I grew up as a Republican and continue to mainly vote
Republican to date. (I vote independent and for Democrats
about 20% of the time). My main issue with the Democratic
Party and its followers is simple. Every solution the Democrats
present involves the government providing the solution. (Preamble
states: 'Provide for the common defense, promote the general
welfare' - not 'provide' but 'promote')
My question is simple: The Democrats say they have an
economic policy, but what is it? The only economic policies
I hear from Democrats involve:
1) More and bigger government programs
2) The rich are evil, big business is evil (except law firms
and the really big government)
3) We must 'redistribute the wealth' and take from the evil
rich to give to the poor (till there are no rich no more)
4) Capitalism is evil, Socialism is good
5) Personal responsibility isn't important, the government
will take care of you
6) Sound bites and emotions are more important than results
(Example: Welfare reform of 1998. Democrats hated it, but
fortunately for the poor Bill Clinton signed it)
The reasons I'm asking Auntie Pinko include:
1) I've asked many Democrats and their response is always
"I don't know. I vote Democrat because I grew up as one and
like what they say". (They can't answer the question.)
2) Most of your responses have seemed well thought out so
I was hoping you could answer my question for me.
I sincerely hope to hear your response,
Thank you for your extensive (and provocative) question.
Auntie Pinko is always pleased to hear from thoughtful folks
who consider themselves to be on the other side of the political
spectrum. I doubt that my response to will change your opinions,
but perhaps they will help you understand the folks on the
other side from you a little better. And that's certainly
worthwhile, isn't it?
I'm not going to answer your assumptions about Democratic
economic policies on a case-by-case basis, partly because
that would make this column way too long. But also because
I think that a more general discussion of basic Democratic
principles will actually address most of them. You seem plenty
bright enough to figure out how they relate.
The first fundamental principle that makes Democrats different
from Republicans is, as you've noticed, our attitude towards
government. Now, there is a whole spectrum of opinion even
within the Democratic Party, and I can only speak for where
I stand. But I think that I'm more or less average in that
Auntie Pinko once read somewhere (I am sorry I can't attribute
this paraphrase, apologies to the author, wherever s/he may
be,) that "Government is a powerful servant, but a terrible
master." I think that's spot on. And it's certainly something
that we can all, liberal or conservative, agree upon.
But where we differ is in whether our approach to government
is based on fear, (the "terrible master" part,) or on hope
(the "powerful servant" part.) Most people mix both, but liberals
tend to be more hopeful. Because we live in a country where
the government is "of the people, by the people, and for the
people," we generally see government as a powerful and effective
tool to help promote, as you point out, the welfare
of all. While liberals have a healthy fear and distrust of
governments that represent only the interests of a powerful
few, we have a greater tendency to trust a government that
is constituted to give all citizens a chance to participate
in political self-determination.
(Right now, I'm sure you're saying "yes, butů" and you are
right, this leads us into the error of trusting government
too much, to do things it really can't or shouldn't do. But
we think that's a more positive, hopeful error than the error
of ignoring or repudiating government's power and potential
Now, you asked, Todd, about liberal economic policy, and
you also used the word "socialist," which I'd like to address.
Many Democrats and liberals (the two are not synonymous,
you know-lots of liberals think the Democratic Party is too
conservative) do indeed believe that the type of socialism
that had produced such good results in places like the Netherlands,
Denmark, and other European countries, could have some value
here in America. But that is not by any means a universally-held
opinion in the Democratic Party, nor among all liberals. And
Auntie Pinko, with a fairly wide acquaintance among Democrats
and liberals, has never yet run across one who sincerely believes
in Stalinism or any of the other forms of totalitarianism
that are mislabeled "socialism" by right-wing ideologues.
So what does that translate into in terms of an economic
It's actually pretty simple, Todd. First off, we recognize
the fact that there is no economic policy or system that will
be uniformly beneficial to everyone in our society. Because
we all have different needs, different abilities, even cultural
and social differences, any economic policy that benefits
one type of person or group is likely to have a detrimental
effect on others.
Since every economic policy "favors" someone, intentionally
or unintentionally, the ideological question at hand, then,
is who do we want our economic policies to favor?
The Democratic answer is this: Policies that relate to businesses
should favor small- and medium-size businesses rather than
Big Business. Small- and medium-size businesses employ a far
greater percentage of American workers, and the profit they
make is most likely to be spent and re-invested right here
Policies that relate to households (like banking, credit,
etc.,) should favor the huge population bulge that is in the
lower three or four quintiles of the population, rather than
the top quintile. These households are the engine that drives
our economy, partly because there are more of them, but also
because they spend more, right here in America. The
upper quintile is more likely to use its wealth in ways that
take it out of the American economic mainstream.
Policies that relate to population (like social welfare,
health, education, etc.) should be focused on promoting an
economic and social environment that lets us maximize the
potential of our most valuable and important asset: children.
All children, not just the children whose families
have the most resources. That social and economic environment
means livable cities, quality public education, access to
quality health care, and jobs that pay enough so that one
hard-working wage earner can provide for a family by working
just one job.
If such policies do not favor, or even have a detrimental
effect, on some people, the people affected should, hopefully,
be those with the best ability to overcome the detriment.
The people with the highest social and economic resilience.
Democrats don't believe that all rich people are evil. Many
of us are rich, or at least very well-off. We don't want to
"redistribute" rich people out of existence. For one thing,
it's not possible. Someone is always "rich" in any
human society. For another thing, it would not be healthy.
Liberals are well aware of the need for incentives, competition,
and ambition to drive a healthy economy and a healthy society.
We just favor policies that do more to empower the broadest
possible spectrum of our fellow-citizens, increasing their
ability to achieve incentives, compete, and follow their ambitions.
People with different experiences and beliefs can look at
the same thing and see it very differently. I hope this helps
you understand how we see ourselves, Todd. I doubt it will
change your opinions, and that's not my intention, anyway.
But I appreciate your asking Auntie Pinko!
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