ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Not your Father's Democratic Party

From today's WSJ. Get a subscription if you don't have one.

Some damning commentary of the Democratic Party from the WSJ.

The Doughnut Democrats
June 16, 2005

Tim Russert: "In your home state of Vermont there is a vacancy for the United State Senate. Bernie Sanders wants to run for that seat. He is a self-described avowed socialist. Is there room in the Democratic Party for a socialist?"

Howard Dean: "Well, he's not a socialist really. ... He is basically a liberal Democrat."

-- NBC's "Meet the Press," May 22

No, we aren't saying that modern Washington Democrats are socialists, Party Chairman Howard Dean notwithstanding. [...]

The Democratic leadership has arguably never been more overtly hostile to free markets, deregulation, tax reform and free trade than it is today. The National Taxpayers Union reports that last year the House Democrats recorded their lowest taxpayer rating ever, having voted just 13% of the time for smaller government and less taxes.

A centrist group of Democrats called Third Way recently issued a report explaining the Democrats' 2004 election debacle. It concluded that voters with incomes between $30,000 and $75,000 a year, or almost half the electorate, delivered "healthy victories" for President Bush and Republicans in Congress. The report concludes: "Rather than being the party of the middle class, Democrats face a huge crisis with middle-income voters."

Why is that? One reason is that the party of FDR and JFK no longer seems to have a moderate wing; they have become doughnut Democrats with no middle. [...]
• [...] there are virtually no Scoop Jackson defense hawks remaining in a party that has made Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo its main policy touchstones for the war on terror.

• The party that voted en masse for income and capital gains tax cuts under JFK now has but one message on taxes: Raise them.

• On trade, the Democrats who delivered 102 House votes for Nafta [..] will, at last count, provide [...] five House votes for CAFTA.

• The Clinton Democrats helped enact the most momentous social policy legislation of the past generation: welfare reform. Now Democrats conspire every day to gut work-for-welfare requirements and prevent the renewal of welfare reform by Congress.

• Above all, there's the know-nothing-ism on Social Security. [ala Sgt. Schultz] [...]

But wait. How dangerous can this idea really be? After all, only a few years ago there was a long and esteemed list of elected Democratic leaders who endorsed personal accounts. John Breaux. Chuck Robb. Bob Kerrey. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Charles Stenholm. Tim Penny. Today in the entire United States Congress there is exactly one Democrat, Allen Boyd of Florida, who has endorsed personal accounts, and he has been shunned for his apostasy.

In 2000 Senator Moynihan declared that a personal thrift savings plan for Social Security would allow hourly wage earners to "retire not just with a pension but with wealth. And the doorman will have a half million dollars, not just the people in the duplexes." Share the wealth. What could be a more traditional Rooseveltian idea than that?

Mr. Bush has spent the past six months reaching out on Social Security to centrist Democrats, only to discover that there aren't any. [...]

And to what obstructionist end? Even if Democrats succeed in stopping Mr. Bush's plan, FDR's legacy that they say they are trying to protect is every day getting closer to $10 trillion of unpayable debts. As for political strategy, Democrats seem to believe that just saying no will help them gain House and Senate seats in 2006. Perhaps. But Tom Daschle's early retirement testifies that it is [unlikely.]

The next test of whether the party of Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy is capable of anything but obstructionism will come later this summer on tax reform. The President's bipartisan tax reform panel, chaired by former Senators Connie Mack and Mr. Breaux, is expected to launch the debate by proposing some form of flat tax.

Democrats may again try to tar and feather this plan as a giveaway to the rich. But polls show over and over that the broad middle class wants tax simplification and pro-growth reform. And in the past a form of the flat tax was endorsed by such Democratic leaders as Dick Gephardt, Bill Bradley, Jerry Brown and Leon Panetta. They didn't believe the flat tax was such a radical idea. Will the enlightened Democrats sit this debate out too?

[...] The country would benefit from two vibrant parties competing on innovative freedom-enhancing initiatives. The problem is that the Democrats are running on empty when it comes to policy ideas other than big government, and this lack of competition has had deleterious effects on Republican behavior, as witnessed by their lack of any spending discipline.

Howard Dean observed recently that he hopes to "galvanize the Democrats into being the party of individual freedom and personal responsibility." That's a wonderful idea -- just the kind that would put the Democrats back on the road to national viability. But that leaves unanswered the question of how a party that opposes voluntary personal accounts for Social Security, school choice for parents, tax and welfare reform, free trade and limited government broadly defined can sell itself as the freedom and responsibility party.

We really do need a center-left party that isn't anti-thetical to free market capitalism. Unfortunately, we get the likes of Pelosi, Harry Reid, and their supporters, like Downer.

Or, David Sirota - who's just giddy that the Dems are against CAFTA, resulting in billions of dollars of working class incomes being wasted on artificially high-priced US sugar. Sure, Warren Buffett, Ted Kennedy and the rest can afford the extra cost. But protectionism on sugar eats right into the incomes of the poor.


Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Sr Wendeler