it has little to do with things like curriculum, style or educational philosophy. As Ray Fisman put it in his Slate piece:
[charter schools] allowed educators and other concerned individuals to apply to the state for permission to operate a government-funded school outside of the public education system. In order to obtain and keep their licenses, these new schools needed to show they were serving their students effectively, based on goals laid out in the school’s “charter.”
Hence the term "charter school," but that's basically it, everything else is up to what the creators of the school want to do. For example, you can create a rigorous college prep oriented school with long days and a philosophy of "no excuses" or you create a high school focusing on vocational skills for at risk high school drop outs (which indeed is what the oldest charter school in the country is). This seems pretty simple, but a surprising number of commentators miss this often completely. In addition, the higher level of scrutiny by officials to ensure that schools are meeting the concrete goals laid out in the charter means that, in theory at least, the ones that don't succeed get shut down. This is of course the theory and it doesn't always work this way.

The important thing to note here is that there's no unifying concept to charters other than they can operate outside of a school districts bureaucracy and local collective bargaining agreements with teachers' unions. Everything else is really dependent on what the creators of the schools and parents who choose to enroll their children want out of a school. Note that having to send your kids to a school you don't like can happen in a system where you have to send your kid to your neighborhood school. This problem, sending your kid to a school you don't like, is a big reason why the charter movement got started in the first place. Historically the wealthy and middle class respond to things like failing schools by moving, because they have money and can afford to do so, while poor people are stuck in the schools they might like, or might hate. Again this is a big reason why charter schools got started in the first place.

Thus the 6,000 plus (and growing every year) charter schools in America represent all sorts of programs with all sorts of philosophies and all sorts of outcomes. Not unlike how traditional public schools represent a wide variety of programs and outcomes. Like more traditional schools charters run the gambit from great, to mediocre to notably bad. As Matt Yglesias likes to put it "on average, charter schools are about average." Another way to look at it is that the outcomes of charter schools are so diverse you can make any political argument you want with them. Which is why when someone says that "research about charter schools is mixed" or "there's no evidence charter schools are better" they need to be told to stop talking and enroll in remedial classes immediately. The point of charter schools is not to create a new uniform type of school called a "charter school" that's uniformly objectively better. The point is to try new things, and give people the option of going to different types of schools, some of which are much better than the failing public schools in their area. As pointed out in the Slate article, "Columbia Business School colleague and leading education researcher Jonah Rockoff puts it, saying charter schools are good is 'like saying Italian restaurants are good places to eat—some are and some aren’t.'" 

All of this makes the people categorically opposed to charter schools all the weirder looking. Education writer Dana Goldstein wrote an article once with a great window into the mind of some anti-charter people:
Kerryn Azavedo, a graphic designer in Lincoln, Rhode Island, pulled her son out of Blackstone Valley [charter school] after his kindergarten year, dismayed by what she calls the school’s overly strict discipline policies and lack of after-school activities.  She complained that Blackstone Valley’s extended school day, from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m., left her son exhausted and with little opportunity to participate in organized extracurriculars. (Extended learning days were originally intended to provide enrichment for poor children whose parents are unable to provide after-school supervision or activities.)

When Azavedo brought her concerns to the Blackstone Valley administration, “I never felt welcome,” she said in a phone interview. “They say, ‘This may not really be for you, somebody else might really need your spot, you’d be okay wherever you went.’” Azavedo didn’t like the fact that the school lacks an independent parent-teacher organization; instead, administrators organize parental involvement. And she was surprised to learn her son had sat for standardized tests five times during the school year, and unhappy that the school did not notify parents of each individual testing date.

