The Inflation Reduction Act is a Legislative Victory and a Vindication of Patient PragmatismRoundup
tags: Joe Biden, climate, Inflation Reduction Act
Walter G. Moss is a professor emeritus of history at Eastern Michigan University. His most recent book is An Age of Progress?: Clashing Twentieth-Century Global Forces (2008). For a list of all his recent books and online publications, including many on Russian history and culture, go here.
The recent congressional passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) once again proves the wisdom of favoring pragmatism over ideology. As The New York Times opined on 7 August after the Senate had passed the legislation, it reflected “the most significant federal investment in history to counter climate change and lower the cost of prescription drugs.”
Often I have written on LA Progressive about the dangers of being too ideological and of the need for pragmatic compromises. I quoted, for example, Pope Francis’s words to the U. S. Congress that the “pursuit of the common good…is the chief aim of all politics” and “a good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism.” (Apparently disagreeing with the pope’s advice and reflecting the continuing influence of climate denial, fossil-fuel lobbyists, and Trumpism, no Congressional Republicans voted for the IRA.)
I also cited former conservative Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch who praised Sen. Ted Kennedy, who although “a lion among liberals…never lost sight of the big picture and was willing to compromise on certain provisions in order to move forward on issues he believed important.” This last quote came from my September 2019 article entitled "A Tough Progressive Balancing Act: Passion, Tolerance, and Compromise." And about a year ago, my “What Congress Should Learn from Good Marriages indicated that partners in successful marriages know “of course, you sometimes have to compromise.”
What follows in this essay is not meant as a rebuke to any of my fellow progressives who have disdained compromise. As I realize, it is “a tough balancing act,” maintaining a progressive passion for justice while at the same time trying to pass legislation that will further the common good. Many senators do not even reflect that desire to balance such aims. I thought Ted Kennedy was one of the few who did; and in working out compromises with Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY), with the blessing of President Biden, followed in Ted Kennedy’s footsteps. The main lesson Schumer took from the whole process was an important one for progressives—don’t storm off, cursing the likes of Manchin and Sinema, but keep persisting. “We kept persisting. We kept persisting with Senator Manchin. We kept persisting with Senator Sinema. And we got something, not everything everybody wanted, but something that's damn good.”