Noting that many Americans see Democrats have only resistance to the Trump Administration as their agenda, in his Washington Post column Dana Milbank delineates the agenda that Congressional Democratic leaders have now set out:
As important as what’s in it is what’s not. Democrats jettisoned social and foreign policy issues for this exercise, eschewing the identity politics and box-checking that has plagued Democratic campaigns in the past, most recently Hillary Clinton’s. This will be purely an economic message.
They also resisted invitations to steer the party toward the center (as pollster Mark Penn advised) or in a more progressive agenda. This is meant to be a populist manifesto that doesn’t conform to the left/right debate but instead aims to align Democrats with ordinary, middle-class Americans fighting powerful special interests.
Titled “A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages,” it is expected to have many Democratic staples — tax increases on the rich, affordable college, infrastructure spending, higher wages, job training, paid family leave and the like — and a few new ones.
My concern about such an agenda resembles my reaction to plans for ending global warming. Even were they to implement 100% of their plans it would not effect the results they claim to seek. Then what?
The evidence that “affordable college” will end an imagined skills shortage is something between meager and non-existent. Look at it this way. Facebook would rather hire an Indian or Russian programmer with adequate credentials on paper for $80,000 a year than an American programmer with even better credentials for $100,000 a year.
Add to that the reality that not every American has either the preparation or ability to make use of a college education. Based on OECD figurs, the country with the highest percentage of its citizens with an associates degree or better is South Korea at 69%. Next are Japan (60%), Canada (59%), and Russia (58%). The figure for the United States is 47%. The countries with the highest percentage of their citizens with four year degrees or better are Russia (58%), Lithuania (55%), Switzerland (49%), and South Korea (47%). In the U. S. the figure is 36%.
Assume we can boost the percentage of four year degrees all the way up to 58%, ignoring that Russia has the same economic issues that we do and then some. What about the other 42% of the population? Universal basic income? Composting? In Germany 27% of the people have either two year or four year degrees and they don’t have the same problems. Higher education is a red herring and an expensive one at that. We’re already spending a multiple of what those countries are on a per capita basis on higher education. How much will we need to spend to accomplish the objective? Where is the money to come from? Taxing the rich? Do the math. There aren’t enough rich to tax to satisfy all of the spending objectives, i.e. education, health care, infrastructure spending, etc. plus meeting all of our pension obligations.
They’d better have additional plans in the works so that when they’ve implemented college for all, a single-payer system, a carbon tax, and a massive extraneous infrastructure program without solving any of the problems they’re presumably intended to fix, they have some ideas for what comes next.
The political question is that the agenda outlined above is basically Hillary Clinton sans identify politics and without Hillary Clinton. Very much the same dry, technocratic platform the Democrats have been running on since Michael Dukakis. Will Clintonism without the Clintons be enough to capture the hearts of disaffected Democrats in the age of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter, and the antifa?