Though initially attracted to the idea of an integrated charter school, Azavedo is now actively organizing against the opening of new Rhode Island Mayoral Academies throughout the state. “If it’s not good enough for mine, dammit, it’s not good enough for yours,” she said.
I feel for Azavedo, no one wants to have to send their kid to a school they don't like (although lots of poor families have to do this because they can't afford to move to the suburbs) but I honestly don't see why this is the school's fault. The long days and rigid structure is the model the charter is following, and if she didn't like it she shouldn't have sent her son there. I'm sure there are plenty of families that wouldn't like their kid to go to a vocational focused charter school, and that's fine, what they should do is just not opt to send their child to a vocational focused charter school, not try and ban them from the entire state. The great thing about charters is if you don't like it you can leave the charter school and go to a new charter, or your regular school, something that again isn't possible for all families in more traditional schools. All of this serves to make her decision to organize against any charter schools anywhere in the entire state because she didn't like one of them, well pretty bizarre. Rather than trying to limit the choices of other parents she probably should focus on reading the brochures more closely next time.

Charter schools are obviously not for everyone. Indeed some people have no need for them and some don't like them as a category or the individual ones they could send their kids to. And that's fine, those people shouldn't send their kids to charter schools. But some people really do like them and prefer them to their traditional public schools and yes they can make profound differences in people's lives.  As Fisman points out, once long ago, "One early enrollee, Demetrice Norris, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 1992 that he had spent years, 'being lazy – not doing nothing' before he 'got a life back here in school' and 'got a chance to be something.'" Demetrice should have the chance to be something, and that chance is all charter schools really want.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Trayvon Martin In Our Political Age

Over at The Atlantic James Fallows wrote a great piece about the difficulties facing journalists who still want to cover American politics with the classic "both sides do it" view of David Broder fame. As he sees it the dysfunction of the modern GOP is making this position increasingly untenable:
Yet all of the energy, pressure, and big personalities in this party -- and, you've guessed, I am talking about the Republicans -- are pushing it closer to its fervent but outnumbered base and away from more centrist positions and candidates who might give it a better national-election chance. That's the story behind the primary challenges that knocked off the likes of Dick Lugar and gave us the likes of Todd Akin. It's the story of the repeated debt-ceiling showdowns and filibuster abuse, plus the vote to eliminate Food Stamps. It's the story behind the intra-mural GOP struggle over the immigration bill. The party's Super-ego, in the approximate form of the Bush family (plus business allies, some evangelicals, etc; and technically maybe all these amounting to the party's Freud-parlance Ego) is pushing for approval. The party's Id is doing everything it can to resist.
This contest will be chronicled in our histories -- but, as I've pointed out once or twice, it poses surprising challenges for mainstream journalism of the moment, given reporters' strong instinct to remain "fair" by keeping equal distance from the main parties' views.
I think that this is an excellent point. While most journalists try their darndist not to come out and just say the increasingly obvious truth that the GOP has become a deeply dysfunctional political party, this is becoming harder and harder every day. And we might be in for a change in the near future.

Fallows' argument also gave me new insight into the Zimmerman/Martin saga we've been watching. As his colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out in his "Fear of a Black President" article Zimmerman went from being perhaps the most hated man in America to a hero to conservatives after President Obama announced that "if I had a son he'd look like Trayvon." Before the comment none other that The National Review had written a column entitled "Al Sharpton is Right" after Obama spoke the wheel turned completely and Zimmerman became a folk hero to many on the right, with Sean Hannity, Rush and everyone else jumping up to defend his good name.

It's kind of amazing really-imagine if Bernard Goetz had become a hero to Democrats after a speech by president Ronald Reagan proclaiming "if I saw four people shot on the subway I'd be scared too"-and I don't think you can understand the change in public perception of Zimmerman and Martin outside of the context of the weird politics of our era.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Culture War In The Hoosier State

Apparently while he was Governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels worked hard to try and suppress what he termed liberal "propaganda" at public universities in the Hoosier State. According to the Huffington Post:
Emails obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request show Daniels requested that historian and anti-war activist Howard Zinn's writings be banned from classrooms and asked for a "cleanup" of college courses. In another exchange, the Republican talks about cutting funding for a program run by a local university professor who was one of his sharpest critics.

To be sure I think that Howard Zinn was a good writer and his famous "A Peoples History of the United States" is a classic unconventional look at American history through the lense of class struggle. While I don't agree with its main thesis that class struggle is the defining characteristic of American history, I think Zinn's point that class struggle did exist is important, especially considering how traditionally trends like class struggle along with things like racism or mass violence have been glossed over in most history curricula.

