October 17, 2005

THAT '70s SHOW:

GAME PLAN: George Packer on what the Republicans’ troubles mean for the opposition (George Packer, 2005-10-24, The New Yorker)

Instead of trying to cobble together a hypothetical majority with a hodgepodge of small-bore policy proposals, the Democrats need to nationalize the elections of 2006 the way the Republicans did in 1994. A Democratic manifesto that unites the Party’s own diverse factions would begin as a referendum on the ruling party: the White House and Congress have handed government over to corrupt interests, and, in so doing, the Republicans have betrayed basic American principles of honesty, competence, and fairness. There is no reason for Democrats to be on the defensive about moral values. On issue after issue, government by cronyism and corruption has sacrificed the interests of the middle class to those of the Administration’s wealthy friends. The deepening inequality in American life threatens families and democracy, and it is neither natural nor inevitable.

As a new book, Off Center, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, points out, Republicans never won the war of ideas—Americans remain almost implacably centrist—but they created a powerful political machine that is tactically shrewder and far richer than that of the Democrats. To overcome these structural disadvantages, the Democrats’ campaign approach needs to be broad and bold. Energy: The Republicans have made America more dependent on foreign oil while gas prices are skyrocketing; the Democrats will push for energy independence. Health care: The Republicans have allowed private companies to eliminate choice while costs go up and millions of Americans lack insurance; the Democrats will enact national coverage that restores choice and holds down costs. Taxes: The Republicans have shifted the burden from the top to the middle; the Democrats will reverse that trend, and will end the Administration’s ruinous fiscal policies. Nationalsecurity: Republican incompetence has squandered our power abroad and failed to make us more secure at home, as the country learned after Katrina; the Democrats will rebuild the armed forces—making it at least possible for the Iraq insurgency to be defeated—and bring competence to homeland security.


Though they have no credibility with the public on the issue, it's at least possible to imagine the Democrats gaining some traction on the one issue where there seems to be widespread unrest, that of the budget deficit and government spending. Mr. Packer suggests instead that they go out and propose: increased gas taxes and spending on fuel alternatives; National Health; higher income taxes; and increased military spending. So a party that's been rejected for its tax-and-spend/big government ways will just give us more of the same? Was there ever really a Bill Clinton?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 17, 2005 3:12 PM
Comments

The Democrats will push for energy independence? Without more domestic production and refining? HOW?

The Democrats will rebuild the armed forces? WHY? They don't like them. They don't like to utilize them. They don't want them to vote.

I have read that Packer is supposed to be a voice of moderation. Sounds like a voice of lunacy to me. Plus, the whole 'deepening inequality' thing sounds like Bob Shrum, which is already 33 years out-of-date.

But the numbskulls on the Upper West Side might just like it.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 17, 2005 4:04 PM

And please use the term "manifesto" as much as possible.

Posted by: Rick T. at October 17, 2005 4:35 PM

They aren't serious about a rerun of Mike Dukakis are they? Why yes, indeed they are.

Posted by: Luciferous at October 17, 2005 4:36 PM

Boy, that is a powerful set of issues. How will Republicans ever answer them? Hmmm . . .

Energy: The Republicans have made America more dependent on foreign oil while gas prices are skyrocketing; the Democrats will push for energy independence.

ANWR

Health care: The Republicans have allowed private companies to eliminate choice while costs go up and millions of Americans lack insurance; the Democrats will enact national coverage that restores choice and holds down costs.

Socialized healthcare, Canadian-style medicine, Hillarycare

Taxes: The Republicans have shifted the burden from the top to the middle; the Democrats will reverse that trend, and will end the Administrations ruinous fiscal policies.

Tax hikes as far as the eye can see.

National security: Republican incompetence has squandered our power abroad and failed to make us more secure at home, as the country learned after Katrina; the Democrats will rebuild the armed forcesmaking it at least possible for the Iraq insurgency to be defeatedand bring competence to homeland security.

The UN. Nagin. Blanco.

Isn't the point of a nationalized strategy to take popular positions NOT easily assailed?

Posted by: AC at October 17, 2005 4:41 PM

These is a shocking, ground-breaking platform that I haven't heard from the Democratic party since John Kerry & John Edwards ("A Stronger America") ran on it last year.

Posted by: b at October 17, 2005 5:08 PM

1) The politicians don't want to talk about guns the way some people don't want to talk about human variation. Elephants in the living room don't go away because they make you feel uncomfortable.

2) Ethical lapses in government, while important, are not the same thing as moral decay. Many of us will tolerate a measure of the former as a cost of progress against the latter.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 17, 2005 5:54 PM

b: ... lost on it last year. heh.

