Personal grudge over policy direction: Podcast left freaks out over Neera Tanden's nomination to head OMB

Since the Wall Street Journal broke the story that Neera Tanden, the President & CEO of the Center for American Progress, is President-elect Joe Biden's designee for the position of Director of the Office of Management and Budget, alt-left Twitter has absolutely melted down. After President-elect Biden's transition team officially confirmed the reporting with an announcement of the top-level economic policy nominees, the meltdown has only gotten worse.

Republicans radical-right senators like John Cornyn from Texas are already out front trying to block Tanden's confirmation, but the far-right opposition has been drowned out by the high-level whining from the socialist alt-left.

Briahna Joy Gray, former Jill Stein acolyte and former Bernie Sanders for President press secretary who now sells herself as a poor jobless soul with only a $25,000 a month income for her podcast dedicated no less than a dozen tweets railing about such important policy disagreements as whether Tanden wishes happy birthdays to the 'wrong' people. Walker Bragman, another popular socialist podcaster, has taken to calling Joe Biden's impending presidency "Hooveresque" over Tanden's appointment. Former Sanders speechwriter David Sirota - whom the Sanders campaign would go on to accuse of stealing campaign email lists - is joining the rest of the crew, painting Biden appointments with the ad-hominem "corporate allies" (not linking to that, which leads to a subscription request for Sirota's website).

The closest that the podcast alt-left gets to a policy criticism of Tanden is their dishonest claim that she supported "cuts" to Social Security and Medicare - something she never did, and an attack line Bernie Sanders himself tried and failed to stick to Biden during the Democratic primary. The false attack mostly stems from a proposal by a fiscal commission under President Obama when he had made a good faith, serious attempt to tackle the federal deficit. Part of that proposal included changes that would eliminate elderly poverty in the United States, raise taxes on the wealthy, and create an extra boost to Social Security benefits for seniors when they reach the age of 85. The proposal also included a more realistic measure of inflation for cost of living adjustments, which might have reduced rate of growth (which means benefits would still grow, but at a mildly slower rate) by around $13 or so, nominally.

Notably, the Obama proposal would also have expanded Social Security benefits for everyone by around 25% compared to current law. Current law states that Social Security cannot dip into the general fund to pay benefits, and when the trust fund dries up in roughly 15 years, the law, if nothing changes, would mandate a cut of up to 27%.

The alt-left at that point trashed President Obama - the president who, through the Affordable Care Act, is responsible for the largest expansion of the social safety net since the enactment of Medicare - for wanting to "cut" social security, notwithstanding that their position - inaction - is the position that results in severe mandatory cuts in Social Security whereas Obama's would have eliminated Social Security's actuarial deficits without cutting benefits.

Tanden had spoken out in favor of the comprehensive approach that President Obama had courageously laid out, and the left's critic of her on this issue, like their repulsion to Barack Obama, is wholly without merit. The alt-left had no viable alternatives to President Obama's plans, except to argue that there was no hurry to fix Social Security's impending benefit reduction. They pointed out that in 1983, President Reagan and a Democratic Congress made changes to keep Social Security solvent, apparently thoroughly ignorant of the fact that Reagan did so by raising the retirement age (under their definitions, a cut) and increasing the payroll tax that largely falls on poor and middle-class workers.

The real reason for the fantastic head explosions on the podcast left, though, isn't so much about a comprehensive examination of Neera Tanden's policy positions, but rather of her associations. After all, Tanden was the architect of a public option that had originally been part of the Affordable Care Act before it became clear that Senate passage depended on its removal. As President and CEO of CAP, Tanden had even advocated for a $15 minimum wage and a federal jobs guarantee in economically distressed regions - things that should be music to the ears of progressives who actually care about policy.

The alt-left is seething because of Tanden's closeness with Hillary Clinton, and the alt-left's rose-red hatred for Clinton is rivaled only by the white-hot contempt for her by the far right. Tanden was a strong supporter of Clinton's during both of her runs for the White House, and during the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries, Tanden was often a forthright and fair critic of Sen. Bernie Sanders. It during these primaries that she largely earned the scorn of the alt-left, not because she was for or against any policies, but because she opposed a person.

This may be something that is beginning to sink in with progressive lawmakers and policy experts. Tanden, who learned the importance of the social safety net as a child when welfare became a lifeline for her family and who is now poised to become the first woman of color, seems to be amassing broad support from centrist Democrats as well as progressive ones, and even from some reasonable conservatives.

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio - well regarded as a liberal, pro-worker, voice in the Senate - called Tanden smart, experienced, and qualified in response to Cornyn's bizarre pronouncement, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren added that she agrees. Rep. Barbara Lee of California, who is often included by leftists on their random lists of demands about who should fill what position in the Biden administration, also offered a glowing review of Tanden.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, called Tanden "uniquely qualified" to lead the Biden-Harris OMB because of her bold stands to advance the cause for working families and curb inequality. On the moderate side of the Democratic spectrum, Sen. John Tester of Montana has added his voice of support to Tanden.

The policy and competence consensus is coming down on the side of Tanden's nomination to lead the OMB. What's working against her are deeply personal vendetta from the rabid left and the radical right, both more interested in score-settling than working together for a better future for this country.

Yet more evidence that horseshoe politics - the idea that political extremes are rather close to each other - is real.

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