The remarkable thing here is how a major figure in the Republican Party, indeed a candidate for the presidency, seems to think reading this book would surely destroy the vulnerable minds of America's college students. Should we also ban the writings of Lenin, Hitler and Mao? Certainly some people read those in college too. Daniels seems to think that reading stuff he doesn't agree with is itself a dangerous act. As he put it "We must not falsely teach American history in our schools." The term "false history" is an is the key here. After all, while Zinn's career is controversial, I've never heard of any factual criticisms of what his books contain. And even if Daniels doesn't know about the Ludlow Massacre or the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 (the only coup d'etat in American history) that doesn't mean they didn't happened. "False history" is when we pretend that these things didn't happen, which is how American history has traditionally been taught.

Personally I think this type of historical censorship is only really understandable through the context of an ever expanding culture war. That is the mindset of the traditional culture war issues of Molly Ivins' "three G's of Texas politics: God, Gays and Guns" is expanding to cover new issues, in this case college curriculum.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Zimmerman Trial And St. Elsewhere

Since we are into deliberations in the George Zimmerman murder trial I guess I should get my prediction in so I can be proven wrong. Most of the legal analysts out there think Zimmerman will walk, and I have to agree. The basic argument for acquittal was made quite well by Dan Abrams at ABC:
As a legal matter, even if jurors find parts of Zimmerman's story fishy, that is not enough to convict. Even if they believe that Zimmerman initiated the altercation, and that his injuries were relatively minor, that too would be insufficient evidence to convict. Prosecutors have to effectively disprove self defense beyond a reasonable doubt. 
Which is incredibly hard if the only living witness to the events is the accused. Hence all the focus on the foam dummy and such. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz put it even more bluntly as: 
Remember, it's monumentally irrelevant who's morally guilty here, Whether or not Zimmerman was a racist and racially profiled and shouldn’t have been doing it and didn’t listen to police, that's all irrelevant in Florida law.
Add in the fact that some of the prosecution's witnesses were darn right harmful to the prosecution's own case and I think you can see why I see a likely acquittal.

Not that I necessarily agree with such a verdict, but it's what I see happening. The fact that Zimmerman likely stalked and murdered Trayvon Martin isn't the same as that being proven beyond a reasonable doubt in that Florida courtroom, which after all the the major question before the jurry. Having said that juries are notoriously impossible to predict so anything could happen. I assume this blog post will sink the S.S. Zimmerman just so the universe can prove me wrong.


Over at The Good Men Project I talked about why a GOP strategy that ignores minority voters is bad for them and the country and talked about the potential comebacks of Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner. You should go read them and then like them on facebook and such.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Happy Birthday and St. Elsewhere

I should probably take some time to acknowledge the one year anniversary of longwalkdownlyndale. While far from the most famous blog on the internets, we have seen some impressive growth since my first post about football and John Roberts. Hopefully this trend will continue and much like health care costs becoming 100% of the economy by 2050 longwalkdownlyndale will one day become 100% of the internet. Thanks to everyone who reads my posts and feel free to comment and share and stuff.


Over at the Good Men Project I have a post up about new trends emerging in the Supreme Court and another one on why a Hillary "coronoation campaign" in 2016 would be bad for the Democratic Party.  Feel free to check them out.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Some Thoughts On Egypt

Please don't ask me or anyone else what the recent developments in Egypt "means." Not even Egyptians can tell you what the two revolutions that have happened in their country in the last two years will lead too, it is simply too complicated with two many unknowns. With that in mind I noticed a few trends emerging in the past few weeks.

The Need for Narrative: The first trend I noticed is how quickly elites in America move to make the chaotic events that have been unfolding fit into a neat little narrative of what Adam Curtis calls "Goodies and Baddies." Where the complex reality of politics in a revolutionary time are turned into a simple narrative in which all the various factions in  Egypt are divided into the forces of lightness and the forces of darkness. It only took a few days for that elites from reliable font of Washington groupthink David Brooks to Eric Cantor to begin defending the coup by the Egyptian Military as a sort of democratic uprising. It will be interesting to see if anyone in the beltway changes their mind now the army is arresting all sorts of people and shooting demonstrators.