Posted by: John Resnick at October 17, 2005 5:54 PM

Energy: The Republicans have made America more dependent on foreign oil while gas prices are skyrocketing

The Dems have LONG opposed drilling in ANWR, which would have made the U.S. somewhat less dependent on foreign oil, with possibly ten billion barrels of recoverable crude being present.

The Dems have LONG opposed building more oil refineries, which is the principal reason that gas prices are "skyrocketing" - there's so much crude oil available that Arabia can't find enough takers, so they're going to build their own refineries and export gasoline.
Some "rocket", by the way - gas prices are up 50% over two years. NASA calls that a "launch failure".

Finally, consumers are primarily to blame for oil imports and fuel prices. If they used energy in reasonable ways, demand would be 90% or less of what it is now. Americans didn't even BEGIN cutting back on buying SUVs until gas hit $ 3/gal, and the airlines are STILL cutting prices, encouraging frequent recreational air travel.

Health care: The Republicans have allowed private companies to eliminate choice while costs go up and millions of Americans lack insurance; the Democrats will enact national coverage that restores choice and holds down costs.

Except that Hillarycare NARROWED choice for consumers and providers.

Millions of Americans CHOOSE not to carry health insurance, and nearly half of the rest are without coverage for less than one year:

What Health Insurance Crisis? - By David Gratzer

Who and where are the 45 million Americans that the Census Bureau found without health insurance? With little fanfare [in 2003], the BlueCross BlueShield Assn. released a report based in part on analyzing the Census Bureau data. Its findings may surprise some.

A full 16% of the uninsured, the study found, have incomes above $75,000 a year and could obviously afford insurance if they chose to buy it. Roughly a third of those lacking insurance earn $50,000 a year or more.

You may think that a poor single mom with three children living in South-Central Los Angeles is among the uninsured, but in fact, she is eligible for Medicaid, as are her children. The BlueCross BlueShield study notes that 1 in 3 of the uninsured are eligible for but not enrolled in a government-sponsored health program. Because Medicaid and children's health programs allow patients to be signed up literally in the ER, these individuals could be covered; they just choose not to do the paperwork. [Emph. add.]

And of the remaining uninsured, 6 million lack insurance for only a few months.

The bottom line: About 8.2 million Americans, not 45 million, are chronically uninsured...

Taxes: The Republicans have shifted the burden from the top to the middle; the Democrats will reverse that trend, and will end the Administrations ruinous fiscal policies.

ROFL.
Democrats will "end ruinous fiscal policies" ?!?

The middle class OUGHT to pay most of the burden of running America; they are by far the most numerous, and receive the bulk of the direct and defined benefits of being Americans, such as mortgage-interest deductions and the vast subsidization of both college students and institutes of higher education.

The rich ought to pay more per-capita, since they receive the bulk of the indirect benefits of being Americans, such as easy and unlimited access to a vast and wealthy consumer market, and the world's near-best military to protect their assets.
And in fact, the rich DO pay more taxes per-capita than do the middle class. From Killing the Class-Warfare Argument by Stephen Moore, paraphrased:

A 2004 study by the Congressional Budget Office confirms that the rich carry the bulk of the tax burden.
The CBO estimate says that the share of income taxes paid by the richest 20 percent of earners was 82.1 percent in 2004. The report also states that the top 10 percent of earners paid 66.7 percent of 2004 taxes, with the top 1 percent paying 32.3 percent. Fully 80 percent of Americans pay less than 18 percent of total income taxes.

So, ranked by income, Americans paid:
Top 01% - 32.3% of Federal income tax receipts.
Top 10% - 66.7% of Federal income tax receipts.
Top 20% - 82.1% of Federal income tax receipts.

The middle class pays, at most, 18% of all Federal income taxes.

Also, the number of people filing Federal income tax forms who owed NO Federal income taxes, meaning that they received a full refund of all withheld Federal taxes, including those who received refundable tax credits that made their Federal income tax rate NEGATIVE, increased between 2000 - 2004 from 30 million, or 23% of all filers, to 44 million, or 33% of all filers - an increase of nearly 50%, according to Scott A. Hodge & J. Scott Moody, authors of The Growing Class of Americans Who Pay No Federal Income Taxes. Fiscal Facts. Tax Foundation. April 14, 2004.

Further, there is considerable class mobility in America:

[T]he Internal Revenue Service is required by law to produce data on taxes paid by the richest Americans. [...] [In 2003], the IRS did something a little different. Normally, it reports data for those with incomes above $200,000. However, this time it singled out the [highest tax-paying] 400 Americans for special scrutiny [from '92 - '00]...

