The Democratic Party, recognizing that it has lost touch with many of its former constituents, rolled out its “Better Deal” this week in Virginia. We have now had Teddy Roosevelt’s “Square Deal,” Franklin Roosevelt’s more famous (or infamous) “New Deal,” Harry Truman’s “Fair Deal,” and now the latest “deal” for the American people. All of these deals by the way were proposed by Liberal/Progressives, coincidentally or not. As we should let’s look at this new proposal. To provide a little background, the Democrats have been criticized lately, even by some on their own party, for failing to “connect” with the concerns of the citizens they once regularly attracted. Many of these are people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016. And of course we know that their issues were mainly economic and security-related, not about Russia or other arcane (in their view) issues. Voters in “flyover” country wanted jobs and wanted to be assured that America was a safe place to raise their children. In addition, many of them supported, even if tepidly, “family values,” something the Democratic Party appeared to veer far from in the last few years in its zeal to gather certain interest groups to the party. These failures, along with the massive failure that was Hillary Clinton, led to a surprising defeat–surprising to the Democrats.
After some, but apparently not much, soul searching, out comes the Better Deal. You can read it in its entirety here: https://graphics.axios.com/pdf/better-deal.pdf?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_axiosam&stream=top-stories. Don’t worry, it isn’t very long or very detailed. It has three main points, corresponding to jobs, cost of living issues (such as free education), and education in general.
In the jobs section, the proposals include “investment in infrastructure” (here they attempt to co-opt President Trump), tax breaks for small businesses but not large ones, “unfair foreign trade” (another Trump focus) and the preservation of Social Security and other like programs, apparently as is and without modification. These items are no more than the usual liberal policy proposals, without any real specificity and without any proposed new ways of achieving the goals. They do seek to take Trump’s voters from him by appealing to some of the same economic issues he did in the campaign. But my suspicion is that when the Democrats talk about infrastructure or investment, they mean much more than President Trump meant. And when they go out of their way to deny the worthiness of bigger businesses for tax breaks, what they may well mean they wish to tax them more (much more) heavily and not simply leave them alone.
The second section deals with lowering costs: of prescription drugs, of college education, childcare costs, credit card fees and cable bills–as well presumably as anything else deemed “too expensive.” In addition, this section addresses the problem of monopolies, but not really the most worrisome kind (such as educational monopolies or occupational licensing, etc.) but rather just with “big firms,” the “concentration of economic power,” a bugaboo for decades. Again, this is just old-fashioned liberalism. Lots of free stuff, but who will pay for it? And why morally would we require some to pay for what others want? This is a question seldom asked by liberal thinkers.
Finally, the third section focuses on “good-paying jobs.” The policies mentioned included tax incentives for employers who invest in retraining, workforce training itself, and some vague wording about “rules of the economy” that support companies that are focused on “long-term growth” as opposed to “short-term profits.” Liberalism has a tendency to want to choose winners and losers rather than make the rules and policies equal for all and then allow competition to decide who “wins”–for the benefit of the consumer. Now of course I don’t support crony capitalism either, so businesses should not get special favors. This section also promises internet connection for all (free? Certainly the construction is provided by the state in this plan) and apprenticeships (Is that to be mandated? Or would tax incentives be used?).
What is missing that the Democrats should have included? For one thing, they say nothing about the national debt or deficit, as if the money they need for all their proposals just grew on trees. I am also surprised they said nothing about health care. Perhaps they believe the Republicans, by their inaction, will cede the entire health care issue to them–and they may have. It also is clear that liberals still have no qualms about big government, bureaucracy and its stifling effects on the economic well-being of citizens and on their basic freedom. They are as optimistic as ever, not even changing the paradigm implicit and explicit in their proposals, that government is always the default position–and the more the better. In addition they avoided the immigration issue, and for good reason. Though they have come to own the more or less open immigration position, the people in “middle America” have not. Better to say nothing, hoping voters won’t notice.
Well, it appears to be nothing really novel. Democrats and liberals have proposed and sometimes implemented the same policies many times in different forms. The goals themselves are not especially bad. My criticism would be the means proposed to achieve those goals. I just don’t know whether liberals have ever met a government solution they didn’t like. When they don’t like one, they still want to replace it with another, bigger, one. When will they grasp the simple truths of economics, which have been proven over and over and which can’t be overturned except on pain of severe unintended consequences? Or do they simply not want to give up power? I don’t know. But I suspect the Better Deal will go nowhere.