The Smart Kids Aren't So Smart: Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a column in which he managed to show how ignorant elite opinion makers can be about politics in the Middle East. He asks rhetorically "How did the US lose the Egyptian people" and then doesn't even use the word "Israel" or "Palestinian" when he seeks to answer it. Goldberg was a huge supporter of the Iraq War (I'd go so far as to call him a neo-conservative in foreign policy) but if even he hasn't sought to educate himself over basic facts about the Middle East in the last ten years I don't know what hope we have for some of our journalistic elites in this country. Goldberg showed his ignorance and/or poor analysis in another important way he claimed:
The crisis of the past few days, which may end in a military coup (which would then start the next crisis), might have been avoided had the Obama administration used its leverage — the $1.5 billion in aid the U.S. is giving Egypt this year, for starters — to force Mursi to include the opposition in his government from the outset.
That's just standard "Green Lanterism" and like all "Green Lanterism" statements it has the benefit of being non-falsifiable. Maybe a beer summit would get the Israelis and Palestinians to agree to a two state solution. Maybe, but probably not. Furthermore it is a pretty bizarre statement if you get down to it. The US is going to pressure Morsi by cutting off aid to the military that has been his main political enemy and then overthrew him? That's like saying if Goldberg doesn't read more books about the Middle East I'm going to force him to, by cutting the staff at the New York Time Magazine (Jeff works for the Atlantic.) This type of thing is just weird. 

Democracy Promotion has Always Been Window Dressing: I don't think Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood are nice people and I don't think they would be good for Egypt, but what kind of democracy is it if can easily be overthrown by the military once it does unpopular things? I'd agree with Obama that "democracy is more than just elections" but the corollary to that is democracy is impossible without free and fair elections. A country simply can't be called a democracy if the results of elections can be overturned by force of arms or big protests. It reminds me a lot of a point raised in Rashid Khalidi's book "Resurrecting Empire" where he argues that US policy in the Middle East, indeed all Western policy in the Middle East, has always been about geo-strategy and oil. People roll out arguments for democracy promotion to suit their domestic political concerns, but it's never been much in the way of a major goal. I've always been skeptical of this claim, but Egypt seems to add a lot of evidence to it.

The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics Is Alive and Well: A while ago Matt Ygleisas (full argument here) coined the term "The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics" as a way to criticize conservatives and other backers of the Iraq War who seems to believe that "the only thing limiting us is a lack of willpower" when it comes to foreign policy. In short the Middle East is clay in the hands of us Americans, we can make their societies into anything we like as long as we work harder or don't make mistakes. Goldberg's little post above (and a lot of his other work) is full of this. It's a remarkable terrible idea that has proven to be completely wrong by the Iraq War: nowhere since the American effort in Vietnam has an attempt to change a society via American power been more embraced, nowhere have more resources been expended and nowhere has the failure been more obvious and greater. But some of us still think an American president can change the course of a country of 85 million people by adopting better talking points.

Anyway it's a screwed up situation, and it will take a long to time to fix it and there's not a whole lot America can do.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

No, Some Progressives Just Gave Up On Policy

Slate published an article by a legal reporter and a law professor arguing that the recent victory in the Supreme Court over DOMA only illustrates how limited the progressive agenda (in their view) has become in recent years. It's an interesting read, but it seems to me that these two  author seem to be ignoring the large number of progressives who are focusing on this issue.

The article follows a typical critique you find all over the internet these days. They cite the victory over DOMA as being a great triumph for progressives but then bemoan the fact that:
But did you notice that, on the way to this victory, the left, as a movement, seemed to abandon almost everything else for which it once stood?...But this win, however deserved, addresses no more than a small fraction of what the left once believed essential.
They then go on to give a usual-suspects list of issues on which they feel liberals have dropped the ball: abortion, gun control, the death penalty etc. Ironically they only seem to prove the point argued by William Deresiewicz that I've brought up before about how academics (and progressives) tend to talk, "“What we talk about is race and sexuality. (Or in the academy, race, gender, and sexuality, the great triumvirate. The humanities, despite their claim to transformative significance, have all but forgotten about class.)” Indeed their list only mentions other issues at the end, in one sentence where we are reminded about "Economic fairness; a war on poverty, meaningful education reform, voting rights, workers’ rights, racial justice, women’s rights, equal access to child care and health care."