[M]any more than 400 people occupied the top 400 list during the nine years. In fact, according to research by Congresss Joint Economic Committee, 2,218 taxpayers were on the list at some point during the period. Amazingly, three-fourths were among the top 400 for just one year and 87 percent were on the list for two years or less. Less than 1 percent made the cut every year.

In short, there is substantial mobility in and out of the ranks of the very wealthy, a fact documented by Forbes in its annual survey. According to a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, between 1988 and 1998, 47 percent of those in the lowest income quintile rose to a higher quintile, and 47 percent of those in the top quintile fell to a lower one.

- Bruce Bartlett [all emph. add.]

Also, minorites are doing very well:

The current black unemployment rate is at its lowest point since the recession year of 2001.

Black unemployment is also lower than the average [...] of the past fifteen years. Its also considerably lower than the thirty-year average, which is about as far back as this particular statistic goes. [T]he current gap between black and white unemployment is also lower than the average under President Clinton, and much lower than the thirty-year average.

Today, both black and white unemployment rates stand at relative low points historically, especially if you exclude the artificial and unsustainable stock market bubble that marked Clintons final years in office. Black and white unemployment rates, while not equal, are closer to equal than historical averages.

Jerry Bowyer [all emph. add.]

Nationalsecurity: Republican incompetence has squandered our power abroad [...]; the Democrats will rebuild the armed forcesmaking it at least possible for the Iraq insurgency to be defeatedand bring competence to homeland security.

As far as "squandering our power abroad" goes, I daresay that American military might hasn't been as well-respected since WW II.
A national gov't, the Taliban, was brought down in weeks(!) with a handful of SpecOps supermen, using close air support, and a few thousand Northern Alliance Afghan militia members, some riding horses(!) into battle.
This in a country that had previously defeated BOTH the British Empire and the Soviet Union, two of history's superpowers.
(They did get help in defeating the Soviet Union, but primarily with arms, not so much with soldiers).
Then, Afghanistan successfully became a democratic, capitalistic society.

Next, America took on the second-strongest military power in the Middle East, on their own turf - and by the time we were done softening them up with air power, there were few ground units that cared to stick around and engage our troops. Their own "supreme commander" ran away and hid in a closet.
Another walk-over victory. And then, Iraq successfully became a democratic, capitalistic society.

Another American adversary, Libya, took stock of what had happened and pre-emptively gave up, offering us their WMD programmes and kissing our ring, saying that they want to be just like America - a democratic capitalistic society.

It's mighty hard to look at those three recent cases and conclude that American influence is waning.

If the national Democratic plan is to recruit MORE SOLDIERS, and put MORE SOLDIERS into Iraq, they have two BIG tactical problems, and one strategic one:

The pool of Americans willing and able to join the military is about tapped out; to lure more people into the armed forces will require higher bonuses and more benefits, which will cost tens of billions of dollars more.

Already, a mid-career, Reservist, Defense Language Institute graduate can get a $ 17,000 bonus for re-upping for six years. If anyone isn't sure why that's amazing, I'll be glad to further expound.

Further, there's a pretty big segment of the Democratic base that would see putting more troops into Iraq to be an inexcusable betrayal by Dem leaders; it may be hard to win if 10% of the current base goes AWOL on election day.

The strategic problem is that more American troops in Iraq, while it might have been helpful in the past, is the wrong way to go in the present.
We want to withdraw, and hand over power and responsibility to the Iraqis.

To the extent that the Department of Homeland Security is incompetent or dysfunctional, that's a structural problem, inherent to being a huge governmental bureaucracy, and no mortal can do much about it, except at the margins.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2005 6:23 PM

Michael: MEGO

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 17, 2005 10:00 PM

Well, I could just compress it into a few sentences of opinion, but then I'm surely preaching to the choir.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 18, 2005 2:40 AM
America took on the second-strongest military power in the Middle East [emphasis added]

How do you rate that? Or is Turkey not in the Middle East?

Posted by: Kirk Parker at October 18, 2005 3:55 AM

Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Iran are also military powers, with Israel being head-and-shoulders above the rest.

I said that Iraq was the second-strongest simply because they had a lot of armor, a large standing army, WMDs, and much practice, not to mention that they were preparing to defend the country, and so were as ready as they could be for us.

At the time of Desert Storm, it was clearly true.
In 2003, less so.

They may well have been the third-strongest.

In any case, they could have mounted a credible defense against any invading nation EXCEPT for the U.S. or Russia, and so it highlights the incredible gulf between U.S. military might and that of any other nation, effectively negating the Dem talking point.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 18, 2005 6:23 PM
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