Interestingly enough their are a lot of progressives out their who do focus on these issues. A classic example is Slate's own Matt Yglesias. Yglesias has been in the liberal blogosphere for a while now but he's never been that welcome, indeed not too long ago a certain person whose name we shall not mentioned fired off and angry screed denoucning/excommunicating him from being a progressive. As they put it:
But each [blogger i disagree with] represents, in his own, the corruption and capitulation that comes with prominence and success in this culture. I genuinely don’t know what the hell happened to Matt Yglesias...He is now one of the most vocal of the neoliberal scolds, forever ready to define the “neoliberal consensus” as the truth of man and to ignore left-wing criticism. Indeed, I’m not sure that you could even understand that he has critics from his left, judging by what he chooses to discuss on his blog. This is a particularly cruel way to erase the left-wing from the discourse: to pretend that it doesn’t exist. 
Matt gave one of the better responses to the old charge of not being progressive enough:
But one point that I agree with here, is that while I’ll cop to being a “neoliberal” I don’t acknowledge that I have critics to the “left” of me. On economic policy, here are the main things I’m trying to accomplish:
— More redistribution of money from the top to the bottom.
— A less paternalistic welfare state that puts more money directly in the hands of the recipients of social services.
— Macroeconomic stabilization policy that seriously aims for full employment.
— Curb the regulatory privileges of incumbent landowners.
— Roll back subsidies implicit in our current automobile/housing-oriented industrial policy.
— Break the licensing cartels that deny opportunity to the unskilled.
— Much greater equalization of opportunities in K-12 education.
— Reduction of the rents assembled by privileged intellectual property owners.
— Throughout the public sector, concerted reform aimed at ensuring public services are public services and not jobs programs.
— Taxation of polluters (and resource-extractors more generally) rather than current de facto subsidization of resource extraction.

Is this a “neoliberal” program? Well, this is one of these terms that was invented by its critics so I hesitate to embrace it though I recognize that the shoe fits to a considerable extent. I’d say it’s liberalism, a view recognizably derived from the thinking of JS Mill and Pigou and Keynes and Maury “Freedom Plus Groceries” Maverick and all the rest. I recognize that many people disagree with this agenda, and that many of those who disagree with it think of themselves as “to the left” of my view. But I simply deny that there are positions that are more genuinely egalitarian than my own. I really and sincerely believe that liberalism is the best way to advance the interests of the underprivileged and to make the world a better place. I offer “further left” people the (unreturned) courtesy of not questioning the sincerity of their belief that they have some better solutions, but I think they’re mistaken.
The irony hear is that Yglesias has laid out a fairly extensive list of policy priorities he does think can address issues like, "Economic fairness; a war on poverty, meaningful education reform, voting rights, workers’ rights, racial justice, women’s rights, equal access to child care and health care."

I think this is an all too common reality in progressive thought, we bemoan that we as progressives don't focus on the correct issues anymore while in reality we are ignoring our friends and allies who are focusing on those issues because we feel squeamish about their policy solutions. Then we offer no other ideas in response and call people who don't necessarily feel that markets are inherently immiserating names like "neoliberals."

The problem here is that progressives that complain about how we have abandoned too many issues are just not coming up with policies to deal with the issues we supposedly abandoned. Ask far too many progressives how to fix a highly dysfunctional school system with declining enrollment, massive legacy costs, an aging work force and a billion dollar a year deficit and we are basically told "Rahm's a jerk!" Or hear some vague platitude about justice or something. The irony here is that folks like Yglesias shouldn't have a monopoly on policy solutions for problems like, "Economic fairness; a war on poverty, meaningful education reform, voting rights, workers’ rights, racial justice, women’s rights, equal access to child care and health care." But because too many progressives have given up on trying to find effective feasible policy, and instead focus on finding villains (Rahm, Obama, every bank ever) so they can be on "the right side" in some maximal way, he sort of does.